April 2013 – the fire

april fools

You’ve heard bad things come in threes? Well, maybe we’re safe for a bit now, as we had 3 bad things happen in rapid succession.

1st, my sister went to jail. I cannot even believe this. She’s got some problems, which I will not get into here out of respect, and they’ve escalated out of control since our Mom passed away. I don’t mean to sling this out casually, but it’s really affected me and I need to process and be honest about it. I’d cut off contact with her after she viciously lashed out at Andrew and I several times in November and December, for totally irrational reasons. I don’t need her stress. I’ve spent years trying to help. She wasn’t getting better, it was almost as though the more I tried, the worse she and our relationship got. The truth is she needs professional help and probably some controlled medication and therapy if she’ll ever rebound, but you cannot force an adult to do this. When I found out about her going to jail, I felt this overwhelming wave of sadness and anger, followed by compassion and hope. Maybe this is what she needs to see how serious this has become. Maybe she will be open to help now. I really hope so. She’s an awesome person and I’d love to have my sister back.

Then, we had an electrical fire in our brooder and lost all of our ducklings. This was undeniably the worst thing that has ever happened here. After years of brooding baby birds without incident, we had a serious tragedy. Those poor babies. I feel to blame, and I always will. The fire happened between my last check at midnight and when Andrew went out to do morning chores at 6 am. There was nothing left but a few lumps of smoldering charcoal. It happened fast, and it would have spread farther if we hadn’t had all the snow. Our hoophouse covering melted off the metal purlins right above where the brooder boxes sat., Amazingly, the breeding flock of geese who are still living on the other side of the hoophouse were 100% unaffected- and the fire would have spread over to them if they weren’t such extravagant bathers who splash their water all around 24/7.

And the nail in the coffin- our the town board election FAILED. The same old boys are running the show for another 2 years.

How can I explain this feeling of complete exasperation? On so many different fronts? We’ve had a few days to recover as best we can, and man has the outreach from friends helped out emotionally. (Thank you so much you guys!) Failures and sadness aren’t something I want to surround myself with on a regular basis, if I can help it. Whether your farming for a living, or working in a cubicle, the truth is- life is sometimes really really hard, everything hitting you at once. You have to be resilient! You just HAVE to!

We have so much positivity to balance out the negative. We had 3 very generous surprise donations arrive to help us recover from the fire losses. Spring has sprung, and there are puddles forming beneath the snow banks. The ducks started laying eggs! Baby goats are coming along soon. Our CSA & both kinds of Chicken Shares are now sold out. The livingroom is full to the brim with baby planties. Goose eggs are being incubated at a few various locations and good fertility reports are coming in- that’s promising! We got a loan to invest in some farm equipment and Andrew’s been looking at tractors. I’ve been making really good progress on my book project because of this long winter. We have 4 lovely litters of the most adorable black and tan bunnies ever, with 2 more due in the next week. This summer we’re going to build a non-flammable brooder out of stone. And I just finagled getting pigs for my birthday!

I recently brought out this lovely framed photo of my Mom, taken just a month before she died. I’d had it boxed away for 2 years. She’s smiling, she’s glowing, and looks just amazing, and almost mischievous, while ever so slightly self-conscious. This photo has been hard for me to look at for a few years… Seeing her beautiful face and remembering her ways and our relationship. Gazing at this photo, now sitting proudly on my desk  gives me strength and connection, she was such a wondrous woman. While I can’t literally call her up anymore to lean on her shoulder in times of trials and tribulations, she made me into the woman I am today. Tough, resilient, joyful, thankful. I am so grateful.

April 18 out of control baby world


Everywhere I look and everywhere I go, there are babies. I’m at Menards, there’s a phone call from my husband with the announcement of 4 new goat babies’ arrival, beckoning me back home. I feel like babies have become my world, and it’s true and also funny since I’m not super “into” human babies. My maternal instincts are all directed towards the flora and fauna varieties of young’uns..

Things are ramping up on the farm, but it’s all happening in the house! The weather is NOT cooperating. There is snow everywhere, it’s below freezing at night and often stays that cold all day too. Still. This is the middle of APRIL. As a result, our house is full to the brim with babies. Plant babies are slowly filing the entire floor of the “living” room. My pepper plants have hit puberty and are forming flower buds already! Hang on there buddies! There are enormous brooder tubs full of exactly 100 baby Bubsters (broiler chicks) in our kitchen, which we have to walk around to go upstairs or into the ivingroom. They were living with the 30 rouen ducklings we are also raising, but the ducklings took to crowd surfing across the tops of the chicks and kept soaking and dirtying up the chicks’ cute and insulating feather fuzz. So the ducklings had to go somewhere else, and that is in another tub, in the bathroom, on top of the washer. For room mates, the ducklings have two incubators full of goose eggs, which very soon, may or not lead to goslings that need to go somewhere!

I am just super glad I am not bottle feeding goat kids inside the house this year. There simply is not enough room for one more thing. I’ve just about lost my noodles over here, feeling claustraphobic and frazzled and excited and responsible for so much life.

We have had 10 goat kids born in one week from 4 moms! That’s a record! Metallika had QUADRUPLETS (that was the phone call I got while trying to get some errands run after doing the egg deliveries.) I’m hoping they will all make it but 2 of them are extra tiny, super fragile and delicate -they almost seem like porcelain dolls. Living and breathing goat dolls. To complicate matters, their momma had a bad case of mastitus 2 years ago and her udder hasn’t ever returned to normal, and to complicate that problem, my worst goat/best milker May decided to shred into Metallika’s udder about a month ago. Poor Metallika. May is a jerk who has ornate and huge horns which I suspected but now know are extremely dangerous. Jerk goats with horns, living in small quarters with non-horned goats = bad news. Now something has to happen with May, she cannot stay tied up in there on an on-going basis, and I’m not interested in keeping one goat who needs a separate area needing attention. I’ve gotten one hit off a Craigslist ad. And to make that situation worse, I don’t think she got pregnant last fall after all. So to recap- she’s a bad goat who’s an awesome milker, who I can’t milk this year. Interested? Otherwise I guess we’re gonna have May Burgers. Eating a jerk animal will be no problem for me.

These miracle quads are going to need some help, since their mom doesn’t have enough milk for all of them. I got the frozen colostrum out of the freezer and fed them their first night, and I’ve been warming a bottle up for them every 8 hours, good thing I froze some goat milk last fall. I guess I am bottle feeding this year afterall, but keeping them out with their mom instead of in the house. The other 6 kids are just now past the sleepy first couple days and have entered the “are you my jungle gym?” portion of their life, which will most likely go on for the rest of their lives.  Hanging out with these little buggers will brighten your day but make your clothes filthy, as they leap and launch themselves on and at you, over and over and over. As I’ve been hunched over trying to assist the quads with their bottle, my cream colored sweater and carhartt pants have  become encrusted with watery poopy defrost muck. When one come back into the house in this outfit, what does one do? Shed the clothes perhaps and take a shower? That’s what I’m wrestling with today- I stink (well, my clothes stink) but I will have to get re-covered in goat poop shortly.

"East Champagne’s" first & huge litter of 8! These beauties are just about ready for weaning, but they can’t go out in the rabbit tractors yet…. they are still frozen into the ice and snow. Gawwwww.

“East Champagne’s” first & huge litter of 8! These beauties are just about ready for weaning, but they can’t go out in the rabbit tractors yet…. they are still frozen into the ice and snow. Gawwwww.

late start

We’re officially WAY behind. Thankfully, it’s not our fault, and we’re not alone. This winter that wouldn’t end has really created problems for our CSA, as we had planned to begin deliveries in May. But no go- the garden is still sopping wet and the air temps are too cold at night and are still going below freezing in the next few days. In a desperate attempt to plant sugar snap peas out next the garlic beds- I sunk almost to my knees in the soil today! Unreal. We have snow forecast for tomorrow and then a few days after that it looks like spring might finally come after all, a bit too late, but better than never! We have many many plants ready to move to the garden as soon as we can prepare it for them. Some will be going into the hoophouse just so we can have some early veggies for our members. Oh——- fresh VEGGIES!!!! I can’t wait!

Some good news is that we got our very first goslings last night. 4 of them. They looked rather weary and new to the world when I got them, and then sadly one of them passed away over the night. These are not goslings we hatched, but part of the hatching partnership with a dear lady I met through FB. She hatched 7 from 22 eggs. Goose eggs are notoriously hard to successfully hatch out, and this is 100% true from what I’m seeing. Very discouraging. Another friend got 2 out of 6 eggs, and then another hatching partner had a really bad hatch rate on a larger set, like 2 out of 60 eggs. And I have the worst hatch rate of all- zero out of too many to count. The saving grace may be if the mother geese, now setting up their nests out in their new pasture, can hatch out and raise their own young ones.

Otherwise, we’ll probably back out of the breeding side of raising geese. We both really enjoy the geese in person and conceptually- but the hatching angle might be better to leave to the pros (hatcheries), and pay them to do it for us. The eggs we sold for eating were very well received, but financially it’s hard to make sense of that on an on-going basis.

Another late start is our group of meat ducklings and broiler chickens hitting the grass – they are all living peacefully together, but still in a brooder since it’s so unpredictable out. This is a picture of the baby bubsters before moving out to the bigger PORTA BROODER!

Andrew made this kick-ass porta-brooder out of a camper trailer frame and it’s working great! Lots of space for the kids, and there are 3 roofs we can open up on nicer days to give them sunshine and fresh air and begin readying them for their eventual immersion to the great outdoors in their chicken/duck tractors.

All 10 of the goat kids are doing amazingly well, and it’s quite something to see the size difference in the kids born just a couple days apart. They grow fast with raw mik “on-tap.”  I am still supplement bottling the quads- 1 beer bottle full of milk each per day. They’re tiny, but they are fighters! So cute to see them following their momma in the pasture, I mean 4 babies to one mom is just quite a sight!

They seem good and are growing and being adventurous and frisky. They know how to squeeze out of the cattle panels now and will chase after me following our bottle time- wanting more, more, more….it’s kind of crazy to be frantically darting away from baby goats, but, there it is. Belle’s happy to try to help soothe them, she REALLY loves baby goats so much!

I still haven’t found a home for May, my best milker who did not get pregnant and has been terrorizing my other docile goats. I will keep looking. I let her lose for a few hours a day and she is always ramming someone or tossing a kid into the air with her horns, reminding why I cannot hold any sentimentality about her.

A most exciting thing that just happened is that we finally got an account with a store we’ve been hoping for. Our duck eggs are now on the shelf at 8 co-ops and I couldn’t be more proud and delighted. The other co-ops we sell to are, and have been, our rocks for quite a long time, and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them. To think where this all began, with my first taste of my first duck egg from my own duck…..Follow your heart. Do what you love. I’m so happy and feeling extraordinarily blessed right now!

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