First, two of them gave birth at night. I’d never had anything but afternoon births before. Bummer, because I’d hoped to film it to share with y’all. Second, one of them (Desert Rose) was in labor for 20 hours, which has never happened to me before. I count labor from the time a pair of ligaments that hold the tailbone to the hips loosens and disappears. Babies should be born within 12 hours of that time.
But Desert Rose had a little trouble. Her first buckling was huge, and his front legs were folded back (The hooves and nose are supposed to come out first, together.), and this was her very first delivery ever. Not a good combination. We worked to get hold of those front legs and get them straightened out. Rough on Desert Rose, but everything else went smoothly. His brother was much smaller and was easy for her.
After twenty hours of watching and waiting and helping Desert Rose through her delivery, I was exhausted and ready for bed. It was 6:00 in the morning before I finally got a nap. Then when milking her later in the morning, I checked the other goats, and Desert Rain’s tell-tale ligaments had disappeared. I spent the rest of the day in a zombie state, taking care of newborn baby goats in the kitchen, and watching Desert Rain. Mercifully, she gave birth around 10:00 that night. Two more bucklings! What are the odds?
All mamas and babies are doing well. Desert Rose has a dream udder and is exceeding my expectations as a milker. Desert Rain has the typical not-so-fun first-time milker’s udder, but she’s giving me a generous amount of milk. I am content.
These bucklings are for sale. If ever there was a time to build up a goat herd, this is it. Our future is uncertain and I’m feeling more than ever a need to rely on chickens, goats, and gardens to sustain us. Nubians are a dual purpose breed, meaning they can provide both milk and meat, making them a great breed for small farms that need to conserve space and resources.
Here are the “bullet points”, plus a link for more information on dams, sire, and pedigrees.
* Four Nubian bucklings, born March 10th *Closed herd; clean tested yearly for CAE, CL, Johnnes; last test January 2020. *Fantastic pedigree; champion and grand champions on both dam’s and sire’s sides. *Disbudded and tattooed for ADGA registration between 7-10 days old. *Sold with ADGA registration application ready for you to send in. *Bottle fed, loved, and handled often by our family of six. These guys are super sweet and friendly. *Perfect show goats for 4-H. *Kids’ dams are sisters and share the same sire, so pedigrees will be essentially the same. I own dams and sire. *Pedigree info here: http://www.desertsongurbanfarm.com/introducing-desert-song-nubian-goats/
$250 each if you pick up before they are three weeks old–You bottle feed. Or I will bottle feed to weaning at nine or ten weeks for additional $150 non refundable fee. Cash only.
More information on pedigree, and photos of dams and sire, at this link:
It’s nearing the end of citrus season in the Valley. New flowers are blooming, making the air so fragrant. It smells sweet and lemony in my back yard.
Unlike most other fruits, ripe citrus will stay healthy on the tree for many months, sweetening and continuing to grow. Usually there’s no rush to pick it before it’s needed. However, in January this year I found myself suddenly with over sixty lemons that needed immediate attention when a couple of over-heavy branches broke. And now, too, I want to free my tree up to put its energy into making new lemons. I need to do some heavy pruning. I’m going to have more lemons to use. A lot of us are in that same predicament right now: What are you going to do with all those lemons?
After you’ve made lemon meringue pie, and lemon bars, and let your kids have a lemonade stand, and gone on that awful lemon-cayenne pepper cleanse until your bowels are squeaky clean and you think you’ll never, ever again want another lemon, what ARE you going to do?
Well, start by sharing: neighbors, food banks, someone who just lost a job, a mom with too many teenagers (ahem!)….. A friend of mine took this last route, which is why I ended up, in February, with a bunch of Meyer lemons that needed to be used or preserved immediately. So grateful!
There are so many recipes, and so many ways to use those lemons. Lemon curd is on my list, but every time I make up my mind to make it, I remember I don’t have a double boiler and it just gets pushed into the “someday, but not today” part of my brain. I need a quick way to preserve them….preserve, and not think about until I want them again.
Last year I zested and then dried the skin of a bunch of them, and then juiced them and froze the juice. Easy to do. Kind of messy and even that’s sometimes more than I have time to do. I also salt-preserved some. VERY easy and fast and uncomplicated. If you know about salt preserved lemons you’ll laugh at this, but after they were ready I stuck them in my refrigerator and left them there FOR A YEAR because I didn’t know what to do with them! I’d Google what to do with them, and the response was either fancy stuff I don’t have time to do, or the response was something like, “What DON’T you do with them?” And then one day I made stir-fry and all I had to season it was soy sauce, so I took some of that lemon out, mashed it with some of the juice, added that and soy sauce to my chicken…..and my kitchen-world was abruptly turned upside down. I watched family member after family member take that first bite, eyes widen, and rave to me. I used the rest of what I’d preserved within two weeks.
So PLEASE try this! It’s so, so easy.
Start with a setup something like this:
Slice your lemons. Traditionally they are simply quartered, with the bottom left intact, like this:
Or, slice them this way. This is what I did last year. I don’t think it matters that much, unless you’re only going to use the rind and not the pulp. These, by the way, are Meyer lemons, but I also preserved regular lemons. Both are delicious!
Generously sprinkle the cuts with sea salt. Maybe a tablespoon for each extra-large lemon. The ones I grew up seeing in the supermarket would probably need only a teaspoon. These Meyer lemons are more teaspoon-sized.
Drop the lemons into a glass jar. This year I used gallon and half-gallon jars after the mistake of using only pint-sized jars last year. Keep slicing and salting and dropping them in until you’re pushing them down to get more in. You want that jar as full as possible. You don’t have to be aggressive; the salt is going to do most of the work, but it’s better to have more lemons and have that jar as full as possible. I try to jam the lemons in under the “shoulder” of the jar.
Lid and label them and leave them overnight to draw out the lemon’s juices. After a few days the lemons should have sunk down and be now completely covered in juice. At this point, if you’re at all worried about mold, you can add a thin layer of olive oil that will protect them. I’ve done this once but it’s generally unnecessary.
Store your lemons for at least a month. More time is better! Something subtle yet profound happens to the flavor and the texture that makes me wonder if lemons were actually made for this purpose. Give them time to work their magic. Remember: Mine were a year old when I used them and were still delicious.
Most people today are most comfortable keeping these lemons in the refrigerator, which is fine, but traditionally they would have been been simply stored in a cool spot such as a cellar or cheese cave. I have an extra refrigerator that’s been “hacked” to stay at 55 degrees, and these will be stored there. Honestly I’d otherwise be comfortable just storing them in a cool pantry.
I’ve used salt preserved lemon to marinate chicken and fish; blended it for salad dressing or pasta, and of course mixed it with soy sauce and added to stir-fry. I ran out of lemons and juice before I could experiment any more. I’d love to get more ideas if you have them. Can’t wait for these to be ready!
This is a long post. Because, lots of things need doing before welcoming new baby goats. And it illustrates Reason Number One why I can’t ever have my fantasy tiny house.
I’ve been writing lists and assembling supplies. Rose is looking close to ready, and those babies are coming soon. I’m not in a panic yet; her ligaments are still firm, but she’s showing signs that the time is near. Her udder looks a little more developed every day.
If you’re a visual learner it might be helpful to see, in photos, how I’m getting ready for kidding season. But heads up: I’m learning that there are two types of planners: Those that plan and purchase for every contingency, and those who are more laid back. I’m in the second category. My neighbor and goat partner (She owns Nigerian goats.) is in the first. There are good lists for every type of planner, but you should be aware that this is the fairly laid back list. Another caveat: I live in a warm climate. I’m not worried about babies freezing. They still need to be kept warm, especially for the first three days or so, but this is definitely a plan for warm weather.
So. I’ve got plans for five parts of goat birthing. Not all will necessarily apply to your situation. They are: Paperwork, Birthing, After Care, Milking, and Bottle Feeding. I’ll lay it out in that order, and you can skip the parts that don’t apply to you.
First—Because I have ADGA registered goats and plan to sell the babies as ADGA registration applications, I have to get my paperwork in order first. This includes: Lab results that show that my goats have been recently tested for certain diseases (CAE, CL, Johne’s). I need extra copies in case purchasers want them. And I’ve learned not to count on my printer working at the last minute. Disbudder/Tattooer’s contact information. Needs to be done 7-10 days after birth. Pedigree, and registration papers for dams and sire. Blank registration forms for each kid that’s born. I fill these out for the buyer, unless we do the forms online together during the purchase. I also fill one out to keep for myself, even if the buyer chooses not to register. It keeps a record of every kid born here. I’ve many times been glad the information was on hand. This year’s tattoo information. So I’m not looking it up last minute.
If you’re intending to sell kids, you need to plan how you’re going to market them. Craigslist? A website? Goat forums? There are pros and cons to each one, but you do need a plan. Unfortunately, you can’t sell animals through Facebook. This is hard; Facebook groups allow us to get to know members, to create online and real-life communities, making it easier to “police” each other. A bad animal owner will be called out and people won’t sell to him or her. But now that Facebook has banned animal sales we’re all scrambling to find new places to sell. With Craigslist, I have no idea who the buyer is until he’s at my door to pick up a goat. I’ve had good success and made good goat friends through Craigslist, but I’m always nervous. I’m not selling if I don’t feel ok about the buyer.
Next up, the actual birthing list. This is the long one, and you can’t skip it.
The very first thing on the list is a leg snare, for pulling on the leg of a stuck baby goat. Full disclosure: I don’t have one, so you won’t find it in the above photo. I have small hands and I like to feel what I’m pulling on, so I don’t know when I’d ever use one. But if I had really large hands I’d get a leg snare. Don’t ask Amazon for one. When I searched “Leg Snare” the search engine was confused and suggested that maybe I was looking for “Lego Star”. I tried other combinations with “snare” and got “snare drum”. Another website called it a “kid pulling snare”. At that point I started wondering if Google would notify Child Protective Services if I searched for that. So if you want a leg snare, you’ll have to go find it yourself. Vinyl or nitrile gloves. (I’m allergic to latex.) For touching icky things, and keeping germs off vulnerable things, and going in after stuck kids. Garbage bags. Also for icky things. Iodine, for dipping umbilical cord ends Unwaxed dental floss, and small scissors, for tying and cutting umbilical cord, if necessary KY Jelly, or similar lubricant, for going in after stuck kids, or smoothing the way for them. In my 50s, I’m still not mature enough to buy this without blushing. Surgical scrubwash, usually made with iodine. Mine’s called Povidone Iodine Prep Solution, and Amazon can actually help you with this one. Wash with it before going in after a stuck kid. Nasal aspirator. We called it a snot-sucker when our children were babies. And that’s what it’s for: Clearing snot and birth goo out of kids’ noses so they can breathe. Clean old towels, two for each expected kid. I’m expecting Desert Rose to have two, but I’m preparing for three, ’cause this ain’t my first rodeo. If she has four, I’m not prepared. OMG Head lamp. Would you believe I’ve never needed one for the actual birth? All my goats have kidded in the mid afternoon, every single time. But the first couple of days I’ll be milking for more colostrum in the middle of the night, so I do need it eventually. Battery powered barn lamp. Optional, but if you don’t have electricity in your barn (I don’t.) this is the best thing ever. You can literally stick it to the wall, or hang it on a nail, IF your goats can’t reach it, and then you’ll have bright light in the barn. If they can reach it, you have bright light buried under the hay on the floor. Here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Super-Bright-Switch-Wireless-Basement/dp/B01N03PQ65/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=flip+it+bright+light+where+you+need+it.&qid=1583541600&sr=8-7 I don’t make any money if you buy from Amazon, so if you prefer buying them elsewhere, go for it. Heating pad. Can’t skip this one. Goats’ body temperatures are higher than ours (102-103 degrees), so, while cuddling them does help, if a goat is really cold your body temperature isn’t high enough to get its little body up to a number where it’ll be able to eat. A cuddle under your shirt WITH a heating pad is perfect. Feeding tube and a 60cc syringe. This is the other one that I don’t have, and I should. However, before tube feeding a weak baby, try warming it up with the cuddle and heating pad. This has worked for me, and I’ve never tube fed a baby. They’ve always gotten hungry when they’ve warmed up. When I tried searching for a tube feeder and syringe on Amazon to provide a link, they suggested stuff to put oil in my car… Clean buckets and new clean rags; access to hot water within minutes. For washing up you and mama goat. Fresh bedding for before and probably after the birth. A clean space to birth, and then a clean space to rest after the goop of birthing. Pine shavings, clean straw, or clean hay that your goats already picked through are all ok. Emergency phone numbers. Vet, second vet in case first vet isn’t available. Husband. I have a goat partner that lives down the street that also has goats, and also a couple of really great neighbor girls that are a big help. I need all their phone numbers on hand. Don’t invite everybody. Your goat needs peace and safety to do her best labor and delivery.
And that’s my complete “Delivery” list.
Next up: After Care
If you’re only going to pay attention to one category of the five I’m presenting here, please let it be this one. The care your goat gets after delivery can be life and death for your goat.
Unsulphured blackstrap molasses, and a bowl of lukewarm water. Add molasses to the water for a strengthening drink for your doe right after delivery. She’ll appreciate it and likely drink all of it really quickly. Thermometer. To take goats’ rectal temperatures over the next few days. Goats’ normal body temperatures are 102-103 degrees. You’re going to want to check your doe, especially, twice a day for 3-4 days. If it gets higher than that after delivery, you’re probably calling the vet, ASAP. De-wormer. This is a hard one. Right after a goat delivers, she’s really vulnerable to worms. You’ve got to do something to help her. I’ve used Safeguard for years. I’ve felt conflicted about it, but scared to go the natural route. Last time I used Molly’s Herbals and my goat had no problem at all. It felt like the right thing to do, but scary. I’m going to try it again this time, but I’ve got Safeguard on hand, just in case. You can buy Molly’s Herbals here: https://fiascofarm.com/herbs/mollysherbals.php/categories/herbal-wormer Goat minerals. Your goat should always have access to minerals, but especially now. If you’re not feeding alfalfa hay, you also might need extra supplements at this time. Calcium and selenium are recommended a lot. I just have a salt block with minerals formulated for goats. You can get loose minerals, too. Make sure they’re for goats, and have plenty of copper in them. Kid hut. The kids need a cozy little hut to snuggle in. A 3 x 3 x 2 foot box, open on one side, is fine. Because my kids are bottle fed, this box is in my kitchen for the first few days. It’s made of cardboard. If they’re out with other goats it will need to be made of sturdier stuff.
Supplies for milking your goats will be needed at the same time as your after-care supplies, but will continue (hopefully) for many months. Even if you aren’t raising dairy goats, you need some plan for what you’ll do if your babies die, or your goat has some other reason she needs to be milked. I raise dairy goats, so milking them becomes a regular part of my life and my relationship with my goats. If you don’t have dairy goats, you can maybe be more loosey-goosey with this list.
A milk stand. I have two. I’m a fast milker; the goats take much longer to eat their grain than it takes me to milk them so having two of them on the stand at the same time is more efficient for me. And goats are always happier with a buddy. It’s a win-win. But you only really need one stand. Train them to get on it, eat their grain, and be handled before they deliver. Your life will be easier for it. A bucket for water. For washing goats’ udders before milking. You’ll want to add things such as: a single drop of Dawn dish soap, three drops of tea tree oil, a couple of drops of iodine. Use a clean rag to thoroughly wash her udder, and another one to dry it, before milking. Add a couple of drops of lavender if you like, as well. A small cup for each goat you’re milking. Use this as a “strip cup” to examine the first squeeze of milk from each teat. If there’s blood or any other strange thing, you’ll want to give yourself a heads up to check for mastitis. Don’t worry too much if a new goat has a bit of blood: Her udder is stretching, and a bit of blood for a day or two is probably normal. That first strip also clears germs from the opening of the teat, so it’s a safety measure for you, the milk drinker. Throw that first strip of milk away. Another small cup for dipping teats after milking, to protect against mastitis. Add water and three drops of tea tree oil. A stainless steel milk pail. You need something to milk into. Make sure it’s easy to clean and doesn’t have any seams that could hide germs. Milk straining equipment. My first several years I just folded these discs into cones and poured the milk into them. https://www.amazon.com/KenAG-disc-non-gauze-filter-discs/dp/B01J2I8CO6/ref=pd_sbs_86_3/144-4602253-1459510?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B01J2I8CO6&pd_rd_r=0acb9a1a-c22a-4070-8173-41ba7935cffa&pd_rd_w=DPs77&pd_rd_wg=aaJ4p&pf_rd_p=7cd8f929-4345-4bf2-a554-7d7588b3dd5f&pf_rd_r=76WN6EWAJM6FJ3NZK7GF&psc=1&refRID=76WN6EWAJM6FJ3NZK7GF
And you’ll need clean glass jars with lids for storing milk.
Finally, you’ll need bottle feeding supplies.
Even if you’re not planning on bottle feeding baby goats, plan on it. If a mother can’t or won’t take a baby, you’ll have to feed it, and you need to be prepared.
Gather glass soda, beer, or sparkling water bottles, enough for each anticipated baby, plus one. You’ll need to top these with rubber lamb nipples. If your goat doesn’t seem to be getting milk quickly enough, you can slightly cut the hole a little bigger at the tip. I’ve used this system since I was a little girl and like it still. Dried, powdered colostrum. It’s expensive. Hopefully you’ll never need it. But new baby goats MUST get colostrum, and quickly. In the terrible event that mama doesn’t have it for her babies, you’ve got to have it on hand. It’ll keep for years; hopefully it’s a one-time purchase that you never have to open. A bottle brush that fits into the baby bottles. To wash bottles, of course. If you’re not keeping mamas and babies together, you’ll need a pen and shelter for your babies to live in–and much sooner than you anticipate. Set this up now before they destroy, for instance, your beautifully planted side yard. A feeding schedule. Post this somewhere so you don’t forget when and how much to feed the babies. Feeding schedules are discussed pretty hotly in groups I’ve been in: It seems like everyone’s got one and thinks everybody else’s is wrong. This is the one I use. All I can say is I’ve raised happy, healthy goats, and have never lost one. Yet…
Finally, you’re really gonna want to have a camera. Of course.
As much as this seems like the “laid back” list, it’s a lot, isn’t it? You should see my dining table right now! Between our March planting season and kidding season, it’s a mess of goat stuff and spring seeds and planting charts.
Questions? Let me know if you need more help locating some of these items. If you’re considering having goats, does this seem daunting or exciting? And, experienced goat owners: did I miss anything?
All three of these girls, due March of this year (2020), have been bred to our buck, Bluestem Caesar, a gift from my parents’ herd. Neither we nor my parents show goats, since, for biosecurity, we keep closed herds; but his pedigree is really wonderful too.
Since these girls are sisters with the same pedigree, all bred to the same buck, the above pedigree applies to all kids born this month.
Many of the goats in their lineage are show champions; there are grand champions on both the sire’s and dam’s sides.
Our goats are tested yearly for CAE, CL, and Johnnes. We’ve been 100% healthy all the years we’ve had goats. Last testing was done January 2020. The vet who drew blood for labs raved about the health, physical structure and robustness of our goats New babies will be bottle fed. They are tattooed and disbudded when they are 7-10 days old; we have never had a horn scur on any of our kids since we found an excellent couple to do the work for us.
Whether you’re looking for ADGA registered show goats with wonderful pedigrees, or excellent milkers for your home herd, or a new herd sire, we’ve got goats on the way for you! Doelings will be available for $350 each; bucklings for $250.
Check back soon for good news: Desert Rose is due to kid any day, and her sisters will follow within a week or two.
For more information, contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rose is due to have her first babies on March 4th. I’m thinking she will kid sooner than that, don’t you? Every day her udder looks more developed, fills just a bit more. This isn’t MY first time attending goat deliveries, but sometimes first-time mama goats can have trouble, and I’m nervous.
Rose’s two sisters, Rain and Nomad, are also due sometime in March. Baby goats live in our kitchen for the first few days of their lives, so I’m getting towels and mops ready. Shoes in the kitchen will be a MUST. Also, coffee. And of course cameras.
Goat photos are hard to take. Goats are incurably curious and friendly, and a camera is super super fascinating to them. All the ones I took today went like this:
Distract. Run away, turn, shoot. Check, while being pestered, to see if I got anything worth posting. Delete. Distract again.
Now you know why that first photo is blurry. I have take what I can get, with goats.
Also, one of our Indian Runner ducks is sitting on eggs. They are due to start hatching tomorrow. She thought she’d hidden them pretty well when she left the nest briefly to get a drink. Not too bad really; I think there are about a dozen eggs hidden here.
I can’t stop myself from checking several times a day, and I’m sure I’m driving mama duck crazy. But last year I had a duck abandon the nest two days before they were due to hatch, and another let the eggs hatch and then ignored the babies. Most of them died before I could save them. So again, I’m nervous. I’ve had a few success stories, but Indian Runners aren’t known for their great parenting skills.
Stay tuned! I’m hoping for good news soon.
Also, these goats are ADGA registered, show-quality goats. Next post will have more information on pedigree and our plans for these babies.
Broccoli season here in the low desert is nearing its end. There is still more to harvest for a couple of weeks yet, but the plants are hurrying now to get their seeds set before the hot weather starts, and I’m hurrying faster to get my harvest ahead of them.
After the initial main head is harvested (above), the stem will heal and the plant will produce many side shoots. These can be harvested and used just like the main head, but rather than the work of cutting and separating the main head, think of these side shoots being pre-cut for your convenience.
The shoots we usually eat are actually clusters of the buds of many, many small flowers. If I leave the shoots and don’t harvest them, the buds will burst into full flower and then eventually go to seed. The plant then becomes woody, bitter, inedible as it puts its energy into seed-making. As the weather warms the process goes faster and faster, and eventually I’m out there every day looking for new shoots to cut and eat before it’s too late.
The flowers, leaves, and peeled stems are all edible; add the flowers to pretty up a salad, and then make a delicious broccoli-cheese soup with the leaves. If I know that the plant is an heirloom or open-pollinated variety, I might also let one plant mature its seeds for September planting.
Finally, when I’ve had all I want, the rest of the plant goes to the chickens for a much-needed calcium boost.
The decision to keep our goat herd came readily–and quickly. Within days, I was looking for new does (female goats) to start over again: good, ADGA registered goats with good pedigrees. After watching a goat suffer because she wasn’t structurally sound, the importance of breeding for sound, healthy bodies had never been more apparent to me. What I found was better than I could have hoped for: Three doelings (baby girls) from Heritage Song Nubians, a highly reputable breeder out of Kansas, and a friend of my mom’s. These girls’ grandmother was a permanent Grand Champion, and her mother was also an award-winning goat. And because of the friendship, she offered them to me at a cpst way below what they were worth. This was beyond my wildest hopes. So, a month before my achilles tendon tear, my daughter and I did a whirlwind trip to Kansas to pick them up. They would end up being weaned just before my injury, thank God. Y’all, they are just beautiful, don’t you think? And Sheba, my oldest doe, has never been happier.
Ten ducklings hatched out in the spring, followed by TWENTY-ONE more! We hardly knew what to do with ourselves. We were eventually able to sell all but six of them, bringing our total now up to ten, and I cannot decide who to get rid of. Ten ducks is five too many, but I love them all.
After the injury, the doldrums set in. Serious depression. Everyone was doing everything for me; I was completely disconnected from the farm. I’d have moments of inspiration followed by complete despondency–so, half-done projects were lying around that made me feel even worse. The gardens were dying. Any hope of harvesting anything was gone. Plants and seeds I’d paid good money for were useless. Instead, we were buying that same produce from the store. It was just stupid, stupid, stupid. I joined a support group on Facebook, all achilles tendon people. It helped a lot. A neighbor brought over figs from his tree–lots of them–and I sat at my sink and bagged some for freezing to make jam when the weather cooled, sliced some for sun drying, and stuffed myself full, knowing I’d regret it later and not caring. I felt back in the action, if only just a little. Community connection, local food…connecting to my passion.
And when I finally went out to inspect my gardens, I found a few surprises: Although in one garden only the rosemary and potted sugarcane survived, the other, a 17×18 foot space, was completely taken over by exuberant sweet potato vines! Hopefully they will yield a beautiful harvest this fall. I need to think about where and how to grow them in the future, since they don’t really play well with other plants.
At the edge of this garden a melon plant managed to survive, growing one melon on the fence where I could reach it. Still not sure what type it is. But it added evidence to a theory I’ve been working on. Squash bugs are the bane of a gardener’s existence. They come in and destroy full grown plants in the “cucurbit” family: squash, melons, cucumbers. I’ve noticed that I tend to lose plants after I’ve cleared some other spring crops out of the path of the growing squash or melon vines, so my theory has been that they are confused when there are a lot of OTHER thriving plants mixed in with them. So, confused by the mixed smells, they fly away and find some other garden to destroy. And sure enough, these vines are untouched by squash bugs, even this late in the season. Although this doesn’t prove anything for sure, it is good news, and something I’m going to work into my garden plans in the future.
There’s more, deeper stuff: I’ve learned to sit more. I’ve watched my family step in and shoulder the load, and I’ve learned to accept help–something I’m just terrible at. I’ve seen once again how rock solid my marriage is. I think I’m sorta taking steps at learning to be graceful in weakness. I’ve learned that the world won’t end if my plans don’t get implemented my way, and that my husband still loves me when I get angry over a few stupid feet of fencing and the many other ridiculous things I got upset about in those terrible early weeks. I learned to make the community garden about…you know… community, because, finally, I had to. And it thrived all summer, just fine, without me. Because….community. This has been a coming-of-age event for my youngest son. He’s the only one still being homeschooled, and he has shouldered the bulk of the daily load, taking care of morning chores, lifting and moving heavy things, chasing down escaped animals, and more than that, caring. Caring about the farm, caring about me, and learning to care about the world that we are leaving to him. I’m excited to slowly ease into this new chapter. October is our “spring” here in the low desert, and it’s time to start again.
This is supposed to be a garden–one of three in my back yard. As you can see, it’s overgrown with weeds and Bermuda grass. I’d had high hopes for it this past summer: I was going to plant my first monsoon garden (more on monsoon gardens soon) in early July, and I was very excited about it.
And then, on June 19th, while jumping over the side of our pickup truck, my Achilles tendon tore from my heel bone. I was completely off that foot for four weeks, in a boot for ten, and will be in physical therapy for many months to come. A crushing blow. My very busy family had some tough decisions to make: How much could we keep, and what must we let go, to preserve a high maintenance urban farm for the months to come? Was it time to entirely call it quits? The animals would get to stay, we decided; the family could do the morning and evening chores. We set up a system so that I could still milk, and having only one goat to milk suddenly seemed like a blessing rather than a curse. With our bi-monthly flood irrigation, the fruit trees would be ok. But the gardens would have to go. I took a leave of absence from managing our nearby community garden. I grieved every day, and am still grieving.
But that wasn’t the only setback:
This past winter, my beloved goat Hattie stopped walking on her two front feet and began crawling around on her knees instead. I’d always had trouble trimming her hooves, but I tried again, looking for infection as I went. (There was none.) Even with trimmed hooves, she didn’t walk. She was awfully fat; she’d been dry and unable to get pregnant for three years, and an inactive goat that isn’t producing babies or milk will gain weight. I brought in the vet and got the hard news: She had a structural problem with her legs and feet. She was in pain, and would never get better. Worse, it was genetic. Somehow, despite her excellent pedigree, some old gene had popped up in her; and her daughter, whom we also owned, was likely carrying the gene, although she seemed to have no problem with her feet. The compassionate, responsible thing to do was to put Hattie down humanely, and then give her super friendly daughter away as an unregistered pet; thereby taking them both out of the gene pool. I was now left with only one female goat, and I was crushed. Sobbing, many days in a row. Not just for me, but for Sheba, who would now lose her only two companions. Again the question: Are we done?
This is one of the scariest parts of any kind of farming: A major injury can be the death of a dream, the death of an income. Living things won’t wait: They and their environment must be cared for every day, no exceptions. We are fortunate that Jeff works an outside job; this is the survival plan of so many farming couples. But when one partner breaks down, the other is left to shoulder the whole load, and it’s just impossible to keep up. It took us some time to find the silver lining in this heavy cloud, but it did eventually begin to shine.
So excited (and a little terrified!) to invite you in to follow our journey. Follow along as we explore and develop our gardens and livestock, review helpful books, and see what's progressing around the state of Arizona. We'll take little tangents into family life, parenting, and more.
(And I have no idea how to get rid of that top photo in this blog. It came with the program I'm using.)