Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hello again

Not that anyone noticed I was gone... but I did have a decent reason. My grandfather was in the hospital for ten days shortly after Christmas and my father has been in the hospital for the past three weeks or so following a large car wreck. We hope he'll be able to come home in the next day or two.

My uncle came out from California yesterday. He will be staying for a little less than a week and helping us  both get dad settled back in and do some work on the property.
One of the projects will be a fence. As I mentioned in my previous post I'd like to plant some alfalfa in the garden field. However when I take the goats for a walk they run through that field on the way back. Not only would they trample the plants, they'd probably also gorge. So the long and short of it is that I'm going to build a nice fence at one end of the field. Tobe will be helping me set the posts.

We'll also be moving the chicken fence to the base of the slope it's on now. The hillside's been getting eroded...

Well that's it for now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My thoughts and plans and deepest secrets...

Well... not really... I just thought I'd write something quickly before I went to bed. The weather for the past few days has been awful and it has given me time to think. And now writing a book on working goats and thinking about raising meat rabbits.

I called Harry today while I was at school (school has started again by the way) and he will be coming out when it dries up to plow a section of the land so we can plant an alfalfa mix. I'm planning to sell the hay to a friend who has a milking doe and I think the alfalfa's strong root system might improve the soil since MSD (local sewage department) messed it all up.

I'm not sure if I've posted about Harry before... he is a retired army mechanic who helped us harvest hay for the first time last year. I'm so grateful.... The hay is beautiful, the goats are wasting next to nothing and there should be enough to last us through to the next cutting.

Dad has cleaned up the barn beautifully and I hope to set up a station for reading fecals soon.... maybe I'll do a post on that :)

That's all for now... I have to be at class at eight and so I mun to bed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree...

For the past few years my family has cut our own tree from the property. We have a fairly large number of yellow scraggle pines. Today we went to get the trees. One for my grandparents and one for us. The one for the grandparents is fairly small. Small enough that I carried it back on my shoulder. Ours on the other hand is really very large. Large enough that it would have been time consuming and unpleasant to drag it back by hand. So I decided to pull it by goat. I got the two of them out, unbolted the double-tree from the cart, got plenty of rope and the two breastcollars from the harnesses and set out.

I was worried that the goats would try and eat the tree but they were good. They both tried to eat it once or twice but when I sent them away they happily ate the honeysuckle elsewhere. It took maybe 15-20 minutes for me to tie the double-tree to the trunk. I wrapped the rope around the branches, fastened the traces to the double-tree and went to get the goats. They had halters on and let me fasten the leadropes and bring them to the tree. Merry made a bit of a lunge for it but I managed to dissuade them from eating it and they amenably started eating the grass. I got the harnesses on and of we went!

There were some glitches for the first 75-100 yds. Merry's leg got tangled up in the trace, Pippins trace came off a few times, and he didn't pull perfectly consistently but things only got better. By the time we got down from the high field it was beautiful! They were nicely and evenly spaced and walking smoothly in sync.  I was so thrilled! We got home and they each got a carrot and I tried to take a photo or two. I unhitched them and put them back in the stall with some nice hay and beet pulp.

It was such a fantastic experience. It made me feel so good about my relationship with the goats and their abilities. Firstly the sheer fact that I can take them out and just do it. Pull a tree. None of us had ever pulled a tree before but it still went well. They didn't freak out about the great noisy thing behind them. I was very proud of Merry when a trace wrapped around his leg and he just tried to keep pulling. If I had been him I'd have gone bonkers! Apparently they are fairly confidant goats. :) And at the end, when they had both finished drinking I pointed and clicked my fingers and they both walked happily and willingly into their pen.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


is amazing. The reason I'm posting about it is that I think it might interest you if you are into sustainable agriculture. Depending on how would you define sustainable agriculture. I agree with the definition in my biology book: farming methods that are "conservation-minded, environmentally safe, and profitable" I would also add local to this because it takes into account the fossil fuels consumed in transport of goods.

This chapter was on plant nutrition. The essential elements that plants require and how environmental factors effect them. Did you know that a deluge of rain is more likely to wash away negatively charged ions (e.g. sulfate ions) than positively charged ones? This is because they are bound less tightly to the slightly negative soil particles and likes repel like. This also means that positively charged ions are more complicated for plants to get. They have to release hydrogen ions (also positively charged) to replace and release the many bound ions they need for nutrition (including calcium, potassium, and magnesium.) Acid rain has the same effect of putting hydrogen ions in the soil and will deplete the soil of positively charged ions as well as negative ones that normal rains affect.

If a plant is deficient for a mineral chances are it is nitrogen. Various plants get it in different ways but one thing that amazed me was the system that legumes have developed. You know when you put that black stuff on peas before planting them? I had never realized but what you are doing there is rolling the seed in bacteria so that it will be infected from the get-go. This bacteria is called Rhizobium and it is the reason that legumes are often known as "nitrogen fixers" (meaning that they take atmospheric nitrogen and make it available in the soil.) The legumes have nothing to do with the fixing. It is the nodules on their roots that are formed by and contain a strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that do this. This symbiotic relationship gives the plant nitrogen and the bacteria organic nutrients that the plant synthesizes during photosynthesis. The infection takes place after a longish molecular "conversation" between the two organisms which leads scientists to hope that, with greater understanding of the process they could "learn how to induce Rhizobium uptake ... in crop plants that do not normally form such nitrogen fixing symbiotic relationships" which would lead to less need for fertilizer.

This leads me to another question. If this sort of genetic engineering/modification could cause a significant increase in plant productivity without a need for expensive harsh chemicals would it be worthwhile? Or does it so go against all natural/sustainable farming principles as to be ridiculous? I don't know the answer. Plants like these and "smart plants" that enable a farmer to tell when there is beginning to be a mineral deficiency in his field before damage from it has occurred could save unnecessary fertilization....

Anyway... those are my thoughts for the day.... I will try to post more regularly henceforth but it is end of semester test time so... forgive me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Cold; not enough to have fun in... just enough to be uncomfortable. I've been trying to figure out next summer... next year... how I will get into college... how I will take the classes I need to take... I've never had to think about so many tests at the same time.

On the bright side I have been doing more with my goats of late... mainly trying to get some hooves trimmed... Neither of them enjoy it... Pippin least of all. Step by step I go. Trying to keep my principles aligned with my actions. In all things.

For want of anything more interesting to post here is an essay I wrote for english a month or so ago... about my 16th birthday.

They call it sweet sixteen... Maybe bittersweet is more accurate. The day itself was not particularly anything. Another birthday which I used, as I often do, to make my family do manual labor that might not otherwise get done. In the evening my grandfather told me that I was now “farm manager.” The next day we went to church and, in the evening a goat farm. But the day before my birthday....
I had been at AB-tech all morning. Mum called as I was waiting for Dad to pick me up and take me to get my Learner's permit, she told me that they had found Mama, our chicken, in the barn; alive but with a gaping, maggoty wound on her led. I called the vet's office on the drive to the DMV. They said that I could get antibiotics for the price of $24. I said I'd call them back. We got my permit and drove home. I went to look at Mama. The wound was moving, crawling, as maggots of all sizes ate her alive. She couldn't recover, and yet she didn't seem miserable, at least, she was eating and standing up. But I (and my mother) doubted she could last much longer. I called the vet again and said that we were just going to let her die peacefully. I described the wound and Ann said “That isn't a peaceful death.”
Then followed a conversation on how to kill her. We could break her neck, cut her head off, or take her to the vet's gas her down and then do either of the above. We chose to cut her head off. We though the knife was sharp. We thought we were starting from the right side and so would slit her jugular. Somehow it didn't work quite right. She didn't die on the first try, or the second. I think the third did it. I hope so at least.
If I'm going to be a vet I will need to kill, but not like that. I will have tools. I can try to save first and then let them slip unconsciously into oblivion. In humanity's great fight for life or a dignified death the score in my battle is one: nil, and at sixteen I'm on the losing side.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Walking. It seems to be one of the easiest ways to experience the dominance dynamics in your "herd." Maybe this is because movement is one of the things that herds do together. From pasture to water; from water to pasture... I like walking with Kip and the goats. It is so interesting to see their reactions to each other, to me, to mum, to the world. Merry is calm for the most part. He doesn't mind Kip unless she is actively nipping (not literally) at her heels, his hackles are mostly down, he is focused on eating. Pippin eats less, he is always aware (and often unhappy) of Kips position in relation to himself and likes doing that sideways canter thing down hills. Kip does her thing... but has learned that sometimes close to Pippin isn't good... or really, most of the time close to Pippin isn't good.

In relation to the humans the goats are funny -- and annoying. They want to be ahead always and at the same time stop and eat. They will try and run ahead and then stop, blocking your path, to grab some honeysuckle. It drives Mum crazy. Especially when I tell her it is a dominance game. Her strategy today, and it worked excellently, was to take the two empty mugs in which we had had our tea, and, one in each hand, walk along in front swinging her arms fairly energetically. If the goats tried to get by on either side they bumped into the mugs. It was uncomfortable and eventually they decided that it was easier to stay behind. This is a wonderful example of what I would call unemotional consequences. The person swinging the mugs doesn't let their emotions get mixed up in the knocking on the nose and so, instead of being a negative punishment it is just an uncomfortable consequence of an unwise decision. The goats seem to get this.

Another thing Kip does on these walks (apart from run around like a maniac) is learn new tricks. So far she knows how to jump onto things, jump up and then sit for a treat. Today Mum and I started to teach her to jump over things. The difficulty is that she generally, if she can, thinks she should be jumping onto things since that is what we taught her first to I have been using my goat training stick (carrot stick) and stick it out in front of me and ask her to jump it. She did it really well at least twice. In training her it is really interesting to notice the similarities and dissimilarities compared to what I do with the goats. For on thing I us my voice a lot more. She knows her name and to come (at least sometimes) and if she is doing something wrong she gets the "game-show-incorrect-buzzer-sound." Amazingly enough she gets it! I didn't formally teach it as in "hear this sound and something not great happens." I just started using it and she started responding. I would love to know why. One similarity in the way I interact with her is when she is/used to be frightened and when I am trying to catch her. I use the same sort of reverse psychology and low/turned away energy and it seems to work! I guess animals are most united in fear.

Enough of my random/often disconnected musings. I mun to bed. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Enjoy your turkey. We are having Indian food. No, not Native American; I mean Indian curry... wish me luck as a non-spicy eater in a spice loving family... I am comforted solely by the thought of pumpkin pie...