Sunday, July 20, 2008

The goats arrive

Our first "real" livestock arrived this weekend -- a pair of Nubian Dairy goats. Their names were Mary Kate and Ashley (as in the Olson twins), but we're working on new names. Henry wants Mary Kate to be "Periwinkle" which is his favorite color at the moment (blue has always been his favorite color, but now he's refined it to periwinkle blue). I'm thinking maybe Dolly and Pamela (as in Parton and Anderson respectively) would be good names. Or perhaps Jenna and Barbara, as in the Decider's daughters? Vote your choice in the comments below...

Milking a goat is interesting. Imagine taking a cheap little squirt gun, and using it to fill a 2-liter pop bottle twice a day, *every* day. That's a lot of trigger squeezing. Only squeezing a teet isn't quite as easy. Your forearm will get *really* tired. Ashley has smaller teets, which take some special care. Squeeze it the wrong way, and it just sprays all over your hand instead of going into the bucket. Tonight, Mary Kate decided that we weren't good milkers, and let us know this by putting her hoof in the milk pail just was we finished. Suffice to say that our dog Memphis got to drink a lot of milk this evening.

I spent much of today clearing out the black cherry from the fence rows around our barn yard. Apparently, goats love to eat the leaves, which are toxic. While I was cutting these down, I realized that I really need to remove the rusty old fencing, which will be a fun project. Trees have woven themselves through the woven wire in a number of places. And just for fun, there's a little poison ivy hiding in there, ready to keep me itchy for another 3 weeks (that's how long my last itchy session lasted).

The weather has been hot and humid lately. Like living in a bathroom where someone is always taking a hot shower. We had a bunch of rain on Saturday, but I managed to get out and seed in one of our pastures before the rain really hit. I just seeded into mowed weeds, but there seems to be enough bare soil that I think I'll get good germination.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Clearing brush, just like Dubya!

This last weekend was a mad rush to brush out all the fence lines for the fencing contractor who started this week. Our new brush hog (basically a big lawnmower towed behind our tractor) made this job much quicker, and is really a lot of fun to use. Unfortunately for me and the local phone company, I've discovered that obstacles (such as... a phone service box) are most easily seen just as they pass under the mower.

I've also discovered that poison ivy can get to my skin through clothing, and takes a long time to wear off. Par for the course, I guess. Alas, my dream of being among the lucky 30% of people who are immune to the stuff have been shattered. At least I know enough not to use it as backwoods toilet paper, which is more than can be said for one member of our family.

Mullberries are all over now, as are blackcap raspberries. I find that I'm easily distracted by these when I'm clearing brush.

Deciding where to install our permanent fences is a tough decision, and I'm certain I'll regret some of our placements. If only our property were a nicely cleared square of pasture, it would be so much easier.

Running fences through the woods means 1) lots of work to clear out the trees 2) trees will fall on the fence and destroy it, and 3) our animals will probably hide in the woods when I'm looking for them.

My other option would be to run them along the edge of the woods. I think this is actually worse, as all the trees on the edge lean out into the pasture, ensuring that all of them will eventually fall on the fence.

Another conondrum is the type of fence to use. I'm going with woven wire and a barbed top strand, because I don't trust electric fences. A high-tensile electric fence would cost half of what a woven wire fence costs. I don't trust electric fences because I read too much chicken-little hogwash about our energy future. I want my fence to work when the reliability of our electrical grid here in Michigan starts to resemble the grid in Baghdad. Of course, I'm still going to be using electric fencing for all of our temporary partitions, as doing so with permanent fencing would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

So later this week, with our fencing up, we can start looking at some real animals (something beyond the chickens, barn cats, and bees we have thus far). First in line will probably be a Nubian dairy goat.