When we started this homestead, our goals were different than they are now. As we change, this farm changes. We have changed so much!! My children have grown. Our abilities have been tested. Our ideas, once only dreams, have come to physical fuition before our eyes. Much hard work has taken place. MUCH learning! We have experienced both new life, and death within each species we are sheparding here. We keep learning, dreaming, planing, feeding, loving, caring for, cleaning after, leading forward the many animals that we call home. We fall deeper into each season. We feel the change of light in our very bones. This place we've chosen to live in, to live on, has really grounded us in ways we didn't know were possible. The new year is just a breath away, and it fills us with a feeling of possibilities. A chance to learn, to change, to grow, to dig in deeper, and to pull forward all at the same time. I've come to love New Years! At the moment it is creating a deep feeling of gratitude for it all.
We are finally starting to settle. We sold the bucks. Vader left just this week. We opened the gate between the buck pen and the main pen. We have decided to keep on all the babies at this time. I think the ginger brothers are destine for another farm, but no rush. We tried to sell Millie, twice. There was plenty of interest, but when push came to shove, I couldn't part with her. These critters are sweet souls that really bond with you. Millie has us by the heart. We tried to sell off Millie's buckling. Then I let them back in the same area together and they remembered each other. They are family. So, he is going to stay on too. Phoebe and Millie have come to the conclusion that Millie will lead the herd, and Phoebe is a loyal second in command. They ALL come running when i whistle. (My favorite!) They have followed us into the woods to explore again. They are settling in. We have formed our herd of favorites. It turns out as a herd of favorites we are open to anything....even a La Mancha. Just for kicks, we added a five month old la mancha doeling this week. We have a weakness for the larger breeds and this girl just called out to us. She is a delight. Just the goat to complete the herd of our heart. <3
SO many things have taken place this summer! I have come to this place multiple times trying to update our life, but it is harder to write about something when you are swimming through it, so we just kept swimming. So, let me go back and bring us up to speed.
First, this guy was born! Millie was so stretched, and I worried about her baby getting stuck, so we sat on watch, sleeping next to an open window, checking on her all day, not leaving the farm for days. She laughed at me and birthed him at sunrise one morning. She had cleaned him, and fed him, and sat him next to her for me to find when I came to check in the morning. He was/ is HUGE. He was born the size of the quads at two weeks.
meanwhile, this wet spring brought issues with cocci, a protozoan parasite. We ended up treating all the babies. While checking bottoms multiple times a day, watching all my critters, and holding my breath, this guy showed neurological symptoms. We scooped him up and rushed into the vet, but he was small, and weaker, and didn't make it through the night.These things happen, but it doesn't make it any easier.
,After months of research and planning, of setting things in place to expand our herd, I found myself feeling unsure. Not because of the loss of a kid, not because of the troubles of watching for sickness, not because I wasn't excited about the future of the herd, but mostly because it was all I could think/work on in a day. I am not afraid of hard work. I am willing to put in extra work to accomplish my goals. For us to keep a herd, I have plenty of extra work. Ideally, we would have pastures, multiple pastures, to rotate our herd through to keep them fed ,and healthy ,and free of parasite loads. We have places to browse, good places, but none I can fence, so browsing become herding, and we need to stay nearby. This seems romantic, but less than ideal. To compensate, we give hay year round inside their fenced area. Inside their fenced area, I rake up poo several times a day. Once again, less than ideal. On proper pasture, we would just rotate to a fresh plot after a bit. I rake up hay that has dropped to the ground because they won't eat it then, it becomes soiled, and if they become desperate for a snack, you have them eating soiled hay, so out that goes. This all becomes rather time consuming in a dog chasing its tail sort of way.
Then, for me ,there are two legged kids that need me. There are friends, and family, and summer adventures. We found ourselves passing on some of the adventures, and times with our loved ones. I found my services needed in multiple places at once, telling my children to wait when I really felt they needed me. These are not things I'm comfortable sacrificing. I felt I was carrying my whole world on my back. I planned to move forward, to grow this thing through abundance, but this abundance was hard to balance on my own. Admitting that was not easy, but once I did it was like a breath of air into my tired lungs! Just admitting I was struggling felt empowering, so I knew what I had to do.
I had to reduce my herd. My dreamy, lively herd of goats. I gave myself permission to step back from breeding. Huge chunk of time returned to the family. Also, leaving me with new priorities in the herd. If I'm not breeding, or milking, these qualities are no longer the driving quality making up our herd. We won't sell off all the goats, but now we don't need herdsires, so they could go.
this sweet boy went to make babies in Connecticut!
I adore all my animals, so I have relied heavily on my family to help form the image of our pet herd going forward. We have chosen to keep the "gingersnaps". The boys will be castrated, and be kept as pets. Our one tiny doeling will grow up here. We were their story even before they were born, and we will see how it plays out here on our farm.
And, this girl will stay on to oversee their antics. Each of my four does was special to me, but I needed to choose only four goats to stay on. Phoebe, my little stubborn diva, has grown into an attentive animal. I think she thinks she is a dog. She is mostly patient with the little ones. SHe runs to me when I whistle. She loves to be loved. For all these reasons she was chosen to be our herdqueen. The others will go on to be part of another herd. We have carefully found homes for each of them.
Letting go of the way things have been is really hard. I have found such joy in this experience! We could of stayed with the original girls, but I really felt they should go forward as dairy goats. For them to move forward while we pause here to play a bit more.
While I am grateful to have experienced THIS.......
I am excited to see this through
o Just when I was ready to give up holding my breath, just when I stopped checking and resolved to finally do my laundry, just when we thought we could make other plans, Ginger's dam broke. For two days Ginger appeared to have sporadic contractions, but nothing else. Then Wednesday, a bit after noon, there was a kerfuffle in the barn yard. The funny thing is that I had sort of stopped jumping straight to "is this it?" and had moved into "it'll happen when it happens", so when I sauntered out back I was a bit shocked to see not only my doe on the ground, but the beginnings of the amniotic sac bulging from her backside!! I grabbed my supplies, and knelt by her side as the first kid popped out. A big boy! She was licking him, I was toweling him, and up she stands with two little feet hanging out next! So I look, and they are back feet, and I grab a towel to catch her from falling , and out she glides into the world! Smaller, skinnier, but perfect, a doe. We had confirmed twins with a sonogram, with the possibility of another that wasn't seen. Well, the "other" slid out looking just like Mama (only a boy), and he brought along a brother right behind that looks an awful lot like Papa! I was bowled over! FOUR babies for this sweet first freshener! She has been a wonderful Mama, too, attending to each one's needs, unerringly patient. Such a joy to have four new lives bouncing into our home!!
One hundred forty five days is full term gestation for Nigerian Dwarf Goats. Like any mammal, there is a window of time either side of that number when they will actually kid. We hit 145 today on our first goat due to kid. We bred our girls a bit late in the season this year, so I have patiently watched the parade of others' bouncing babies. I am so excited for the arrival of our first Bowerbird babies! Boys or girls?? What color? what color eyes? (Ginger has blue eyes, but we don't know if she will pass those on or not. How do they look? Then there is the worry wort in me. Will they get stuck? Will they be healthy and strong? Will she take to them? Will I know how to help if it is needed?? This is all new to me and I have studied, but I am winging it when it comes to experience. I know everyone must begin at the beginning, but tell that to the butterflies in my belly!! Ha! Deep breath, piles of supplies at the ready, lots of late night reading, and a trust in nature this will all work out. If needed, I have a good vet on the speed dial. Come on Ginger!! We're waiting!
It feels like it has rained for a solid month. Rain is the new spring. Luckily, we won't melt, but the goats weren't so sure. Goats can deal with plenty, but rain, not so much. For more days than I can count they mostly took shelter, and ate hay harvested last summer ,while looking out longingly at the green stuff growing all around. To say we are pleased to see the sun is an understatement!! But, the sun is out, the breeze is warm, there are baby goats expected within the week, and life marches forward!
This little man is our newest herdsire....Well, he will be our new herdsire when he's a bit older. Right now he is our month old bottle baby. A bottle baby is just what it sounds like, a baby younger than weaning age that you feed by bottle several times a day. I suppose it could be daunting with more, but with one funny little fellow it is entertaining. The refreshed interest in actually caring for (and not just hanging out with) the goats in my children is encouraging. One doesn't mind waking early, if you get to pull on your boots and bottle feed Wyeth in your pajamas! What fun!!
I am in the nesting phase before the babies are born. I am cleaning out barn pens, rearranging the "furniture", checking batteries in the lantern, gathering birthing supplies. I was quite the nester when pregnant with my sons. I moved our bedroom into a completely different room a week before I gave birth to my first! Ha! This time though, I am the midwife. I read up on all the horrors that can go wrong last spring when we were expecting our first kidding here on the farm. I was ready to "go in" if needed. Poppy, luckily had a quick, clean kidding of one sturdy male. She was a fantastic Mama. I breathed a sigh of relief. No "going in" required. We have a capable vet to call on if things get too tricky. Goat vets are hard to find, so I am thankful to know they are there. I know I got lucky last year, but I also know this time around that worry won't help my does. SO, we nest. I cross the days off the calendar, I check the girls often, I feed them a few treats and scratch the itchy spots they can't reach. I sympathize with their swollen size. I get giddy thinking of the bouncing babies about to take over our days. Two weeks out, I could probably knit something up if I get going now. New Life is so exciting!!
Homesteading means waking on the sofa ,where you have dozed off waiting for the kids to go to sleep, and pulling on the quilted work suit over your pajamas, and grabbing your headlamp to check on the barnyard before you can crawl off to bed, because we are experiencing a cold snap. It means scooping up Lydia, the laying hen ,where she has roosted in the hay barn, to return her to the coop after she missed the round up earlier in the evening. It is distributing a bit more hay to keep all the other animals fed well enough to keep warm in the 27 degree night. It means pausing by the wood pile to shine your light on a field mouse scampering by with its own mouthful of hay; sympathetic to its plight tonight, but sort of hoping it becomes dinner for the owls before it moves in to eat the vegetables grown in the garden in the summer months. It is the amazing experience of feeling the thrill of cool air, and taking in the crisp stars above; to fill my lungs with the chill. It is also knowing ,despite the cold in my bones, I have nothing to loose in this freeze. We are just dipping our toes in; manual work for our eggs, milk, and veggies, but my husband still trudges off to work to pay the bills. We are living a life where we have engaged in a deeper relationship with this earth, these animals, even wacky Mother Nature herself. Yet, I know with a clarity of perspective, we are small potatoes. I buy my hay from a farm close enough that we can hear their cows call for their supper in the evening while I cook . I am in awe of their family, farming that plot for the last 100 plus years. There is deep dedication and risk involved; for them the instability of spring brings not just inconvenient weather, but the gamble of loss in an orchard full of blossoms open early, and still they take the odds for what they are. It is easy to romanticize the poetry in this way of living. I try to remember to see with eyes wide open.
The truth is that chicks are smelly. They peep through the night and wake you. Our house is TINY, so they are stuck in the basement. There are many reasons why each year I say ,"no peeps". Only ,it seems each year, somehow they creep their way in. "We've done the peep thing", I say, "no need to do it again". "Grown out pullets (hens ready to lay) are a much more sensible choice for the farm", I say, thinking myself savvy. And yet, here we are. It started with a plan in my head, not even whispered to the kids, to purchase two, just two, to grow out in the garden over the summer. Golden laced Wyandottes. I'm a sucker for a new breed. We have something of a collection. The plan was to attend the local egg hunt, and top things off with a pair of surprise chicks. When the small human came out of the hunt eggless, Mama's pair of Wyandottes became a pair, plus this-really-cute-one-that-loves-me-Mama-look! So, we came home with three birds in a cardboard box, and a very pleased seven year old chicken boy. Three seemed perfectly reasonable. Just three.
Except, I had only part of the money for that third special chick. Our wonderful farm friends sent us home with it anyway, and I promised to stop by the next day with the last few dollars owed. No problem. Set the chicks up. Swore that was it, but the next morning one of our buff orpington hens was acting weird, the sort of weird that ends in the barnyard burial ground. We administered to her best we could, and tucked her into a quiet place in the barn to either rise, or quietly pass on. My chicken boy lingered, checking on her with a solemn aire. Soooo, when we stopped back over to our friends' with the few dollars owed, I remembered a few buff chicks scratching in their chick pen, and tucked a few dollars more into my pocket. The promise of a pair of buff sisters in the garden seemed to ease the loss of the hen in the barn. Circle of life and all that. So, that brings us to five. Five peeps I swore we did not need. Five chicks that smell, and make noise, and eat unbelievable amounts of feed, but won't lay for another four months time. Five peeps to snuggle, and name, and care for, and carry around. Five more lives added to our farm. chicken math.
This homestead has been in my head and heart since I was fourteen years old. It has finally come to fruition alongside my husband and sons. Though my hands are more likely to be deep in the soil, milking the goats, or slipped into the hand of one of my children while exploring our woods, I hope to bring my hands back to the keyboard to share our adventures here. Welcome!