Gettin’ my goat…

Lately, we have been having ‘problems’ with our goats. Oh, they’re perfectly healthy and robust, but unfortunately, they all seem to suffer from some sort of co-dependent paranoia/eating disorder that if I do not come and feed them every 10 minutes, they are at the fence (unfortunately which can be seen through my back door) and scream at the top of their goat lungs. An incessant, “BAAAAAAAA, BAAAAAAAA, BAAAAAAAA” from early morning to nightfall.  It is to the point that my husband is ready to gut and clean every goat and have a giant, citywide barbeque.  So much for the peace and quiet of the country. We currently have eight goats; I am trying to get that to two or three to quiet the decibel level of “Baa”.  Oh, they have full access to about 12 acres of brushy, goat-friendly goodness, but they’d rather take a hand-out.  Reminds me of some of the people in this great nation.  Anyway, maybe that’s why I find it doubly irritating.  I don’t know.  I did just look and the goats were all where they are SUPPOSED to be, which is in the woods.  Maybe they will learn, yet.  We shall see. 

In farm life, yesterday, we had a couple of ‘our guys’ come and help us burn dead wood out in the goat pen, clean out the goat pen and apply it to my garden, and haul bricks to our pathway we are constructing in front of our house.  It was really great to have 4 extra hands!  I found one of my up and coming Rhode Island Red hens with her rear end virtually pecked to a bloody mess (ah, the fun you can have with chickens) so, I had to put her in a separate cage, clean and medicate her chicken bootie, and see how she does.  She’s a lot better this morning.  If you didn’t know it already, chickens will ruthlessly peck most anything that is red, blood especially, to the point they will kill a fellow chicken.  It can be extremely annoying and frustrating.  That’s why many chicken brooder lights are red, so that they cannot distinguish one red area from another.  So, I’ll have to turn back on the red light, I guess.  Oh well.  They are almost ready to put out with the big guys. 

So, screaming goats and doctoring chicken booties aside, yesterday was a really good, productive day!

Summer Swelters on…

Wow, I’m a really bad blogkeeper!  Been over a month now.  Well you can’t expect much when school’s out, lol.  I’ve learned a lot over the past few months.  Allow me to share with you:


Always, always, always, with no fail, label your plants.   I thought I could remember what I had put in the ground.  HA!  I planted green beans, cream peas, and pintos.  So, one day, after things were lookin’ about ready to pick, I thought it was time to pick me some peas.  So, I waited till the pods looked a little dry and got my friend and his son to help us ‘shell some peas’.  I did not realize my mistake until about 2 weeks later when my REAL peas matured.  We had actually picked PINTOS and had the worst time trying to shell the little boogers because they weren’t ready yet!  I thought those were funny looking peas!  Now I know!

Keep out the chickens.  In my rose-colored little pea brain, I imagined some kind of idyllic symbiotic relationship between my chickens and my garden.  The chickens would remove all the pests while simultaneously fertilizing my garden with their nitrogen-rich poo.  I had about 30 – 2mo. old chickens loose in my garden.  At first, all was bliss.  Then, over time, I noticed they were eating my cherry tomatoes.  No big deal, I thought…I give most of ’em away anyway.  THEN  they started eating my big tomatoes.  That definitely put a hitch in my giddy-up.  Now, I work hard on my ‘maters and I’ll be danged if some stupid chicken is going to eat my meal (I still like chickens, mind you, I was just really upset with them.  I really don’t think they’re stupid.) Then, I found that my squash had been slowly but cluckingly methodically picked on.  THEN, they poo’ed all over my porch.  But not just the porch.  The chairs, my blankets, my tables, and to top it off, trampled my moonvine and my poor, poor Christmas cactus. Now I was really hot.  OUT, OUT, OUT!!!  I screamed as I snatched them up.  Anyway, now they’re safe in their own coop, and no more poop for me to contend with!

God praise canned green beans!  You would think they’d be easy to grow.  Apparently, this year at least, not so.  I know this because not only did my lovely, lush vines only produce 8 measley pods, but my mother harvested her bumper crop of 4 pods, and her friend reaped 3.  God Bless the Jolly Green Giant.

Hoss and Fran taking a nap

Hoss and Fran taking a nap


Goats:  After several months of budgeting, I found that having 12 goats costs me approximately: $25 a month in hay, and $29.24 a month in feed.  Not including their wormer, which, by the way, is quite pricey at $80 a bottle!  Fortunately, though, it lasts a LONG time.  We are planning on selling 8 goats, so I figure I can quarter my costs.  $15 a month isn’t bad for having some brush trimming!

Poultry:  It costs me about $43.75/mo. to feed my chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.  Now, the geese and ducks don’t do anything besides honk, quack, and crap, but I really do like my geese.  The turkeys are endearing except for the fact that they lay on my plants and would eat a 50# sack of corn in one sitting if I let them.  Plus, now they’re too big to butcher.  Now what?  The chickens are the most useful so far, as they are giving us copious quantities of lovely brown eggs.  I think I will always have some chickens till the day I die! They also love to eat lots of grasshoppers and i haven’t seen hardly any around lately.

In General:  While free livestock is appealing, the reality is that you have to feed ’em, house ’em and clean up after ’em.  You really have to ask yourself if it’s all worth the cost and effort.  As far as my geese go, they love to eat grass, which I think it hilarious and they honk when they see someone they don’t recognize, which I also think is hilarious.  They are definitely more ‘pet’ to me than useful livestock.  The ducks quack and crap.  I hope that will change and eventually I’ll get my 100 eggs a year out of them.  Maybe next spring.  The goats are very useful for eating brush.  You will be very amazed at how clean they leave a wooded plot behind.  However, twelve is too many for me at the moment.  The turkeys are very interesting, but gobble down food at a phenomenal rate.  Granted, I do have a breed which is very large, so I am not sure how the ‘heritage’ breeds would do, but I can tell you that these guys totally chow down.  Bottom line is that my chickens and goats are, so far, the most useful livestock that I own.


For the past 3 months, we have been budgeting.  I’m bringing this up because I feel budgeting is very important to everyone, and especially for farm folks so we can assess our profit to loss ratio.  I have learned that I just can’t currently sustain as much livestock as I thought I could, and that’s ok.  Actually, it’s a weight off of my shoulders to sell off some of my flock, not just financially, but also mentally!  After a major talk with myself, I decided to whittle down to bare minimum, and really throw most of my efforts into my gardening.  After all, so far, it seems to me that my garden has paid off more than any of my livestock (except, perhaps, my laying hens), and it is SOOOOO much less effort for me to ‘keep up’.  Sure, it’s work, too, but I don’t have to worm my plants, or chase after them, or clean up plant poo.  So, I’ll always have a garden.  The other thing I like about vegetable/fruit gardening is that you can sell the produce, sell something you’ve created with the produce, like baked goods or canned goods, or even just sell seeds. Anyway, I think it’s a win/win situation all around. 

So, with budgeting in mind, for a very, very small initial fee, I can have a great big, gorgeous garden for pennies on the dollar.  So, plants are in, new livestock is out for now.  And that’s the farm report for this time!

My favorite thing for the moment:  Ever listen to talk radio?  I didn’t either until a few months ago when my favorite oldies station morphed into a talk radio station.  That’s when I discovered Dave Ramsey.  After I had listened to his no-nonsense style for about a week or so, I bought his book, The Total Money Makeover.  So, I am currently on Step #2, which is the Debt Snowball.  I have never done a real budget before, and before this April, budgeting was very hard because of the way our business was set up.  Now that we get ACTUAL, REAL PAYCHECKS (lol), I can budget.  I did my first budget in May, and thought, my God, no wonder we’re always broke!  I have faithfully stuck to my budget sheet (which I print out monthly from and I have never, ever had this much money left over at the end of the month.  I even amazed myself!  We have paid off about 6 of our debts already and are slaving away to pay off our next debt.  I even have enough now, saved up, to pay for our house taxes for this year.  I have NEVER had that happen!  You can do it, too!  I like Dave because it’s not some weird scam, and he seems to be very down-to-earth about things, and seems to have good ol’ common sense.  One day, I’m going to call the Dave Ramsey show and scream, “WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!!”  Just you wait and see!

The Good Earth

So, about 3 weeks ago now, we brought home TWELVE goats.  Four does, and each had a set of twin boys, so that’s 4 mommies and 8 babies!  For the most part, you can sum up the breed as a mixture of African Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, and Mini-Nubian.  What that all means is that they are small, some are better for meat (Pygmy) and some are better for milk (Nigerians/Nubians).  Anyway, they have been a real joy to behold!  I can’t get past the way they look somehow like tiny deer, and the way that they NEVER stop eating fresh leaves and grasses.  They have done quite a number on the brush around the house; all the while fertilizing it with their ever present ‘goat poo’ or ‘nanny berries’, if you want to get cute with it!

Goats are considered browsers, which means that they prefer to take nibbles of EVERYTHING (plantwise) and keep on walking.  Unlike horses and cattle, they would much rather be munching on some sweet gum leaves rather than grass.  They do, however, enjoy munching off the tops of tall grasses.  I can tell you that if you ever want to naturally defoliate some of your property without using chemicals, GET SOME GOATS.  On the other plus side, you can milk them (which we do plan to do later), or eat them, if you so wish!  We don’t plan to eat them, but I will not tell you that I would never eat them.  After all, meat is meat, right?  ;0)  Anyway, for now we are just happy for them to do the arduous task of clearing the land.

Yesterday, I went to one of my favorite places (Goodwill), and after buying a mountain of awesome clothes for a song, I also picked up the classic book “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. Ever read it?  I could not put it down and read it cover to cover in about half a day or less.  It is the story of the Chinese farmer Wang Lung and his wife, O-lan.  The time period is pre-Revolutionary China, and Wang Lung and his family must endure the hardships that all farmers must endure eventually; loss of crops, drought, flooding, and in this case, severe famine.  So severe that it was rumored that some of the villagers ate their own children to survive.  But this book is not all about hardships; Wang Lung also enjoys times of prosperity and good fortune.  He is an honest man who is one with his land.  Because of his hard-working nature and unwavering love and adoration for his land, it provides for his family and eventually Wang Lung becomes quite rich.

It’s a funny thing that 200 people can read one book and come away from that one book and have 200 different meanings that we take away from that book.  For myself, I took away many things from this book.  I feel that, first and foremost, the further that we get away from our own Good Earth, the worse off we eventually become.  In this book, if you were not rich by inheritance, you either worked your land or you would starve.  Those who were fortunate (?) enough not to have to work for their food found themselves with too much idle time.  And you know what is said of idle hands!  (“Idle hands are the Devil’s tools”) So it is in The Good Earth, where those idle hands always manage to find trouble, whether it is with opium or prostitutes or just plain laziness.   If you are working hard, you do not have time to worry with such things!  You are too busy planting, watering, or reaping your harvest. 

 I try to relate this story to today, where we can get all that we could ever want with the push of a button, literally.  I’m not saying that we do not have to work (although there are so many who do not, and still rely on we hard workers to take care of them(!) ) but, for example,  I thought about how easy it is just to drive up to a fast food place, pay my cash and get food in return.  Wang Lung had to work for every single grain of rice that he or his family ever consumed.  He didn’t have a Taco Bell or McDonald’s or God forbid, a WalMart.  When his crop didn’t survive, they starved.  They ate sticks and grass and leaves and even the earth itself.  I can get up at any time and grab something to eat out of my pantry, and the thought of having to serve my kids dirt water somehow makes my own food taste as bitter as vinegar.  It’s a very humbling feeling, knowing that there are still people to this day who die waiting for a meal.  So, in that way, this book opened my mind.

Wang Lung cherished his piece of earth.  He nurtured it, fertilized it, planted it, watered it, harvested it, and in turn, it provided for his family.  It reminded me of MY earth.  MY Good Earth.  This piece of earth on where I sit today, writing to you.  Where we have tilled our soil and planted our plants and we raise our livestock and where I eventually want my ashes to be scattered.  When I throw my hands into the soil and pull from it a harvest for my family, I have nothing but a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I do love and nuture my land, and in exchange it nutures me; not just from eating food that I harvest here, but it nutures me physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I don’t wish to be anywhere else but here.

 I think that if we all loved our Good Earth as Wang Lung loved his, this world would be a much, much better place.