Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our First Livestock Harvest

We decided some time ago that we were going to harvest Spike. It wasn't an easy choice. We did not get into goats for the meat, but for the milk, fertilizer, shrub-trimming and companion aspects of livestock ownership. That being said, Spike wasn't really helpful in any of those areas except for the pooping. He was ornery, mean to the little goats, constantly escaping and destroying his pen, his house, bins and cans of various critter foods, etc. He was a sneaky little tornado of smash. And so, it was decided that we would harvest Spike, rather than pass him and his many issues on to a new owner. It wasn't a decision undertaken lightly. We've been seriously contemplating it for the better part of 6 months now.

After Spike's last escape, during which he went on a tear smashing feed cans, binging on and spoiling the girls' grain (and in the process giving himself a wicked case of the trots) and just generally destroying everything that held still, we decided with absolute certainty that the time had come. The arrangements were made with the kill guy and the butcher, and today was the day.

Fortunately, the man who dispatched and field dressed Spike was an absolute pro and did a mercifully quick and clean job of it, which is a great comfort to me, knowing that Spike did not suffer unduly and was treated with skill and dignity to the very last.

Unfortunately, the job had to be done early in the morning, and near the front of our property, lest our other goats see/smell the goings-on and become unsettled.

This meant that everything took place within view of the road, and may have been witnessed by some unsuspecting passersby.

Having been in this very same situation myself as a child, I can't help but feel badly for anyone having to see that first thing in the morning.

In spite of us having formed something of a callus when it comes to the less pleasant aspects of farming, like culling, harvesting and euthanizing our animals, chalking it up to being part of the reality of growing-your-own, it is still hard when that moment comes that you must make the final call about whether an animal lives or dies. We never take it lightly, and we never feel good about it, but we recognize that as stewards of livestock, whatever their intended function may be, end-of-life decisions are part of the package.

And so we said goodbye to Spike today. We pray that his spirit is free and at peace, that what remains of him here on earth will nourish the families that it feeds, and that my children will take from this experience an appreciation for the circle of life and the sacrifices made along the way.

Sometimes navigating this simple life feels extraordinarily complicated.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The seeds that I started a week ago tomorrow have finally begun popping up! Well, some of them have. About 50% of the tomatoes have sprouted, and a handful of each of the red kale and buttercrunch lettuce. The Cimmaron lettuce and naked-seed pumpkins have yet to do a thing.

I've also been underwhelmed by the progress of my eggs in the incubator. Having lost the incubator's thermometer, I feel like I may have erred too far on the side of caution in keeping the eggs from being overheated. I keep nudging the temp up in tiny increments, lest I go to far and kill the potentially developing embryos. Uhg! I popped an unused kitchen thermometer in the incubator today and am checking it every few hours to see if I can get the eggs up to their magic number of 99.5 degrees. Still not quite there yet. I'm wondering then, if these eggs are still viable? I guess I'll keep candling them and keep my fingers crossed for any signs of progress.

Once the 'maters and lettuces are sprouted and no longer in need of the seedling heat mat, I think that I'll be starting more pumpkins and possibly some beans as well. I'm shooting for a very lofty goal of donating 100 plants to our school plant sale! Only time will tell if I can pull it off.

Spring does seem to be creeping in, as the chorus frogs and woolly bears foretold last week. The temps are slightly up, no hard frosts overnight, but still a fair bit of rain. C'mon sunshine - we need you bad right about now.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ramping Up for Spring!

It was a very productive 4-day weekend for us. Lots of downed trees cut and stacked, more goat fencing put in, chicken coops cleaned, 3 trays of veggies started and 42 eggs put in the incubator. And I am POOPED!

We also carved out a few hours this morning to go birding with our friends J & F for the Great Backyard Bird Count. We saw a whole mess of water birds, as we did this year's count at Capitol Lake. Our stats, per Liv's notes-

*Scoter - 1
*Seagulls (Glaucous Winged?) - 22
*Song Sparrow - 2
*Mallard Ducks - 8
*Bufflehead Ducks - 6
*American Crows - 19
*Grebe - 1
*Red-breasted Merganser - 1
*Belted Kingfisher - 1
*Robins - 9
*Gadwalls - 2
*Great Blue Heron - 1
*European Starlings - 5
*Greater Scaup - 1
*Lesser Scaup - 8

We also saw some Cormorants fly over, but couldn't i.d. the type against the bright sky. Livy girl was in bird nerd heaven!

It was a nice end to a crazy-busy 4 days. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trees Without End... oy!

We are still cleaning up from the MLK Day snow & ice storm. We had limbs and branches come down from our apple & plum trees that we dealt with right away, but it was the few dozen Alder trees up in the pasture that made the biggest mess - the one we're still cleaning up.

On the up side, we all got a decent little bit of exercise today stooping, slogging and chucking wood around. We'll also have enough firewood for next Winter and then some, which is always nice.

I'm so proud of my Livy-doo, who is growing up to be a very considerate and hard working girl. She helped her Papa load and haul firewood for close to 7 hours today! For her, getting to drive the tractor is the main attraction to working with her Pop. Anything to gets the kids out there and helping out is worth it's weight in gold to me. ;)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Better late than Never

I finally started some seeds, about 2 weeks later than I'd planned. I'm starting some for us, of course, and as is becoming my norm, starting some to donate to our school plant sale as well.

As I only have three seedling heat mats, I was only able to start three flats today, one of lettuces & kale, one of tomatoes and one of "naked seeded" pumpkins. Next week I'll start some beans and squashes, I think.

It's been a little frustrating figuring out what to start now and what to wait on. I started the lettuce & kale now because I can set it out just as soon as it becomes established. The 'maters and pumpkins are supposed to take 3-4 months from sowing to harvest, which would put them at the blooming phase when the May plant sale rolls around, if I manage to keep them alive in the ensuing 12 weeks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tomorrow's Agenda 2-2-12

Even as we are still recovering from this Winters big snow and ice storm, my mind has already made the leap to Springtime things. I saw a planning guide for zone 7 gardeners today that said that this month I should be setting out my lettuces and cabbage. WHAT?!? When was I supposed to have started these things if they're supposed to be going out already?

So I'll just roll with the punches and pretend that starting my seeds tomorrow was my plan all along.

As the raised beds have not yet been built, the only place that I can plant my seeds is indoors, on heat mats and under grow lights. This is how I start the majority of my garden plants anyway, but the option of direct-sowing would've been nice. Next year...

As for tomorrow, the plan is-

*Locate and collect as many seedling trays/flats as possible
*Wash the holy bejeebus out of them
*Locate my seedling heat mats
*Sow seeds in trays and flats, as many as I can find heat mats for
*Document the whole shebang, so I remember what the heck is what 3 months from now.

That's about it! I really look forward to getting my hands good and dirty again, and to see those tender little sprouts push their way up through the soil. My fingers are crossed and my hopes are high, as ever, that we'll get our dream garden started this Spring. :)