Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Sometimes farming is a Shit Sandwich.

Several years ago I was a speech therapy assistant and the amazing speech therapist who I worked under told me that when writing summaries of a student’s progress to always format it in a shit sandwich, the good, the bad and then more good.  The past two weeks in farming has been a shit sandwich.

The good layer: We were finally able to acquire our 5 piglets this past weekend.  With the extreme cold temps and much snow we were put on hold for two weeks. Two weeks does not sound like much but when you have the kill date all set two weeks are pounds lost and pounds are dollars. On Saturday, K. Bob, Patty, Stu, Barbie Q and Madam Curry joined the farm family.

The SHIT layer: A week ago this Sunday I went out to do chores and Lilly did not get up promptly and meet me by the gate with her girlfriends.  I looked in and beside her was a little white, furry mound.  Shit, F&*%, damn.  I hurried and moved the rest of the herd into a different pen and went to assist Lilly.  Shit, F&*%, damn this was not supposed to happen for about 23 more days… but it was happening.  She kidded out a set of triplets.  Beautiful triplets.  Large triplets.  But very flaccid triplets. Yet they were alive.  They were quickly brought inside and Lilly was administered to.  We lost the biggest of the three in the first hour.  The smaller two were fed every two hours and we eventually lost them as well.  Lilly was not doing well, the vet was summoned, many tests were run, many shots were given to whole herd to bar against any possible contagious diseases, worm medication was given, tums for calcium and Gatorade for electrolytes were doled out in massive quantities.  Life in the barn was a worry, a stress, a holy shit week.

The second good layer: All tests came back negative for any contagious diseases. Although many dollars were spent and we will never know what caused Lilly to prematurely kid,  knowing that none of the other girls should have this unfortunate situation happen is worth it. Olive is due the 4th of April…let’s hope the shit sandwich has been served and it is time for dessert.

 

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You all must remember James and his Giant Peaches, he was our original herd sire.  A magnificent Nigerian buck. He was white with a beard that hung almost as low as his…peaches.  Last summer we decided to do away with bucks on the farm. So James went.

You are all probably wondering why we would decide to do this.  Well, there are many reasons or there were many reasons that seemed reasonable at the time.  First, monetary: it costs about $150 a year to house a buck and that does not include his friend’s feed.  Goats are herd animals and need companionship.  A buck will need a wingman aka a whether or another buck to spend time with much like a bachelor and his friends.  Someone to drink  with, eat with and talk about does with. Second the keeping of a buck and friend requires another home.  Another path to be shoveled another bucket of water to carried to and another area to be mucked out.  Along with more hooves to be trimmed, more vaccinations to be given and all the other mundane stuff we do that no one but a goat farmer realizes has to be done. And then there is the smell, the amazingly awful stink that comes with the  buck  who is in his full glory during breeding season.  I can’t describe it nor did I find it to be as offensive as the husband did. I will agree it is… well, rank is perhaps a good word or downright freaking nasty might be better. But I could deal with it because, hell, they are my goats.

So James was gone and we had to have the girls bred.  We hired Beau, a handsome, big strapping Boer gigolo. Beau spent 3 weeks here on the farm romancing Olive, Lilly, Tilly and Stella.  It cost us $100, actually it cost a 26 pound turkey and thirty five dollars.

Olive and Lilly took Beau seriously and are due to kid in April.  Tilly and Stella not so much. So here we are in February and there are does to be bred.  Called Beau’s owner and asked if Beau could spend some more quality time here.  Well, it seems Beau, the poor guy, took a spill on the ice and split his testicles which would take some time to heal before he could take on such a task.  But we were offered Jerry.  Ironically, Jerry is the son of James.  So we have come full circle in a strange way.

The decision mostly based on stink ended up being  stinky itself.  The cost effectiveness does not work out.  It cost $100 to breed the first time plus feed and hay for the bucks while they were on the farm so that ate up the $150 savings. They still stunk up the place for a short while.  But ultimately, the hassle of worrying if I am going to get everyone bred before the season ends has made us decide to keep a buck for ourselves again.  So next fall if you stop in, breathe deep and know that you are smelling relief in more ways t

james

James

han one.

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Fitbits and Farming

For Christmas I requested a Fitbit. Not because I have a fear that I am not stepping enough every day, but for the reason that I had heard they have a sleep part to them. Christmas morning I received my requested gift, a Fitbit Charge 2.  Holy Santa, not only does this bad boy track my steps and sleep it also checks my heart rate.

First day, needs to be charged…5,347 steps.  Not bad for Christmas day.  Day two, starts out ripping it, 8,276 steps…frigging thing needs to be charged again…guess it did not receive a full charge on day one.    Day 3 and a drive to Orono and back, 10,982 steps not bad for sitting on my ass for 4 hours.

These things become obsessive…I mean really obsessive. I check it all day long to make sure I am….walking, you know the simplest of exercises.  Well, the simplest when you farm.  But did you know that this little piece of technology does not factor the difference between a step empty handed or one in which you are throwing a pitch fork full of heavy goat shitty bedding into a wheelbarrow or when you are carrying in an back arching load of fire wood.  Nope, that is just a step.  Same step one could take walking up to the counter at McDonald’s to order a supersized meal.

But for some reason these steps become important.  I mean really like crazy important. Today after work I made soap. Soap is not step intensive. So the effing Fitbit stayed at 11,292.  It should only matter that I made a batch of soap.  That is how I have always defined productivity, what I completed.  But oh no, now I am actually standing in front of the crock pot, stick blender going full bore…stepping in place to the tunes blaring out of the radio.

13,741 today, so far….

 

 

 

 

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Doeling in their hut. 

April vacation started Thursday.  Olive’s due date was Saturday.  Perfect planning…not that I had a whole lot to do with it.  Nature has it’s own rhythm and it worked out to my advantage… so not.

Anyone that owns goats knows that the gestation period for Nubians is roughly 150 days, with the typical goat kidding three days to one side of the due date or the other.  I try hard to schedule kidding during April vacation or as close as I can.  I work with a bunch of really great people who understand my “other” life and I can go home when the deal goes down.

Olive worries me.  She has had milk fever her last two kiddings and needs meds to get up and going. But I have a barn cam and an app on my phone so I can monitor things and run home if necessary  which makes me way less anxious this time of year.

Honestly, things are perfect…great people, good technology and decent timing….

Until Thursday morning.  Olive’s ligaments were gone.  Ligaments are a sure way of telling of impending kidding.  They run along the side of the tail and are usually described as feeling like a pencil  that runs diagonal along the backside below the hide.  In preparation for kidding a doe’s ligaments will soften and “disappear”.  So they are gone.  It is 4 in the morning I have to be to work at 7.  Maybe all will happen in those few hours.  Yeah, no.  So I make a plan.  I will stay home until 11 and youngest son will sign out, come home and be on watch after that.  Remember above when I said that I work with great people…I truly do…but I also work in a district with a contract.  Under that contract I cannot extend a long vacation.  So therefore I felt I needed to be at work at some point during the day. I kind of stress over these things.  I have this kind of guilt not guilt.  I choose to be at the farm but yet know I should be at work….it is a shitty paradigm.

So I check Olive once again, go in the house change into somewhat presentable work clothes, check Olive again, drive to the neighbors and ask if they will check on Olive at 10 and 10:30.  Drive back to the house check on Olive, mind you nothing has changed. Drive to work. Neighbor calls at 10, nothing happening but there is a slime string hanging down.  Neighbor calls at 10:37 very long slime string but nothing else to report.  I continue to pretend to work.  At 11 I sit down with my friends for lunch and check the app on my phone, you know the one that is connected to the barn camera.   It comes onto the screen and I see nothing but here this little, baa….Gotta go.

Seriously, I jumped up grabbed my purse and headed out the door.  I raised home and had a set of twins waiting for me.  All are doing well, but Olive did need her dose of meds.

I truly love the people who make this farming this possible, good friends all!

p.s. Lilly is due next Saturday….

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Unrest

This little farm has different seasons, as all farms do.

There is summer with all its glory. Weeding the gardens, feeding the multitude of animals, canning, milking and the list goes as long as the days are and beyond.

Summer transitions into fall.  School starts, back to work, broilers and pigs head to freezer camp.  Gardens are harvested and readied for the deep sleep of winter.  Wood is cut and split.  And the grand push to ready the Christmas season is on. Soap and lotion are made for the numerous  sale events we attend. The house is cleared out and set up for the home show in November, no small feat that.  The family calls it “hell week” and rightly so. Christmas comes and goes and we settle into winter.

Most would think that things would calm down after all that.  But stock has been depleted and more must be made for coming shows.  I never have time for spring cleaning so I winter clean.   People love to take soap and cheese making classes during the doldrums so many are booked usually on the same day the girls come into heat so I must juggle goat sex and meeting people for their class without smelling of Stanky Buck.

The later part of winter, I mean like the month of March. I rest.  Chores are at a minimum with only the goats and chickens to be done.  Milking does not occur now as the girls are dried off to give their energy to growing kids that are due in April.  Life is slower and easier.

The longer days of Spring and five, maybe six piglets will be arriving this weekend. The first batch of broilers shortly after that.  I need to start the tomato and pepper seedlings, too. Did I say that I have the whole month of March off, I guess I lied.

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Last post covered how I am getting older and have decided to make some changes in where this little farm is going.  The process of change started last winter with a complete over haul of the mudroom.   Where there once was a brick hearth and wooden floors there is now laminate flooring.  The cabinetry and dated Z-brick walls were removed.  A  two bowl commercial sink that we got for $20 a few years ago was installed with some free standing stainless shelving.  A set of floor cabinets that my grandfather had made were covered with $15 lawn sale counter top. This was all in preparation of the change.

Two weeks ago, I had two different state inspectors come and do pre-inspections on the areas that we are “growing” into.  The first inspector arrived, walked into the mudroom and declared, “Well, you certainly have hobbled things together in an absolutely perfect way.”  I held in the urge to break out into a happy dance.  The home use kitchen application is filled out and pending a passing water test will be approved.  We then will be able to sell breads and pastries (not that I want to make pastries) jams, jellies and  cajeta.  Second inspector arrived.  The inspector for the creamery and dairy.  The home use kitchen area can double as a creamery. We just have to move the bathroom door, install a door between our actual kitchen and the creamery and hang a hand wash sink.  Do-able.  So happy husband is handy and willing to do these things for his crazy wife.  The dairy is the most labor intensive portion of the changes.  It will require plumbing to the barn for hot and cold water, sewer pipe, double bowl sink and an actual room built.  But once again, it is do-able with some time and quite a bit of money.  In a perfect world I would love to see all of this done by the end of the summer and you know what, I think we can do this.

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So folks it has been a while since my last post. Probably over a year.  A year of questions and maybe some answers as to where this little farm and this aging farmer is going in the future.

This little farm started as a way of life.  The husband and I grew up farming in one way or another.  He worked dairy all of his teen years and a bit more.  My mom and stepdad had a few cows because they were cheap and they could make have me milk every morning before school. I grew up gardening at home and with my grandparents, who I spent every possible weekend I could with.  It was where our food came from.  I believe in farming. I believe in good food.  I believed my children needed to know where food came from.  So we kept farming.  Starting with vegetables, actually no, we started the summer before we married with pigs.  Along with my mom and stepdad we raised two pigs for our soon to be separate households.  Vegetables came the following spring.  For the past 31 years we have farmed, even when Husband and I took a break from each other, I gardened. It is in my blood, my soul.

Then I decided that I wanted goats.  As one with a farmer’s soul I knew that they had to earn their keep if I had them.  I started with an Oberhasli in milk and two Nigerian Dwarf doelings.  I milked Maddie, the Oberhasli, and everyone hated the taste of the milk.  So I made soap and sold that.  People love goat milk soap.  But my family nor I would not drink the milk and you can only make so much soap when you start. So Maddie was sold and I bought  Nubians, the bitchy Miss Olive and her doeling Lilly. I bought a buck, the infamous James with the Giant Peaches and bred the Nigerian does.  Milk was flowing and we loved the milk, (still do) and I made soap and cheese and more cheese and more soap.  More decisions were made. The Nigerians are great little goats.  Emphasis on little, everything about them is little, including teat size and milk production.  So they were sold.  And things have remained pretty much the same.  But the big questions is where does this little farm and I go from here?

I have a day job.  I work in education, an amazing job for farmers. I mean, you get your summers off and that is when the down and dirty farming of gardens, hog and bird raising happens.  But I work in special education. I have chosen to work with the tough students. The ones that break your heart with their emotional and behavioral needs.  The ones that require a body that my almost 50 year old carcass can’t always bend to. I  I feel that I am not fulfilling the daily requirements of my needy job and that kills me.  But my family also needs insurance and over half of my paycheck goes toward that. So I have done the work that pays the insurance for almost 15 years but I want to be a farmer.  A Farmer, with a capital F.

So there are decisions that are being made that will change the face of the farm and myself.  Please stay tuned as I walk you through the process of change.

 

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