Greentree Naturals Newsletter Fall 2008
Goats on the Trail
We still have a couple of feet of snow on the ground. It is that hard crusty ice that the dogs can walk on top of. It is the temperature just above freezing; cold enough to make frosty puddles on the path to the chicken coop. The goats haven’t been for a walk in weeks because anywhere you could walk without snowshoes was ice and they really didn’t like slippin' and slidin' around. I’ve been wearing these little rubber ice cleats that slip on and off of my shoes to keep from slipping myself. The last thing I have time for is something broken or bruised; those of us adapted to northern Idaho winter weather all own ice cleats for our shoes.
The one day that I did let the goats out, Ollie was so happy to get out and about that he was giddy (if a goat can be giddy). For an old goat, he was snorting and bucking and running down the path towards the house. The dogs weren’t paying attention and he broadsided Sally, hitting her hard enough to make her yelp. I decided to leave the goats out for while I brought wood in the house. I was filling the wheel burrow with wood and between one of my trips from the woodpile to the house, I caught him finishing off the last bit of flagging that was hanging off a sign I had made warning visitors of the icy parking lot. He gobbled the flagging up like it was spaghetti.
We have eggs for sale so there are frequent visitors to the farm. People from the neighborhood stop in during the week and help themselves to eggs that are kept in a big refrigerator on the front porch. There is a sign on our kitchen door that says “help yourself to eggs - leave the money in the can.” Surprisingly, the chickens continue to lay plenty of eggs and since we have people coming to buy eggs, we had the sign out to warn visitors about the slippery conditions. The only time our goats get into trouble is when they are bored. I figured that goats get cabin fever just like humans do and anything can happen after being cooped up for too long. I felt really bad that he ate the flagging, not so bad about the paper and cardboard sign. I keep looking for little goat poop that has colorful flagging in it, but haven’t seen any yet.
This is the first winter in a number of years that I allowed myself the comfort of staying home. In recent years, as soon as the farming season was over with, I found myself on the road teaching in rural communities across the region. My goal has always been to provide educational opportunities to farmers and wanna-be farmers by delivering the workshops close to their home. The people that need the information most are often in situations where they cannot leave home and travel because they have farm animals and wood stoves that need to be tended to. Working with Rural Roots (www.ruralroots.org) has made this possible, and after nine years of leaving home, this winter I chose to stay here. This year, it was time for me to focus on planning our future farm projects, and keep our home fires burning.
I did teach the Sustainable Small Acreage Farming and Ranching Course for University of Idaho this winter right here in Sandpoint. This is a twelve-week course, and while very rewarding and satisfying, it takes a considerable amount of focus and time to make it successful. The income helps us survive the long winter season when we are not able to make money farming. The course finished the end of January. We will have a potluck on the farm for a graduation ceremony for my students later this spring.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call from a woman saying she was a free-lance writer for AARP magazine and wanted to interview me for an article on “elders sharing their wisdom…” I laughed when I heard the message on my voice mail, and figured that it was a joke. When I called her back, I told her that for one, “I’m not old enough to be considered an elder.” This made her laugh. Personally, I think of an “elder” as being someone that is at least 70 years old. At any rate, at the wise old age of 56, I’m considered an elder I guess.
They sent a photographer out from NY to take my picture and it all was very surreal for me. I made the photographer [www.robhowardphoto.com] and his assistant potato leek soup from our winter vegetables, some fresh bread, and some cookies to take on the road with them. I also shared some of my husband's homemade beer that he makes from our own hops that we grow. It seemed like the least I could do to show hospitality for their long trip to get here. Looks like I’ll be in the 2009 May-June issue of AARP Magazine! I am not at all sure why they chose me out of the millions of people they could have, but they did. This is what I would call the famous unknown person scenario. I am honored to be a part of the feature story.
The other day, one of the chickens was looking pretty pathetic and isolating herself from the rest of the flock. She was staying in the deep snow instead of hanging out in the shoveled off area, and really didn’t look very happy. Usually, if a bird looks sick, Thom will just put it out of its misery, and that will be the end of it. He does what most every farmer has to do. Well, Thom isn’t home right now, so I decided to rescue that little Barred Rock hen. I got the cat carrier and made it chicken cozy with straw for a bed and brought her inside to warm up.
I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a chicken hospice situation or what, but figured that I would do whatever I could to make her comfortable. She didn’t move around or make any kind of noise for three days. I gave her organic whole wheat bread and popped corn, feeding her by hand every day. On day three, she started clucking and moving around, so I moved her out to live with the goats. Chickens will often kill an outsider so it was doubtful that she could return to the hen house. A week later and she looks like a happy chicken again.
I am preparing for the seeding season and the leeks and onions are up and growing well; all the brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage) will get seeded later this week. We may have snow on the ground, but it is time to begin the planting season. Before we know it, we will be tilling up the fields and working sunrise to sunset again.
If you don’t have a garden and are living where you have a yard, this is the year that you need to think about digging up your lawn and planting some vegetables. Even if you plant everything in pots on the deck, growing some food is a good idea and good for you. If you aren’t into gardening, think about signing up for a CSA share with one of your local farmers. There are several sites on-line that will help you find a farmer and CSA near you. Try www.localharvest.org or www.foodroutes.org.
All the best,