The garden has exploded with yellow late-summer flowers.
One of the best things about working outside on the ranch every day is getting to see things change. New plants, birds, and fish show up all the time. For instance, the flower garden has exploded with coreopsis. Yellow everywhere! This garden has progressed from lilies to hollyhocks to coreopsis in the 2.5 months since we’ve been here. I’m looking forward to seeing the fall colors change on the trees in another few weeks and the reemergence of flowers and leaves in the spring. Fall is coming – 45 degrees here last night.
Despite the falling temps, we decided to go ahead and put the 2-week-old chicks out in their chicken scooters yesterday. It’s been in the low 90′s here for the last few weeks, but yesterday was a beautiful 75-degree day and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get the birds out on grass. Lindsey and I loaded up each scooter with 25 chicks and watched the Buff Orpingtons run around exploring their new environment. Then we watched the Cornish X chicks lay down next to the feeder as soon as we put them in the scooter, showing little interest in the grass or bugs all around them. They definitely hung out in the shade underneath the tarp section of their scooter all day. Their strategy of laying down with their head in the feeder definitely produces a heavier bird, however. We weighed a couple of birds as we put them into the tractor – Buff Orpington chick 7 ounces, Cornish X chick 17 ounces after 2 weeks. Damn!
The little Buff Orpington chicks explore their new digs inside the scooter.
The Buff Orps are always moving!
The Cornish X chicks prefer to sit in the shade as close to the feeder as possible rather than explore their surroundings.
The goats have names now. As I mentioned before these are the first does in our as-of-now-rather-small breeding herd, so they are safe to name because we won’t be eating these. We rather unimaginatively named the red doe Roja. Maybe we miss speaking the little bit of Spanish we used to in San Antonio. My brother Scott suggested Nadine for the little white doeling after Nadine Gordimer (the South African Nobel laureate author) since Boer goats were originally developed in South Africa. Nadine also wrote about social justice, which is one of the reasons we’re doing this whole endeavor in the first place.
The goats are getting more used to us. Roja is very inquisitive. She always comes over to investigate whatever we’re doing when we’re in the paddock with them. She stops short of allowing us to touch her yet, but she’s getting there. Nadine, being smaller, is much more cautious. She is beginning to approach us, but always keeps Roja’s body between her and us. She is also much quicker to run away if we moved suddenly or do something really scary like stand up. They both spend a lot of time grazing and browsing, which is ultimately how we want them to get all of their nutrients. They had access to both grass and pelleted feed at Triple Holler, so right now I’m offering them pellets every other day in an effort to wean them onto grass and browse only without forcing them to go cold turkey. They seem to be adjusting well, but they really like the pellets.
The goats are very inquisitive and are coming closer and closer every day. Soon we'll be able to play and romp!
They have also discovered the mineral block (like goat vitamins) in their area and seem to like it. Roja especially goes to town on it. Nadine nibbles it a little every now and then. They have also figured out how much fun it is to climb on top of the dog crates I haven’t taken out of the yard yet.
Roja has discovered the mineral block.
Roja likes to take in the view from the top of the dog crate.
Roja munches on the grass in the backyard "paddock."
I also knocked together a very rudimentary shelter for the goats – just something to allow them to get out of the sun or rain if they wanted to. I used old 2x6s vertically on the bottom for skids and cross-braced them with other scrap wood. Then I drilled holes in the 2x6s and put short sections of rebar sticking up from the holes. I then bent PVC pipes from one side to the other to form a hoop structure. Then zip ties connect the tarp to the PVC frame. Voìla! Lightweight portable goat shelter!
The new portable goat shelter we whipped up with skids, rebar, PVC, and a tarp. Nothing new was bought except the tarp.
Other animals are finally proving useful as well. The turkeys have learned that there are bugs in the gardens and now patrol the 2 raised beds and the tomato patch every few hours looking for tasty morsels. While they’re up around the house they also like to perch on the trailer, the pickup’s tailgate, and the swing on the porch. It’s pretty funny. I’ll try to post a picture of them on the swing if I can catch them doing it.
The turkeys have finally discovered that there are usually bugs and slugs in the garden. If only they'd found 'em before the squash bug epidemic!
This week our neighbor David and I (25% him and 75% me by time, 75% him and 25% me by amount of grass cut) got the front pasture mowed. David has the large advantage of tractor ownership. I have the disadvantage of walk-behind bush hog ownership. Hence the time/productivity disparity. Oh well. At least I don’t have to fill out an embarrassing TPS report about it. The grass started out 3 feet high all over the place and over my head in others. It’s now a pretty uniform 3 inches and round bales of hay dot the pasture.
The tall grass in the front pasture before David and I cut it. The grass was 3 feet high everywhere and 6 feet high in places.
The pasture looks much better now! David also ended up with 45-50 bales of hay for his dairy as well.
After cutting, David baled the hay in the front field.
The huge plus of this cutting is that the front of the property now looks as if someone lives here! Additionally, the grass is now free of competition from taller woody weeds and should be able to put on a burst of growth here in the fall growing season. The bad news is that now I can see how little humus and organic matter we have in the soil. The soil is just bare between the crowns of grass plants. We’ve got a lot of soil building to do here! Prescription: rotational grazing with ruminant animals. Before we can do that, I’ve gotta put in a fence. Anyone want to come help? :)