The Farm PLAN:
Goats - I have finally mashed it into my brain hard enough to realize that I can only keep FOUR adult goats. Four goats may barely qualify as a herd for some people, but that's all I can manage with the size of my barn and the length of my patience. Right now I have six adult goats and I am losing my marbles over it. Two of the six are pregnant and I have no where to go with the kids when they come. If I had four goats I would have one pen free for the babies. But with six goats, I have no pens free for anything. So I decided to get rid of two goats this week. I was originally thinking of trying to
One of the does is pregnant and I really, really need her milk this year to make soap and feed her kids. She can't leave the farm until at least the fall so planning to get rid of her won't help out the immediate situation at all. The other doe is retired from breeding due to being a 9 year old, super high production, mastitis prone, large uddered, hard to milk beasty. She's been my solid herd queen for 9 years and I love her dearly but I am not set up to be a nursing home for old goats who can't contribute to the farm anymore. I know this sounds harsh but it's the truth. I thought about butchering her but realized that she doesn't have enough meat on her to justify the time spent processing her myself, nor the money spent sending her somewhere for someone else to do it.
At first I was thinking that if I could find an adoptive home for the old goat and then sell the other Alpine in the fall after milking season was over, that would be a good plan. But then I got to looking at my younger does who I was planning on keeping for next year's breeding. The one is a Saanen doeling that a friend gave me. She is huge and gorgeous and should be a spectacular breeder and milker. The other is an Alpine doeling who is the daughter of my 9 year old Alpine. She has gorgeous coloring but unfortunately never filled out they way she should have. At one year old she should look like the Saanen with a long, straight back and good flesh to her. Instead she short-backed and frumpy. I keep waiting for her to lengthen out and start looking like a dairy goat, but she hasn't yet. Comparing the Saanen and the Alpine side-by-side is a painful exercise in what not to look for in a dairy goat. It finally dawned on me that selling my older bred Alpine who has a great udder and dependably gives birth to healthy kids, for the sake of this younger goat who doesn't look very promising, is a stupid idea. Why sacrifice the known for the sake of the unknown?
Thus both the 9 year old Alpine and her yearling daughter found themselves listed on Craigslist this week. I was
This means that my herd will soon consist of one pregnant Boer goat, one pregnant Alpine goat, one wethered Angora, and one yearling Saanen doe. The Boer goat is part of my new plan. She was purchased this winter with the hope of producing a buckling that I can use for breeding to my dairy girls in the fall. I have decided that I don't want to produce kids for selling or for my own herd proliferation. There is a huge goat community in this area with tons of really dedicated dairy goat producers within two hours of my farm. I don't need to be flooding the market with my piddly kids. Also I can save myself a ton of hassle by just buying new breeding stock when I need it instead of working so hard to produce kids who may or may not amount to anything by weaning time. I will still have kids each year and give them the best care, but the pressure will be a lot lower because I will be producing meat kids for butchering and not production kids for milking. I won't have to worry as much about conformation or shape or even CAE, for that matter, because they will all be going into the freezer in the fall. I much prefer eating my kid goats over struggling to find them good homes and then hoping that those homes will work out for them in the long run. After a few years of seeing goats, wethers especially, neglected and mistreated, I would really prefer to know where my little male goat kids have found a final place to stay (IN MY BELLY!).
Garden - My garden is kind of an inside joke at my house. I am the laziest gardener in the history of gardening. I don't weed, I refuse to thin plants, I don't usually remember to water the plants, and I much prefer to buy stuff half grown from the local greenhouse than ever try to start stuff from seed myself. I just plop the plants or seeds in the dirt and wish them luck. The one thing I am diligent about is mulching. I use my dirty goat pen bedding for mulch on my garden. Add this one to the lazy list though, because I mulch my garden because it is easier to dump the manure in my garden than in my manure pile. I don't really care what the beneficial effects of mulch hay are for my garden plants but I really get excited over the beneficial effects on my back of dumping the stuff in the garden versus my hard to get to manure pile.
This year the plan is to get slightly more professional in my gardening. Last year I had a great garden that grew crazy amounts of stuff with very little effort on my part. The problem was that the deer and woodchucks gained more benefit from the garden than I did. After the "Great Carrot Debacle" of 2012 where the deer actually dug up every single one of my carrots from all three rows, I have decided to buck up and buy some dedicated garden fencing. I am going to get a roll of PoultryNet PLUS from Premier Fence. I use their ElectroNet for the goats and totally love it. It's electrified netting fence that is very easy to move and manipulate but it runs about 3000 volts through it so the goats do not even test it. The PoultryNet PLUS has smaller holes than the goat fencing and it has the posts closer together to prevent sag. It comes in shorter lengths than the goat stuff so I can get a piece that will fit perfectly around my garden. And I now don't need the solar fence charger for the goats since I bought the "Zap-o-matic" Zareba 100-mile shock-your-socks-off plug-in charger for the goat fencing last year. I can put up the garden fence and hook it to the solar charger and hopefully not have to worry about deer or woodchucks again.
The other reason for getting the fencing for the garden is that I can put the chickens into the garden area in the spring and leave them there for a few days. They don't normally venture all the way to the garden when they are free-ranging so if I put up a fence, throw a dog house for shelter in there, and stick the chickens in, they can stay in there and prep my garden for planting while being safe from the resident foxes who live across the street (yet another reason the chickens don't go to the garden now. I don't let them free-range a lot because foxes think free-range chicken is a great meal!).
Speaking of chickens, I hope to upgrade the chicken pen a little this spring. I found a great idea on the internet a few months ago where a guy took some 2X4s and made frames and then put hardware mesh over the frames and laid them down in his chicken runs. Then he seeded under the frames with grass seed. The grass seed grew protected under the frames. Any grass that grew out of the top of the frames was eaten by the chickens but the chickens could not get to the seeds and destroy them. Anyone who's kept chickens in the same run for a few months knows that nothing escapes the chickens and is allowed to grow under the watchful eyes of 10 hungry hens. My chicken run is currently a bare dirt pen with not a speck of green at all (unless you count the green chicken sh!@#$). I happen to have a 2X4 frame with hardware mesh already on it. It was a leftover from a long ago dirt-sifting project. I had been holding onto this frame for years because I am not one to toss out perfectly good pieces of wood or hardware mesh. So this spring the used dirt-sifter will become my new chicken grass grower. I can't wait to
So that's the PLAN. Now that I have written it down, this means it must come true, right??! I'll keep you posted!!