Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Love Trash!

Oh, I love trash! Anything dirty or dingy or dusty; Anything ragged or rotten or
rusty. Yes, I love trash... (Oscar the Grouch)

Well, up to a point, of course. When my husband takes a truckload of stuff to the dump, he looks around for useable, or actually REuseable stuff to bring back to the farm. We have a collection of wire baskets from freezers and I just found the ultimate use for them.

Each birthing stall in the new goat nursery will have its own individual, shiny chrome hay rack!

I'll put up pictures of the progress soon.

I save a lot of glass containers that are reuseable, including wine bottles, which I sterilize and use for homemade brambleberry wine. Plastic bags are reused as much as possible, and I'm thinking of always keeping a bunch in the trunk of my car and taking them into the grocery store and asking the baggers to reuse them for my groceries. There are lots of things I reuse, but I know I can do better.

Here's a good article about post holiday recycling from today's New York Times.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Will Find Me...

Christmas Eve morning found me in the barn, as usual, raking out stalls and moving “wasted” hay into them. The Lessons and Carols from Cambridge soared throughout, thanks to the radio. My barn became a cathedral or symphony hall for the morning while I worked.

I do not listen for the religious content, but rather for the hope that choral music gives. It is awesome to think that humans can cooperate in a group effort to create such majesty.

“Away in a Manger” -- I wonder if city dwellers know what a manger is. Wasted hay is something goat keepers know about. Goats pull hay out of the manger to eat. What falls on the ground and is stepped on, they will not eat. Goats are pretty careful about that. Good thing, too, because they would be ingesting dirt and parasites otherwise. Now cows -- cows are a different story…

I walk back and forth, dumping buckets of the truly dirty hay and manure raked out and returning with forks full of the relatively clean waste hay. I make the stalls cozy for cold nights and the kidding which I anticipate next month.

I think about the other side of the human coin of cooperation and of how humans can cooperate beautifully to do terrible things. Genocide, religious and ethnic cleansing, for example. I wonder what it is in the human psyche that makes so many want to belong to an exclusive group -- even at the risk of losing their humanity in so doing. I think about the willingness of so many to give up individuality and the ability to do just what I am doing -- questioning man’s place in the universe.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Redhen's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Good morning.

It's 16 degrees F. here this morning, with strong wind and snow flurries. It will be a bit trying to do the farm chores this morning. Yesterday, I did anticipate the cold and did some last minute fix-ups in the barns to minimize the drafts. I'm hoping it will be a sedate day despite the extreme cold.

Normally, I just block out the negative things that happen, but the day before yesterday is worth mentioning, if only to "exorcise" it from my consciousness.

On Wednesday morning, the first thing I noticed when walking to the goose house, was that the cattle ball waterer was leaking a LOT from the base, creating a small river. Next, I became aware that there was no water in the hydrants in the greenhouse and chicken house. No water in the old farmhouse -- so no easy way to deliver water to the chickens.

I drove around and checked waterers and hydrants in the outbuildings on other parts of the farm. The water problem was only in one area. I called my husband at work and let him know that something was wrong. He suggested that I turn off the well pump at that area.

I then drove down the hill in my Mule to do that, and saw the entire goat herd walking down the driveway. They had chosen that moment to discover a breach in the electric fencing and were checking out other areas to browse! The Mule's motor just made them panic and I could see that the farm gate, open to the road, was where they were headed!

Anticipating tragedy, I jumped off the Mule and proceeded on foot. The goats turned toward me and I was able to lead them uphill. Just as my breathing became labored from the uphill climb, one of the ringleaders noticed an open gate to one of the large pastures. The goats, followers that they are, all went through that gate and I shut it and hoped for the best.

I went down and shut the main farm gate and then turned off the well pump. I took buckets in the bed of the Mule and went to one of the big barns to haul some water to the chicken house. Mostly, it sloshed out, so that by the time I got there I had only about a gallon of water.

Things just continued to go from bad to worse as the day wore on. I won't bore you with the details. As it turned out, the original water problem was caused not by freezing pipes, but by a worn out float valve. We managed to lure and drive the goats through three pasture gates toward their domain and all was back to normal by the end of the day.

'Just so those of you who crave the rural life know: we get our share of excitement, too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


We chug along in the cold. It's uncomfortable to work outside too long. There are now three propane wall heaters installed in the greenhouse -- one in each section. The sole exception is the long end, which will be kept as a cool room.

I planted some bulbs in pots yesterday and started the clean-up. The Old furnace is out on the grass, waiting to be disposed of. Today, I'll put down new gravel on the floor and work on organizing the potting room a little better.

We bought bamboo flooring for the old house. It was on sale; is environmentally friendly; pre-finished and very attractive. It supposed to be harder than oak flooring and doesn't require adhesive. We'll just nail it in a room at a time, as I complete the painting and trimwork.

Next project plan: a goat nursery in the green dairy barn. Since I've abandoned plans for a dairy, it makes sense to set up "jugs" (little stalls) for kidding during the winter. It will be an annex to the big barn to reduce crowding. Since there is concrete on the floor, it should be easier to keep clean and to heat when the weather is brutal. I'd like to set up a warming crib (perhaps an empty Rubbermaid trough) with a safe heat lamp over it, for emergency warmth for newborns.

Well, it's good to have goals, I suppose. I envision a row of small stalls made with cattle panels and with old carpeting attached to the sides to keep down drafts. Each stall would have a place for a hanging feeder and a water bucket. We already have hay bales in that barn, so the wasted hay could provide soft bedding and extra warmth.

I'll let you know if we actually accomplish this before kidding starts.

Ta ta.