Tuesday, February 28, 2012

your winter goats?

When I hold a workshop here, it always starts with food, coffee, chatting and when everyone has been fed and decaffeinated, a circle in the living room to introduce ourselves. This past weekend women from Maryland, Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts had arrived and all of them seemed drawn to homespun the way I was. One woman named Susan from up near Burlington talked about how she wanted to get sheep, how a neighbor had Shetlands lambs she could practically have and she was telling me this at a Wool Workshop she had traveled nearly three hours to attend, and yet she was hesitating. Sheep were a big step.

To me this gal was a shepherd through and through. (We know our own.) Yet she doubted the preparations she had made in her heart? To me it looked like everything was lining up for her, but she was hesitating....and I knew exactly how she felt. Sheep ARE a big step. Heck, for me, chickens were a HUGE step. I'm not sharing her story to egg her into the woolly life, but to explain I was in her shoes not too long ago. I understand that hesitation. And I can best explain it in a memory.

When I lived in Idaho I rented a farmhouse on endless land near the Selkirk mountains. the back fields were used for haying (rented to another farmer), but the farmyard and front barn area I used for gardens, chickens, rabbits and such. Now, as much as I loved my tomatoes and corn in the front yard and waking up to a rooster's crow...what I wanted was a dairy goat. I mean, I really wanted a goat. I used to imagine going outside for walks in the snow with a leather lead and a goat walking alongside me, a bell around her neck. I used to dream of the hoof life, this near-Amish kind of simplicity and peace to caring for livestock that would feed me. It was all romance, all based on images from books and movies, but so what? I wanted that goat and I flirted with the idea, but it was never really possible to me. I might look at ads on Craigslist and visit goat farms but no part of me felt I was really ready and I trusted that. At the time a goat seemed such a big step, bigger than any chicken or garden had ever been. And my gut was right. I only lived in Idaho 13 months. That goat would have been re homed in short order, not moved to Vermont with me when I lost my job.

Big steps feel big for a reason. Maybe Susan is ready for sheep and maybe she isn't. I write about all my crazy goings-on here and it probably seems erratic to some, but I don't do a lot of things I want to do as well. I don't take the free dairy bulls offered for meat because I know I'm not ready for a 1000+ pound (non equine)mouth to feed. I know I won't buy a Meadowbrook cart off the internet because I haven't the funds, even if the perfect cart horse is appearing right under my nose. I don't go to conferences, or vacations, or ditch the office on a sunny day, or do many of my gut desires. And maybe something in Susan is saying "not yet" to her as well. A good reason to hold back on the fence and lambs.

But as I write this I can't help but ask? Have any of you felt that gut reaction to not do something with your farm? Have you felt it was the right or wrong choice? And did you feel the same way about a certainty something was right? Any regrets?

Tell me about your winter goats?

41 Comments:

Blogger Tara said...

I actually feel that way about sheep. We have the space, we already keep other ruminants, they make good sense "on paper". Deep down though, I just know they're not for me. I'm just not a sheep person. I didn't spend any time at all debating goats, though. I knew without question that dairy goats were right for us.

February 28, 2012 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Goats are our winter goats, too. The milking schedule is a big deal. We are drawn to them, but we will wait and see. Chickens first.

February 28, 2012 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Cows... Cows are my "winter goat". I've done dairy goats for so many years that a cow just seems -- huge.

February 28, 2012 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

Cattle here too. As much as I would like to pick up one of the many, many dairy calves that are offered, we just don't have the resources yet. I'm hoping that we can go back to Georgia, get a good size chunk of land, and get breeding stock of Pineywoods cattle. And I'd take riding lessons so I could get a Florida Cracker horse to manage the cattle with. But that's a huge, huge step for us. It may come in time. And I'd regret it with every fiber of my being if it never happened. But for right now, we're just not ready.

February 28, 2012 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger PattyW said...

I see myself with sheep not goats - I don't want anything else yelling ma - I have my Ryan to do that. Baaa seems right though. Soon enough- I have to break in my sweetheart to chickens- he still doesn't realize he lives on a farm!

February 28, 2012 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Goats, I wish for goats on worst way. But since my husband is a rare plant collector, my biggest hold back is what if they got out? How much of our landscape could they destroy in how little time? For those of you who do have goats, can you shed any light on this? Is my gut right? Or are there other options out there that I'm not seeing?

February 28, 2012 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Imagine you will fly... said...

I have Eastfreesian milk sheep. They always felt right to me, even while we didn't have so much space as we have now, since we bought the farm. I love the smell of their wool while milking, the fresh milk, the yoghurt and cheese making. I have only three females, they are my pets and my frie.nds. ... I was contemplating Nubian goats, but they don't feel right ... they need a warmer climate, would be too cold for them in Canada. Our sheep love winter!

February 28, 2012 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

i've got dairy goats - like 'em just fine but i really really want a cow. a beautiful jersey gal with all that lovely cream. but i dont have the right pasture and i feel very certain about that. but i'm working on it so not too many regrets. until these silly goats are just the ticket.

Jamie - i couldnt find a way to contact you. leave me a comment on my blog and i'll let you know why i burst out loud laughing about your husband's rare plants. the short answer is that yes you can have goats but you'll need mad, mad fencing and a sense of humor.
:-)

February 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

My big regret rests in the fact I didn't follow my heart to pursue farming all those years ago.

Of course, I wouldn't have met my husband, had a wonderful life with him, and fabulous career, but in my heart of hearts I always said I was a "throwback."

I'm starting this urban farm slowly. While I'd love to have my chickens here, I'm getting that "sideways" feeling that the timing might not be right as my plate is pretty full. If that changes, I'll know it.

February 28, 2012 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I had a few sheep 5 years ago. Then sold them. I regretted it awhile then realized it was just not the right time just then. Then a friend called last May with a bottle ram she thought I might want. I took him. I was going to castrate him and maybe put him in the freezer. Then 3 ewes kind of fell in my lap. So I didn't castrate him. Then 2 more ewes came. I love my sheep. Lambs soon to come!! I also have milk goats. I have had them for several years. Could NOT live without them.

I can tell you what I COULD live without now. Turkeys, guineas, ducks. And a cow.

What I know I will NEVER have: llahmas, alpacas, or donkeys. They scare me to death. I don't even like other people's. I love the wool though. But they are not for me.

So I get what she's saying about not being ready. I have been thinking about a small horse that can plow a garden and take me to town on a buggy when gas gets so high I won't be able to afford it.

February 28, 2012 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Honeybees. I'm really tempted, and I've read a few books about beekeeping. I already have goats (including two pregnant does), sheep, llamas and chickens. I'm getting ducks this spring, although I kind of wonder if I should have held off a year. But I want the ducks to keep the ruminants safer from meningeal worm, and to keep slugs away from my kale. I don't really need bees - everyone around here sells honey, and I don't need gallons of it. So, the bees will have to wait.

February 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I love sheep and can't wait to have them again. And pigs. And chickens. And at least one horse. And maybe a few cows. But we don't have enough acreage to do everything we'd like to. Sigh. We're still building our house and moving in the direction of animals for our little farm and now, suddenly, we've been made aware of a fabulous property with all the acreage we could ever want that could, possibly, be affordable for us. But it would mean starting all over again. It's very scary but, somehow, feels right. Everyone we know would think we're nuts. We're going to go look at the property...

February 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jamie, I just wanted to tell you that a goat can wreck a yard in about 5 minutes flat. Then look at you like what did I do? Then get sick and nearly die from something they should not have just eaten. So yeah, I have always heard if you can pour water through it a goat will get through it. That is SO true! And sheep will stand there and watch them go.

February 28, 2012 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Windhaven Farm said...

I think I'm beginning to see something here... you are either goat or sheep, like mac or pc or Ford or Chevy! I took in a pair of goats for a friend and within a week, they were tearing up the place and just wild things! I was so torn... I just was not ready for them. They let my sheep out and I lost 3 of them. Never found them. Probably taken in by someone and that was all she wrote. The goats torn up my yard, escaped all the time, put holes in the siding of our house and were just ornery. I was never so happy the day they got new jobs with a goat person who adores them!

I am a sheep person! I love my little flock of 7 Shetlands. I am considering an angora goat, but am afraid... I really want a small Jersy cow. Love to make butter and cheese, but I'm a little afraid of the daily commitment and all that... haha... those are my hesitations in small holding dreams!

Oh yeah, and bees this year, even though I'm terrified to get stung! haha... but I really want some... on the fence for sure!

February 28, 2012 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

We had hesitation about buying our farm! It all seemed so big and not a baby-step, like we were originally planning for. But every other (less intimidating, but also less-farmlike) place we looked at just felt wrong - we could excuse some of that wrongness, or try to make it fit with our dream - but deep down I knew I wouldn't be happy in those other places. Somehow (a miracle? A sign? It sure felt that way!) we were approved for a loan and ended up here. I was scared and ecstatic at the same time, and that's pretty much how I knew we made the right choice ;) And our place came with the goats - totally sealed the deal for me!
-Jaime

February 28, 2012 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

I agree with the commenter who posted about bees. We live in the city, and my backyard barnyard consists of 3 chickens, 2 angora rabbits and too many cats and dogs. But the dogs actually live in the house with me!

I really want bees, but I'm worried about the extra work and time required. My English Angora's take a ton of time with grooming. Not sure I'm ready for another project!

Great topic!

February 28, 2012 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

I agree with the commenter who posted about bees. We live in the city, and my backyard barnyard consists of 3 chickens, 2 angora rabbits and too many cats and dogs. But the dogs actually live in the house with me!

I really want bees, but I'm worried about the extra work and time required. My English Angora's take a ton of time with grooming. Not sure I'm ready for another project!

Great topic!

February 28, 2012 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger jojo said...

I live in AK and renting at the time. My landlord lets me keep chickens but that is about it. I want a farm so bad I can taste it but some how things haven' t worked out that way. I am originally frm N.Y.C so would live to go back to N.Y (up state) and maybe finnally get my farm.

February 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I am a sheep person down to my soul. I have no fear about raising other animals, just not enough space. A steer would be great, or a milk cow. We're getting a feeder pig later this spring - yahoo! But, I'd still like a small flock, not big like I had before (45 ewes), just 10 or so ewes for food and fiber.

I'd really like to get bees, but they are not allowed in my area even though we are zoned for animals (except horses).

That's my winter goat.

February 29, 2012 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Last year we looked at the perfect log cabin on 5 acres, complete with barns, fenced in pastures, wood heat, walk out basement(a necessity in tornado country), even an in ground pool for the kids. We were even approved for the USDA loan of $150,000.00, but we just couldn't take the plunge. Even through the USDA we would have been at the extremely high end of our housing budget, and with gas prices going up, the longer commute for my husband just didn't seem realistic.

Turning down that house nearly broke my heart. But due to the recession, my husband has had yet another cut in pay, so I know we would have never been able to hold on to such a place, with our ever decreasing income. We made the right decision, but it wasn't easy.

On the other side of the spectrum, the house we're in now, was purchased on the same gut reaction. While not a perfect farm, it is the best of both worlds. To the back and right are woods and a country lane, and to the front and left is the subdivision we live in. The odd location gives us just enough room to keep chickens within the city limits, while still being close enough to my husband's job that he could ride a bike to work if he needed to.

I have no regrets for either decision, but I'm hoping the Universe sees fit to give us what we need to get a real farm someday.

February 29, 2012 at 1:03 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Another person wishing for bees... but not yet. I'm taking some classes this year and will revisit the idea next Spring. I'm setting up my big garden for the first time this year, and with the chickens and rabbit, I just feel like I might get overwhelmed by adding several thousand more tiny livestock. ; )

I do have a use for gallons of honey, though. I really want to start brewing mead. I don't drink beer and feel kind of left out of the whole home brewing adventure. Perhaps one day I'll have enough apples o make cider as well.

I just think I've taken on enough for this season and want this to be a positive year, not one where I feel like I'm always behind and not being fair to all of my critters.

February 29, 2012 at 1:09 AM  
Blogger PurrfectPetSitting said...

The universe has a way of making things happen JUST as they were supposed to.

Two years in a row now I've tried to get honeybees to no avail. Last year I bought the hive and all the accessories and there was a bee shortage due to all the rain. This year Betterbee sold out within TWO MINUTES of the website going live. I guess honeybees just aren't in my cards right now.

I've always wanted chickens too, but always got the 'stink eye' whenever I mentioned it to hubby. Guess who is getting chickens this year? Yup, ME! I worried about the funds to re-purpose a portion of our ancient barn into a chicken coop. Guess what? The funds appeared. Everything is just falling into place.

When the time is right, her sheep will come! Who knows, maybe the bees will come next year. Third time's a charm, right?

February 29, 2012 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

I have had that feeling many times and I have learned to follow it even though people tell me to do otherwise. When it's the right time, I'll know it. I tend to be cautious about major decisions so that gives me time to analyze the situation. Only you know what's right for you.

February 29, 2012 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

Chickens. My winter goat happens to be chickens. I recently moved back into my parents' house (every 36 year old's dream) and with 6.5 acres, I think we need chickens. We have 2 horses for pleasure, now I want birds for eggs. My problem is convincing my dad. Mom is already on board (she keeps talking about all the baby chicks at the feed store) but dad's only comment so far has been somewhere between a grunt and a groan. One day, there will be chickens.

February 29, 2012 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

This post seems perfectly timely for this conversation:
http://whitefeatherfarm.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/holy-waiting-daring-to-dream/

February 29, 2012 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Lara said...

Love cows and miss them a lot and would really like to give some sheep a try someday and have a few mules or a pair of those Strawberry Punch work horses like at Merck Forest among other things. What I won’t have—peacocks. I was once offered a magnificent one and his girlfriends for free but had to turn them down for fear of their ulterior motives. One of my Grandpas neighbors had lots when I was growing up and they were crazy doing their cawing 24-7 that could be heard almost 5 miles away and they perched in the live oaks by the dozen and looked down with their beady eyes like some jumbo version of the fowl on The Birds ready to pounce…this guy also had fighting cocks so maybe that’s why they looked so intimidating to me, picturing fighting peacocks half my size slashing—would love to have chickens however…and turkeys and geese. When the time is right to dive in I will for sure.

February 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

@Windhaven, I think that's right - you're either a goat person or a sheep person! I think THEY know which one you are, too. :)

We'll also most likely never have cattle, but that's more of a logical decision than a "gut" decision. I like them fine and our place is perfectly suited to them, but our family is too small to support even one dairy cow and we're literally surrounded by more good beef than we can shake a stick at. No need for us to grow our own.

February 29, 2012 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger karental said...

I don't want sheep or goats or cows (although a small highland one would be OK as a pet, maybe)but my winter goats are mules. Working mules. Strong, beautiful, willful draft mules. I live in the 'burbs. No room for large animals anyway, and I'm pushing it with my absolutely forbidden chickens and my "YOU HAVE WHAT???" bees. But someday I will have some room and the mules and I will turn a plot of land into home.

February 29, 2012 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Donna Lovesthe Farm said...

I have never felt like that with animals, just vehicles! When we bought our Jersey cow, it didn't even feel odd to me until i walked her off the trailer and into the barn. Then it kind of hit me that she was not a horse! I have had horses all of my life, so getting other animals has never seemed like a big step, just different. It also helps that we have a huge barn and land that can accommodate everyone.

February 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger KirstenJL said...

Chickens. It took me 11 years from the time I knew I wanted them (when I was in college)to when I COULD have them, and then another 14 years to actually get them. Now that I've committed, there have been plusses and minuses. I love the girls and the eggs, but the rooster can be a pain. I have developed a scary mouth-tingling allergy to mold in the soil which turns up on the birds when they dust-bathe. So I can't handle them as much as I would like. I don't have anyone to take care of them at home when I'm gone, so I'll have to take them to a friend's farm when we go on a (rare) vacation this year. It's a new way of life and I think it came at the right time in mine.

February 29, 2012 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger quiltaholic said...

I agree with Windhaven Farm - and my family is full of 'cow people'. My husband grew up on a dairy farm, my son is currently working on a dairy farm, and our own dairy farm is what we're all working towards.

Chickens are not even a question - we must have them. We will always have chickens, even if the cows never happen.

Bees though, I would love them, but they still scare me a bit :)

February 29, 2012 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Catcoco said...

My winter goats are horses. I have wanted horses ever since I can remember. One of my uncles had one and I am sure that is why he was one of my favorite relatives. I would sleep next to his beautiful black stallion's stall. I have never been afraid of horses, no matter how tall or wide they are. No matter how fast they are going. I enjoy their company, their smell, their warmth... but I always feel that it's not time yet to own my own. To me, they are a "luxury" animal and we are not there yet. At 14, my daughter is getting pretty good at English riding - she has been taking lessons and working as a poney tour guide for the last 4 summers. A pair of horses is definitely in our future... But when, I have no idea. I just hope we are able to make the perfect circumstances happen sooner than later. As for the sheep vs goats person debate, I guess I am the exception : I adore my goats but I cannot wait until we move to more land so that we can add a flock of sheep to our farm... (I was never able to determine if I was a cat or dog person, either).

February 29, 2012 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Catcoco said...

My winter goats are horses. I have wanted horses ever since I can remember. One of my uncles had one and I am sure that is why he was one of my favorite relatives. I would sleep next to his beautiful black stallion's stall. I have never been afraid of horses, no matter how tall or wide they are. No matter how fast they are going. I enjoy their company, their smell, their warmth... but I always feel that it's not time yet to own my own. To me, they are a "luxury" animal and we are not there yet. At 14, my daughter is getting pretty good at English riding - she has been taking lessons and working as a poney tour guide for the last 4 summers. A pair of horses is definitely in our future... But when, I have no idea. I just hope we are able to make the perfect circumstances happen sooner than later. As for the sheep vs goats person debate, I guess I am the exception : I adore my goats but I cannot wait until we move to more land so that we can add a flock of sheep to our farm... (I was never able to determine if I was a cat or dog person, either).

February 29, 2012 at 12:26 PM  
OpenID Sonja - A Tree by The River said...

For the last three years, I've said, "I think next year is the year for goats.". Still no goats and not this year either. So hard and disappointing, but each gut check delay has proven to be wise. Our time will come and we will know it's right. Til then, the dream and learning continue.

I think each of us has to evaluate ourselves in an intimate and deep way. Being gut-wrenchingly honest with ourselves. Are we being fearful in holding back or is there wisdom in the holding off.

February 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Cappy said...

OK, OhioFarmGirl! You need to tell us the story!

My dog and I first attempted herding on dairy goats. Boy, are they different from herding sheep! But he was really a cow dog. Hung in all the right places for cows, not so much for sheep...

My winter goats are beef cattle. I knew a person that always had three, and the oldest would be slaughtered each year. That sounds totally manageable to me!

February 29, 2012 at 1:21 PM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I'm reading The Education of an Urban Farmer right now and loving it. I thought of it because the author keeps finding herself in exactly this spot of wondering what to add next to the farming experience.

I'm considering bees. I saw Jenna's hive during a workshop, heard about the ones at Firecracker Farm, and then heard an interview on NPR and with each a little voice in my head is getting louder. I need to do some research.

February 29, 2012 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

Bees. Not gonna happen. Understand the benefits and were it just me, I would have some, but my son is TERRIFIED of them and I would never get him back outside if they were knowingly and purposefully on the property.

February 29, 2012 at 7:02 PM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I just realized I left out the main title of the book I mentioned. It's Farm City by Novella Carpenter. Apparently the rest of the title made more of an impression on me.

February 29, 2012 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger hayes8705 said...

Haha--it took me a second to realize I was the Susan in this post! (I though, "No way--that sounds just like me! Wait a minute...")

I have literally been reflecting nonstop on our sheep discussion since last Saturday and we are totally on the fence (no pun intended). I spent most of Sunday afternoon hand drawing my ideal sheep barn/chicken coop (yes, we want more chickens), based in part on your sheep structure. We also walked our land and marked out (in our heads) where the barnyard and pasture would be. It's feels so real I expect to look out our bedroom window and see it all...the three-sided barn, the woven wire fencing, the three little Shetland lambs. And yet, and yet...

I'll let you know what we decide! If we don't make the leap this year, we will definitely next. We are getting bees this year so that's exciting!

Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post and again for a lovely time last Saturday,

Susan

February 29, 2012 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Coco said...

A donkey. Sigh.

In my fantasy I have a beautiful, sloe-eyed donkey and a little cart to take my flowers, herbs and soaps to Sunday market.

March 1, 2012 at 8:39 AM  
OpenID Angie said...

We very, very nearly bought a house in Illinois. We really wanted to move back to Kentucky to be near family and friends but with the economy being what it is, we decided that a job in the hand is worth two in the bush. We settled on a house but hesitated because it still just didn't feel right. The house was bought out from under us. We were heartbroken and demoralized at the time but now three months later we've moved to Kentucky and will be looking for a homestead in a couple of months.

March 2, 2012 at 4:05 PM  

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