Sunday, March 01, 2009

Work Day

We spent the afternoon and evening working at the farm. My main plan was to add some more bars to the goat feeder, since one of the goats has been getting her head caught. This would mean taking all of the bars out and drilling new holes for the new placements. However, the goats thought that a human messing around with their feeder meant that they were going to get a treat, and they were mobbing me so much that I just took the bars out and called it a day. There will be somewhat more waste now that they can really get their heads in there, but fresh pasture is only about a month away so I'm not too worried. Once they're transitioned back to eating forage, I'll reattach the bars on the feeder.

I also attached the mineral feeder to the side of the hay feeder, so now that has a permanent location. When they were in the forest I had been hanging it on a new tree in each paddock, but that was not very stable. Now I can just pull the feeder along with the goats wherever they go on the property.

We'll be closing out last year's compost pile at the end of the month, so Paul and I worked on preparing the next location. We add to a pile for a year, and then let it sit for a year, so this spring we can finally start using compost that we started two years ago. Anyhow, there was a lot of wood on the ground from an old haystack where I wanted to put the next compost pile, so we gathered that all up and made a bonfire. There was a cold wind, so that fire was nice. I also began picking up garbage and debris, and gathering things that had gotten lost under the grass and then the snow.

Finally, I started dismantling what was left of this year's haystack. Much of the hay that is left will be the base of the new compost pile, and the rest will go into the chicken pen. I'm leaving most of it alone for now, though, because the farm cats live under there and I don't want to take their shelter while it's still cold. I also need to come up with a new shelter for them so that they don't leave when I finish taking the hay away.


goingtothedogs said...

A question rather than a comment... I'm on a farm that I am gearing up for permaculture but the land has been neglected for some years. Consequently thistles have run riot over several acres. I was thinking about goats as thistle eaters, but I don't want them eating everything else as well or climbing the fences. I'd value your opinion.

Mel, Foxtail Farm said...

I can only speak of my experience with run-of-the-mill Boer goats (not show bred). As near as I can tell, mine never eat thistles. Last spring, I dug them up when they were small and that was far more effective than the goats. The goats are wonderful for eating down big weeds and brambles, though, and since the brambles are perennials they're much harder to dig out than thistles.

Boers are generally less inclined to challenge fences than other breeds, so I've read, so I've found that 47-inch woven wire fences have been fine. They will rub on fences, though, so if there isn't a strand or two of electric to keep them back, they will loosen it over time. I've had mixed results with electric netting. Most of them are contained by the four foot high netting, but I did have one that would jump it, one that would go under it, and one that was so wild that she would sometimes charge right through it, despite the electrification. Also, it is pretty useless if it loses power for whatever reason.

If you already have decent fencing, and you can pick up some goats cheaply, it won't hurt to see if they'll work for you. Your thistles may be more palatable than mine, or your goats more voracious. However, goats are mischievous enough that you may find it less frustrating to just dig the thistles out with a shovel, or rent a brush hog type machine for a few days. ;)

I wish you luck with your project; your farm is gorgeous even neglected.