The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cream of the pasture

Goat eating oat flowers

On Mother's Day, Artemesia finally got the message --- she needs to fill her own belly first. Okay, so she didn't entirely toe the line immediately. But she started nibbling a bit of the cream of her pasture, was willing to eat out in the world while I sat nearby with her kids, and even grazed for up to half an hour in the forest when I shut the kids in the coop to keep them out of both of our hair.

I'm ashamed to say that this last scenario is my favorite --- kids are cute, but I vastly prefer the serenity of enjoying the outdoors with a gentle adult goat. Artemesia, on the other hand, prefers option two --- she's only fully content when her kids are accessible to her eagle eye.

Oat flowers

To please the crowd, I usually take momma and babies out to nibble on oats at the bloom stage for their morning/noon repast. These are the cover crops I planted into close-cut lawn last fall, and the patch did an amazing job of feeding goats all winter in the sunnier parts of the yard (while pretty much doing nothing in the shadier parts of the yard). The goats kept the grains nibbled low enough that they survived the winter in a vegetative state, and the plants are now pushing up blooms...which apparently are the tastiest thing since dried sweet corn.

Artemesia browses through the patch at head height, eating nothing but the top six inches of growth. Once she's done, I'll see if more tasty flowers pop up. If not, I'll sprinkle soybean seeds into the standing grain then have Mark whack the latter down to ground level. Come fall, I'll definitely plant this area in oats once again. The amount of enjoyment and forage value we've gotten out of $5 of cover-crop seeds is truly astounding.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I wonder if Artemisia recalls that Lambchop disappeared and is keeping an eye on her kids to prevent such an event from occurring.
Comment by Maggie Turner Sun May 15 08:19:23 2016
You're so fortunate to have the reliable moisture to grow such forage. It's the best diet for goats! The living, green stuff, that is.
Comment by Chris Sun May 15 21:28:42 2016
I had good luck with this method last year during our also. I used rye on some steep pasture ground. Despite no rain for months, and record heat the rye did okay and provided some cover for the thin soil, and some grazing this spring. Definitely worth doing again.
Comment by Nita Mon May 16 10:36:58 2016
Planted a small patch of oats during the winter just to see what they would do. Grew nicely. I have been hand cutting them and feeding to my 2 goats. They continue to regrow. Now are flowering and seeding, so I am interested to see what they will do now that the weather is warming up here in Texas.
Comment by Shelia Sat May 21 10:18:14 2016

Maggie --- I suspect she remembers the disappearance of Abigail more. Mark pointed out that really fear rather than loneliness is the hardship for a herd animal living on her own. And even though Artemesia has her kids, she's the sole guardian at the moment. So I don't blame her for being a bit over-protective. Hopefully Aurora will be big enough soon to take some of the weight off her shoulders!

Chris --- You're so right! Sometimes our wet climate gets me down with fungal diseases and mud, but the upsides are definitely worth it!

Nita and Sheila --- I'm so glad to hear from others experimenting with growing grains for livestock browse! Our patch has definitely been an amazing asset. Artemesia would really prefer to eat nothing else. :-)

Comment by anna Sun May 22 19:46:29 2016

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