Wednesday, October 24, 2012

End of the Growing Season....

Everyone enjoys the fountain each summer!
Yesterday, we could park our truck in the garage, for the first time in probably four months!  It means the season is just about finished here in Manitoba.  During growing season, the garage is 'action central', where we gather the harvest, clean, package and sort into CSA boxes or crates for Farmers Markets.  One side of the double garage is always for processing: a couple of long tables with our scales, bags, accessories and space to put down crates of to-be-weighed-and-packaged veggies.  The other side gets tables set up all around, where we lay out all the crates; on Tuesdays and Thursdays for our CSA families, Fridays and Saturdays for The Global Market.  In September, in particular, the garage is crammed with crates and crates of potatoes, onions and garlic drying and curing before being sold or stored, then it's floor is covered with all the Winter Squash we've harvested.  It's hard to walk around let alone park a vehicle!  So, when the truck can finally go back into the garage - we know things are almost finished.

There hasn't been a blog post in a while: the last CSA delivery, the last Global Market all bring a sense of 'end' to us, and we take a little break from writing and, well, talking to people.  We've hardly left the farm for a couple of weeks, just the occasional grocery shop or feed store run!  We're still busy, though, very, very busy!  Farmer Man is still doing clean up/close up.  All the potatoes have been moved to the root cellar, all the Winter Squash is in the sun room.  Anything that can be dug, plucked or pulled has been.  It has largely all been dealt with too; there are just soup beans, Jacob's Cattle, that still need to be shelled, cleaned and stored.  Farmer Man has started some tilling, to clean up some growing beds and he's been cleaning the shop, the garage, the green house and the barn.  He's gathered tomato cages and stakes, picked up hoses, organized tools and a myriad of other small chores.  Work has already started, in a small way, on winterizing the barns, cleaning and updating goat pens and chicken coops.  Those, however, are chores that can wait until the first snow fall forces him off the land.  Me, I've been cooking, baking and making soap - hoping to be ready to do some craft shows this Holiday Season!

One of our final chores, just before freezing weather sets in, is to dismantle the fountain by our patio.  It's a work of art every year - stacked stones, a deep basin of water and a pond pump.  Everyone enjoys it: not only do we enjoy it as we sit on the patio but dogs, cats, chickens, assorted wild birds and even bees and wasps stop in for a drink.  When the fountain is taken down it means that Winter is looming right around the corner.  Farmer Man has threatened a couple of times to take it apart, but I always look at the long range forecast and tell him to leave it a few more days....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's Officially Mating Season for the Goats!

A little primping!
It's time to start thinking about having adorable baby goats bouncing around next Spring!  No, really, you've got to plan for these things!  Last year we bought our buck, Dandi Randi, in the middle of December.  We thought we were being so smart; we'd have babies in May, when the weather was nice.  We wouldn't have to worry about babies getting chills, there would already be nice, fresh leaves and grass for the Mommas for sweet milk!  Well, turned out to be a critical error: we should be planting out our seedlings in May, and keeping up on the weeding of newly seeded rows!  Between the late nights monitoring the Mommas, sitting with goats in labor and bottle-feeding babies - we were worn out and weedy before our CSA season even started!

So, this year things will be different! Although Farmer Man and I have had some spirited discussions on just when to put the buck and the does together, we agreed on October 1st, looking to have baby goats in February or March.  Maybe the beginning of February, if one of the girls is receptive right away.  February is a little early for my taste; we can still be very cold in February but we have heat lamps and insulated boxes so everything should be alright!

A bit too enthusiastic right away....
Fall is the normal mating season for goats.  It can be manipulated - apparently the females can come into heat just by being around the male or smelling a rag impregnated by his scent.  Brambles Nubian Goat Farm, where we got all our lovely goats, is having babies now.  Our late Spring baby girls: Marble, Cherry and Chica, are really too young to breed right now, so that's a disadvantage we hadn't thought about last year, either!  Boys mature early, Gaffer, Marty and Myrvan are ready to breed (boy, they really think they're ready) and are currently for sale.  Their dairy goat genetics are excellent and their temperaments are all delightful, and they should make awesome sires and be a great addition to some dairy goat farms somewhere.

Our Buck, known as Dandi Randi, has been ready to breed since the middle of summer!  A goat buck's idea of making himself attractive involves urinating on his Randi has been smelly and sticky and loud and pushy for some time!  He has continually tried to get out of his pen, tried to get at the girls and generally been a little hard to handle!  His name became Readi Randy and we've been getting tired of his antics.  Finally, the last couple of weeks, we noticed the ladies were getting a little difficult.  More obstinate, petulant, cranky and milk production has been down!  Seems everybody is getting in the mood.

A little dinner...
So, October 1st started with a wee grooming for Randi - to get him ready for the ladies!  After milking the girls and putting them all out to pasture, we got Randi on the milking stand and fed him his morning grain ration while doing his hooves and giving him a (fairly) good brushing.  Having his scent on the brush may help the ladies get in the mood!  When we led Randi out to the pasture - did his attention perk up!  We let him loose but stayed to monitor things.  He was immediately on the hunt - pursuing poor Choco around the field for a good five minutes.  Strange noises, licking, sniffing - quite the sight!  It was interesting he picked Choco because she was the last to have her babies this past Spring, so the last to succumb to his advances!  Maybe he could smell that she was in heat, or maybe he likes a challenge.  After a little while, things settled down and we went and cut willow for everyone, and it seemed quite quiet in the pasture the rest of the day.

The buck and the does will stay together 24/7 for more than a month now.  Does are in heat (known as estrus) for only about one day, but will come back into heat in about three weeks.  We want to make sure the 'deed' gets done so we'll give them lots of opportunity - as long as Randi stays a gentleman and doesn't appear to be getting rough with them!  We will not take the chance of the ladies being injured so we're keeping a close eye on things - one of us will be around them regularly throughout the day!  Kind of like a chaperon, don't you think?