Things have been a little bit more difficult than usual here on the farm of late.
Circumstances have caused us to pare back and refine our focus, which is to say that money is tight and we are finding it hard to keep up.
We are down to our last two pigs. The finishing and butchering of the others went really smoothly and these last two will likely be finished this weekend or next. We won’t be keeping breeders this year for a couple reasons. First, despite our constant supply of organic compost from the restaurant and cheese shop, pigs are expensive to feed (and there’s that whole we’re-out-of-money thing floating around).
Second, caring for pigs over-winter is a true and profound pain in the ass. While chickens and goats can have heated waterers to prevent freezing, pigs will just eat, flip over, and bludgeon to death any snout-level item or apparatus. This means that at least twice daily, we have to drag about 150 feet of hose from our cellar (where it is kept to prevent it from freezing) through the farm to the pigs’ water trough. We then have to use every drop of hot water in our water heater to give them a chance at getting plenty of water before it starts freezing over again. Then we have to shlep the whole thing back to the cellar so it will be ready when we need to do it again later that day.
So, no new pigs until spring.
And really, that’s fine with me.
What’s not as fine with me, what’s fairly breaking my heart actually, is that we’ve decided to rehome all of our goats (see para. 2). I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts that we’d originally started keeping goats with the idea that “the girls would be for milk and the boys would be for meat,” and that from the moment the kids were born, we knew we’d no sooner eat one of them than one of our dogs.
So, for the past three years, we’ve had six goat kids born on our farm (three boys and three girls, as fate would have it) and we’ve treated them, quite honestly, just like dogs. If I had a bigger house, I’d bring them inside. I’m certain of this.
We are not eating them, certainly, but we are also not even milking them. We did milk Cindy after her two kids were born, and that went really well. We didn’t separate her from the kids overnight (as is recommended) because I couldn’t bear the all-night crying (theirs and mine). But what did work was to do one evening milking while she ate dinner. We would get a healthy amount of milk daily and the kids would, too. Win-win.
When Dot and Janie kidded this past summer, however, I (again) couldn’t bear to separate them from their babes, but the problem was that I also couldn’t manage to do an evening milking with five other goats running around. Our set-up just simply isn’t that refined. It became a nightly comedy of I Love Lucy proportions trying to sneak food to the other goats, lure the potential milkee into the stand, try to close a hay-blocked door, and milk an unwilling mama.
After the third night in a row of overturned feed buckets, goat kids squeezing in through under-door gaps, and spilt milk jugs, I gave up.
So, because I can’t manage to take meat or milk from our goats, and because they are not free to feed, I thought maybe we should try to find them a farm that could give them something more.
I didn’t look very hard. A big part of me just wanted to keep these guys regardless of how little sense our relationship made at that point. A bigger part of me knew, however, that there are bigger farms with better grazing, proper milking set-ups, and loving farmers who would make their goat lives the best they could be.
That’s when Carol found me.
Carol runs Heather Ridge Farm in New York on the other side of the Hudson River. She sent me a note asking if I still wanted to rehome my goats and we started communicating back and forth for a few weeks. Once I researched her farm a little, I knew that not only was this EXACTLY the kind of place of which I’d dreamed my goats could live, I also started to pack a little bag for myself (y’know, just in case there was extra room in the car).
We arranged a pick-up date that was a little over a week away and Dave and I started preparing (mostly mentally) for the goats to leave our little farm.
Goats don’t require a whole lot of maintenance, but one of the unenviable tasks that needs regular doing is what we lovingly refer to as Mani/Pedi Day. This is the time-consuming, two-person, not particularly easy process of trimming each goat’s hooves to clear away dirt and excess hoof and avoid fungal infections and the like. We got four of the goats done one day, but the sun went down and we couldn’t finish the last two. It took another couple of weeks before we could get back to finish the job.
We finished the last two and happily announced to Carol that the goats had all been trimmed and would be good for the next few months. She was grateful.
Pick-up day came and we brought Carol and John down to meet their new goats.
The whole event was very calm and peaceful and I’m pretty sure the goats were on their best behavior because, quite honestly, John and Carol seemed like super nice people to go be a goat with.
Once everyone was acquainted, the ten of us made our way to the truck. The goats have always followed me whenever they were out of their enclosure–this made it easy for me to get them to go where I wanted, but it made loading them onto a truck quite difficult.
I had been hoping to capture this moment on camera, but every time I tried to move a little away from the action, the goats started walking toward me.
So, I ditched the camera and joined in on getting the goats.
Dave and John did the lion’s share of goat lifting until our whole little herd was aboard, eating hay, and trembling only slightly.
It wasn’t until they were all loaded up and getting kissed goodbye that Boo, our smallest doe put her front legs up on the side of the truck, apparently specifically to show me that she’d managed to avoid getting her hooves done.
Which means that somebody else had to go through it twice, because I definitely trimmed six goats.
That girl will go far.
I will miss them. They are excellent, beautiful, friendly goats and they are headed for a much better way of life than we were able to provide. Dot and Janie will be bred again and the lovely line of Boer-Sanaan will carry on, browsing, bleating, and making a general nuisance of themselves.
And maybe, one day when things are different, we will be able to buy some goats from Carol and John. Maybe even some of our kid’s kids. Who knows?
Tough choices, made easier by finding the right home. Maybe you can visit?
I have been where you are on all accounts. I cried for you, but I can tell you that seasons end and seasons begin again- you will get through this. And by the way- your goats are beautiful.
“Hold on tight to your dream.
Hold on tight to your dream.
When you see your ship go sailing
When you feel your heart is breaking
Hold on tight to your dream”
My heart is heavy for you and I will selfishly miss your goat stories, at least for now. This post explains why you’ve “grown quiet” and understandably so. It also underscores how truly difficult farming can be.
Farming can definitely be heart-breaking. I cried like a child when I had to load my cow up to be sold. I love goat antics, as well. We have also had to realign our small farm to (try to) make it lose less money! Tough stuff. Thank you for writing about it.
I loved seeing your goats. Wandered onto your site one night and fell in love with the goats. They went to a good home and hopefully that helps some.;;knowing they will be happy. Would love for you to visit my site sometime. simplesouthernfaith.com. I’m Cheri.
I just found your site, and it sounds like I missed lots with your goats. My heart breaks for you, but understands that this is the way it must be.
Sometimes the reality of owning animals is just too much to keep up with… 😦
this is a fun read! we just got goats and I sneak them into the house. I thought I was getting farm animals and quickly realized they’re dogs only they chase my dog away. 🙂