Posting has been quiet of late simply because we have been so busy. I geared up for school and no sooner had it started than goat kids started to be born right and left. But just to keep people current with what we are up to, I felt a need to post some pics. Below, under each pic, is a little running narrative of what we have been up to for lo the past 8 weeks or so.
First, there were our 11 goat kids, seven bucks and four does this year . . .
Yes, they are adorable, but we are at a point where we will need to sell all of our kids off annually now, and may even need to get rid of an ill-tempered older goat or two. We will continue to breed though, in order to keep the best quality goats in terms of milking, mothering, and temperament, for our herd – plus the homemade feta, chèvre, and ricotta are so damn good, and, we suspect, the milk is morphing our pork into something like super high quality veal. Birthing was pretty uneventful except for our first middle-of-the-night birthing. I went out to check on a goat or two we thought set to give birth at around 2:30 AM one morning and that we had put in their birthing stalls. All was quiet. When I went out to check again at 4:30 AM, surprise! Two goat kids were born to a goat not in her birthing stall, but who we knew was soon due. The mother (Sybil), rejected her buck who was adopted by Catlin, one of Marguerite’s (our herd-queen’s) grand-daughter’s; the doe was doing fine but then went into a steep decline and had to be bottle fed by Nancy and Lori. She was also lame in one leg, but is now, happily, doing well; she may have suffered the leg injury due to her bruiser of a brother, who we will keep as a wether to keep our breeder buck, Benny, company. He has been named Jerry, so we will have Ben and Jerry as our bucks.
In addition to goats there are birds – lots and lots of birds, and we have been, as noted in earlier posts, busy building infrastructure for them. We have eight new ducks (the three white ones are for dinner one of these days), and so will have a few more layers – their eggs are amazing, whether hard-boiled, fried, or used for baking. They all have the run of the garden these days to take care of slugs.
Then there are our chickens – lots and lots of chickens. So far this year we have put fifty new layers (all Gold Sex Link) out on pasture in addition to our older mixed-breed flock of 70 or so. We have fifty more layers (Rhode Island Reds) that will join them in a day or two and that are still in the barn. In addition we have 75 broilers in the barn that will soon go out on pasture as well and will be harvested in late May or early June – we are intent on having our broilers off pasture by July 4 this year. As noted before in other blog posts, the season here for broilers is tight – the weather needs to be temperate and the grass needs to come in, which means your window is pretty much mid-March when the grass comes in to July 4 or so when the grass starts to die back.
On top of chickens are our hogs – which have been a challenge this year due to a few health issues which, I suspect, is due to weather and assorted other factors. We have a mix of Berkshires, Hampshires, and Duroc mixes. This is probably the last herd of swine we will have before we close our system to off farm animals – we are looking to get a pair to breed ourselves, and right now we’re thinking we’d like to get a Tamworth/Large Black cross and mix it with a Berkshire. Our last set of hogs were Tamworth/Large Black crosses, and their bacon, ham, and chops have, as always, an outstanding flavor – pork raised on pasture and goats milk truly is transcendent, and the difference between store bought and pasture raised pork like that between a gassed tomato from Florida that will bounce when it falls from a truck and one you grow yourself; it truly is that dramatic. Our flock of renegades (as we have dubbed those chickens who have decided that there is no way to keep them in a coop) enjoy ranging with the hogs as they root out on pasture so that they can get worms.
Finally of late, there is Khal Drogo, as we have named our sole Jacob Sheep that we got a couple of weeks ago. The wool of the Jacob is a delight to touch, and we are hoping to get a breeder pair and raise a few of our own. It will be a small operation: we’ll probably keep a few ewes over time for wool, and keep the boys for the dinner table – where Mr. Drogo is set to go in time for July 4 lamb chops.
The temperate winter has also kept Tommy a pretty busy mouser!
On top of all else, believe it or not, garden management has been a bit of a frenzy this winter as well. Our peaches and apricots need particular attention in our wet climate, and need to be sprayed and pruned in the winter – I use a mix of copper and dormant oil, both organic thankfully! Pruning is not so bad these days, so long as you keep your trees at your own height and don’t allow them to get too big (and yes, you do have total control over this, but that is the subject for another post!) We also planted lots of starts a few weeks ago, including broccoli, lettuce, kale, chard, and green and Chinese cabbage; last weekend we even planted basil, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers. The plum tree in the garden pictured above is incredibly fragrant, but produces large red plums that we do not find particularly flavorful (unlike our gold plum in our front yard); a delight to smell in the spring, we will give the fruit to our hogs in late summer.
So there you have it! A herd of goats, a herd of swine, more flocks of birds than I care to count, starting a small herd of sheep, and tending or planting fruits and veggies – all of it keeps us hopping, even in winter. But it has all gotten a bit easier these days since our young helper, Ryan, now lives in one of the apartments we have set up in our big red barn. Having a fourth younger and stronger hand has helped us beyond measure. But that will need to be the subject for another post: the care and tending of plant and animal, even at this early hour, await.