Gracie and the Getaway

First, let me introduce you to my freakishly adorable and hopefully pregnant Nigerian Dwarf goat, Gracie.

I am a little biased, but her two toned horns did me in from the moment I met her. I mean could you ever look at those sweet little ears and curious head tilt and feel anything but happiness?  I am here to tell you yes, yes you could.

 

 

Gracie is our escape goat.  Even though we greatly reinforced our goat fencing from when we first had our goats,  Gracie is in the habit of simply squeezing under our electric fence without so much as a flinch.  Some would say to build a better fence (but who has a couple extra thousand sitting around on a homestead?) instead we decided to utilize our farm dogs.

Although when Jackson actually catches up to the goat he just stops in startled confusion and looks around with a “what now?” face, he is our goat herding savior!  Now, even when Jackson is inside we can simply call “Jackson, get the goat!” and gracie ducks back into the confines of the fence.  Not a permanent solution, but definitely an entertaining one!

Jackson smiling to a chorus of “good boy!” even though his little brother is licking his face.

Folly is still a little… slow… on the goat herding.  His most recent tactic “stare at the goat adorably” has not proven very effective.  Hopefully he learns to be a better herding dog from Jackson soon!

Entertained and Contained; Our Goat Playground

After our first goats escaped, I read everything I could about goat containment.  One of the tidbits I gleaned is that bored goats are more likely to escape.  After learning this factoid (well, mostly just because it is really cute to watch them jump around) I started dreaming up our goat playground.  With scrap wood from our own projects as well as from a local engineering school our current playground was built, and so far it has been a hit!

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Michael examining our creation.

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Hazel enjoys being Queen of the playground.

I am typically a very stingy person but when our hose blew and it was time for an upgrade, I was ecstatic.  I had been dreaming of building a rope bridge of sorts for our goats to play on but needed a hose to hold the planks together.  It was the day after I had found our seven week old bottle baby goat, Dory, had not made it to the morning and I was in desperate need of a distraction.  So I took on the project! I gathered all of our spare/scrap 2x4s  we had laying around and cut them into approximately 18 inch sections.  I then spaced them an inch and a half apart and screwed in the old busted hose along the backside.

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Inch and a half spacing was more of a suggestion, who needs to measure?

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Folly “helping” me by chewing on every tool not currently in my hand

I asked Michael to take pictures (he is a very talented photographer) but evidently that translated to not being able to help me carry my creation over the electric fence.

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We screwed the excess hose on either side into some platforms we had built from found pallets.

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I had to force Michael to put down the camera and help at this point!

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Ginger being curious about the new addition

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Hazel was unsure and so initially tried to jump the entire gap

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Michael and Hazel discussing modifications

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A happy herd

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Hazel timidly going for another try

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She stayed splayed and unsure for about a minute

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And then made the leap!

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Babs seemed to approve of the addition to the farmyard (but that could have had something to do with the hay we bribed them with). And so now Folly Farms has its own swinging rope, er… I mean hose bridge and a few very happy goats because of it.

The Reality of Life

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Growing up hunting taught me a healthy respect for life and death.  My father instilled in me the understanding and respect of hunting as a way to obtain delicious meat and a form of wildlife management.  My dad Carl grew up impoverished in a minuscule coal mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The family often relied on the bounty of the hunt for (inexpensive) sustenance.  Hunting also lessens the chance a herd will contract illnesses; especially Cronic Wasting Disease. This ravaged my home state of Maryland where whitetail deer overpopulate nearly all suburban areas. I participated in controlled, planned archery hunts designed to improve overall herd health. The meat harvested was either eaten by me or donated to local food kitchens.  Death was a necessary part of this process.  Is it easy to kill an animal? Absolutely not.  In fact, I have cried every single time. I’m a pretty emotional dude.  For me death has an immense impact.  And yet, shortly after a kill the adrenaline wears off and I pull myself together quickly.  Death happened at my hands and I accept its benefits and its consequences.

Going into this whole homestead farm thing, I felt that my experience around intentional killing to harvest meat, aka hunting, would benefit my mentality surrounding death on the farm.

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Three of the Seventeen current residents of Folly Farms

Flash forward to this past Weekend.

Thanksgiving was spectacular.  My mom made the drive down from Maryland to check out our developing homestead.  The three of us enjoyed the holiday immensely, making the couple of days fly by.  Mom left early Saturday morning to make it back home before the start of the work week.

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Showing Mom our progress

We slept in a tad bit, rolled out of bed, and got to the usual AM chores.  Casey went out to feed Dory, and I to the basement to grab the hog food ferment.  Half way up the stairs I could hear screaming.  Intense crying and screaming.   I thought it was coming from the house next door but, as the corner at the top of the stairs was rounded, I realized that the painful moans were coming from our property.  I dropped the food and I increased the pace of my step.  I yelled for Casey, my first thought was to pull her away from whatever awful scene must have unfolded. As I got to our quaint pen the gate was wide open, my fiancé on her knees sobbing aloud, and no Dory bleating or tail wagging.  I knew.  We lost our kid.  Our bottle baby kid was gone.

Over the next few hours our numbness went to sadness and our sadness to anger and our anger back to more more sadness.  We dug a deep grave.  As deep as we could go in the clay that was devoid of moisture due to the 50 + days of no rain.  Wrapped in a soft clean towel, we laid Dory the Goat-Dog-Kid to rest and marked the site with a gleaming hunk of North Carolina Quartz atop our hill.

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Hanging out with Dory-the-kid over the last week

The pain rocked us.  As I type this 24+ hours later I still feel an uncomfortable sadness deep down inside.

Losing an animal that you have bonded with feels like cruel and unusual punishment.  Many of us have lost dogs, cats, ferrets, and even fish. We loved many of these animals like family and are aware of the sting. It hurts like non other. Casey and I bottle fed our sweet Dory not even 12 hours previous to finding her lifeless in the corner of her home.

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The more beautiful parts of our farming

Reality has reared its ugly head.  Life on the farm has been absolutely stunningly beautiful, but death is a part of the equation whether through the harvesting of our hogs or the unexpected and sudden death of a kid. A kid we had grown incredibly close to.

Life and death on the farm.  Unfortunately, they freaking go together.  Dory taught us this lesson early on and I have to be grateful. I am more so grateful for the time we got to spend with her before she left us.

It’ll never be easy to lose animals here on Folly Farms but death is a reality we have no choice but to accept.  We were reminded of the cost of the beautiful cycle of life that we all enjoy. Thanks little goat for everything you have taught us.

-Michael

A Weekend on the Farm

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It finally happened.  The stars aligned, Michael’s managers had seen my haggard face at the brewery and thought that something must be done, and we got an entire weekend off together.  Most couples might take for granted that they have weekends off together, but between our varying work schedules, we had not had a single day off at home together in over 4 months.  It was amazing.

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We started off our morning with lattes and solving the world’s problemsimg_7480

Let the chickens out to roam around
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Fed Dory her bottle.  (Is there really a more precious sight than a handsome man bottle feeding a baby goat? No.)img_7539

Then we hung out with the goats.  We call Ginger our “Stoner Goat” as she is the most laid back but also the most food-motivated.  Today though, she was especially slow moving.   We saw her lift her tail and start to poop, but this was no normal poop. img_7601

Knowing that we had been having problems with scours in our baby goat and that you had to catch a stool sample before it touched the ground, I did what any crazy goat lady would do.  I grabbed a leaf and caught the poo.img_7604

You can clearly seem my mixed emotions of amusement/horror at what I had just done.  Another one of those moments where I question, what am I doing with my life?img_7618

Folly and Jackson love helping dad bring the food to the pigsimg_7623

We are in desperate need of rain up here, you can tell by how dusty the pig area has gotten. Unfortunately this has been contributing to the situation with the wildfires that are still burning in our area.
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We are currently playing with a 3 day pig slop fermentation system that is being supplemented with corn and food waste.  Our basement looks like something that would belong to a mad scientist with different buckets bubbling at different rates in every corner.img_7668

A worried Michael drives to the vet to get the stool sample tested.  The vet said their was no sign of parasites or anything else that could be causing the upset.  We have decided to switch to a less rich hay in hopes that it helps out their little bellies.img_7674

A quick trip to the library yielded great results!  My favorite time of the day is when we eat our fresh scrambled eggs, sip lattes, and flip through books discussing with each other what we glean.  It is the most relaxing and calming part of the day.

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We had something try to break into our chicken coop over night (no chickens were injured) so we threw some “finishing touches” on our redneck chicken coop and started to chase down the chickens.  In order for chickens to recognize a coop as “home” where they will return every night, you leave the chickens locked up for a few days.  img_7748

Michael is a natural and fearless chicken wrangler,

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I moved a little more slowly and mine escaped.img_7792

We ended the day by trying to socialize our fearful goats  with grain (Read about how we got these skittish cuties here.)img_7800

Look at Hazel’s cute tongue! It was a great weekend on the farm and an amazing day of getting to see my fiance during daylight hours.

The Cultivation of a Human Being