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

Goats grazing on pearl millet

Straining goat

Rule number one of goathood: The grass is always greener just out of reach. For the record, I took this photo five minutes after tethering our herd for the day, and there was millet exactly like the plants Artemesia was straining after within easy reach. Apparently that bite just beyond her rope looked much tastier, though.

Actually, I debated letting our girls chow down on the millet leaves (having originally tethered the herd in that spot thinking they'd go after the tick-trefoil instead). The trouble is that warm season grasses can produce hydrogen cyanide when stressed by drought or frost, and our weather has been relatively dry lately. On the other hand, I've been irrigating that area weekly if there's not sufficient rain, so I decided to risk a bit of grazing.

Goat eating pearl milletTwo hours after putting the goats back in their pen, though, I went up to pick blueberries and got concerned when Artemesia didn't meet me at the gate. I called her name and heard no reply, so quickly put down my bowl and headed to the coop, terrible images running through my mind.

Of course, our darling doeling was simply taking a break, chewing her cud while standing in the doorway of the starplate coop and gazing out at the world. "Hi!" she called as soon as I came into view. "I love you!"

(Yes, this is how I parse Artemesia's numerous bleats. Don't tell me what she's really saying --- I don't want to know.)

"No stomach ache?" I asked in response.

"Of course not!" Artemesia replied. "And millet leaves taste even better the second time around!"

For the record, the only weird food that has ever bothered our iron-tummy goats was when Artemesia drank a whole gallon of mozzarella whey in one afternoon (whey that Abigail refused to touch). Our doeling's stomach got a bit bulgy afterwards and her droppings were a little loose the next day, so now excess whey goes to our dog. Otherwise, our girls seem to know what is and isn't good for them, and pearl millet is apparently in the former category.

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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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