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Friday, February 19, 2010

spoke too soon....

Yeah, so no sooner had I given up and told Jason I wasn't going back to check on the goats 15 times a day anymore, than he went back and found a bright eyed little kid. So cute!


I've been staring at pregnant goats for months now. I've been fussing over them, making sure that their diet is perfect and that they have a nice little pregnancy ward that's warm and safe and fresh water and plenty of hay. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking - oh no, today might be the day - and then walk all the way back to the barn at the back corner of the property just to have them cry at me that I didn't bring them more grain. Spoiled rotten.

So it's the end of Feb and I can certainly say that I have got my exercise running buckets back and forth of water, which they invariably kick over and hay, which they just throw all around. And in my frenzy of pregnant goat caretaker, I just so happened to notice that one of my sheep didn't come out of her morning meal. So I went back, got a bucket kicked over by an ungrateful goat and then made my way to see what was going on with my Jacob/Icelandic cross named Petrone. Wandering out into the sheep pasture, I found her box and peered inside and found a pair of stunned little eyes staring back at me, all knock-kneed and freshly born. While I was standing there marveling at the ease in which Petrone took to her motherly tasks, she birthed a second knock-kneed, shivering ball of wool. She cleaned them up quickly, making very odd, maternal sounds.

They are a day old now and tromping around after their mother in the snow. They have little toupees of white hair in between their tiny lamps ears and I have yet to see them nurse, but their temps are right and their bellies feel full. Sometimes nature just does it, I guess.

I think it's funny how much time I have spent worrying about goats, I've just been throwing some hay to the sheep on the way to worry about the pregnant goats. I just never worried about the sheep. I wonder if they always lamb so easily. Maybe it's just that goats are such complainers that I dote on them more. The sheep just do their own thing.

So, I have heard that a watched pot never boils, but does a watched goat never kid?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

buyer beware

I'm not sure how many different books or websites I've read that all say - DON'T BUY FROM LIVESTOCK AUCTIONS.

Well, being a stubborn little know-it-all, I went and looooved it. It's like a buffet of anything that you can think of all at once and the excitement of being the highest bidder is overwhelming. I saw a little cow sell for $5 once! There's tons of different types of animals all at once and they are brought out so fast and then sent back so fast and some go for a ton of money and some go really cheap. It's fascinating.
I always do the same thing -- get really excited about the auction, go to the auction, not bid on anything too expensive, bid on things when think I'm getting a really good deal, end up getting stuck with a crappy quality animal.
The problem is you never know exactly what you are getting. A lot of people dump their problem children off at the auction, the runts of the litter, the pregnancy that's not quite right, the animal that's on it's last leg but no one wants to pull the trigger. That's not always the case. Some good animals end up there. The trick is trying to tell which one is which.
It's kinda like the beloved family dog - no family would throw their dog in the pound, nameless, and with no description of what the dog likes or dislikes or how house broken or not he is. A family that loves their dog would post him in the paper - to loving home - and explain face to face what's going on. It's a lot harder to lie about the problems with an animal when the new prospective buyer is wide eyed standing there asking a bunch of questions as to the care and feeding schedule.
I have sold at the auction. I sent some of the most spoiled peachicks there. Someone got an excellent deal and went home with well cared for, de-wormed, well fed little birds. It was my last resort after a bunch of no call-no shows.

I guess what I'm going to say is advice for those who want to build their flock, whether they take it or not.... DON'T BUY FROM A LIVESTOCK AUCTION.

On the flip side, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the best farmers in the area through online ads and craigslist. I loooove going to other farms, talking with the farmers and being able to ask them about their stock. The prices are set early and usually are higher that I think I want to pay, but they are ALWAYS worth the price. I have a well stocked pasture with beautiful Jacob / Finn crosses and some Icelandics that I thought were outlandish when I bought them but are beautiful and growing well and healthy as can be.
I only have two survivors from the auction lot and one is our "herdsire" who Jason calls a "midget fruit bat" and the other is a cute little shetland who was in dire need of a haircut, but otherwise was healthy and is getting along beautifully.

I'm in the market for a cow now and I'm not going back to the auction, especially with such an unvestment in time and feed. I am excitedly looking for a couple scottish highlands while my neighbor is clearing a space in his barn and pasture. I can't wait to eat the meat goats this year, although I'm pretty sure the feed to meat ratio is pretty darn low on those guys so they better taste really delicious.
I'm stir crazy at this point and ready for this sea of white to start melting. The turkeys fly and land in snow drifts over their heads. The hens don't even leave the hen house, but have started laying again, which at least means fresh omlettes to go with the mass quantities of sausage we're still working through in the freezer.
...and I'm not complaining. The pork chops are fantastic!

Monday, February 15, 2010

OEFFA conference

So this Valentines Day weekend was really special this year. I guess last year going to see the Pretenders in Akron was kinda cool, but this year was waaaay better. Jason and I traveled down to Granville to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Associations conference - Growing with Integrity, Eating with Intention. It was AWESOME.

I guess sometimes I feel like a little satellite just kinda orbiting around, not really aware that there might be other people like me doing the same things I'm doing. Not true. There were people from all over Ohio who came to hear about sustainable beekeeping, worm composting, apple tree grafting, niche pork raising, and a ton of other seminars. My head is fully saturated with new information about soil types, crop rotation, small fruit ecosystems, birthing goat tips, and pride in locally grown food.
Jason and I volunteered in order to get a massive discount and actually afford to go. We worked in the kitchen for both lunches and I really got this odd sense of accomplishment from working with the nicest catering company and serving local, organic veggies, meats, and cheeses.... and taste testing them along the way as well. Granted, I was a bit annoyed at the vegans who snubbed the piece of artisan cheese on their salad (more for me!) but overall everyone was super nice and I got to work up a sweat while doing dishes before sitting down for 5 more hours of seminars.

While the organic greens salad has long been digested, I'm still rolling around a few classes trying to wrap my head around some research that's just come out. I guess the next thing for me to do is go out in the fields and test it for myself.
I can't wait!