Crofting – Finally, A Dry Day

Landscape with Man and Goats

Sunshine, finally! Weeks of rain and cool temperatures, and finally a day over 20C. The hsuband took the tiller for a spin as the garden had drained off enough by afternoon to run through it. the goats – two here – were out for a nibble. Tara, who is dark brown, got herself into the vapours quickly and had to be returned to a shady barn. She resented it a lot, and stood in the stall, calling her head off. Vanilla would snicker at her now and then, but the grass and leaves were so lovely…She soon forgot Tara’s problems.

Starting to look like a garden plot!

The first plot has been tilled three times now – I will rake it tomorrow and start adding some amendments, ash and manure. Then work it over again, and start planting.

Clean and dry clothes!

My work today – lots of laundry. It was blowing a gale at times. Taking in wash was like furling sails on a squarerigger rounding the Horn. It certainly dried fast, except for the aprons and shirts that blew into odd nooks of the lawn.

Selfportrait in prairie bonnet

I am not actually as red as I look here!


Crofting: Goat Management

Goat jail

It is difficult to get good photos of the goats. They move too much. This is Tara on the left, Uncle Randy and Vanilla on the right. Vanilla had been on the right, with Tara and Randy on the left, but I moved Vanilla in with the others to clean the stall, and Tara decided she really preferred the empty stall and climbed over the partition. They are all back in the left stall during this cool weather.

Despite the lush grass and foliage, the goats are inside. Goats hate getting wet, and with the intermittent showers, I would be running from house to field six times a day. It will be easier when we have fence and a run-in shelter for them. They have been on hay all winter, and to put them out on wet grass would be inviting bloat, which can be a fatal condition; the wet grass ferments in their stomachs. It’s always best to feed some dry hay before the first few turn-outs, so they aren’t gorging.

They got a few nibbles of foliage, mostly raspberry leaves, that I cut for them yesterday. I am in the barn at least three times a day, feeding hay, with mixed grain in the afternoon. If they are given a lot of hay, they walk on it, lie down on it, soil it, and then won’t eat it. We’ve tried a manger, but they just pull it all down and nest in it. They have sufficient litter on the dirt floor. I’m hoping that the calluses and scrapes  they had when they came here will heal. I’ve never met animals for getting scraped up so much. Vanilla always seems to have a scratch or a nick somewhere.

We need to trim hooves in the next couple of days.  Goats’ hooves grow fast, and need trimming about once a month. I trimmed sheeps’ feet maybe twice a year. If they have rocks to climb, it keeps the hoof growth worn back. Overgrown hooves can lead to infections and to leg injuries. It isn’t hard to do; it’s easier than clipping dog claws. These three goats are used to being handled, so I expect it will go well. We shall see!

Plain Life, Real and Imagined

I do get the occasional hostile comment here or on facebook about faux-Amish, Amish-wannabe, or how tiresome I am about Plain dress and life. Or that I am sanctimonious and attention-seeking in the way I dress and live.

That may be. Well, no, I mean, that isn’t it at all.

This is what people think Plain life is:

You Know

When I was a 30ish widow with young children, yes, I would have liked for Harrison Ford to show up to rescue me. But I wasn’t Plain-living then. My husband and I had planned on selling the Bethesda condo and building a little log or timberframe house out in the countryside of Virginia, or up North in Maine, but his sudden death following cancer surgery turned all of that upside down. I went on to finish university instead.

We dress the way we do and live the way we do for two reasons: It keeps us honest in our journey with God, and it is practical. I can sew our clothes (except his jeans – they are cheap enough from the thrift store). We can raise our own food and be less dependent on the market. We can live on less money (a necessity right now.)We have lots of time to be together, which is so important to us. Every day  is a gift from God when I can spend it with my husband. I almost lost him two years ago, and I treasure the time God gives us.

This is the reality of our Plain life.

spring view from the croft

Lots of rain this spring, but that’s a good view, isn’t it? Isolated, peaceful, and (could be) productive.

And what we look like (photo by Kendra)

 We aren’t Harrison and Kelly.


Crofting: Growing Like Mad!

Pumpkin seedlings

I don’t think any common domestic food-producing plant that grows with the wild abandon of pumpkins and cucurbits-in-general. A little soil, a little water, and they burst out of their flat oval seeds like startled ducks off a pond.

We are in the sub-arctic northeast of the continent, and plants must grow like mad if they stand a chance to produce fruit, seeds, and set up a new generation. Our growing season can be as short as 100 days.

We try to extend that season by starting seeds indoors, and transplanting them to a sun-warmed garden after the last danger of frost.

windowsill tomatoes - Hungarian Heart cultivar

Watering all these plants stuck on tables and makeshift shelves and on the top of the refrigerator involves more than a gallon of water and standing on a chair. I dream of a greenhouse next spring – although that will involve a second woodstove to stoke and fidget over. And buckets of water to carry – but what’s another bucket or two?