I haven’t done a lot of moving with the goats yet because I bought two panels of 50′ of net to try it and see how things went. I’ve built it off the semi-permanent fence I put up to train our new animals in, so they’ve moved around a little. They seem to like this pile of dirt. We’ve got a game camera out there, so hopefully in the next couple of days, we
Nanny Ogg was the only other goat who was far enough away from the fence to be photographed when I was out there with the “big camera”. Not only that, but she was standing in a nice patch of sunlight. Someone give her a cookie!
Rhythm would love it if there weren’t a fence between her and the goats. That stick at her feet? She was tossing it around in her mouth like she was trying to tempt Whiskey to play with her. The goats didn’t seem to understand, but they were definitely interested in her too. The last time we let her in with them, though, she was too nervous to do anything other than shiver (so we put her back out).
Our first livestock experiment was chickens. It looks like we got those the first year we moved out to the farm. It’s funny to think about all the things I’ve learned since our first chickens. I’m especially amused (?) by the changes in the housing. I learned that I really do want a house I can walk into…it’s much easier to maintain that way. Having a house that’s tall enough to walk into also seems to keep the chickens happier (for ventilation/circulation).
Our second livestock experiment was the pigs…in 2016. It took us a couple of years to add new animals; it looks like 2015 was the year of the dogs…oh, and stump digging. The pigs were awesome and I am really looking forward to getting a new herd this year. We’re certainly doing three, possibly four pigs this year. While the work they did turned out to not be super helpful (we learned our planned garden spot was over the drain field…not an option if we want to leave the door open for organic, among other reasons for moving it), it was fun to watch them root around. I learned a lot about not moving animals into an area until the fence is completely finished.
2017 is the year of the goats. We acquired four Nigerian dwarf goats almost two weeks ago. Meet Nanny Ogg (Nanny), “the buck,” “the little calico girl,” and “the other little girl.” As you can tell, only one has a name (they came with names, but to be honest, I’ve forgotten them). The girls are all supposed to be pregnant, but I’m waiting to see babies before we count on them. The buck is supposed to be unrelated to both the girls we have and any babies they are carrying, so we’re set for a couple of years if we decide this is a group we want to stick with.
The goats have been another lesson in fencing. I trained the goats on the stranded electric inside the field fence, just like I did the pigs. I had two strands (probably should have had three, since they kept putting their feet on the hard fence, but they don’t seem to have damaged it). I figured they’d learned about the fence a couple of days in, so I strung up some strands to about where the net is in the picture (I really wanted them to take care of the wild blueberries in that picture). The little calico girl screwed up her nerve and dashed through the fence into the newly seeded field mix. I complained a lot, put the other goats back into the hard fence pen, and had just finished asking Tony to come help me get her back in when she put herself back through the fence so she didn’t get left behind. I was relieved that this herd of goats is so cohesive…the pigs were far less concerned about being separated.
That day, I ordered two panels of electric netting. That stuff is amazing and I think that might be the lesson from the goat experiment so far: the right equipment makes the job a lot easier. It went up faster, it’s more of a deterrent for the goats, the dogs respect it (not that they really had trouble with the strands once they touched it), it went up faster (oh, did I say that already?).
Writing for farming is kind of funny. The “off season” is the time I have the least to write about. At least, I don’t have much to write about that seems worth making the effort. Yes, I burned another pile of weird sized logs. No, I didn’t get any splitting done this week. Oh, we’re up to a bag of feed per week for the chickens this month. There’s not much about that that’s exciting.
Then, the production season starts and just in the last week, I have pictures for at least two stories and I could probably come up with a third if I thought about it long enough.
Last week, there was a sort of open house thing at work. The farm they partner with sent some of their customers up for a tour. I couldn’t stay for the whole thing because I had other obligations, but the sheep were cooperative and a few of them had lambs the night before/morning of, so there were plenty of brand new babies to ogle, plus all the older babies that might not be quite as cute, but are much more active.
Which one is the mother? I don’t actually know anymore. One of the guys said that this wasn’t the first lamb she’d tried to help with. And the bawling when the mother and baby were moved to a different pen was as if she’d been separated from her own baby. I’d never seen cooperative mothering before and from the way they were talking, it’s not exactly common. My schedule this year has let me be at the barn for more births than last year. It’s been really interesting to see the whole process (mostly in pieces because I’m not just there to watch mothers have their babies, obviously).
The other exciting news is that we have a black snake. The dogs found it last week and weren’t quite sure what to make of it. I called them off, but they had to make absolutely sure it wasn’t going to get us. I think it lives in the base of the tree that you can barely see in the picture. I’m hoping that it’s going to help take care of the rodent problem in the basement.
I’m not much of a morning farm job kind of person. I like to not have to be awake before the sun. But to compensate, my morning days are my favorite for the work that needs doing. And it’s a little hard to complain about driving into the sunrise when it looks like this.
Once the sun was up, the sky didn’t stop being pretty. Fortunately for me, the morning was pretty cool and not too humid, so moving fences wasn’t unpleasant (actually, I would say it was really nice). Unfortunately for me, the vacuum pump for the milking machine wouldn’t work right and the guy who worked this morning asked me to help hand milk the herd of 37 animals.
The funny thing is, just a couple of days before, one of the other owners was enjoying the fact that the best producers are being milked right now. So not only were there lots of animal to milk, there were lots of animals with very large, very full udders. I was just glad that I didn’t have to do it all on my own. As it is, my hands were really tired by the time we were done.