Friday, February 22, 2013

Farm Friday

Brownie and his brother
Another busy week on the farm.  On Friday afternoon, the founder of Danita's Children and its U.S. both visited our farm.  It was good to see them and their spouses.  I recently realized that my third anniversary of working for the organization had quietly passed.  I was only involved as a donor/child sponsor until the earthquake hit in 2010.  When that happened, I was fortunate to be in a position where I could assist by, among other things, responding to all of the generous people who wanted to help.  It doesn't seem possible that I have been shepherding people through their mission trip experience for that long!

Saturday we got some snow, but it had all melted by Sunday morning.  Saturday night was the monthly meeting of Chemical Free Farms of Southern Virginia.  We're busy planning several open houses at member farms to help introduce our community to a better way of farming - and eating.  On Sunday, Bill and I had what has now become our regular weekly "farm meeting" where we go over the business of farming - what we need to do over the coming weeks and months and who is going to do what.  It might seem silly to have a meeting when we're together almost 24-7 but often details get pushed off until "later" and then don't get done.  This way, we are able to construct a plan and then make it happen.  

On Monday, we started seeds indoors - a first for us.  We've put a mini greenhouse with grow lights in one of our bedrooms to get our seeds growing and get a head start on the season.  We used a couple of different types of soil and one seemed to work better than another.  The sprouts also started to get "leggy," so Bill lowered the lights so the plants don't have to reach so far to get what they need.  We're learning as we go.

Tuesday proved interesting when the horse got out of the pasture just before dinner - and just as it was getting dark.  He's a cranky horse and won't come to you.  I ended up with a broken pair of glasses and a skinned up nose trying to get him to where he belonged.  Fortunately, our neighbor who actually owns him was able to coax him back into the pasture.

We lost two goats this week.  One we suspect contracted a parasite that is passed on by whitetail deer, which we have in abundance, and another, our second and younger buck, to intestinal parasites.  Parasites are a huge problem for goats as they have evolved to eat "browse," that is bushes and small trees, but raising them in captivity means they graze on grass.  This puts them in close contact with a multitude of parasites.  Unfortunately, conventional treatment in the past (that is, what the agriculture and veterinary schools have taught) is to routinely and regularly treat herds with worm medication.  The problem with this course of treatment is it increases the numbers of parasites that are medication resistant.  At a conference we attended, one veterinarian (who had been educated to routinely worm goats) told us that the parasite problem has gotten so bad that, in the future, it may be impossible to raise goats.  One solution is to raise a closed herd (not bring any new goats onto the farm) and to only treat the extremely ill goats with an aggressive dose of medication with the hopes that you kill all the parasites and not leave any resistant.  Another is to not allow parasite prone goats to breed.  And the hardest solution is to allow nature to take its course and to not treat at all.  So we have to decide:  do we want to focus on the present and possibly be a part of the demise of domesticated goats in the U.S. or do we look to the future and sacrifice some goats now for the good of subsequent generations?  A tough place to be.

We decided to replace the young buck with one we already had on the farm.  We moved him and his mother Nellie, our alpha female, into the breeding pasture.  This gave us a few minutes of entertainment as we watched the typical epic goat battle that goes on when changes are made and the pecking order has to be re-established.  It is interesting to see who decides to challenge the new goat.  We decided to name the new buck Valentino.

And just so you know how happy our goats are, I'm leaving you with this photo of Ramona smiling for the camera:
Beautiful Ramona
Have a great weekend!


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