most days.

by janinelidell

Things have been busy here on the farm. Most nights, I find myself having just enough time and energy to come up the hill to our tiny cabin, light a fire, turn on the propane, cook a little dinner and boil water that we’ve carried up to do a few dishes. I read a few pages in a book and fall right to sleep. Usually I’m so tired I don’t even need my earplugs to hide the sound of the critter in the wall that was keeping me up for a bit. I’m assuming it’s just a squirrel that scratches around a bit from time to time. Squirrels sound more approachable than rats.

Mornings here are busy. The alarm goes off early. A quick breakfast is made in our cabin and coffee is enjoyed quickly. Now that the chickens are warming back up, there are eggs everyday and bacon from the whey fed pigs is available though any vegetable that isn’t sauerkraut must be bought and seems to come from a million miles away. I yearn for the garden to come so I can stop the moral dilemma in the produce aisle. Do I buy this hard plastic container filled of extremely expensive slightly old organic baby kale that has been shipped from across the continent? Aren’t I living on a farm? Am I living in a sort of food desert? Seeds are being planted this week and I remind myself that we will have vegetables again. But do farmers have to be so poor that they can’t afford to feed their kids produce? We are living in the poorest county in rural Maine.

Chores begin first thing. Now that the snow has melted, feeding pigs isn’t a trek through ice but mud is developing at a fantastic rate. 5 gallon buckets of water along with whey and soaked grain are carried. There is now a fear of jumping in with the “low pigs” while they fight over breakfast. If you get in at the right moment of distraction and let then fight over some whey to drink, grain can be dumped into their troughs before they’re onto you. But not always. They are of legitimate size to fear. The “upper pigs” are easier though far away. The other apprentice often takes them on, checking on Bonnie and Fern to see if they’ve had babies yet. If they have piglets in the middle of the night, the sows could roll over on them and crush some. At the sister farm down the road, half of the piglets were lost to such a fate this winter as nights were too bitter cold to keep an eye on the newborns.

After pigs, the goat “milkers” get second-cut hay full of dried clover before they are lined up for milking.  I stop to listen to the humming when they are mellow during the afternoons but in the morning, they are all business and are waiting for the chance to let go of some milk.

The “yearling” goats, last spring’s kids, get carried their own hay, then grain and water too. More buckets. You must watch out when you jump into their territory for they were never “de-budded.” I’ll take the risk because the process of burning horns before they come up really doesn’t seem so humane to me after some minimal research. There was much debate here on the farm regarding the subject. A goat could hurt themselves or another because of horns. Baking soda and minerals are checked; kelp powder is given on Sundays. The goats know when to eat which mineral based on the season and their deficiencies.

The youngest “kid” goats that were just born over the last month are fed goat and cow milk. They scream for their food and try to nurse off every part of your body, other goat’s bodies, random objects laying around the barn. Rose has been jumping out over her fence multiple times during the feedings which is currently quite the challenge. Good thing she’s cute. The story of her brother, Nightrider, next time.

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Cindy likes to smell your breath by getting very close to your face. She craves attention even while another goat is in the middle of giving birth to twins.

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