Friday, November 30, 2012

This Moment

Joining in with SouleMama today....

{this moment}-a Friday ritual.  A single photo-no words-capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

@$%! Goats

I wasn't sure what to focus on, since these are not supposed to be a photo of either the goats or the fence--it's a photo of the concept of the goats inside of the fence, where they are supposed to be.

Since autumn set in and the grass became less edible, Ethan was working on a new fence line so the goats could be put in a wooded area where we've never had any animals yet.  It's loaded with grass, vines, low woody browse and acorns.  They had been in the paddock adjoining the milking paddock for several weeks.  It has a permanent fence around it and gets used whenever we need a solid barrier.  Since it is a small paddock that we are not really cultivating for nutrition and diversity and it is mostly called upon for it's useful fencing, all the good stuff has been eaten back and the trees have the "high tide" nibbled-look.  The goats had become tired of their hay long before Ethan finally, finally finished fencing the wooded area.  I thought they would be so happy to be out, but we still had quite a time getting them there, since I've been far too absent for them to still be well trained to follow me.
(I know that sounds strange, but you have to understand that goats, like camels and donkeys, are only semi-domesticated.  They become feral again if you don't constantly give them treats and back rubs.)

We finally got them in, and with a sigh of relief we left for the night.  When we returned the next day, everyone except Nougat was locked in the milking paddock (?!!!).  Nougat was so desperately freaked-out about being left behind, she could only bleat until she was hoarse.  The woody browse was untouched.  With much cursing, we put them out again.

About 20 minutes later, we saw June Bug leap over the fence like it wasn't there, and the rest of them (except Nougat) get out and lock themselves in the milking paddock again.  They can squeeze in through the gate, but they hadn't been able to figure out how to squeeze out, for some reason.
For about a week we kept humoring ourselves and putting them out every evening, only to find them locked in the milking paddock again.  They were determined not to be left in a delicious, untouched paddock.  They demanded the trodden-down dusty milking paddock, gosh dang it.

Who knows what goes on between those long ears?
Ethan rescued the goat netting from where we had abandoned it years ago (it is a huge pain to set up here with all the blackberries and cactus, but it really does mostly keep them in).  The gate to the milking paddock has been fortified to be goat-proof (ha!), and they are forced to be out with the delicious woody browse whether they want to be or not.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yarn Along

Baby is sleeping, so I have hands free for knitting (and a photo) and I can join in with the Yarn Along again!
I am reading Drowned Ammet by Dianna Wynne Jones.  It's the second book in the Dalemark series.  It's another one that we got at the library to read to the children, but we are reading it, too.  I read this series all out of order because they didn't have the right ones at the library when we went.  The Spellcoats is by far my favorite.  It's such an interesting way to tell a story--through a magical girl who is literally weaving the story into fabric.  I've been on a big Dianna Wynn Jones kick lately.  I love her writing style--in some ways it has just enough detail to give you a very specific picture, and in others it leaves a lot to imagine.  And I really like the way she writes from childrens' perspectives, and does a really good job of it.

Teasel and I were settling down with this, and I'm working on a Camilla sweater for our friend Kollean who lives next door.  I have also knitted Rose a camilla girl in a light blue and Clothilde has a baby camilla in apricot.  Kollean has seen me knitting for my children so much, and she asked me if I would knit something for her.  I hope she likes it and her parents can cope with not putting it in the washer, which would be tragic--for me and Kollean.  I've secretly asked them about it before just giving it to them, and they thought it would be no problem.  You have to be careful who you knit 100% wool for.  My mother is a disaster with wool--anything that goes to her house is automatically shrunk.

Penny, our pet chicken who is not really supposed to be in the front yard, but keeps getting out today, decided to join in with us through the window!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I've been meaning to finish this post for weeks!  Now that it's Thanksgiving, it's finally done....

We had such a nice Halloween celebration this year.  Having a small baby, I really took the Simplicity Parenting to heart and tried to keep it all wonderfully simple.

Halloween is not my favorite holiday.  I do love the dressing up and the pumpkins, but I have never like the way we celebrate it with cheesy scary stuff.  I remember when I was a kid I was totally puzzled about why everyone always had fake spider webs everywhere.  My dad is an entomologist and I grew up with lots of insects.  My dad, like other nutty insect enthusiasts, is totally fearless about picking up creepy bugs with huge pincers and biting beaks, so fake cobwebs seemed so strange and not-scary, but because everyone put them up for haunted houses I thought maybe there was something scary about them after all.  
I really don't like all the "scary" images of death.  It feels disrespectful for life and death.  And all the candy is so awful.  I don't let my kids eat candy.  It's not about the sugar.  If it were just sugar it wouldn't be so bad, but they put all sorts of strange and horrific chemicals in candy--the real reason why Halloween should be scary!  And I hate the way home made things and healthy treats like fruit have been demonized, so everyone has to go out and buy candy--or small plastic toys.   

So, a few years ago, I decided to reclaim this holiday, and celebrate it in a way that is more meaningful to me.  Inspired by a local fair-trade store called Alternatives, which celebrates the holiday as Day of the Dead and offers sugar skulls to decorate and an offrenda, we began celebrating a modified version.

For us, it has become an opportunity to tell the stories of our Beloved Dead each year, to remember them and their lives, who they were and where they came from and how they lived.  Telling their stories, it always amazes me how much a part of our lives all of our Beloved Dead remain, and how much a part of us they are--from one grandmother's love of cooking and gardening, and my other's deep intuition, and my one grandfather's love of simple things and children, and the other's powerful stubbornness to stand up to his cruel stepfather.  I am so glad to have these stories to share with my children.  I always make it a point to ask my parents for their memories of the Beloved Dead.  Each time they remember something new, I feel that I learn something about myself, too.  They are in so many ways still here with us.

This year, we baked cornbread and pumpkin bars with a pumpkin from the garden (a new version of pumpkin pie I made up with no wheat) and carved pumpkins.  We got two amazing, huge pumpkins this year from the store.  They were hard as rocks.  It was all we could do to carve them, and the knife kept getting stuck like the sword in the stone.  I joked that they were probably genetically modified and crossed with red woods.  The stem on the one pumpkin was just incredible.  I can't bring myself to imagine what a monstrous vine it came off of.
The Jehovah's Witnesses came to pamphlet us with pictures of small, smiling children petting bears and lions and such while we were carving them.  I started telling them excitedly about our new way of celebrating Halloween, and they came away traumatized, I think.  Ethan told me later they don't even celebrate birthdays.

I also made toasted pumpkin seeds, but they burned.  We took a walk down to the grapefruit tree that grows in the median on the street over and got some grapefruit for our offrenda.  Later in the evening we ate the pumpkin bars and told the stories of the Beloved Dead.

Another One!

When we went out yesterday afternoon to do the chores, Chestnut had just had her baby!
It's another boy.  She was cleaning him off and mooing to him.

I can tell she's going to be a really good mama.  She knew just what to do.  He was already starting to hop around playfully.  The other calves were there, too, and spent a lot of time running around with their tails up and playing with the dog.  Geranium made a fuss about this at first (she hates the dog), but they all ignored her and kept playing.

Here's Geranium's calf having a nursing break.  We have decided to name her Flora after the Flora danica buttery milk culture.

Here's Matilda and baby, when he wasn't running about crazily.  I love the funny way they lift their tails when they're running and playing.

And my baby was there, too!  Lots of babies this year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Calves

A few days ago Matilda had her calf!  It's a boy.
I wish the electric fence hadn't been in the way for the pictures, but when I tried to go through the gate up there, Matilda started pushing it with her horns.  She was just eager to be milked, but I had the baby with me and I didn't want her to accidentally hurt us.

He kept wandering off at first, thanks to the no-good dog who leads babies astray, but he seems to be settling in.  Rosie named him Explorer, because he kept disappearing, much to the distress of everyone, and surprisingly more so for us than for his mother.  Matilda's been being milked again, and she's so happy about that.  For months now she's been resentful of Mairie going to be milked, and would run away from me and turn her nose up when I tried to scratch her neck and be friendly.

He looks just like a Devon, only he's got a larger frame like Matilda.

Just a short while later, Geranium had her calf!  It's a girl.  Everyone except Ethan has wanted to name her Buttercup, which I know is a very cliched name for a cow, but it's way better than Ethan's suggestion of "Dippy."  And she is contributing to my plan for making tons of raw cultured butter.

Geranium is such a good mother.  She had her baby in a pile of old hay, just when Ethan got there for milking.  The calf was all snuggled up and warm in the hay.  Meathead has seemed slightly jealous.  He was picking on the calf a little by nudging her aggressively with his nose, but Geranium bumped him away.  The baby didn't seem to even realize or care.

The calf was nursing while Geranium was eating hay--so cute!

Chestnut is going to calve very soon, too.  Her udder is huge.  I'm afraid it looks like Isla wasn't bred at all.  I am worried she is infertile.  We had her AI'd several times and finally got the bull, but she was due last week and her udder hasn't swelled at all.  The lady we bought Honey (Isla's mama) from had kept the heifer who was born before Isla, and she later told me that heifer was also not able to conceive.  I was hoping all the kelp and good grass would overcome any possibilities like that for Isla.  I don't know what we'll do with her if it turns out she is infertile.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Disgruntled with Countryside Organics

I am so disappointed with Countryside Organics, who we order our organic grains, kelp and other feed supplements from.  They are the closest organic feed mill to us in Florida, and they are in Virginia.

  I used to really think they were great, even though they've sold us feed crawling with weevils for exorbitant prices (like 50 cents a pound) in the past, and messed up many orders by mixing things up and giving us things we didn't want, like whole barley, instead of corn, I was glad they had organic feed, kelp, etc.  They had always seemed so nice on the phone.

A couple of weeks ago they called to let us know that back in August they "forgot" somehow to charge us $220, and so they are retroactively charging us now!
Back in August we had budgeted money for it and didn't notice at all that they had neglected $220.

So basically Countryside Organics = The Grinch Who Stole Christmas this year.

I wanted to send them a check with a note saying,

Here's the money we were going to use to buy our children presents for Christmas.  Thanks a lot for the extremely poor service you have provided.

But Ethan wisely talked me out of it.  After all, as the C.O. employee who called to badger us about their bill reminded me, we hardly order anything compared to their big distributors.  The guy was far from polite when I told him about all the other mistakes they've made for us and was really annoyed to hear any customer feedback.

We are small farmers, and they don't care.  They have no competitors in the Southeast, and they really couldn't care less.

I wish someone else would start an organic feed mill closer to Florida!
I would totally do it if I had a million dollars and a Florida registered veterinarian.

Anyway, venting aside, I've been wanting to write a post with thoughts/ideas about what we feed our animals.  Less stuff from Countryside Organics, that's for sure!!!
Next post, perhaps--