Saturday, October 27, 2012
Although it's taken far too long to get here, autumn is in. The tiny mesquite leaves are fluttering to the ground. The garden is beginning to go to sleep. Unimpressed with the Gigantic Garden's production this year, I've decided to make some changes which I hope will improve its success come spring.
1. I am slowly removing all the Bermuda grass that has snuck in. I think it overpowered the vegetables and stole all the water. We didn't have any grass like this when we bought the property, so my guess is that when the garden was originally tilled by my handyman, and he added horse manure, the rhyzomes survived the journey through the horses and through the compost process and ended up thriving in my garden the second year.
2. I am adding a thick layer of goat poo mixed with alfalfa leavings from the goat pen. Basically, I'm starting over with heavier layers of organic matter to see if this fixes the problem the grass caused. All the pathways were mulched with an underlayer of cardboard to prevent grass popping up in there.
3. Since the greenhouse was built late last winter, this year will be the real test to see if seedlings can get a headstart on the season. I am planning to start in there in November if the weather truly stays chilly.
4. The sprinkler will be retired and the rows will be watered by hand. The old Test Garden always did well and we watered it by hand with a hose and sprayer. While the sprinkler was nice for convenience I think the rows in the Gigantic Garden weren't getting enough.
5. I had really hoped to have an increase in production to enable the idea of a community supported agriculture farm to become more than just an idea, but it didn't happen. I'd like to get it happneing next year. If at first, you don't succeed...
Goats and Sheep
The goats are great producers of more goats. Since we were not able to sell as many as we would have liked so far, breeding will be limited this time around. Big Momma and Pepper had a visit with Mojo and Tscica had a visit with Jorge. I'm considering sending Ms. Cow to visit Jorge only because she's a good milker.
I'm doubtful Big Momma will have a baby since she didn't last year, but I gave her another chance. I think she may be hormonal or menopausal. She gets an udder and then it goes away and then it comes back. She likes all the man goats and flirts all day long when she seems to be in heat.
Pepper is my best milker so I helped Mojo out again this year since he is so short. I think he was able to put the plug in the outlet. It's difficult to tell when holding a big Alpine goat up so she stands on her hind legs in order to allow her shorter Nigerian lover to do what needs to be done. I couldn't really see what was going on but Pepper seems chunkier already. She's eating like she's got buns in the oven.
The goats are also great producers of milk which results in cheese and soap. Due to low demand we no longer sell raw goat milk. It's just not convenient and with the laws against selling raw milk for human consumption, it's not something we want to pursue. We love our goat milk raw, fresh from the teat and we will continue to use it for ourselves.
Goat milk soap has become a popular selling item here and there for us. I now sell soaps through Tanque Verde Feed across the street from us and am working on an online store for those who don't live nearby but would like to get some.
The sheep are also great producers of more sheep. Everyone had babies last season and we already have two new babies for this season. The Blackbelly sheep go into heat monthly and are able to produce lambs twice a year. We were able to sell three lambs so far, ate two, used one to pay for vet services, and have three ewes left. The three we sold were to muslims who traditionally sacrifice a sheep on certain religious holidays. They favor large breed sheep and/or wool sheep, so we are considering adding a couple more wool sheep to the herd. (Wow. I never thought I'd say that.) We're hoping for a breed that's good for milking, meat and wool.
We had a lot of chicken losses this year due to predation. Therefore all birds are now penned, which goes against my original hope to free range. They are kept in large runs with straw used as thick bedding and fed restaurant scraps, caught grubs, weeds, leftover parrot food from our kind neighbor, and 24% protein grower feed from the feedstore across the street.
We currently get an average of a dozen eggs a day. Most go to the restaurant to be used or sold to customers. We have yet to eat one of our own birds, but those roosters sure do look tasty...
Ducks and Geese
The ducks are penned with a few huge roosters and the peahen. They make five or six eggs a day, every day, rain or shine. They are fairly loud birds, and not keen on being handled.
The geese were moved to a pen in the garden so that the runoff from their pool can go into the garden, but more importantly, so I could feed them the majority of the grassy weeds culled from the garden. To date, they have laid and are incubating ten eggs.
The loss of Gucci was terrible and heartbreaking, making me question everything I do out there and if it's worth the sadness. She was a wonderful cow that made a gorgeous baby and gave us the best tasting milk we have ever had. She gave hugs too.
Karma, her baby, developed bony lump jaw and was treated a month ago. The lump does appear to be diminishing. If we breed Karma it will be when she is one year old next April. She has been trained to eat in the milking area and doesn't mind the stanchion. She gets her teats and udder touched so that she is used to being handled. I've worked on lifting her hooves so she will be used to the idea of getting trimmed when it's time for that too.
BabyCow-Texas-Mr.Sandwich-T-Bone whom we believed to be an Angus mix when we got him is now suspected to be a Dexter. That's what the vet said, unless he is a dwarf Angus. Either way, he's not getting any bigger. He is currently the big bad boss in the cow pen. Jorge the buck goat lives with him and Karma. As his time draws near, we are exploring options for his imminent replacement. Corriente, Angus, Hereford? We just aren't sure yet. We'd like another young steer though. He has been easy to raise up if not a little unruly when he doesn't get his way.
Farmers G and C joined 4H and are doing the poultry project. While we had hoped to use the standard breed birds we have, we succumbed to the realization that with their small hands, they simply can't hold the birds the way they need to in order to show them properly. Therefore we have two new bantam birds, a black silkie and a cream colord cochin. Both pullets are living at home in Farmer G's bedroom.
The 4H meetings have been entertaining and it's nice to see older children teaching the younger ones. The boys practice with their group in the'r leader's garage, holding the birds properly, showing each part of the bird, and trying to answer questions a judge may ask about their birds. We are all very new to this and a little lost, but so far, it's been fun and interesting.