Lost in a world of goats

  • 2014-08-06
  • By Mike Parr

PLAYTIME: Milking done, the goats set off in search of adventure.

ALUKSNE - A few weeks ago someone accused me of being wrapped up in my own little world
And, when I think about it, I have to deal with looking after the animals, growing my own vegetables, collecting water from the well, collecting firewood for cooking and heating, and this month cutting the pasture for feed and storing it for the coming winter.
Living this lifestyle isn’t as simple as being able to flick on a switch to make a coffee, or turning up the thermostat to make the room a little warmer. I have to prepare everything in advance, so when I need the firewood for heating this winter I know I can just go out to the woodpile and select an armful.

Wood for cooking needs a little more preparation; when I’m not using my rocket stove, that burns small twigs and suchlike (and is an amazing tool when it comes to cooking!), then I need to make sure that I have a good stock of wood next to my stove in the kitchen. This wood needs to be a little smaller than what I put into the heater, so whenever I have a spare half hour or so I chop wood, large chunks for the heater, smaller pieces for the cooker. Then, of course, there is the kindling, small dry strips of wood, twigs and bark (birch bark makes an excellent firelighter, even when wet). I try to keep at least a few weeks’ supply next to the stoves; of course, outside I am building up a good stockpile of fuel.

The animals don’t just look after themselves; well, actually that is a lie, they do look after themselves, but I need to keep an eye on them. I check them every evening when they come in to make sure they are fit and healthy, and I get a chance for an extra close examination when I am milking.
Recently I have had to permanently separate the herd. The lads are suddenly growing up and it’s painful to watch, as Big Momma tries to fight off three kids that are alternately trying to mount her or steal her milk. So, a goat shed has been built and the guys have new accommodation. Of course, being goats, for the first few days they complained, quite loudly as a matter of fact, only to pause when I brought them fresh cut pasture and replenished their water.

The girls, however, seem totally unconcerned about the fact that the guys have gone. They are off on their daily wanderings around the farm, eating whatever they fancy and lounging around in the shade. In fact, they seem quite relieved that the guys are out of the way.

I will need to keep them separated for quite a while, otherwise, it will be chaos all over again, so the rule is, when the girls are out, the guys stay in, and when the guys are out the girls stay in. Of course that does mean an extra workload for me; in effect, I am now running two herds, but it does reduce the possibility of unplanned pregnancies. And, of course, my milk yield is up.

This week I hope to finish the repairs on my wood-fueled stove. I wasn’t happy with the build quality and some of the bricks were starting to fall away. So, the last weekend I stripped off all the loose brickwork and mortar, cleaned up the bricks, collected clay from near the house and I have set about rebuilding it. I am thinking that in a day or two I should be ready to light my first fire and boil a kettle.

So, I’ve learned a new skill: stove building... I just need to expand that skill to being confident enough to rebuild the bread oven. Now that would be a project that I would be really happy to remove from my to-do list.
As I have said before, am I complaining? No, not at all, this is my chosen lifestyle and I have never been happier (or more relaxed… well okay, the goats do stress me out from time to time). I wouldn’t give up my new life to return to civilization. I get the chance to experience nature, to just sit and listen to the world around me and I have the benefit of knowing that what I see around me is what I have made possible. So, wrapped up in my own little world? Yes, I guess I am.

To learn more about Mike’s farm, and inquire about his goat cheeses, contact him at: www.lightningtreefarm.blogspot.com