Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Browsing We Will Go

Goats are browsers which means they prefer to eat trees leaves, weeds, and bushes.  Eating hgh off the ground helps minimize parasite infestations which are harmful to goats. They do eat grass but they definitely prefer a tasty maple tree or rose bush to grass.  It always amazes me in the fall when they go around the yard vacuuming up dried leaves that have fallen.  Must be like crispy snack treats for them.  It is important, however, to watch out for poisonous plants.  Goats generally avoid them if possible but there are always cases of a goat being poisoned by consuming toxic plants.  West Virginia has more than its share of all of the above and our goats like to take advantage of the bounty.  Although they have a fenced area, by this time of year they have stripped much of the vegetation.  This is great if you want to clear a field but not so great if you want a sustainable food source. 

Because I couldn't lose one of these goats if I tried, we often take browse walks up into the woods just outside of their fenced area.  I always feel a bit like the Pied Piper because I have a herd of goats following me. Starr, my LaMancha in particular likes to stay close, very close.

Goats are particularly adapted to selecting only the finest of vegetation.  They have a row of eight bottom teeth in the front and a toothless pad in the upper-front.  Together with their near prehensile tongues, they can select individual leaves and pull them from the branches.  The back teeth are very sharp and scissor-like and can easily crunch up small branches or your fingers if you're not careful. 

Goats have a tendency to nibble this and that and never eat much of any one thing; well, unless you have a prized rose bush then that gets eaten to the ground.  They love the tall woodland sunflowers that grow along the edges of the woods.  They seldom eat the stems, only the leaves,  so I have a lot of naked sunflower stalks.

Goats also love to climb.  This gives them a better vantage point to reach some of the higher leaves plus they enjoy it.

When it is time to go back home they follow me back toward the gate. That doesn't necessarily mean they actually follow me THROUGH the gate but sooner or later they wind up back in their enclosure and kick back on their deck chewing their cuds.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Heidi the Great Pyrenees Puppy - 10 months

It has been a while since I have talked about Heidi, our Pyrenees puppy.  She is about 10 months old now.  It seems like just yesterday she was a tiny puppy and very unsure of the goats.  The dwarf goats dwarfed her.

OMG What ARE these things staring at me???

Over the spring and summer she spent supervised time with the goats.  I had to watch her so that she did not chase the babies.  The larger goats kept her in line and I also had to make sure the goats did not hurt the puppy.  I taught her that I am the pack and herd leader.  She willing relinquishes food and treats if I ask for them.  One day I noticed that she gently nudged one of the Nigerian babies away from her food bowl.  No growling or snapping, just a simple gesture that said this is my food.

A lesson in respect.

Recently, Heidi's guardian instincts have kicked in and she stays closer to the goats.  Now if the goats go out to browse she goes with them and periodically she patrols the fence line and gives warning barks in her deep "big dog" bark.   She has earned the goats' respect and is now allowed in the barn and on the deck with them.
Heidi standing beside our Mini LaMancha Lulu.

It is easy to remember that she is still just a BIG puppy as evidenced by her puppy antics.  She loves large sticks and there is always a pile of them by the gate in the goat yard.  She collects rocks and string to go with her sticks.  She has managed to dig up every old dog toy buried in the tall grass.  She likes to slide down the hill on her back, preferably with a stick in her mouth.  But late at night when I hear that "big dog" bark off in the distance I know she is on patrol and warning everything to stay away.  And that is what a Pyrenees is all about.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chickens! (again)

This post is kind of a continuation of the "re-purposing shed blog" I did earlier this year. An exerpt follows:

Sometime during all this we built a chicken coop in the corner of the veggie garden. When I decided chickens weren't working as planned, the chicken coop became, as you might have guessed, additional hay storage which by now has taken over two bays in the back field, half of the barn and now the chicken coop. As a good faith gesture, however, I have offered to relinquish my grasp on the chicken coop so it can be used as a garden shed. I feel I must confess that I did this so that the ex-blacksmithing shed next to the garden that WAS the garden shed could be retrofitted as a goat barn since it is so handy to the area we are currently fencing. That will be this year's shed project.

Now the chicken coop turned hay-storage shed turned garden shed has reverted to its original purpose to that of a chicken coop.  One of the wonderful asides of raisng and selling goats has been that I have met the most  marvelous people.  Two of these most marvelous people (mother and daughter) gave to me as a gift, 5 wonderful 3-month-old chickens in return for babysitting their milk goat.  After having visited their farm and remarking about the nice chickens they had and how I was thinking about getting more laying hens, and Voila!  I now have 4 mixed breed hens and rooster wandering (looking a bit lost I might add) around inside my chicken coop.  Soon I'm sure I'll be able to say they are merrily foraging and clucking and doing marvelous chicken things but for now they are just plain freaked out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

July Veggie Garden (or why this is blog is titled the Intermittent Farm Report)

Well I know it is August but that is the main reason I'm just now getting around to the July garden report.  The garden is in!  So far this has been a great gardening year although a few adjustments were needed.  We mulched plants heavily in June after the weather turned hot and dry.  Bare clay soil was like cured concrete while soil under the mulch was cool and moist.  July came with heavy rains following the Derecho of late June. We had a few peppers drown in a low spot in the garden after heavy rains so we pulled back the mulch on some areas of the garden to help the soil breathe.  Most plants continued to fare well under the mulch and the corn thrived with the constant moisture.  We are now into canning and freezing season and have put up corn, tomatos and beans. Don is threatening to make our surplus cucumbers into pickles but neither of us are big pickle eaters.  The beets we planted in the spring are mostly still growing into giant woody roots because neither of us are big beet eaters either.  Someday we'll learn to plant things we actually eat.

Second planting of Early Sunglow corn.

Nothing better than fresh-picked corn!


Italian pepper - Giant Marconi.

The personal size tomato Fourth of July ripening nicely.

Sweet potato vines running wild!

Pole beans - white half runners.

Nothin' better that a bit of fried okra.  Have to wait a bit longer.

Basil growing nicely.

The long view.

Contrast this with the garden in early May.