February Chaos.

10 02 2009

So on Friday I met up with local farmer, Chris Jagger, owner/operator of Blue Fox Farm in the Applegate Valley. I spoke with him briefly about the greenhouse that he was installing. This is his fifth greenhouse that he has erected, and with contractor background he has a lot more practical experience with this sort of thing.
Since the debacle of putting up my greenhouse last year, and this year’s major corrections to it, I used this chance to learn and relate my mistakes to someone with expertise. Chris and I chatted it up, and it was relieving to hear that he had dealt with a lot of the problems that I encountered. Problems such as the baseboards on the greenhouse, endcaps, leveling, why the prefabricated holes never line up, and just the general process of getting the greenhouse structurally sound.
Now I just need to get my hands on another greenhouse frame so I can practice what I have learned.
After this pleasant chat, I went to the Enchanted Forest. Oolala. It was actually a really nice old growth forest. Luckily it was near the vineyards. After a brief hike, I met Gabrielle at her place of work for a nip of port. I watched Sadie till Gabrielle was ready to leave.

It was actually oh so nice on Saturday, as compared to right now. It is snowing. Lee helped me get the tiller working. We really need a bigger tiller, but all we have is a 5hp walk behind. It struggles with the fescue grass that grows in very tight clumps. We really need a tractor to get this initial till underway this year, but this small one is all we have at the moment. We are creating a new flower bed, a wildflower/cover crop bed, and extending all our rows from last year by at least 20 ft. Some rows will be extended up to 40 ft just to even things out a bit.
It has been extremely dry this winter, and that gave me the opportunity to till up a new 4ft wide by 130ft long bed for tomatoes. After a painfully slow process with our small tiller, I limed the soil to add calcium and balance the pH, and then I planted more crimson clover.
The soil that I tilled up looked really good. It is closer to a big pine in the middle of our field and there is a more noticeable amount of organic matter in the soil. It has a darker richer color than the soil in other parts of our field.
We really need to start planting. We just haven’t had the mojo yet. Sadie doesn’t want to sleep. And on Sunday shit went a little bit crazy to say the least.
So Sunday was nice. Gabe was at work, I was watching Sadie the whole day. Sadie sleeps seldom, and it takes incredible patience to get her down for a reasonable amount of time. As she slept I handed the monitor over to Kirby, and went out to do some chores. When I checked on the goats, something was terribly wrong with Rodeo, our male Boer goat.
He was twitching, shaking, and could barely stand. I really did not know what to do. No friggin idea. I am generally kind to animals, and this poor goat was no exception. He was in bad shape, and if it was up to me, and I owned a gun, or I knew of a humane way to kill a goat I would have done that immediately. I do not own a gun, and I do not know how to painlessly euthanize a goat.
However, it was WAY more complicated than that. I have on many occasions wished death upon our two goats because of their annoying behavior, and the focus of the farm was not coherent with adequate care of these goats. The goats under no conditions were to be killed because when Gabe and Ben obtained them from a rescue, they signed a contract not to kill them. I did not sign it, but I honored that contract.
Before the shit went down over the weekend, and after much internal debate we decided to return the goats to their previous owners. We would not get our money refunded, but we learned a valuable lesson that we had no time for large animals on our farm (yet). The owners were going to find a new home for the goat pair. They were going to pick the pair up today and deliver to a new owner. One side note, goats are easier to sell/give as a pair because a herd mentality promotes good health among them.
Back to Sunday; I really had no experience in goat health, and I did not know what my next options were because I was required not to kill this goat. I got a hold of Ben and Gabe to ask for ideas on what to do. They had little to no help for me. I proceeded to call the previous owners about the status of the goat they were rehoming for us. The were alarmed about his health, but I do not think that they understood what was actually happening. Rodeo was dying.
He went from being healthy on Saturday, to barely able to stand on Sunday. I kept the previous owners in the loop about his health, but know one knew what was really going on. They were sure he would snap out the state he was in, but both Dr. Calvert and I had serious doubts. We both saw that Rodeo needed to be put down.
Sunday night I tried calling emergency vets to no avail. I carried Rodeo’s unstable body up to the covered porch so he would not get rained on. He was in pain, and barely conscious. At this point I think that was inhumane to keep him alive. But we wanted to return the two healthy goats. By the look of things that was just not going to happen.

We woke up Monday, Rodeo was still alive.  He was worse.  He looked like he wanted to die.  I avoided him all day, and made Gabrielle check on him.  The optimism of the previous owners was hard to combat over the phone,  they said, “he will just snap out of it, goats can go from looking really bad to fine in no time.  All they need sometimes is a shot or two.”  The goat was miserable.  Dr. Calvert said he was seizuring more.  All from being perfectly normal on Saturday.  All Monday we looked for  a vet to treat him.  We finally got a local vet who had a good knowledge of goats, our appointment was at 5:20.  Until then, Rodeo suffered, and I sympathized.  It seemed like I should have done more.  During all of Sunday and Monday Sadie screamed and would not sleep.  It was extremely stressful.

When the time came  around to go to the vet, we had to pick Rodeo’s seizuring body up and put it in the back of our station wagon.  On the way there Rodeo had a nice rain shower, a rainbow, and beautiful sky over the mountains.  His seizures were long and frequent.  The vet advised us to put him to sleep.  We did just that.  We communicated to the previous owners of Rodeo and Blossom that Rodeo was put down, and they were in complete shock.  Gabrielle and I were beat.

We don’t know what happened to Rodeo, but the onset was so quick.  We didn’t know how to treat him, and we had to draw the line somewhere on whether to save him.  He was not our pet, he was just a goat to us.  Now we need to regroup, put Sadie to bed, receive our soil blocker in the mail, and start bringing plants to life.

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Sadie in a pond with goats and chickens

1 10 2008

So it turns out that animals are awesome.  Without delay we have added some sweet new additions to our farm. Animals are an integral part of a small farm.  Besides promoting biodiversity, adding to the closed cycle of land stewardship, they also provide heightened vitality to the entire farming experience and to the purposefulness of the land itself.  We combine animals with plants in a crop rotation to ensure that we are responsibly using our soil.  The feeding practices of our animals will provide nutrients through manure, and with keep the land from being overrun by unwanted plants and pests.

We already have chickens as you know.  They provide us and our customers eggs, and are now producing at about capacity.  Their manure, after composting, is the highest in nutrients and most beneficial for our vegetables.  If the are free ranged a little better, they will also consume bugs and weeds.

Well we just upgraded beyond chickens.  Getting meat rabbits and goats.  Their poop that the rabbits provide us are also extremely nutritious for our plants, and it can be added uncomposted.  It is not a hot manure like most others, and added fresh it will not burn our plants.  We just bred them with the help of some local rabbit fanciers, so we can start producing them for meat production.  These same fanciers will return to show us how to humanely process (kill) the rabbits for meat production.   Killing animals brings food consumption in a full circle.  We are no longer alienated from our food, we are the producers and the consumers.

Then we brought in the goats.  Their names are Blossom and Rodeo.  They are Nubian and Boer breed respectively.  We are using them as lawnmowers.  Damn goats eat anything.  So we are allowing them to do their work.  We are overrun by poison oak and blackberries on our property, and the goats are more than happy to clear these away for us.  Besides water and little shelter they do not need much else to happily co-exist with us.  They are actually very friendly and enjoy being petted.

I am also lining our now dry pond with bentonite clay.  This particular type of clay has properties which allow it seal pond bottoms to minimize water drainage.  Our pond is completely dry now, but the rainy season will be soon upon us.  I just got the clay free because it is  tailings left over from a local ceramic company.  Otherwise it would have cost me like 300 dollars.  Now that I have the clay it needs to go into the pond before it starts raining, otherwise it will be very difficult to work with when the pond begins filling again.

Lastly, Sadie continues to excel at living. Check it out.