The Case for Fresh and Local

I’ve known the benefit of farmer’s market and home- grown produce for years (just try a garden – picked tomato vs. a store – bought one) and the taste difference between  free – ranged, pasture -  fed chicken eggs vs. a factory raised bird is unbelievable. Besides the taste, eating local has less environmental impact (think big gas- guzzling trucks hauling your veggies all across the US). These things I’ve known for awhile. But quite honestly, I’d never thought about similar implications with dairy products. I’ve always bought organic milk at the grocery, and that was that.
Now that I own goats, however, and people have started asking if I milk them, I’ve begun to consider the benefits of goats’ milk over cows’ milk (goats’ milk is far easier to digest than cows’ milk and is the preferred option for the lactose – intolerant) , and how much of a difference fresh can make. I don’t currently milk my doe; I simply don’t have the space for a milking stand or for storing supplies. I’ve also wrestled with the idea of dairy goats vs. fiber goats, since I am, after all, a major fiber enthusiast.

Enter Brad Kessler, author of the book I just finished reading – Goat Song. In it, he chronicles how he and his wife started their own small dairy in the mountains of Vermont and fed themselves with fresh milk and cheese from their small herd of Nubian goats.  He even travels to France at one point to learn from an artisan cheesemaker her age – old craft.

What really struck me, however, is what he shares concerning the taste and  health benefits of eating fresh, raw, unpasteurized milk, something most Americans will never even consider in their lifetimes, and it’s a real shame.  To paraphrase, he states that basically pasteurizing fresh milk kills over 99% of its’ bacteria and enzymes, good and bad.  Some of these enzymes are what inhibit the bad bacteria, which means that basically, pasteurized milk has more of a chance of developing these baddies than fresh milk, at least as far as cheese- making is concerned (since the milk and its curds will age).  It also kills all of the “taste” that would factor into the finished product, which is why French cheese is far superior to American.  In addition, a European survey of children conducted in 2007 found that those raised on fresh, unpasteurized milk were healthier and virtually allergy free, which was not the case with those raised on treated milk.

That last line really hit me.  This is not what we are told in the states.   I dog -eared that page and knew I needed to really look into that, and more importantly, share it.  It helped me come to the decision I’d been putting off. Yes,I need to keep at least a pair of dairy does in milk.  We won’t be able to sell any milk or dairy products due to Federal regulations but we can certainly feed ourselves (and likely reap great health benefits in the process).

I can’t believe how happy and calming it has been  to be on this road to micro-farming after struggling so long to find my fit in the “conventional” work place.  I certainly have my frustrations and bad days, but on the whole, this life has been so much better for us all.  If you have kids, I really urge you to take them to a local farm, just to see the animals and get an idea where food really comes from.  Not only do kids love watching the animals, but it makes everyone more appreciative of what goes into what’s on our plates.

First Try at a Logo

I am a bit rusty at sketching as it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to do any drawing or painting, but I like the kind of “handmade” feel of my sketch of Frodo and the artwork around it.  It’s kind of rough and dirty but I also kind of like that – as if you’d find it on a hand – painted sign way out on some dusty country road in front of a pasture full of goats and sheep and chickens.  I don’t want anything that looks too “polished”, if you know what I mean.

At any rate I scanned in my sketch and opened a cafepress shop so I can get some mugs, etc.  I’ll be using this artwork in the future on tags for any etsy products I sell.  One day we’ll have a real working farm with actual farm products!! and I’ll be ready.

You like?

We’re Down to Two

Ok, so it’s either “Merry Magpie Farm” or “Patchwork Llama Farm”.  It’s a really, really tough choice!!!!

It’s hard to do much thinking or deciding when it’s 800 degrees outside.  Today’s high was 104.  Too hot to even make use of the pool.  How’s that for awful?

I’ve spent the better part of the week painting the living room and the kitchen.  They were formerly a beige-mauve color, which was nice enough, but I wanted more of a colonial kind of look, and I wanted to get it looking cleaner and nicer in the process.  I chose a “light amber” color, which is basically yellow.

Nice?  I like how much it brightens the rooms.  It also compliments my Martha’s Vineyard painting quite well, no?

Aside from the painting and cleaning I’ve spent the week fretting over the animals and checking the water frequently to be sure they have plenty.  I’ve also been taking extra fruits and vegs out to them.  They love watermelon and apples.  I am thinking I need to keep a bag of apples on hand for them at all times.  I chop them up a bit, put them on a plate and they snort them right out of my hand.

Some days I get side – tracked on my way out with the fruit.  Like days when my mother points out that my tomato plant on the patio is under attack by some nasty green horned tomato worms.  HUGE ones.  We plucked off three and stuck them with the apples to take out for the chickens.

The chickens fought hard for these juicy fellows.  One hen swallowed the biggest one whole; I was afraid she’d choke!  Alas my tomato plant has not recovered.  Thank goodness our neighbor’s tomatoes are doing well, and they like to trade for fresh eggs.  Speaking of which……

Benny laid a double yolker.

Ouch.

In Which I Make You Decide

I’ve been struggling with naming our farm here for quite awhile.  I had decided on a name I love – Chanticleer Farm , last fall.  We are over – run with roosters, and I though the lovely old – fashioned French word for rooster would be the perfect name.  Problem is, the dot com is taken already.  Worst of all, it’s not even a farm, but “luxury rentals”.

For the last several months Emily and I have been mulling this situation over.  Do we say “Screw the dot com” and keep the name anyway?  That would require finding some available variation for website purposes which would be less than ideal.

Then we thought maybe “Belle Chanticleer” sounds nice, but it is grammatically incorrect since “Chanticleer” is a male noun and “Belle” is a female adjective.  It would have to be “Beau Chanticleer” which just doesn’t sound as nice.

We also really like “Magpie”.  Magpie Farm is taken.  But what about “Merry Magpie Farm”, “Magpie Hollow Farm” “Magpie Meadow Farm” “Magpie Creek Farm” or “Magpie Morning Farm” (that’s a little nod to a Neko Case song, btw).  There’s also “Wooly Magpie Farm” which strikes me as somehow hilarious.

We’re stymied.  Every time something sounds right we second guess ourselves.  So we’re putting it to a vote.  Leave a comment here or email me.  Even you lurkers that never comment (and I know there are a lot of you) – we need some input here!

Magical Mini – Donk Mountain

I tagged along with Susie, Erin & Jenny today out to Castleton,Va (beauuuutiful!) to look at mini – donkeys.  Susie is thinking they might be a nice addition to her farm, since they are effective at removing harmful parasites from sheep pastures.  Personally, I had no idea there even were mini – donkeys.

There is nothing “mini” about their ears.  Their soft, fuzzy, furry ears.

This little one looks just like a fox to me.

As you can see they are not “mini” as in “tiny”, but much smaller than other equines.

Here is one next to Susie for size comparison.

The gentleman who runs the farm had a nice hammock out in the pasture with them.  Isn’t that lovely?  You can relax with a book or your knitting surrounded by nuzzly little inquisitive donkeys.

Erin playing with an ear.  It was impossible to resist those velvety things.

It was exactly eleventy- billion and four degrees out there in the shade and yet the adorably pregnant Jenny never looked any worse for the wear.  I, on the other hand, would have swelled up like a giant red beach ball and collapsed.  Even when not carrying a fetus around I don’t manage heat well.  I was drenched with sweat petting these guys.

We were given a few buckets of carrots to break the ice.  Once they decided were were ok peoples they were very sweet and almost cuddly in as much as an animal like that can be.

Then we met the mini – horse.  I am pretty sure his name was Silver.  He was magical.

Yes, he was this hazy and soft and blue in real life.  Ok, not really, I softened him up a bit to add to his mystique.  I did find myself wondering where the fairies and goblins and princesses were, though.

At that point we were ready to hit the road since Susie and Jenny had a fabulous date ahead of them with the county dump, but our hosts offered us respite from the heat in their AC and set out bowls of cherries and sliced tomatoes and cold water and it was absolutely wonderful.  They told us great stories and we saw the collection of “mistake” wooden bowls he had made.  They were stunning, as was the wooden farmhouse-style dining room table we were sitting at that he had likewise crafted himself.  We were all sent home with one, happy as larks (and those bowls will all be forever known as “Donkey Bowls”).  But before we left, we met Sid Vicious,and got his picture in Susie’s Donkey Bowl.

For more info about the Mini-Donkey Farm check out Susie’s blog; if you don’t see what you’re looking for in her post from today, you can contact her through the blog-site and she’ll hook you up.

A Leap of Faith

I mentioned a little while back that things have gotten tight around here and I was worried about how I was going to continue to care for the animals.  I was really thinking I’d have to find good homes for everyone.  Really, though, that would have made me miserable and the kids miserable as well.  I would have been worried sick over them for the rest of my life. Not to mention the fact that this is what makes life worth living – caring for these animals is my life’s calling and I can’t give up now.

Now, don’t think I am putting my own selfish need to have them before their health needs.  Far from it.  Instead we are about to attempt a big change.  If it works it will benefit us all enormously. We’re going to make all necessary repairs and upgrades to put this house on the market.

It’s been a good house for us and in some ways I do really love it, but we are bleeding money into a too – large mortgage for land that we can’t make full use of.

I don’t really know how well this will work, considering market saturation here and the fact that we owe about the same as what we can ask for it.  But we’re going to try.  If we can’t buy a small farm then we will try to rent one for awhile.   We’ve contacted our realtor extraordinaire, my uncle Rick.  He’ll make sure this house and the land are 100% perfect before listing it.  We are so lucky he knows the game so well and he knows us so well, because the whole process makes me a nervous, neurotic wreck.

Once we take this step, the next few months are going to be hard.  There’s a lot of fixing to do, and a lot of cleaning to do.  Worse yet, that cleanliness has to be scrupulously maintained.

I don’t even know HOW I am going to manage the animal pen.  You’ll probably see me doing a lot of stressing and whining as I try to hold it all together in the name of making things better for our growing family.

I will be keeping my eyes on the big picture as much as possible; focusing on sweet nuzzling goat faces and happy chickens.

Not to mention hot llama breath on the back of my neck as I wander out with feed and hay every day.

Bear with me while we go through this process, because it won’t be easy.  I’ll be asking for a lot of moral support and reminders to stay on track.

See you on the other side.