Monday, June 25, 2012

Hay Weather

We were down to one hundred pound bale of Alfalfa hay this morning. Now we are just a couple bales shy of one hundred leafy, bright green, dry, fifty pound bales of brome. That will get us through a few months. However, of course, we've got to stock up while we can. So we have plans to get another hundred next Sunday and then again the following Sunday, each from a different farm. Here in Interior Alaska we generally get two hay cuttings. The first cutting usually takes place about the fourth of July, and the second is usually just barely before frost and is always a tight squeeze with the rain and morning dew we get in the fall. This year, unlike the past few years, we've gotten a decent amount of rain in May and June, and then this past week we had seventy-eighty degree days with no rain, which made for good early hay growth, followed by perfect haying weather. Thus farms far and wide have been and will be haying now. Thus cows, goats and horses all around will be munching and relishing fresh green hay. Yeah!

The hay we got today is just beautiful. My goats are stoked! There is much debate on when the best hay is harvested up here. I haven't ever had any of our bought hay tested so I really can't join the debate. All I know is that it feels good to stock up on hay early and not wait until the last minute. Also, I like that the first cutting hay is generally more leafy and green. Second cutting hay usually isn't as green, as after it is cut and on the ground, it get's moist every morning from the light freezes, and then the farmers have to turn it all day to get it to dry out enough to bale by evening. That seems pretty much the same as getting rained on every day, which would leach out nutrients? Obviously I need to do some more hay research.

I not only have pasture envy, but I have hay farmer envy. I totally want to be the sun weathered, knowledgeble, farmer, spending the sunny days of summer in the hay fields, picking up hay, and riding around in a green tractor. Well, maybe that's an exageration. The image does have it's appeal.

As far as everything else is going around here. The children are taking baths nightly. They are getting so dirty running around barefoot with hardly any clothing on, that they are almost too dirty to come inside for dinner, deffinitely too dirty to sit on the couch for story time. They continue to get more bruised and scratched up, something I'd not thought possible two weeks ago. I've had to change up my daily schedule. Instead of doing house chores in the morning to get out and enjoy the afternoon, I've had to get out sooner and enjoy the cooler less intense mornings, as it has been too hot and sunny to be in the garden or in the sun mid afternoon -(at least for the kids, I on the other hand...).

One of the varieties of peas I've planted, Coral, is flowering. I harvested a row of tatsoi and arugula. I've finished thinning the beets, and now have a bag of baby beet greens in the fridge to do something with. I've thinned the carrots once, but it is time to do it again. The whole garden is taking off, with the nice balance of sun and rain. I've been spending most of my garden time weeding and mowing. We're harvesting some crisp mild lettuces, and mixing them with various weeds and other greens. We've got enough cilantro, basil, chives, lovage and sorrel right now. I am checking squash blossoms daily to pollinate the female flowers. We've got a few baby zucchini growing, I can't wait!

Best wishes wherever you are in your summer gardening, haying season!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mid Summer Nights

Every year at this time, I find myself attempting in vain to capture these magical summer nights with words. Scroll back through my June and July posts from the last few years and you'll see what I mean. The posts something like this, I'm sitting on my front porch, facing the sun in the west and watching the goats enjoying their dinner. My family is asleep. Although it is late into the evening, the sun is shining strong and and the air is warm and comfortable. All around is green. The thrush are still singing. The breeze is gentle. 

These are the perfect evenings. The mornings are beautiful too, but I'm moving too fast to really enjoy them. Scrambling to do dishes, laundry, sweep, make breakfast and start the bread before the kids and I head out to milk the does, who have been looking up at the house for the past hour while I opened and closed the door, filling water jugs, setting out milking pails, bringing in rags to wash and so on. I've been trying to finish chores and eat lunch or take lunch to the garden by noon, before it gets to hot for the kids, as we have barely a towel length of shade in the whole garden during the middle part of the day. We are all scratched and sore, bug bitten and a bit sunburned - myself especially. If the sun is shining I cannot help but be in it's rays. Making up for lost time.  I went in for a routine doctor's checkup this past week. She felt my pulse and said I was definitely yang deficient and could use more sun and heat in my life - and of course I was like, TELL BE ABOUT IT!

There is no place I'd rather be in the world than in Fairbanks in the summers, especially around Summer Solstice. This time of year is magical. Too think that all was frozen and white a couple months ago, and now is alive, growing at a rapid pace and oh so lush and green. We've had the best weather so far this summer, the perfect balance of sun and rain. Our homestead is at the top of a hill, so often we hear the thunder, but the storm goes around us one way or another. This year, we have been fortunate to actually receive the rain and not just glimpse it in the distance. Tonight was my second night watering the garden this season. Everything is taking off, and I just can't wait for our own peas, zucchini and broccoli. For now, I'm trying to be happy with tatsoi, arugula, chives, sorrel, lovage and some mixed greens. Well, it is time to put this computer away, grab my novel and head out to the front porch and enjoy the view. Best wishes for your summer solstice!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yeah, pictures, finally!

As you can see I finally got around to upgrading my storage plan. It was a close one. I almost switched to word press. I figured I can cancel my current plan anytime and move over.

I took these pictures last week. We've been taking the goats on walks pretty much daily, multiple times a day. Beings that we are low on hay, don't have a charger for our portable electric fence, and then there is less waste and work when we take the goats to the weeds as opposed to the weeds to the goats..well, there you have it, it makes sense. It's that time of year where I can't keep wait on a couple of my milkers, and they are looking pretty scrawny. More grain, more alfalfa, more browse - and still!

This week the bluebells and wild roses are in full bloom all around the property. The kids, especially Noah are enthusiastic gatherers. They've been going out daily gathering flowers and greens, technically weeds, for salads and munching on. Noah has been asking lately if we can stop buying food at the store. He's been making comments like, "When I'm older I'm going to live off the land and not buy things at the store." And of course, I'm like THATS MY BOY!  He get's it. He is continually growing in pride about our lifestyle. He is eagerly awaiting foraging for mushrooms and berries. Last week we took a nature walk and gathered probably at least twenty-five different leaves and small plants and then layed them all out and talked about their edibleness and medicinal purposes. Then instead of pressing them as I suggested, he insisted we had picked them and therefor must consume them. So, we blended them up in a very pungent smoothie, after which he ever so slowly consumed it, remarking on how it must be the healthiest smoothie ever.

When Noah asks if we can stop going to the store, I remind him that if we stopped now we'd be eating a lot of frozen kale, frozen broccoli and zucchini, as we just picked our first salad from the garden and don't have any other veggies yet. We've been talking about what we'll be going without, namely snacks, chips, hot and cold cereal etc. So yesterday we began coming up with a plan to take the month of August off without stopping by the store. In some ways we'll still be buying groceries, as I'll probably stock up on a few things, rolled oats for granola and granola bars, flour, butter and cheese. But I'm thinking we'll just be eating berries and veggies from the garden that month, and meat from the freezer of course, or if we are lucky D will get down to Chitina for a salmon run.

Avalon, for sale.

Zuri's daughter, Cila, possibly for sale.

Busy summer days; goat walks, foraging, garden, sun, green plants, flowers, sweet air.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You have too many goats if:

This past year I have found myself thinking we have too many goats for a number of reasons and here are a few of my conclusions. You know you have too many goats:
  1. When you are asked how many goats you have, and it takes several minutes to count and name them on your fingers before you are able to give an answer.
  2. When you can't take your annual winter vacation this year because you're broke - because of how much money is getting spent on grain, hay and supplements. Or along the same lines but even worse, when you skip high dollar items, treats, at the grocery store so you still have enough money for alfalfa and sunflower seeds for the goats.
  3. When you are constantly excusing bad goat behavior, saying, "she just needs to get handled more." 
  4. When you start cutting corners with their feed regime, wanting to always have kelp, molasses and olive oil on hand, but instead have it around about half the time. Or the milkers are looking scrawny and you know they need more Alfalfa, but since you can't afford it you start soaking the peas or high protein legumes from your kitchen cupboards, if it's summer, taking them for longer browsing walks, etc.
  5. When the manure and leftover hay pile up faster than you can move it out, or maybe that just happens no matter how many livestock you have??
  6. When you run out of room. When goats start sleeping outside instead of fighting for prime indoor space.
  7. When you start fantasizing about a day in the future when you have less goats.
  8. When you sit down with the receipts from the year and realize what else you could have done with that huge chunk of money, several vacations, new house, (hah, just kidding- about the house).
I'll add more as I think of them. Anyone? I'll bet some of you can add to this list. For these reasons, I am in downsizing mode. I'm not making any drastic decisions yet. And I'm not selling any milkers yet. I am committed to providing our shareholders with milk through the season. But this is most likely going to be our last year, for a while at least, selling goat shares.  I found myself dreaming about being an old lady with two or three milkers. Then I starting thinking, why wait? As one of my girlfriends pointed out this week, sometimes you have to take things to the extreme before you find some balance. I started cleaning out a small area of deep pack bedding this week. After an hour of sweating and bug swatting and heavy pitchforking, I yelled out to Dustin that I'd forgotten how much work it is getting the old hay mixed with manure back out of the pen. And again I found myself thinking how much less poo we'd be moving with a few goats. By next summer I'm thinking we'll just have a handful of goats. For now, I'm constantly thinking of who can go and who must stay.