This poor blog has been bewilderingly light on content the past few weeks. Trust me, it’s not for lack of topics to write about. I keep meaning to tell you about the fine details of fish compost, what I’m learning about feeding the soil (instead of feeding the plant), about all the transplanting and cultivating and bed prep and harvesting we’re doing, and then there’s the post I want to write tentatively titled “the work you wouldn’t expect” which ties into labor and the evolution of agricultural structures in the US.
But I’m going to write about bees and goats, instead, and hope that someday in the near future I have the time and brain capacity to delve into the meatier stuff.
I first decided I wanted goats when my mother made the mistake of reading Heidi to my sister and I as children (and you can read it for free here!).
The eponymous Heidi is a perfect little child who is sent to live with her grumpy old grandfather on a mountain in the Swiss Alps; the Grandfather refuses to send Heidi to school, at first, and instead she goes out with the goats and Peter the goat boy and lays in the sun and hangs out with goats and picks flowers and is generally awed and overwhelmed and moved by her beautiful surroundings all day.
I remember being pretty jealous of Heidi; I still think a mountain full of goats and flowers is my ideal life. (In the course of the story, Heidi is taken from the mountain and languishes in a city; she misses the open sky and the flowers and the goats. Here, too, I identify with her.) Heidi, in the end, heals the sick and brings joy to the lonely with her sweetness and persistence and love; while it’s implied this is intrinsic to her character, I’m inclined to believe it has something to do with the goats.
Anyway. The point is that I’ve wanted to hang out with goats since as long as I can remember, but I haven’t had any practical experience with goats. Maybe they suck. A friend at market, who helped raise meat goats, says they’re kind of annoying. Plus, livestock really intimidates me—and for good reason. It’s a lot of work to properly care for animals in large numbers, to provide for their nutritional and environmental needs, to recognize and ameliorate problems before they become overwhelming. Vegetables and flowers, on the other hand, don’t move around too much.
Prodigal Farm, who I’ve long known makes excellent goat cheese, offered a goat husbandry workshop, and I jumped at the chance to spend a day on a working goat dairy. I’ve read and re-read books on goat-keeping (even though, for the record, it will probably be years before I’m in a place where I can keep goats) but I wanted to see, hear, and smell goat-care in action. And it was super awesome, and I want goats more than ever before.
The workshop was incredibly useful. I feel like I have a much more cohesive understanding of the basics of keeping goats, though I’m aware there’s still plenty to learn long before I get goats and that the learning will continue to be a process if and when I get goats. But watching Kat Spann’s love for her herd was really inspiring; how healthy and well-socialized her adult goats are, even the bucks. Not to mention the absolutely unreal antics of the baby goats. I tried really, really hard not to completely fall in love with those babies, and failed miserably.
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When not cavorting with goats or harvesting, packing, washing, doing field clean-up and other work, I’ve been putting together my beehives. My girls arrive on April 28th, so I’ve got to have their homes ready! These are the bees’ homes; after a month or so, they’ll get a second one of those boxes (deep hive bodies) stacked on top of the first. In other words, all the work I did to assemble and paint the boxes and frames will have to be done again pronto! I’m getting faster, though, thankfully. I still have to paint the tops in this photo, as well as put foundation (the ‘pattern’ for the bees to draw out comb) in the frames, so I’m not quite done yet!
Other projects? Well, I’m moving from the guest room into the barn room, and I have flowers to plant and cultivate. I’m definitely keeping busy, even without goats!