Wednesday, October 31, 2007

End of October

As I lie awake in my bed, I'm making mental lists of everything that must be done today and some things that might get done. There is obviously much more to do than I can accomplish. My mind is Open for Business.

When I get up it is still dark. I make myself empty the diswasher before I heat up coffee. I have some deeply held belief that I can control my life by making sure the kitchen is orderly. Washington Journal drones in the background, and I catch a beautiful sunrise as I putter around before heading down to the barns.

Yesterday, I managed finally to go to the supermarket and get some supplies.

The rains came and it got cooler. My plan was to get the vegetable, herb, and flower gardens under control by weeding and planting. As it turned out, the goats had other plans for me.

Another kidding marathon started precisely on Saturday morning and it's been ongoing. The maternity barn wasn't even totally cleaned and ready, although luckily I'd started it during the hot weather.

It is so cold in the mornings (frost the last two days) that I want to get to the barn early to make sure the little strangers are warm and dry. First time mothers have a tendency to stand in shock and awe after kidding. Their offspring may stand, wet and bawling in the draftiest and dirtiest part of the barn while they just seem to have no idea what just happened.

One of the old-timers had the sense to kid in a cozy hay-lined back stall yesterday, but she is a dairy goat and I believe there is a difference in mothering styles between them and the meat goats.

We've been exploring the possiblity of setting up a rainwater collection system that feeds an above ground cistern. The drought has been long and affects gardens and livestock production. There are very large cisterns available and one local company specializes in installation.

I'd like redundant water systems on the farm and think it is something that area farmers should be considering. It doesn't look like I can get a USDA grant, as I've already fenced off all ponds, streams, and sinkholes to protect the watershed. This seems like the perfect opportunity to do a Pilot Project. What agency or organization might be interested??

Today, we'll concentrate on goats and catch up on shots, hoof trimming and barn cleaning.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's Raining!

It's been raining gently but steadily for two days. The grass is greening up. The concrete waterer is FULL -- which means the groundwater that feeds the spring is replenished.

The ponds are filling. Ducks and geese are happy. Everyone's cows are spending time happily munching and getting an all-day shower. The goats are hiding in the barn eating hay. They don't like getting wet.

Speaking of hay -- it's in short supply this year because of prolonged drought. It's expensive to buy. I'm thinking there'll be more money in brokering hay this year than in selling cattle. The Police Blotter in the local paper listed an incident in which someone stole hay that was sitting in a field last week!

I harvested a wagon load of cheese pumpkins the other day. There are still some candy roasters developing in the garden. The rain should help them along.

I've started some flower and herb seeds in the greenhouse and was amazed to see that something is already coming up after only a few days. I think I'll dig some of the existing tomato plants and see if they'll produce in the greenhouse where whatever is eating them can't get in.

A friend traded me a box of tasty homegrown tomatoes for a cheese pumpkin and some other junk. Thanks, Ginger.

I'd also like to thank my friend, Patti in Portland, for doing that rain dance. It seems to have worked!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Squash Gourmet

The fearless squash hunter goes out at first light, and with her trusty squash knife held firmly in her teeth, she searches through the garden for exotic squashes.

After a successful hunt, she loads the squashmobile with attractive and tasty specimens: pink bananas, blue hubbards, kubochka, cheese pumpkins, sweet dumplings, and candy roasters fill the interior.

The squash gourmet, tired from the effort of lifting these mammoth fruits, nevertheless drives the squashmobile to its destination and unloads them. Sales were good. It seems a miracle that the plastic garden was successful at all.

There hasn't been a drop of rain since I last wrote here and it got hotter. We're just barely making it with water for the livestock and the garden is looking parched. There are still a few cucumbers and pumpkins ripening! It's hard to believe.

The squash gourmet was formerly "the watermelon gourmet" and took van loads of watermelons to the market as well.

The only thing really producing well currently is the fig tree. Some young egg customers got a sample of fresh figs right off the tree this morning and were properly impressed with their sweetness.

I've used up all the wine grapes and blackberries and they are fermenting into wine.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Remember Pigpen? He was the little kid who could best be described as a "dirt magnet." That's me.

On Monday, I took a shower before going out to do the morning chores. That was a collosal waste of time and water. Before going out, I had to change all my clothing and shower again.

Ten minutes after going out, I was covered with mud and sludge. Since the spring went dry a day earlier, I decided to take a shovel and clean out the sludge left behind in the cement waterer. Optimally, you'd never see the bottom of a spring-fed waterer, let alone clean it out.

The cows were going "nuts" looking for other sources of water. They'd been let into the lower pasture to get some grass. No rain for so long has depleted the supply in the upper pastures. The large cement waterer usually accommodates them very well, so the ball waterer was fenced in for the goats in the small front pasture. I filled two large water troughs for the cows elsewhere in the lower pasture, but they broke the fence to get to the ball waterer.

Last night, we worked in the dark to switch the fencing around so that it was on the "cow side", then got all the cows on their side of the fence. It was a lot of work and stress, but as soon as it was accessible, I realized why the cows were so determined: it was the small calves who came up to drink. Head slap! They were too short to drink from the big water troughs! The cement spring-fed waterer is at their level, but the troughs are just too tall.

Actually, I think that cows and goats are very patient with us humans and have to work very hard to get us to understand their concerns.

There is a "slight chance" for rain today, so I'm going to go out and finish cleaning out the cement waterer. All the mud and sludge remaining is dried out completely. No shower until AFTER this and all the barn raking and messing around in the garden. It has to rain sometime, and that will, hopefully, allow the spring to collect water again and fill the waterer.

Optimistically, this is my one chance this year to get that waterer cleaned out completely.

Think rain.