Melanie, an homage

There was a girl who she changed my life

she rapped like a woman,

cooking spite mushroom casserole

teaching me whiskey.

Together we went to school,

faced farmers market 

near empty of pockets

loved men with the same name.

She struggled 

to get her daughter 

to school on time,

but she gave me lifts abundant.

I wasn't entirely worth 

her warm cozy sister friendship.

She dressed hip 

and sassy.

She wore my kind of clothing

much more stylishly.

Her daughter said I was 

her only "not weird" friend.

Of course we might meet again.

But people like my friend

remind me of how short it all is.

Even the struggle

waiting at the food stamp office.

If you've got a friend,

hold on tight,

and don't by any means let go.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 227 info

Today, I've expanded git annex info to also be able to be used on annexed files and on remotes. Looking at the info for an individual remote is quite useful, especially for answering questions like: Does the remote have embedded creds? Are they encrypted? Does it use chunking? Is that old style chunking?

description: demo remote
uuid: 15b42f18-ebf2-11e1-bea1-f71f1515f9f1
cost: 250.0
type: rsync
encryption: encrypted (to gpg keys: 7321FC22AC211D23 C910D9222512E3C7)
chunking: 1 MB chunks
remote: ia3
description: test [ia3]
uuid: 12817311-a189-4de3-b806-5f339d304230
cost: 200.0
type: S3
creds: embedded in git repository (not encrypted)
bucket: joeyh-test-17oct-3
internet archive item:
encryption: not encrypted
chunking: none

Should be quite useful info for debugging too..

Yesterday, I fixed a bug that prevented retrieving files from Glacier.

What I wrote my family about health

Hey everyone,

I have been seeing a psychiatric doctor in Bristol who actually is young and sharp and holistically concerned, with both mind and body. (Dr. Coleman)
The background for the short news is I asked her today if I ever would be advised to go off my meds, understanding that they are a forever thing, but with also the understanding that things change and my recent loss of eleven pounds from persistent swimming indicates exercise that is equal to antidepressants. (one sentence?) I am on three meds: Abilify that treats psychosis, Depakote for moods, and Trihexiphenidol for parkinsonial like tremors that could easily turn into tardive diskinesia. According to Dr. Coleman bipolar people, who are not schizoaffective, which I think is a subcategory?? of bipolar who have pasts with psychosis, but who don't have that now... (me) can taper off their antipsychotic medications. Because I am stable and not psychotic, as long as I dont have a Manic episode, I will not have psychosis. According to Dr. Coleman bipolar people like me can have had psychosis and reach a level of stability that will not reverse. I can go off my Abilify and if that works, I can quit Trihexiphenidol too! It's my choice. Come January, I get the right to do that under doctor's orders if I want. :) That is how good my questions are I guess.Now all of you know me differently and know bipolar disorder in different ways. Some of you think I get manic, but I know that is hypomania, lesser mania. Some of you haven't seen me for a long time and know a different version of who I am. I think I am doing this, come January, going off 2 of my meds with the supervision of a good doctor. Maybe I could have five years ago. Anyway. What can you do? In January and the following months, be on the lookout for real psychosis in me. Not the typical stuff we all have, minor paranoia or even hypomania. But if you really want to help, let me know if I am seeming psychotic.Encouragement is always better medicine than complaining. I did mean to say that Dani should have power of attorney over me, if that is correct wording. Onward and upward. Every moment is our last, people. Have faith.Love,

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Late-fall cover-crop observations
Yellow jackets on fava beans

I've been noticing little snippets of cover-crop observations lately, none of which is quite enough to make its own post.  But maybe you won't mind a hodge podge.

The photo above shows how the yellow jackets are swarming around unopened fava-bean buds.  I assume they're stealing nectar somehow, a bit like the ants I noticed on okra flowers a few years ago.  Presumably unrelated to the yellow jackets, our fava beans have been blooming for weeks, but keep dropping the ovaries without setting fruit, so they might not be a good edible in our location after all.

Cutting oats for goats

Then there's the observation two of you made in comments, that the puny fava beans between my sunflowers are due to allelopathy.  I hadn't realized that sunflowers were allelopathic, but the internet suggests that is indeed the case, and that water dripping off sunflower leaves can carry chemicals that make surrounding plants do poorly.  I guess sunflowers aren't the best candidate for multi-species cover-cropping campaigns!

My last observation is four-footed.  Goats love oat leaves so much that I've been earmarking a large proportion of that cover crop for goat treats.  I can't help it!  I know the soil loves oat biomass too, but when Artemesia blats at me, I give in and provide any treat I can think of.  In case you're curious, my ability to spoil animals is nearly unparalleled....


I do not suggest you worry.

You should not worry 

because I love you

and that is worth enough 

that you should be satisfied.

You deserve joy.

You deserve happiness,

bad jokes,

pizza from the stinky hollow chambers

of a rusted dumpster.

So don't focus on worry.

Focus on that joy,

the long haul happiness

of knowing you are a protector of mountains.

Love every inch of your body too.

Even where the pizza accumulates as it will.

Know deep in you

you are worth

all of this hope.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Not quite tasting the first Celeste fig
Celeste fig

The first figs on our Celeste bush started turning maroon a couple of weeks ago, and ever since I've been waiting with baited breath, hoping to taste a new fig variety.  Unfortunately, cool weather has slowed down ripening considerably, and the only summer plants that are still bearing like crazy are our red raspberries.  The Celeste fig seemed to be stuck halfway ripe.

Ripe and unripe figs

With another potential frost forecast, I decided to see if those Celeste figs were tasteable.  I plucked the fruits off the bush, cut them open...and was disappointed to see colorless flesh inside.  Unlike most fruits, the telling color-change on a ripening fig occurs hidden inside --- in the photo above, the fig on the left is a ripe Chicago Hardy fig for comparison.  I guess we'll have to wait until next year to taste a ripe Celeste fig!

In the meantime, I should note that despite last winter's cold killing our Chicago Hardy plant to the ground, we've still enjoyed perhaps a gallon of figs this year.  That harvest doesn't hold a candle to last year's bounty, but it's not bad for a tree that started from the ground up this spring!


A seashore can be very peaceful

especially in the dim light 

up in a dune campsite

B4 and B9.

Some sketch outline

a toe

has left behind.

Peace, peace, peace.

Until the wind picks up a notch

and blows out that light.

One, Zero, One

The frost is around the bend.

I was out in the garden,

bent over to gather the peppers

and green tomatoes.

Finally ready I propped up

Buddha statue 

who had been

flat on his back

since Pickle's death.

I dug up four jades,

helping my mother

pop them in their winter homes.

Everything is once.

In the garden that's obvious,

pulling up tomato plants 

that volunteered on Pickle's grave.

Joey chatter

I run unstable on most of my servers, with automatic daily upgrades. Caution? What's that? :)


I've been feeling a stillness on my sails

Until yesterday I gobbled up these moments with my orphan dogs.

I lost ten pounds living a healthy lifestyle here

But I cannot just be tame and skinny.

Sometimes I have to jump from this deck

Collecting poems with my sun tanned fingers.

To be a poet, to come back home, 

I have to fly away for a while.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Free-choice goat minerals
Goats eating oats

When you start providing livestock with free-choice minerals, suddenly the options become a bit overwhelming.  We've narrowed our goats' selections down to:

  • Goat mineralsa pre-mixed goat mineral
  • kelp (for extra trace minerals)
  • table salt (iodized or noniodized is debatable.  We add the extra salt because we chose a mineral mix that's only 11% salt, but you should be aware that some people believe you shouldn't provide additional salt since it might prevent your goats from eating enough of the pre-mixed minerals.  If you do opt for additional salt, sea salt would be a better choice, although more expensive.)
  • baking soda (as a safety valve in case our goats' rumens get out of balance due to eating grain)

Some goat-keepers also provide:

  • Browsing goatnutritional yeast (aka brewer's yeast, for extra protein.  This is more often mixed with a processed feed that provided free choice, though.)
  • Diamond V XPC Yeast Culture (as a probiotic.  This is generally mixed with feed rather than being put out for free-choice eating.)
  • diatomaceous earth (for internal parasite control, although data suggests this may not actually do any good when taken internally)

And if you're worried about your soil being particularly deficient in one or two minerals, presumably you could provide those nutrients free choice as well if you weren't worried about overconsumption.  This last option might hypothetically help remineralize your soil...or you might just end up with a very healthy dog if your canine, like ours, runs along behind the goats to slurp up their "berries."

More cute goats
I'll close with two extra goat shots...because they're cute.  And getting fatter?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A potential homestead in Castlewood, Virginia
Hay field
Old house and pond
Logging road

A friend of a friend is selling some land about twenty minutes from our farm, and I promised to spread the word in case any of you were interested.  It's priced at a thousand bucks an acre and has a lot of potential, full of ponds, forested mountain-land, and open fields.  There's an electric hookup on site and spring water piped down to an old house, plus logging roads make for relatively easy access.  Here's the Craigslist ad for more information.

Livestock pond

At 177 acres, the property has the potential to be bought by several homesteaders and managed as an eco-village or education center.  Or, perhaps more realistically, if two or three homesteading families went in on the property together, you could share the land without anyone digging their financial hole too deep.  If you're interested in these shared options, leave a comment below and chat with each other --- it would make my day if several of our readers got together and relocated nearby!

Joey chatter

Apple sauce with quince, no sweetening. So sour, so yum.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Harvesting carrots in the rain

Harvesting carrots in the rainLast year, I wrote that I dug our carrots early.  And this year...I dug them even sooner.  All this rain made a couple of my cabbage heads split over the weekend, and I know that carrots are prone to the same ailment.  I'd rather get those orange roots out of the ground before problems arise.  They probably wouldn't grow too much bigger over the next week or two anyway since many were already heftier than store-bought!

The downside of this fall's carrot harvest is that it's much smaller than in years past.  I dropped the ball and didn't replant after a dry spell caused sporadic carrot germination in July.  Then the straw I mulched with (which was supposed to be weed-free, since it was the second round from the feed store) sprouted scads of little grain plants.  As a result, carrots were getting lost in the sea of cover crops, and I opted to pull the vegetables out before they completely disappeared.

Of course, half a bushel of carrots is nothing to sneeze at.  And, if I'm honest, I would admit that I actually grew twice as many as we wanted last year --- Mark was getting heartily sick of carrot sticks before the winter ended.  Our fridge root cellar will keep the carrots we did grow this year crisp and sweet deep into the winter, and next year we'll plant many more to feed the goats.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 224-226 long rainy slog

3 days spent redoing the Android autobuilder! The new version of yesod-routes generates TH splices that break the EvilSplicer. So after updating everything to new versions for the Nth time, I instead went back to older versions. The autobuilder now uses Debian jessie, instead of wheezy. And all haskell packages are pinned to use the same version as in jessie, rather than the newest versions. Since jessie is quite near to being frozen, this should make the autobuilder much less prone to getting broken by new versions of haskell packages that need patches for Android.

I happened to stumble over while doing that. This supports setting and unsetting environment variables on Windows, which I had not known a way to do from Haskell. Cleaned up several ugly corners of the Windows port using it.

Joey chatter

A partially shaven yak is a sad yak. Unless you're going for the poodle yak look.

Conflict Transformed

Conflict is the edge of the waterfall

look here,

where safe we are on the other side.


I've seen the sword of conflict murder innocence.  I have seen conflict do harm; I want nothing of that.  I've also seen conflict bring true joy. I've eaten its yolk for breakfast. 

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goats eating weeds
Goat tractor
"So, basically, you have two weedcutters now?" --- Roland

You got it!  Cleaning up weedy edges has been one of the major selling points of goats, and I was excited (after the rain finally let up) to see how our girls would fare in that department.  To that end, I made a temporary pasture using six cattle panels, encircling a roughly 650-square-foot problem area.  This spot is where the old house used to stand, and where blackberry brambles and honeysuckle have since taken over the decaying wood.  Could Abigail and Artemesia help us with this thorny problem?

High weeds"Glad to!" they chorused.  The top photo shows the area a day and a half after goat action began, at which point I was already starting to be able to see wood rather than simply a huge thicket of weeds.  In contrast, the photo on the right is the before shot, taken moments after our goats were let into the pasture on their first day.  Our girls enjoyed the browse so much that I had to bribe them with a little sweet corn Tuesday evening before Abigail would let me put on her leash for the walk back to the starplate coop.  (I've learned that Artemesia doesn't need her own leash --- she just trips along behind.)

The bad news for those of you who are itching to go out and get goats is --- I don't think our girls are going to take the weeds down to the ground.  They're so good at carefully plucking the leaves off the stems that the blackberry brambles and honeysuckle vines are still left standing even after the girls are done eating.  Perhaps in the dead of winter, when pickings are slimmer, our goats will be more prone to do a total rehab on a weedy spot like this, but I suspect we'll instead be sending Mark in with the Swisher to bring this area back under human control.  I guess that's why we got two weedcutters, right?

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goat gate
new goat gate with Lucy

We finished our first goat gate today.

I used 2x2's for the frame to keep it light and treated furring strips for the slats.

Joey chatter
laundry selfie

Sneedville is a true one horse town, in fact it's not unusual to pass a youth riding a horse, often bareback, in the road here.

Sometimes it feels a lot like the wild west buried in the middle of the eastern Appalachians.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Six inches in seven days
Wet autumn woods

A week ago, the ground was so dry that I was considering turning on the sprinklers to get our last round of lettuce seeds germinated in a timely manner.  Since then, it's rained and rained and rained.  Six inches in seven days, enough that we spent five of those days flooded in.

Yellow hickory leavesI soon settled into donning wet clothes whenever I went outside --- better to have only one set of damp pants and tops strewn around the trailer, even though pulling on clammy clothing is never fun.  Otherwise, though, the rain isn't too difficult, especially since it gives me the gumption to edit (my least favorite part of writing, but more palatable when the alternative is getting soaked).

I wouldn't mind a dry spell soon, though (just in case the weather gods are reading this blog post).  Now's prime leaf-raking weather, but it's not worth hauling wet leaves home for bedding the coops and mulching the garden, so the first fall of early leaves is going to waste at the moment.  The goats seem less scared of rain than I'd thought, their annoyed bleating when stuck in the tractor more closely correlated to the amount of honeysuckle present than to rainfall, but I know they'd be happier if it were dry.  Even our water dog has been spending a lot of time in her doghouse, and our younger rooster has a long-suffering look about him as he minds his puddle-loving ducks.

I know that many of you are currently facing drought conditions.  I'd send you some of this rain if I could!  In the meantime, can you send us some sunny thoughts in exchange?


I see animals in the hollow trees.

Leaning back,

I spot a devil face in the leaves.

Remembering manners -- 

I stick out my tongue.

The devil, her eyes bleed

in streaks

like the mascara of a new widow,

like the paint on a mime

or a clown.  

As the wind blows the leaf face transforms,

her lashes bat in flirtation,

still evil though.

Old Crazy's up there all the time

watching over us. 

Not many can win

a staring contest with Old Crazy

but I've seen her grin a time or two.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Soil mystery solved

Soil analysisI got my soil test results back, and it's no wonder nothing wants to grow in the Starplate pasture --- the pH is 5.2 and the soil is seriously deficient in calcium (and also rather low on sulfur, phosphorus, boron, copper, and zinc).  Luckily, I was able to look back at my old lunchtime series for The Intelligent Gardener and generate a prescription to fix the issues.

When liming soil, it's best to apply the minerals in advance of other additions since the calcium can cause other cations to wash out of the soil.  So my plan is to apply lime this fall, then gypsum, borax, copper sulfate, and zinc sulfate in the spring.  The hardest part of the endeavor will be hauling 550 pounds of lime back through the muck to our core homestead!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Heated bucket chicken waterer
bird cage handle on a 2 gallon plastic bucket lid

We're making a limited run of heated chicken waterers that utilize a nifty, heavy duty heated bucket from a company called Farm Innovations.

I could've chose any number of cheap handles for the lid, but decided to go with a fancy, high end bird cage handle that tops the project off with a bit of class.

You can save a little money by making one yourself. We made a video on how to make a heated chicken waterer that gives all the details if you've got the time, tools, skills, and patience.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Cover crops, fences, and goats
Miniature goat

I promise to write about something other than goats within the next week....or so.  Would you believe me if I said this post is about cover crops and fences?

Goats on fence

Way back when we started making chicken pastures, we built our fences out of chicken wire.  The theory was simple --- chicken wire's cheap, and that's all we could afford.  Now, many of those fences are nearly lost beneath impenetrable hedges of Japanese honeysuckle...which happens to be a plant that goats adore.  The question became --- although a chicken-wire fence obviously isn't going to keep in a determined goat long term, would it be sufficient for goat retention until the honeysuckle was gone?

Within half an hour, I learned that the answer was no.  Perhaps if the only goats involved were little shrimps like Artemisia, my experiment would have worked, but the fence bowed down under Abigail's hooves, and soon our doe decided that the honeysuckle was greener on the other side of the fence.  Luckily, I was sitting on the porch watching at the time because the result was a scary race around the yard, Lucy having decided that anything running should be chased and Abigail having decided that if she was being chased she would have to keep running.  Once Mark came out and collared Lucy, though, peace descended immediately --- Abigail came right to me and so did Artemisia, and soon they were both safely behind cattle panels (although on less exciting browse).  At least now I know that worry number two isn't a concern --- a loose goat isn't going to disappear into the woods, not if she knows I dole out dried sweet corn every day or two.

Goat eating oat leaves

The other thing I've been learning this weekend is goat dietary preferences.  In addition to honeysuckle, Abigail adores oat leaves, red clover, plantain, and broccoli leaves.  She's also quite fond of the tops of oilseed radishes, but is totally uninterested in the roots, suggesting that I can put this cover crop to dual duty, feeding our herd and the soil with the same planting.  In fact, I suspect, I can do something similar with oats since Abigail tends to browse the plants high enough that they should regrow as well.

What about Artemisia?  She eats whatever's close to Abigail, since our little doeling is much more interested in being sociable than in being fed.  Luckily, her pint-sized rumen fills up fast, and she always seems fat and happy when I run my hands over her little round body.  It's extremely satisfying to watch our goats grow on weeds alone.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 223 partial commit problem

git commit $some_unlocked_file seems like a reasonably common thing for someone to do, so it's surprising to find that it's a little bit broken, leaving the file staged in the index after (correctly) committing the annexed symlink.

This is caused by either a bug in git and/or by git-annex abusing the git post-commit hook to do something it shouldn't do, although it's not unique in using the post-commit hook this way. I'm talking this over with Junio, and the fix will depend on the result of that conversation. It might involve git-annex detecting this case and canceling the commit, asking the user to git annex add the file first. Or it might involve a new git hook, although I have not had good luck getting hooks added to git before.

Meanwhile, today I did some other bug fixing. Fixed the Internet Archive support for embedcreds=yes. Made git annex map work for remote repos in a directory with an implicit ".git" prefix. And fixed a strange problem where the repository repair code caused a git gc to run and then tripped over its pid file.

I seem to have enough fixes to make another release pretty soon. Especially since the current release of git-annex doesn't build with yesod 1.4.

Backlog: 94 messages

Joey chatter

git annex get BRAAAINS

git-annex had some zombie-related problems long ago, but this is much cooler fMRI brain scan stuff. 417 gigabytes of it in a public git annex repo!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Stair tamer
using stair tamer to load the car

The room we had for our recent vacation had a 400 pound dumb waiter that made staying on the third floor easy and fun.

It's called the Stair Tamer. Invented by Ricky Edwards you can buy them from his welding shop in Shiloh North Carolina.

He also sells a 1000 pound model that would make loading hay bales in a barn loft a lot easier than the old fashioned method.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Choosing goat minerals
Dwarf doeling

One of the new requirements that we're having to get used to with goats is the need to provide free-choice minerals.  With chickens, additives are included in the bagged feed, and I've lazily assumed that the feed company knows what they're doing.  But since goats get most of their nutrition from pasture, I need to choose a mineral supplement to make sure their diet is well-rounded.

Goats in the woodsWhile I'd like to buy goat minerals locally, my research thus far has turned up only solid mineral blocks at our nearby feed stores.  Unlike horses and cows, solid minerals aren't recommended for goats since the caprines' smaller teeth can't get enough minerals off the block to keep them healthy.  So I started hunting down loose goat minerals online.

Your first decision when choosing between different types of loose goat minerals is whether you want to go with a scientifically formulated product, or whether you want to follow the advice of Pat Coleby in Natural Goat Care and figure your goat will get all of her trace minerals from kelp, to which you add only sulfur, copper, and dolomite.  I'll probably take a hybrid approach --- providing free-choice kelp but also giving our goats access to a mineral mix.  In terms of the latter, the table below includes the five main sources I've found online for loose goat minerals to be shipped to your door.  The only option that doesn't require shipping is Manna Pro from Tractor Supply, which can probably be found semi-locally if we call around (and which is cheapest on my chart since shipping isn't included).


Purina (Valley Vet) Manna Pro (Tractor Supply) Jolly German Ultimate Goat Mineral Sweetlix Meat Maker (Jeffers Pet) Golden Blend (Hoegger)
Protein (%)

Calcium (%) 10 17.6 10 15.4 14.3
Phosphorus (%) 8 8 8 8 7
Salt (%) 43 13.2 43.5 11 22
Potassium (%) 0.1 1.5 0.1 1.5 0.9
Magnesium (%) 1 1.5 1 1.5 1
Sulfur (%)

Iron (%)

Cobalt (varies)

240 ppm
Copper (ppm) 1775 1350 1775 1780 1500
Iodine (varies)

450% 0.0007%
Manganese (varies) 2750 ppm 1.25% 0.03%
Selenium (ppm) 25 12 25 50 26
Zinc (ppm) 7500 5500 8000 12500 4000
Vitamin A (IU/lb) 130000 300000 140000 300000 220000
Vitamin D (IU/lb) 11000 30000 11000 30000 45000
Vitamin E (IU/lb) 750 400 750 400 220
Price 42.8 9.99 35.99 39.95 54.95
Pounds 25 8 15 18? 25
$/lb 1.71 1.25 2.40
2.22? 2.20

Assuming you don't need to choose your goat minerals based solely on price, there are a few other things to consider as you peruse the chart above.  Plain salt can be provided free choice Goat reaching for leavesin a separate compartment, so you might want to choose something like Mannapro or Sweetlix with a low salt content so that your goats will only eat the trace minerals if they're craving something other than (cheap) salt.  You might also want to look at your soil test results if you plan to feed your goats primarily on pasture, then to select a mineral mix high in the ingredients that are scarce in your soil.

And then there's the big copper debate, which will be fodder for another post.  Goats need a lot more copper than other livestock, and some breeders provide boluses (huge pills) of copper every few months to keep their goats healthy and to combat worms.  Others follow Pat Coleby's advice and add copper sulfate to their goats' mineral ration for the same reason.  More on pros and cons of copper supplementation in a later post, but feel free to chime in now if you have thoughts one way or another on any goat-mineral-related issue.  And I'd love to hear your feedback on which mineral mixes you've used and on how well they've done at keeping your goats healthy.

Leash-training goats

(As for the photos --- yep, I'm busy leash-training our goats.  When Lucy isn't involved, the training sessions go quite well.)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Pros and cons of feeding grain to goats
Wild fodder for goats
"You mentioned in today's post that you wouldn't be feeding grain to Abigail (great name) until after the kids are here...  I know nothing about goats.  I am however a dog breeder.  And in dogs that would be backwards.  You want the pregnant bitch to have all the nutrition she can handle so the developing fetuses are healthy when they are born....  Maybe that's not what you meant, and since I know nothing about goats, except they are cute, maybe that doesn't apply to them.  But as a breeder, just wanted to say that sounded backwards."  --- Sidney

Feeding goats naturally seems to be a complicated subject, which I'm just starting to wrap my head around (so readers should feel free to jump in if you think I'm off base).  From what I understand, the ancestors of our cultivated goats would have been eating browse --- rough plant matter like tree leaves, blackberry brambles, and so forth.  They needed to consume lots of this roughage to get enough energy to live and grow, and their digestive system has evolved to require that kind of bulk fiber.

New goatGrain is a recent introduction to the goat's diet, and while it can help a doe keep on weight when she's producing lots of milk, grain can also be hard on a goat's gut since she isn't really adapted to eat it.  That makes the supplement more of a tradeoff than you'd find with your dogs --- fancier rations will probably just make your canines happy, but more grain can make a goat sick.

So why give her any grain at all?  Humans generally want the most that we can get out of our livestock, so we've bred dairy goats to produce much more milk than their ancestors would have in the wild.  Producing that milk requires extra energy and protein, and most goats will get really skinny if milked hard on pasture alone.  Think of this as a bit like Appalachian Trail thru-hikers --- they physically can't carry enough food to keep them well nourished while on the trail, so they often gorge on ice cream and other concentrates when they hit towns.  Grain is the dairy goat's ice cream --- it helps a doe put back on the pounds, but it's not necessarily good for her in the long run.

Now, there are alternatives to grain that still provide concentrated nutrition.  For example, Nita provided some excellent guest information in my ebook $10 Root Cellar about how she grows and prepares carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, and (sometimes) mangels to keep her milk cow in fine flesh while milking over the winter.  And there's also something to be said for choosing individual milking animals that have well-developed rumens from a childhood on pasture and that don't produce quite as much milk, since animals like this probably won't need as much nutritional supplementation.  But, in the end, most people end up giving at least a little bit of grain to their milking animals at certain times.

Lucy sniffs Abigail

Returning to your point, there is some controversy about when a doe most needs extra nutrition --- while milking heavily, or when pregnant.  Most sources will only mention the latter, but others tell you that it's imperative to have your doe in relatively good condition at the start of her pregnancy if you want her to easily get and stay pregnant.  The trouble is that if you feed much grain while she's actually pregnant, the kid(s) will grow extra large, which can result in complications during birth.  So, your best bet is to get your doe in tip-top shape before she gets pregnant, to cool it on the grain while she's actually pregnant, then to pick back up with grain (or other supplements) in proportion to how much milk she's producing after she gives birth.

Of course, all of this is still book learning at the moment.  In a year or two, I'll probably laugh at the lack of nuance in my understanding of the subject but, for now, I'll keep Abigail's treats to a minimum but will provide her with lots of excellent browse to keep her healthy.
Two goats
(As a side note, during day one with two goats, it rained like crazy, so our girls have been enjoying room service --- masses of Japanese honeysuckle torn off the side of the barn, a handful of oat leaves, several sweet-corn stalks, two sunflower plants, some comfrey leaves, and a sorghum stalk.  Abigail thinks the oats are the best, followed by honeysuckle and comfrey, while our little doeling still looks a bit befuddled by her new home but chowed down on quite a bit of honeysuckle.  Hopefully it'll dry off enough to get them out on pasture for a better quality photo shoot soon!)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Road work with goat
Kid in the car
Sorry to leave you all hanging without a post last night.  What was supposed to be a six-hour round trip to pick up goat #2 turned into a nine-hour marathon due to road work in both directions on the highway and an excellent hour of goat training at Newland Nubians.

Pastured nubians
What's with the excessively long drive to pick up a goat?  Well, our first goat nearly fell into our laps, but I hit a lot of snags trying to find an appropriate companion for Abigail.  We didn't want a large goat, and the only small goats for sale nearby were being bred for looks and were going for about $300 a pop.  We figured if we were going to have to pay top dollar for a goat, she might as well have traits we wanted (pasture potential and milking genetics), so we looked further afield.

Parent goats
The photo above shows the parents of our new doeling (name yet to be determined).  In the foreground, you can see Aowen, who is ten years old and pretty skinny at the moment, but who has proven herself over the years and has been the mother of quite a lot of Newland Nubians' current herd.  Aowen is a purebred Nubian who typically milks through (meaning that you don't have to breed her every year to get milk) and she's still giving a quart a day at her advanced age.  The father, in the background, is Hunting with Emmet from Tiny Town Goats, whose mother was the champion Jingle and who brings small size to the equation. 

Four-month-old kids
Our new doeling is four months old and has charisma in spades.  She kept nuzzling us on the ride home, and when I carried her up our swampy floodplain, she was unworried enough to grab bites of leaves as we passed by.  Here's hoping she and Abigail get along well and turn into BFFs.

More seriously, our doeling is also a prime pastured animal since she and her cohorts have been raised on browse (and milk) alone since birth.  That should result in a well-developed rumen that will serve them well during their pasturing career.  A few other doelings (and, I believe a wether) are currently available from the same breeder if you're looking for small pastured milk goats and are willing to drive to the Roanoke/Blacksburg area.  The links up above in the post will lead you to the breeder's facebook page and website for more details.  Tell her I sent you and she'll give you the $300 price on the Aowen's granddaughter!
Joey chatter

Docker grew on me today too: 100% disk full due to old versions of images that are referred to by new versions of images so cannot be garbage collected.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Abigail's first day on the farm
Goat and sunflowers

I suspect that by the end of the week, you're going to be thoroughly sick of reading about goats.  Oh well....


Trotting goatI loved all of your name suggestions, but when Mark and I finally had time to sit down and talk Wednesday, I learned that a name had come into his head nearly as soon as we saw our goat: Abigail.  Mark told me that I had final say in the name department, but I liked his choice --- simple and pretty.  So Abigail she is!

As I mentioned previously, Abigail is a hybrid between a Saanen and a Nigerian (plus a smidge of Nubian blood), which makes her moderately sized even though she's fully grown.  We hope she's all knocked up, the father of her upcoming kids being a similar mixture of Saanen and Nigerian genes.  Unfortunately, Abigail's owner wasn't keeping track of her cycles, so our goat might be due any time between the beginning of February and the beginning of March.  Chances are relatively good that she'll have twins, like she did this year.

Temporary pasture

The photo above shows Abigail in situ in her old habitat, where she shared a rotational pasture with a buck, a doe, two kids, and a milk cow.  Her previous owner explained that she's been breeding away from the dairy look with all of her animals, aiming for a chunkier body type instead that does better on pasture.

Skinny goatI'm just beginning my hands-on goat education (despite copious reading), so I'm not 100% sure whether my gut feeling that Abigail could use a bit more body weight is accurate.  Her previous owner showed me how to feel for fat along her spine, illustrating that Abigail isn't as emaciated as she looks to the untrained eye.  It will be a learning process to start gauging the fullness of her rumen (the indentation in the photo to the right) and her fat stores, a bit of a tricky campaign since I hope to get away without feeding Abigail any appreciable grain (at least until she kids).  Trickiness aside, I'm already in love with the idea of an herbivore who can get most or all of her nutrition from weeds and brush rather than feed from a bag.

Tethered goat

Training a dog to like goatsI've read that goats need a caprine friend, and Abigail's buddy will be arriving soon.  In the meantime, though, I was surprised by how much our first goat craved being close to us.  Wednesday morning, I made her a little goat tractor out of four cattle panels in the weedy area at the top of the front garden, but our poor little goat just stood at the fence and bleated instead of chowing down.

Some of her agitation was initially due to being unsure about Lucy, since Abigail's previous owner used dogs to herd her animals (extremely well!), meaning that our goat was sensitive to a canine hanging out nearby.  But, mostly, Abigail was just lonely.  So we instead opted to tether her within reach of a bed of oat cover crops right beside where Mark and I were working, which made her much happier.

Goat tractor

It's a good thing that Abigail isn't bound for the freezer, because I could feel myself bonding with her nearly immediately.  She's a little shy, but quickly learned to come toward me rather than running away once I gave her a little dried sweet corn and an over-size summer squash.  She's getting better at walking on a leash already, and hopefully will soon be coming when she's called.  Now I just need to learn some goat noises since the clucks I'd originally been using made Lucy think I was talking to her....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Bringing home our first goat
Bringing a goat home

We brought home our first goat Tuesday!  We're planning on getting a second goat this week (who's all picked out --- more on her later), but for the day, goat #1 got to be an only child.  She also appears to be nameless --- we're taking suggestions if you can think of just the right appellation for our farm's first caprine resident.

Dragging a goat

Names aside, goat #1 wasn't entirely thrilled at spending two hours winding down country roads in the backseat of our car, but she only bleated a few times.  Once we disembarked, though, the struggles began.  As total neophytes to goat wrangling, we hadn't considered the species' extreme aversion to water, so we chose to bring home goat #1 on a day when the creek was about knee high and the floodplain was one big mass of puddles.  Our nanny was just starting to get the hang of walking on a leash when we came to the first body of water...and then she decided that being dragged was superior to walking.  I ended up carrying the poor (and heavy) beast about halfway up the floodplain, stopping to drag and cajole her through drier spots, and the goat and I were both pretty tuckered out by the time we got home.

Goat creek crossing

Poor Mark had just driven for two hours in heavy rain with goat horns jabbing him in the back of the head, so he wasn't much better off.  Still, he managed to leash Lucy and take her for a walk, then to introduce our obedient dog to the new goat with no major trauma on either side.  We'll do a more serious training session later, but I'm about 75% sure our smart farm dog got the message --- goats are to be protected, not chased.  (Rolling in their manure, though, is definitely high on Lucy's list.)

Mini SaanenBefore shutting our new nanny away in the starplate coop for her much-deserved rest, I let her browse some oat cover crops (which she probably would have eaten all day if I'd let her, but I started getting worried about bloat even though that probably wouldn't be a problem at this time of year).  A few feet further down the trail (with the goat walking nicely now that we were out of the marsh), she found a fenceline covered with Japanese honeysuckle and began to chow down --- or, rather, to daintily pick the leaves off the stems, proving that she may be a goat, but that she's also a lady.

Once our nanny saw the dry straw inside the coop, though, all thoughts of food were forgotten.  I brought Unnamed Goat some stalks from sweet corn, sorghum, and sunflowers to tide her over until morning, then shut her in so she could begin learning her new home.

My conclusions so far?  Goats --- even ones with long horns --- are extremely gentle even when manhandled.  And their ability to eat the weeds is very satisfactory.  Only time will tell how well we work the species into our farm, but I'm excited to begin to learn the ways of goats.

Call me Greyhound

In the row next to me sat a curvy black woman smacking her jaw on some onion rings, her legs tucked up under a Barney blanket, no child in sight.

My neck tense, my head rested on the clear plastic divider to separate the driver from us.  

My voice quivered.  A lot.  "Sir, I might be the person you and that state trooper were talking about and I"

"Ma'am, can I do something for you?"  

"Sir I heard the officer mention there were psychological medicines on this bus."  I continued.

The driver stated in his most powerful voice, "You need to calm down."

"I hope you know that if you plan to search through my bags when I get off at the next stop, there are other people on this bus with this kind of medicines and we have the right to carry them."  I spoke with my persistently shaking voice.

"I might just go and have the officer apprehend your baggage if you keep up like this."  Boomed the driver.

"Well if you do that, this woman next to me might make your life unpleasant after I get off."

It wasn't a miracle that the woman with the onion rings piped up next.  After all, everyone seems to be on antidepressants lately.  "You can't open up our bags.  I don't know what is wrong with carrying prescription medicine anyway!"  The woman gave a definitive crunch into an onion ring.  This triggered a hushed whispering throughout the bus.  A few people spoke out too.

So when I ran into someone a year later and he called me Greyhound, I took it as flattery.  Yes, you can call me Greyhound if you want to.


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