Embracing the Unknown

In our grand division of homestead labor, goat care has fallen squarely on the shoulders of my husband in the past year or two.  I still spend time with the goats, and really look forward to the day when I can resume my share of their care, but for now I’m focusing my energy on other homestead chores.  So it took me by surprise to help put the goats away last night and look over to see Sable’s stall empty.   Even though we had all gone as a family to bring Sable to her new home (a lovely homestead where two of her half-sisters already live), somehow the sight of the empty stall was so viscerally real and final.

These weeks are full of goodbyes – teary goodbyes to friends that we won’t see again, transporting goats to new homes, bringing our cat to live with a friend (who was the cat’s original owner 10 years ago), packing items in boxes knowing that we won’t open them for months or years, and tossing books and clothes that we don’t want to move across country.   Saying goodbye to the comfortable and familiar, to the routine and habitual, to this beautiful and wonderful land and home.

Entering into the space of possibility, potential and the discomfort of the unknown is downright scary!  I have been having a really hard time with this transition, imagining all sorts of 11th hour strategies to remain here in our little home.  Yet although my heart really truly wants to stay, my gut somehow knows this is not the answer.

To arrive at the decision to move to Missouri (a two year-long, fairly agonizing process), our family has visited the MO land three times.  We have had countless conversations with friends, consulted the I-Ching, met twice with a tarot reader, and made endless lists and flow charts (yes – flowcharts!!).  Ultimately, the decision has rested on a vision of what we want to create in our lives.  Some of the guiding principles include:

  •  We want to lovingly and mindfully create a homestead that will nurture our family with food, shelter, and beauty.
  • In order to fully invest in our homestead, we choose to be HOME, and not working full-time at off-site jobs.
  • We purchased a piece of land outright, so we have no debt, and we will build small, beautiful, and functional living spaces as funds become available.
  • We wish to be surrounded by a community that shares our values and will support us in our vision.
  • We want to live within walking distance of other families and friends with whom we can share the joys and challenges of raising children.

What has been so difficult in this process is that we already have so many of these gifts here in Oregon.  We are blessed with wonderful friends and neighbors in a truly beautiful community.

I don’t know if we’re making the right decision.  The only way we’ll truly know is to go to Missouri and give it a try.  What I do know is that we are going to get the opportunity to challenge ourselves in ways that I never imagined.  As my sweet friend told me the other day, “the journey is the prize.”

So friends, I am going to sign off this blog for the next two or three weeks while I concentrate on packing, moving, and settling into our new (temporary) home.  I will continue to post updates on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HomesteadHoneyWebsite?ref=hl and I anticipate returning to this space in mid-October.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to connecting in the near future!

Teri

Goatpacking

We spent a lovely Labor Day weekend in the wilderness with good friends and goats, complete with great weather, a pristine alpine lake all to ourselves, and lovely views.  We were in the Diamond Peak Wilderness, in Oregon, and only a few miles away from the spot where we backpacked with goats for the very first time.

It was 2006, just a few weeks after our wedding, and we decided it was time to take our goats into the backcountry.  Inspired by the book The Pack Goat, by John Mionczynski, we had been training our goats to follow us on hikes around the property.  Being herd animals, our dairy goats followed us quite readily, and we found it was quite fun and easy to go on walks with them in line behind us.

So, on a warm late summer day, we loaded up three goats – our Alpine goat Rose, her kid Lupine, and a Nubian named Hazelnut – in the back of our friend’s VW van and drove into the wilderness.  With makeshift packs on the goats backs, it was an exciting first outing.  Did the goats try to eat our dinner? Sure!  Did they engage in mischief on the trail? You bet!!  But the udder (pun intended) bliss of spending time with goats in the backcountry was an experience that was completely unforgettable. We were hooked.

Rose and Hazelnut on the Divide Lake trail, September 2006.

Lupine and Hazelnut join us for a mid-day sun break.  Near Divide Lake, 2006.

Fast forward six years and over a dozen goat packing trips later, and we still love it.  While our first trips were primarily for the fun of bringing our goats camping, and the enjoyment of fresh milk, bringing goats on later trips became something of a necessity.  As our family grew, we relied more heavily on our goats to carry the bulk of our gear, as we carried small children on our backs.  On this trip, I carried Everett and a small day pack, Brian carried Ella in a kid carrier with gear strapped on to the outside of the pack, and the goats carried the remainder of our gear, approximately 20-30 lbs each.

Our packing gear has become more sophisticated over the years, as has our herd management.  While we allow them to walk freely on the trail, we keep them tethered in the campsite, to keep them out of our food and away from small children.  We allow them to forage for fresh browse, but also carry grain as a supplement.  And each morning, we milk fresh, sweet milk for our morning tea.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Ella, with a fully loaded up Calyso behind.  Diamond Peak Wilderness, 2012.

Gilly takes the steep section slow and steady.

Me and Calypso at Marie Lake.

I always appreciate our farm animals, but I am especially grateful to our goats for making it possible for us to still enjoy the backcountry as a family.

Have a wonderful day!

Teri

Hay Day

This Saturday was Hay Day – the day we make the trek over to our favorite hay grower’s property to load the pickup with a few months’ worth of hay.  I bet it was a real nail-biter of a haying season for the growers, as intermittent rain storms made difficult to time the cutting with a few day stretch of sunshine to dry the hay before baling.

The hay grower’s property is just idyllic; to get there, you drive a few miles outside of town, pass a crystal clear creek, drive over a covered bridge, and around a bend.  Their ranch is nestled at the foot of a beautiful hill, with rolling pastures, stately oaks, big barns, and beautiful gardens.

Brian loaded up his trusty pickup (a 31 year old Toyota that runs on veggie oil!)

Ella and Everett helped.  For a few minutes.

Then Ev got distracted by heavy machinery.  This tractor “ride” about made his day.

He managed to load 28 bales on top of his truck!  When we get home, the real fun begins: rigging up a pulley system to transfer the bales from the truck to the hayloft.

Check out that stunt!

Into the hay loft, where it will be stored.  We figure this amount of hay will last about 3 summer months, when the goats are really only getting hay at night, but are browsing throughout the day.

Doesn’t Sable look appreciative?

Hurray for hay day!

May day

Ella and Snow Angel had been building quite the special relationship.  Even though the chicks had grown large enough to be moved into the main chicken run, she still insisted on daily visits to “her chicks” to hold them, coddle them, and feed them.  And Snow Angel seemed particularly open to her affection, letting Ella hold her and coo at her to her heart’s content.

Sadly, last night a raccoon got into the chicken run before we had closed the coop door, and Snow Angel and Tiny didn’t make it.  Brian found the carcasses when he went up to close the door.  My heart was so heavy – how was Ella going to take it?  When we gently broached the topic this morning, she did need a few moments under the covers by herself to process.  But after a minute or two, she popped up and asked, “Can we get some more baby chicks?”  Peck got an extra bunch of loving today, and I think she will become the new recipient of Ella’s unending love.  Just another reminder that children live in the moment, and that our expectation of their feelings is usually quite different than their reality.

On the baby goat front, we have been slowly introducing them to the rest of the herd, making sure that they don’t get hurt by the older does.  They are just so irresistible and soft and sproingy and sweet.  So capricious, if you will.  And just the perfect size for a goat photo shoot!

There has also been bed prepping and brassica planting, and mulching mulching mulching, and most exciting of all – tomato planting!  Yes – the first (15) tomatoes have gone in the ground, in the greenhouse!  I’m so eager to get the rest going. This year I have gone a bit overboard with 75 or so plants, but when I’m eating canned salsa next February, it will all be worth it!

It’s spring, my friends.  It is spring.

Scenes from the goat barn

Life is slowly returning to normal on the homestead.  Gilly’s birth was wonderful.  She had a quick and remarkably easy birth, and immediately set to the task of mothering her two doe kids.  They are strong and vigorous; within 5 minutes they were standing and looking to begin suckling.  Gilly needed a bit of a rest, but they kept bumping her with their sweet little heads, as if to say, “Come on mom! Nurse us!”

As long as we are caring for them, Ella has decided to call them Star and Spotlace – sweet and fitting names for these almost identical girls.  She truly loves to hold these little goats, and they very patiently oblige.  That is until they wriggle to the ground and tear across the barn for another race.  Fast and spry and only 5 days old. Amazing.