End of the Year

Tonight marks the end of the agricultural year. Some call it Hallows Eve, or Halloween, or Día de Muertos, some even call it Samhain. No matter the name, tomorrow will be a whole new year of farming to experience and learn from.

We have lived on this new land in a new town for seven months now and still when I look outside, it looks wild to me. The front two acres have been very easy to force into a civil landscape. Trevor mowed the wild grasses and weeds in the spring and the summer heat kept most of it from growing very tall. The goats have nibbled down every blade of grass in their pen and have kindly trimmed the low tree branches in the “front yard”.

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No matter what the goats do in the back half-acre of grass, it looks like a dry, lonely meadow. The tall stalks of wild grasses stop where the seasonal creek winds through our acreage. On the other side of the narrow and rocky path that will soon fill up with water, is a slight grade filled with rocks and brush. Next to our narrow, rectangle-shaped property is a vacant lot that gives us a buffer between the house and the main road.

We have recently spotted deer and bobcats hiding among the various oaks and pines growing there. The brush is so tall both on our back two acres and around the side in the vacant lot that it is easy for coyotes to mill around unnoticed. When the fire truck from the station a few blocks over runs it’s siren, you can hear dozens of coyotes sing in the hills surrounding us. At first I thought it was a little creepy, but now I wait to hear their voices and find it comforting.

Our wild dirt and hills have not tamed since we moved here. I think it is more that we have carved out a few spots of our own. If we are lucky, this new agricultural year will bless us with three more turkey dinners; a successful breeding of the goats, the first goat kids born here on the farm, and the milk that comes along with all that; a few apple trees planted in the spring; perhaps even some new garden beds; and a thriving pumpkin patch by the next year’s end.

Tonight we will celebrate the end of an awkward year with a homeraised chicken, some homemade bread rolls, and a couple organic market acorn squash. We may even get some rain this afternoon! What better way to start anew than a good autumn storm cloud overhead.

Stroopwafel

Of course as soon as I decide my blog-break is over, Trevor’s laptop and only connection to dial-up internet, craps out. Erg. So here I am– literally six miles down the road with my car wedged between Mountain Ranch’s lone store and the realty office utilizing the free wifi. Pretty sad that the itsy bitsy town of Mountain Ranch is more technologically advanced than my house.

In any case, I had to get more eggs after using everything in the fridge making these puppies:

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Stroopwafel is the best thing to happen to the world since indoor plumbing. That might not be the best example, but stroopwafel is a major accomplishment for mankind.

I don’t remember where I had my first stroopwafel, but I’m sure it had something to do with going to work one day with my mom in Oakland. For some reason I spent a lot of days at work with my mom. I know she never let me skip school so we must have had many school holidays then. Oakland has a high crime-rate, a football team, and really great food. Only one of which I care about. And as a kid, nothing perks up a day sitting in a big office building with your mom like going out for lunch and snacks.

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Stroopwafel tastes like a… well, a waffle-cookie with a brown sugar syrup in sandwiched between the two layers that has a bit of maple and molasses taste. You know you have the perfect stroopwafel when it is thin and crisp when cool and the syrup inside melts a bit when warmed on the top of a mug of tea.

Hello Again

So it turns out I needed a little blog break. I would have normally just scheduled some posts or found a guest blogger, but that was the exact work I felt I needed a break from. The last few weeks allowed me a much needed rest from blogging several times a week (sometimes I even posted six times a week!) and some time with family and friends.

So, yes, I am alive, I am fine, and I am appreciative of all your concerned emails and messages.

I escaped the farm for a whole day to visit a friend from school and had a great time snickering and plotting and generally catching up on the Bay Area I left behind. I have also been doing a lot of painting to get ready for my solo art show in Mountain Ranch in January.

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My fiddle playing has improved. I took gold, silver, and black sharpie marker to my fiddle and made it look somewhat like a cute, decorated Norwegian piece. I am convinced the new floral pattern is what makes me play better. I have “mastered” Ida Red, Gospel Plow, and Shortnin’ Bread. Home On The Range and House Of The Rising Sun are less squeaky, but not quite there yet. My own rule when learning to play the guitar was that if you can play House Of The Rising Sun on an instrument, you ain’t half-bad.

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Since gobbling up our last turkey –pun intended, we have been licking our chops every time we pass by the remaining three in the pen. I can’t guarantee that all three will make it Thanksgiving, but I do have to make sure the biggest tom is saved for the holiday table. It is pretty hard to resist the idea of homemade turkey and gravy. Gravy especially.

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I also had a rabbit come back to me from one of Khaleesi and Toblerone’s litters. His owner felt like she couldn’t keep up with the grooming and decided to bring him back. I really do appreciate responsible owners like this; you have to give credit to people who recognize their own limits and give primary concern to the animal’s future well-being and happiness. In any case, you all can help me rename home tomorrow. He is a nice big guy with nice body type and a promising coat… I think I’ll keep him for breeding since I am down to one herd buck. He has had a chunk missing out of his ear since he was a kit (over zealous cleaning by mom I think) and so he isn’t of show quality. Super sweet fluff ball though!

Our property no longer resembles Mars or a lunar surface. We have had a couple decent rain storms this month do some greenery is reappearing. It isn’t much just yet, but I think we may have something close to a lawn by next month. The green color popping up has been making me feel more motivated to get things done outside. The goats appreciate the weeds that have come up as well.

I finally found someone who has Nigerian Dwarf bucks to breed my two ladies to. It will be about a 30 or 45-minute trip, but well worth it. The owner of the bucks just wants to take the focus off of her one and only doe who does not want to breed. So it works out well for both of us. I am hoping to get that all arranged for sometime in the first week of November.

Phew! Now you’re all caught up. I think my next blog-break will be due after another four years of writing. 😉

Farmercise

I don’t like anything even resembling exercise. Hate is such a strong word, but possibly appropriate here. I hate exercise. That said, I do seem to get quite the work out here on our little farm… against my will.

I was thinking about it all this morning as I literally wrestled goats. All four goats are locked into what I lovingly refer to as “the goat shack” every night because of the predators we have here: coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, stray dogs and the smaller evils– skunks, racoons, children. Locking the goats in at night also means that come morning, I have to let them out. Unchecked, this would be a stampede.

I have a brilliantly McGyver’ed leash (two tied together) that allows me to take two goats out at a time. Lately I have been anchoring them to trees around the immediate front and back yards to eat the weeds down. This wouldn’t be so bad except that the two Nigerian Dwarf goats are like wild boars. They push, the shove, they eat everything in sight, and worst of all– they have a very low center of gravity.

So here I am, trying to follow Goat Ediquette and let Freyja, the herd queen, out first along with Heidrun (her adopted kid who is now higher on the totem pole than the Nigerians). Then scuffles insue because the Nigerians want out first. They start pushing me out of the doorway and saying some nonsense about equal rights among goats. I push back so that I can grab the taller goats in the doorway long enough to clip the leashes onto their collars and then I shove the little ones back far enough to get the first two goats out.

That right there is my endurance and arm strenghening exercises. There might also be an exercise or two in swearing like a sailor.

Next are my squats and bicep work. This is acheived by trying to keep traction and my feet on the ground while the goats do their best to pull me to where the juiciest acorns drop under the oak trees. I pull and guide them as well as any human could, but they put up quite the resistance when food is involved. By the time I head back to the goat shack, I am usually huffing and puffing like a chain-smoker.

The Nigerian Dwarf goats make round two an even bigger challenge. I have to block the doorway with my whole body (just legs don’t cut it) and keep my balance while Bridgit tries to suck in her belly and squeeze past me. Luna is an angel though, and never head butts me to get me out of the way. Thanks Luna. Once the little ones are out, they are on the run. These ladies could pull a car! My new trick to lessen the brutality of my “morning exercise” is to make them weave instead of run straight forward. My arm curls and squats aren’t quite as hard if I just keep their leash weaving back and forth, left to right.

That is, until we get out of the pen. Then I look like I am training for the World’s Strongest Man competition where they pull the huge semi-truck using a cable or rope or something. It’s those acorns! No goat can resist them.

Once the goats are hooked up to their chain leads, then I have to carry over two 5-gallon buckets of water while avoiding stepping on chicken feet in my big work boots. For some reason the chickens insist on stalking me while I do chores. I keep telling them that I do not have chicken scratch in my pockets. I think the lack of exterior ears helps them to better ignore my claims.

After all my morning chores are done, I go inside and complain about it to the internet.