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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Taking a walk

Now that I'm down to three goats, I have a lot of extra time.  I've never just taken my goats for a walk, though I know people who do it all the time. 

Friday was a perfect autumn day in Maine, warm, mild, with a light breeze and no insects.  True Indian Summer.  I watched the goats hanging around the barn and thought, "I need to get them out of there, but they don't have the safety in numbers they used to have."  I put Zoë on the retractable leash and set out across the field.  Not surprisingly, the goats quickly followed.

Through the orchard we went, passed through the open gate to the far field, and into the meadow;




then across to the alders that grow thickly, threatening to take over if we don't keep them back.  A goat paradise. 

I've often thought I should bring in a hundred goats and just turn them loose.  In a short time they'd tame the brush and eat it all back.  Now I have only the three, but they delighted in the edges and copses.

Zoë was intrigued by some of the deer paths wending through the brush,

but kept a careful eye out for goat danger.  She was a bit leery at first.  She was, after all, on a lead, and not at all sure that she wasn't going to be goat fodder.

I sat on the ground, watching Zoë, watching Leah, watching Hal, watching Fiore, soaking up the sun and abandoning myself to the moment.

It was lovely, but after a while I headed back to the barn.  By now the goats had disappeared and gave me a start, as I couldn't find them.  What would happen if I left without them and coyotes showed up?  Back I came, and carefully listened.  A rustle here, a snap of twigs there.  More rustling.  Calling evenually brought them out and we all headed back.

I'm going to do this again before they go to their new homes.  This kind of pleasure should be indulged.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

It's getting real

          The end of an era.  I milked Dandelion and D’Arcy for the last time last night, and for the last time used the milking machine.  I have such sorrow about letting them go, but there’s a part of me that, regardless of sorrow, knows it must be done in order to move on.  I’m going to miss them, D’Arcy especially. I love them both, but D’Arcy’s always been my pocket goat.
Last time milking
          I've been dispersing my herd for a few months now, but today was different. D'Arcy, Dandy, and Leo went to their new home, and Fedra  will be joining them on Monday. When I walked out into the barn tonight to feed the remaining animals, it felt empty. No D'Arcy, no Dandy, no real milking, only Leah, who is almost dry. 

I feel like crying. I teeter between numbness and overwhelming sorrow. Goats have been so much a part of my life for the last 9 or 10 years that it's hard to imagine life without them. When Leah leaves...well, I'm not going to think about that until it happens.

          When I left the two does at Stephen Lee’s, Dandy was bleating loudly.  Yes, it was probably because the other goats had gone out to the pasture, but she and D’Arcy were turned toward me, watching me.  I felt like I had betrayed them.

          I know the cure for this.  Let myself feel the grief, then help someone else.  Get out of myself completely.  In the meantime, I'll go hug a goat.
Dandy settling in.  Her doeling, Hermione, is on the other side of the fence.  Instant recognition, and "Mama, can I nurse from you?"  "No!"

Dandy--with her daughter in the background, and her granddaughter next to her. 

Are you really leaving us here?

Hey!  Where are you going?
Leo doesn't have any qualms. He has a new buddy, and in a few days, a new purpose.

Apron off. Time to get down to some serious eating.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Not for the faint of heart, or, gardening woes

It hasn't been a good gardening year, but I did have a few tomato plants that were struggling along, and even bearing some fruit. Did have. Until this week. 
I had seen a little damage on one plant but thought it was slug related. Two days later, all my tomato plants had been stripped of folage and most of the fruit. On one plant, I plucked off 7--SEVEN--tomato hornworms yesterday. There is not a fruit or a leaf left on the plant, and all that within two days. Even on a denuded plant, I had to look hard to find them, and they were a good 2-3 inches long. They blend in wonderfully.  

Today I took a couple of pictures to add to my blog, and when I looked at the first at 100% magnification, with an eye to showing a detail of the damage, lo and behold, I found yet another!

Disguised as a rolled up leaf

Out I trotted to the greenhouse, paper towel in hand, and plucked not one but two hornworms off the plant, making a total of NINE on one plant.  I'm surprised there was anything left to eat.  I then examined the other plant and found yet another on that one.  All were quickly dispatched, and I hope a bird comes along and has a wonderful meal..  I left the plants hornworm free, cautiously hopeful that the plants would put out new leaves and maybe even more fruit.  Within the greenhouse, there's still a bit of a growing season.

Nibbling on a fruit
 Now, normally I love sphinx moths, aka hummingbird moths. They're beautiful. Alas for them, their offspring are not. If only they'd kept to the wild Solanaceae,  like bittersweet nightshade, they'd still be alive today to tell the tale.  Next year I may plant a couple just for the hornworms and keep a good eye out on the others.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The grass is always greener...variations on a theme.

I've said it before--may goats are a source of great amusement for me.  Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, they can find a way to make me smile, and even laugh.

Take feeding time, for example.  I measure out their grain and after they get grain, I give them Chaffhaye,  fermented alfalfa, like haylage in a bag.  Sometimes they want more grain, sometimes they want more Chaffhaye, but always, they want what's in the other doe's feeder because it has to be better.

I lock them in the headstalls for milking, but when I'm done and they seem to be finished eating, I release the headstalls and then watch.

On this particular day, Dandy started out on the smaller stanchion and D'Arcy was on the right, on the larger stanchion.  It's usually the other way around, but I guess they just wanted a change.  Pay close attention:  Dandy has the blue collar, D'Arcy has the yellow.

Dandy has finished her gain and now has some Chaffhaye.

D'Arcy is still working on hers.

"Hey!  What do you have over there that I don't have?"
Released. Now to see what's in the other feeder.
D'Arcy is looking around on the floor for anything interesting.  Dandy has immediately gone to D'Arcy's feeder, which contains exactly the same feed that she just left in her own.
D'Arcy, who left her Chaffhaye, has discovered Dandy's.
Yum!  This tastes sooo much better than what I had!
Dandy agrees.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sunset over Ducktrap

As I was driving home a few days ago, a brilliant glowing cloud appeared before me as I headed down Knights Pond Road.  I stopped the car, stood outside, and marveled at its beauty, then hurried home to grab my camera.  The short time that passed--about 3 minutes--was enough to diminish the brilliance, but was still lovely enough to remember and save.

The pictures are actually in reverse order from when I first turned onto the road.  When I grabbed my camera, I shot Ducktrap at the farm, then drove up to the original site, where the sunset now progressed to day's close.

Sunset over Ducktrap
The glow.
View from Knights Pond Road
Finale. Camden Hills with Ducktrap on the left.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New digs

The boys have been separated until the bucklings' new aprons come in. They are not happy about it, spending most of their day close to the fence where they can see the does.  Today there's a newly fenced portion.  It the buck area, and give them access to a lot of browse. 

I thought it was going to be difficult to get them to move, but I had forgotten about follow-the-leader. When I came through the paddock from the barn with the weed whacker in my hands, I became the Pied Piper. Once Fiore followed, so did the young ones. Within moments they had spied the thick browse, and happily settled in under the shady trees.

Meanwhile, I finished cleaning up under the SmartFence, attached it to the hotwire in the buck pasture, carried water to the side of the shelter, strung a wire across the entrance to the paddock area, and closed the gate.   

It was so simple, I ought to feel bad—but I don’t.  Now all I have to do is monitor the old welded-wire fence that edges the driveway.  With a little luck, it will take them a while to notice it since there’s so much good forage under the trees.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Small discoveries

Spring comes, followed by the need to mow yards and pastures.  Such a day came last Saturday, when I mowed with the lawn tractor and Shawn, my son, mowed with the full size tractor.  While he was doing the orchard and near pasture, I was in what's the family has called "the junkyard".  Old equipment is parked there, new equipment finds its way there, the truck body where we house the lawn tractor and snowblower, a pile of useful-but-not-yet-used lumber and posts, all can be seen in that small area.

However,  I also enclose part of the area because its full of bushes and forbs on the edges, a good place for the goats to browse where they feel safe. I keep the grass mowed to encourage them to seek the browse instead, once it's fenced in for the summer. 

Some things just shouldn't be mowed  Last year I discovered these bluets (Houstonia caerulea) as I was mowing, and carefully avoided them.  They came back this year, and again I left them.  I love bluets, so tiny, delicate, and yet hardy.  In the whole area there is just this one patch.  I debate whether to move them to my flower garden, but hesitate in case transplant shock might do them in.

 In the meantime, Shawn had discovered something I'd found a couple of days before.  A den, dug into the sandy spot between the paddock and under the barn, in the spot where my does love to sun themselves.  I've filled in the hole with rocks and dirt, but the next morning, the den is there again, as if I'd never touched it.  Whatever is living there is not going to be easily dissuaded.  And what is it?  It could be a fox or a skunk, but after searching for burrow identification online, I'm guessing it's a groundhog (aka woodchuck).  I've been trying to find a live trap to verify the identity of the new inhabitant.  

 In my searches, I found this wonderful bit on Wikipedia.
A report in 1833 by the New Hampshire Legislative Woodchuck Committee illustrates the attitude of some people towards this animal. In part, the report states: "The woodchuck, despite its deformities both of mind and body, possess some of the amenities of a higher civilization. It cleans its face after the manner of the squirrels, and licks its fur after the manner of a cat. Your committee is too wise, however, to be deceived by this purely superficial observation of better habits. Contemporaneous with the ark, the woodchuck has not made any material progress in social science, and it is now too late to reform the wayward sinner. The average age of the woodchuck is too long to please your committee.... The woodchuck is not only a nuisance, but also a bore. It burrows beneath the soil, and then chuckles to see a mowing machine, man and all, slump into one of these holes and disappear.... Your committee is confident that a small bounty will prove of incalculable good; at all vents, even as an experiment, it is certainly worth trying; therefore your committee would respectfully recommend that the accompanying bill be passed."
Zoë would have a field day digging out the burrow, but I'm not sure how deep it is.  I'd rather have her tackle the critter above ground.  Though Fox Terriers were bred to got after varmints in holes, she is, after all, a (not-so) stately 9 year old.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....Shawn mowed the orchard while wide-eyed goats kept a close eye on him.  Here I will remark that, though they looked askance at the monster in the field, they were more than happy to graze there once the way was clear.