Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why I'm Grateful for Goats

I had a fantastic spring, summer, and fall this year. Because I decided to turn my front yard into a garden, and learn how to raise chickens in spite of our small amount of land, I felt more alive and more myself than ever. I learned that it's possible to cultivate a small outdoor space into a fruitful, fertile, farmish one.  Fresh veggies, fresh eggs, and fun with chickens. The kids loved it! What's not to be grateful for?

In my quest to be happy and productive with what I had, I learned a lot and overcame some mental obstacles that have been keeping me from growing as a gardener, and farmer (wannabe). Then, something happened.

It began to get colder. And darker. This white stuff started falling from the sky and sticking to the ground, and my chickens were not impressed. They sought refuge in any spot of bare grass or dirt they could find, and their options became less, and less. They began to stay inside the coop in protest.

It wasn't even winter yet, and my chickens had a bad case of winter doldrums... the egg production slowed to a near halt. Even the neighbor chickens stopped visiting.

Following in my chickens' snow tracks, I began to feel the same. More time indoors, and less productivity was making me feel depressed, and wanting for more. Cabin fever was setting in, and our small, quaint little house began to feel TOO small. Once again, I started longingly gazing at the vast acres of land surrounding me that weren't mine, and feeling defeated. We need more land, I thought. Maybe I should just give up. What kind of weirdo thinks they can be a farmer on less than a quarter acre? These thoughts were keeping me down, and uninspired.

Then, things started to slowly turn around. My two young pullets finally started laying, so eggs began appearing in the nesting boxes, once again! The chickens stopped protesting, and started venturing out of the coop again, especially when I served them their hot molasses and acv tea!

Even the neighbor chickens started coming around again! The chickens and I began to face the fact that the winter doldrums will not go away on their own. We had to join forces and stop cooping ourselves up and face the cold and snow. And that we did!

Feeling more and more exhilarated from the cold and sun, I willed my inspiration to return, and battled those self-defeating, exasperating negative thoughts I was having about not having enough. Not being enough.

As I gazed at the spot where my once fecund garden lived, I stopped seeing a patch of straw and snow covered ground, and started seeing potential, and an opportunity to plan for next spring. I also saw mole tracks and burrows in the snow, and got this adorable little guy to help fend them off.

Meet Milo, the Microfarm Mouser. He doesn't really know that he has a job to do yet.

As I gazed at our side yard under the leafless willow tree, I visualized NOT a boring empty yard, but a space that needed to be utilized and filled with life.

So I proceeded to do what any sane person crazy homesteader would do in my situation, and found some new livestock to fill it up! Meet Violet and Snowdrop, my Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

Violet is a 3 yr old bred doe, who is due to kid in March. Yay for baby goats! And goat's milk! And learning to milk a goat, and make goat's milk soap!

This is Snowdrop, an 8 month old doeling. She likes to stand directly on top of the hay when she eats it, evidently. She is adorable. 

So far I've found them to be extremely calm and friendly. They tolerated riding in the trunk of my station wagon incredibly well, and seem to be adjusting to their new space amazingly. The perfect beginner goats with their sweet dispositions. I feel so grateful and blessed. The human kids are happy too!

And check out our awesome, top of the line, diy pallet fence! Didn't Nick do a nice job? I'm sure having goats will present us with new joys, as well as new challenges, and I'm up for both.

So, I think I'm set for a happy winter. Nothing gets you out of the house like having to care for livestock, right? I think I've found the cure for my Winter blues, just in time for the winter solstice to actually arrive. I'm settling into our "too small" house on our "too small" land, and It's going to be just enough for now.