Cows and goats and rabbits … oh my!

Ah, don’t forget the chickens and ducks and cats and Border Collies.  Border Collies … agh!  I hate bringing up a young Border Collie.  We were going to bring in two young ones, one of them was Gel’s grandson, but I decided that would be just too much to take on and I cancelled on him.  Unfortunately, that put me on the sh*t list with that family, but hey, I need to protect my own sanity.  I have so much going on right now, both physically and in my head, I have to preserve myself.  I don’t handle pressure too well.

I am working diligently towards what could be a very, very viable project involving the rabbits.  It’s still very much in its infancy stages and may never happen, but if it does, it could be extraordinarily inventive and productive.  Because we are small, we have to both search out niche markets and so-called high-value crops.  High-value crops are those that you can turn over relatively quickly.  There really is nothing like that here, everything that we raise takes a considerably long time to grow out, but if I could get my lazy butt in gear and use that highly fertile soil that I’ve been accumulating I can grow high-value crops that mature in 30 to 45 days.  Imagine that?  Well-washed and presented salad greens, especially the gourmet varieties, can command as much as $9/pound.  Of course it takes a lot of salad greens to = a pound, but it’s something to think about.

Our farm banner lists organic vegetables on it.  Can’t remember how that came about, it does not have grass-fed beef, duh!  My mind must not have been working when I made it.  It’s still in good shape so I’m going to leave it as  is for now.  But it makes me think.  I’ve toyed with adding vegetables to our offerings for a long time now, but I simply cannot discipline myself enough to get there.

So what do you do?  You ask for help.  Something I find hard to do.  I’ve always been independent and somewhat anti-social.  Even with Wally, I have a hard time asking for help.  I’ve become friendly with several farmers who sell primarily vegetables, all naturally grown without chemicals.  They are very good at what they do and they’ve been very, very giving of their knowledge.  All of this information is being written down and thought over.  I want to hire someone to till up an area so I can start growing NOW, but duh, I’ve got gorgeous raised beds right here in the back yard mostly un-planted!  I do have carrots planted in one bed, beets in another and arugula in a third.  I planted sweet potato vines in another, but I realized that the amount of sweet potato vines that I need to feed the number of rabbits that I have in residence equates to a truckload, not a bucket-full so as soon as we get a frost, which should be in a few weeks, I’ll take them up and replant the bed with something that will survive light frosts.  I ordered more seeds last week: kale (I’ve never had kale before last week); beets; and radishes (which grow really, really quickly and are good rabbit forage).

Today is cool and it’s going to rain off and on.  It’s a good day to catch up on housework, do some baking and catch up on record keeping, something else I’m terrible at!  I have a sourdough sponge (a “sponge” is the first part of sourdough bread making) bubbling away, waiting for me to add more flour to get the bread rising.  If it comes out (bread making takes patience, something I don’t have much of), it will go good with the sausage soup I made yesterday.  I used a half gallon of chicken broth that I made several months ago and froze, which makes me remember how many chicken carcasses I’ve thrown out instead of making broth from (see, I still have a long way to go).  Most of the ingredients in the soup were local which is fantastic!  The more and more I delve into this farm, the less I like buying just about anything to eat in the grocery store.  The past few times I have been in a grocery store, I almost got physically ill looking at the selections knowing how they got there.  Good thing I can’t read labels without reading glasses as then I’d really be sick.

Cows: Gwen is doing great, she’s giving about two and a half gallons in the morning and feeds her baby all day.  Penny, our newest cow, is not giving much, but she’s behaving wonderfully while being milked.  She’s got a puncture wound on one teat which makes milking her really difficult: it spurts milk while I milk which makes my hand slippery, not to mention I lose most of the milk from that quarter.  I use her milk just for feeding the calves.  The calf that got hung in the fence is not going to make it.  I’m steeling myself to make an appointment to take him to the processor to be ground into veal burgers. Our vet looked at him last week and told us that his hip was completely dislocated and was not going to get better.  He’s up in a stall in the back of the goat barn getting milk and hay.  We put him there so he wouldn’t get bumped around by the other cows (or goats).  There is no sense letting his meat go to waste, but it’s still sad and I blame myself.

Faith, the cow that we bought for the girl I knew, may be bred.  We bought a young Jersey bull to cover her if she was not and unfortunately we did not get him here until day 21 of her last heat so I really don’t know if she cycled again or not.  She did call some, but she seems to be a relatively vocal cow so it may not have been a heat cycle.  We’ll know for sure by the end of October.  I’ll need to get Gwen bred in a month or so.  This bull seems mild mannered and hopefully he’ll stay that way and we’ll use him to breed Penny in the spring, if it comes to that.  Then he’ll be used for meat.

Penny has a fractured stifle (rear knee).  Our vet x-rayed it and said that it didn’t look as bad as he thought.  He drew fluid out of the area (it’s swollen) and is culturing it to see what type of infection (or if there is any infection) it is so he can treat it accordingly.  Hopefully we can get her comfortable.  She’s due to calf in March.  That may be all that she can handle, we’ll see.  Gwen may not go much longer, but we’ll see.  I watch both cows carefully and for as long as they are still getting around, they’ll stay here.  While they are in milk, I keep them close to the house so they don’t have far to walk.  We need to re-name our farm to “Lame Cow Ranch.”  It would probably amaze you to know how frequently lameness occurs in dairies, especially confinement dairies.  A milk cow should go for as much as 15 years, but that is  not the norm in commercial dairies.

Border Collies: one thing that I did not do much work on training Gel how to do is shedding.  I’m realizing now how big that hole in his training is.  A Border Collie’s natural instinct is to group and gather.  Separating stock is not.  I need him to split and separate now and he’s having a very hard time with that task.  Not only do I need to get going on working our young Border Collie, but I need to try to get Gel better at shedding.

It’s time to do my obligatory job hunt … the unemployment rate supposedly we down, but like so many statistics, these new numbers are not as they seem.  Most of these new jobs are part-time jobs.  The economy, for so many people, is bad news.

Until later …