Yet another sunny, warm, perfect day idled by today. As I have been prone to doing lately, I took the goats on a pastoral hike in the cedar grove this morning. The boys wore their saddles and packs. The girls wore their ever-growing pregnant bellies.
We meandered in a new direction today. I brought the saddle bags along in anticipation of a good foraging trip. If nothing else, I would fill the pack with swathes of moss. I have been amending the soil in my garden beds with sun-dried moss, and in doing so, discovered that the dogs and cats find carpets of moss to be irresistibly comfortable. Instead of hosting cats and dogs in my garden beds, I will give them their own moss carpets. Thus, I’m building up a nice mattress of moss under my RV, where the dogs like to rest and sleep.
But we were not destined to come home with just moss. It was a day for turkey tails! 2 or 3 good blooms left Isöl the Goat packing around 2 pounds of fresh turkey tails in one pack and a wad of moss in the other. Aster the Goat brought home some big brown shelf mushrooms (they were near the end of their life), a gob of usnea, a gob of alectoria lichen, and more moss. So yes, we still brought home mostly-moss. No complaints though!
Halfway through the hike, at our furthest point out, I stopped and rested on a soft, mossy log. The goats mingled and browsed. After a time I realized half of them were now bedded down, chewing cud. So we hit the road again- hikes are for eating, not for digesting! They can digest in the meadow at home in the afternoon sun. Besides, my own hunger was starting to gnaw at me, I was sure we’d been out a few hours already.
So the goaters were tied out to browse and chew in the meadow for the afternoon, under the studious, protective watch of Toli the Dog, and I set off after a good meal.
I had set a slab of beef neck in a dutch oven before I left. It had been cooking on low for several hours now. Perfectly slow cooked, the meat flaked away from the bone. Excellent! I added a quart of home-grown, home-canned potatoes stewed in home-raised, home-butchered pork broth, with a dash of salt, garlic, dried beet greens, and tarragon. After a short simmer in the beef-broth, I had stewed beef and potato dish swimming in potato-starch gravy. Coupled with a pint of home-canned pickled cucumbers and zucchinis and a quart of chilled home-canned peaches? I had a feast banquet set for the rest of the day!
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The farm life is a good life. My diet could not be higher quality, and my stress levels, in today’s world, can’t get too much lower.
Sure there are every-day stressors; I need to replenish my haystack and woodpile (still lighting up the stove on these humid 30-35º nights!), the car is at the mechanic racking up a bill I don’t care to think about, bills and debts must be paid, needs must be met. Money is everyone’s biggest stress in this country, is it not? But my sales persist. Perhaps soon I can add dried turkey tails to my shop. A healthy crop of goat kids will help the budget for the year. The hens are laying well, which means chick sales can start soon. And once I make time for listing some of these bones I’ve been saving up, sales will explode on Etsy.
The animals are experiencing a good quality of life, too. The dogs and cats (and chickens and turkeys and ravens and local hawks…) feast on local beef and roadkill deer. Though we burn through hundreds of pounds of meat in a month, it costs me nothing but my time and a bit of bloody work. My pile of roadkill salvage permits grows steadily, deer hides are hanging awkwardly around my house, and if I’m lucky, a few choice cuts from the fresh ones grace my tiny freezer!
The birds on the farm mingle in the shade and protection of the thicket near the goat barn throughout the day.
I supplement whole peas and oyster shell, and beyond that they’re on their own. They mow grass and sprouts, hunt for bugs, browse whatever meatstuffs the dogs are ignoring, and come running eagerly when I bring out kitchen scraps. I also treat them to all-you-can-eat bone broth whenever I pressure cook a crock of beef for tallow and dog treats. The flock is looking fit and fine. Eggs are becoming plentiful, shell quality is spot-on, and yolks are a rich dark orange. Perfect.
The guinea pigs and goats are sustained with a mix of fresh forage and dried hay presently. And of course, the goat ladies get their daily portion of barley when they’re pregnant or in milk. The “geeps”, as I call the guinea pigs, are low-key barnyard denizens, mostly tending to their own needs and staying safe, reproducing naturally. The goats require much more time and attention each day, but it’s (almost) always a treat to work with them.
My point? Life is good. The work is hard, dirty, and plentiful. The body becomes strong and healthy. The mind stays sharp.
This lifestyle speaks to our human roots. Living your life one day to the next with purpose. Living with animals helps you live in the present, because they live in the present. Being present is something I think we struggle with in America as a culture, as is feeling a sense of purpose. I know I found purpose in farming. Most people who try it do! Who wouldn’t want to live like this?