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

Winter goat greenery

Goat eating brussels sprout

Around the beginning of January, goat greenery seemed to screech to a halt. Our does had been gorging on honeysuckle and oat leaves since September, but pickings were finally getting slim. Don't get me wrong --- none of the plants were completely wiped out. But Abigail told me the juice wasn't worth the squeeze.

When the herd queen speaks, I listen. So I changed gears, cutting the fresh greenery out of their daily diet and replacing it with an afternoon feeding of butternut squash, carrots, apples, and clementine peels instead. Since I missed spending time with the herd, I also took them out in the woods for walks a couple of times a week, but there wasn't really much for our girls to eat out there. Instead, they were reduced to living on their daily rations plus an unlimited supply of hay.

Farm clutter

Fast forward ahead nearly a month, and suddenly those slim pickings seemed worth eating once again! Mark would be horrified by this shot of the clutter beside our barn, but the debris did its job well --- it prevented me from grazing our herd on a lone patch of honeysuckle, saving those leaves for a midwinter treat. Meanwhile, I let the girls have a couple of brussels sprouts plants that had seen better days, and I'm hoping that once the snow melts later in the week our goats might be willing to munch on low oat leaves once again as well.

Good thing too --- we've finally run out of homegrown goat carrots and the butternut stores are even getting a little bit low. Friday night, I dreamed of tall grass, rich and ready for our goats to browse. I love the restful season of winter, but I'm beginning to anticipate the bounty of spring.

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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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