Winter welcome

We went to bed Thursday night scoffing: there would be no snow. There was the prediction of "flurries," maybe.

Friday morning, our weather forecasters issued an apology less than an hour before the snow started: they had made a mistake.

In the end, we had around a foot of beautiful, perfect, wet, white snow.

Welcome to Silver Creek! Welcome to winter.

December

The end of the year approaches and things are changing here. In the gardens, our makeshift tunnel holds ranuculas and the promise of spring flowers. The garlic has sprouted (silly garlic! there are predictions for snow next weekend!) but the daffodils and tulips seem to have a more leisurely pace to them. Small plantings of snapdragons, lupin, larkspur and Queen Anne's Lace are also up ("Up, up, up," Harrison chants to the garden every morning although sometimes this means things are sprouting and sometimes it means he is planning to pull them up!).

The goats are enjoying more freedom as the Guardians of the Universe step into their roles as great protectors. Thanks to Sam and Max, we've been able to allow the goats into a new pasture with plenty of weeds to munch. This makes goats and puppies happy.

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In the mornings, things here are fog. I've never seen fog like this. We had fog in Maine, but in the dips and valleys. Here the fog encompasses the whole landscape like a blanket. It does not burn off before late morning. Then the landscape is still shrugging off autumn. Winter has not arrived - yet. The trees hold their golden beauty and remind us to look at the light as it filters down. Sometimes I catch my breath at the sights.

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And yet the season is changing. Here, the moon comes up so full and bright that the light makes the evening look like the day. Harrison is sometimes baffled when I ask him to show me the moon and says, instead, "Sun." It is a new world, a new vision of the world for us and a new beginning of the world for him. Winter is coming.

Thanksgiving

How does a strange land become your home? I don't know. It is a mysterious and incomprehensible process. Yet, bit by bit, the streets of a strange city take on memories of their own and you stop wandering along them like a detached shadow - you become a traveler like all of the others. 

I borrowed the words from an essay written by Masha Gessen of the New York Times. The words came from her mother, a Russian immigrant to the United States during the Soviet era. I would never want to suggest a relationship between our move here to Silver Creek and that of any immigrant except to say that leaving one's home not of one's choosing is a hard thing to do.

This Thanksgiving, for the first time in a dozen years, since I returned to Georgia from Maine, I will not walk my own garden and select produce for our dinner. We have little in our gardens now, mostly things for spring and nothing ready to harvest. Arriving as I did, in early October, did not leave much time to start things growing.

And so, instead, I find myself relying on what other farmers have grown and spending my "free" time playing with my son and wandering this new, still strange, land.

Is this home?

Home is where the heart is?

Then perhaps. Or, if this is not yet home, it is a home in the making, however far from our homeland.

 

Acorns

If things have seemed quiet lately, they have not been. We are "dealing" with 60 baby goats in a new location designed for cattle. The fences here are well-made, sturdy and just right for baby goat jumping, going under, slipping between and evading. The goats are almost always somewhere they are not supposed to be.

This is most true in two instances: the bottle babies and any event involving acorns.

Goats love acorns and the crops we used to grow in the south were nothing compared to the bumper crop of oaks and acorns available here. The goats wander from grove of trees to grove of trees and gorge themselves on the crunchy little nuts. Being goats, however, they are always looking for something they cannot have. The acorns in the yard around the house are, apparently, the most tender, sweet and delicious acorns on the entire 400 acres.  Add to this enticement the fact that there are roses nearby and you offer the goats something they cannot resist. Acorn snack followed by a few rose leaves? Delicious!

We've been fighting this problem for weeks, struggling to keep the little dears out of the yard. Finally, we decided to outsmart them. We placed ourselves around the yard in teams and opened the gate. In two afternoons, the goats have eaten all of the acorns and the roses have been protected.

Work smarter, not harder!

 

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Beginning Again

As the days draw shorter here, my to-do list grows longer. I've been "home" now long enough that I am beginning to know my way around (a little), at least enough to find my socks and toothbrush in the dark. This is a big property (400 acres) and I've only explored a fraction of it. Still, in the currently available garden space (tiny but I've got to start somewhere) I've begun planting. The first few rows have been those to satisfy the demands of the family: arugula and radish, kale and carrots and scallions. But long-term (from here until spring which is about as long-term as I can see right now) I'm thinking flowers. Into the ground in the next few weeks, daffodils are going! Lots of them. In shapes and colors we did not dare grow in Zone 9 down on the coast.

Flowers for overwintering too. Larkspur and Bells of Ireland and Bachelor Buttons.

This move has been hard. We've been sad, scared, exhausted and confused, often all at the same time. I'm ready for pretty, happy, sweet-smelling, lovely things.

Sure, for now it's planning and dreaming, but spring will come and I intend to be ready!

 

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Kidding

It happens every year and this year it is happening twice: we kid. All kidding aside (farmer joke, sorry!), when we knew we were moving to Silver Creek, we made the decision to expand our goat herd and to kid twice a year. This spring we purchased Ahab,. the great, white Savannan goat who has become the new leader of our herd.

Our plan was to send Ahab and our 12 young nannies to Silver Creek ahead of the rest of the herd. We figured we could easily kid 12 goats, even on a new place with 1000 other things happening.

Who were we kidding? (Ok, ok, I'll stop.)

Things with goats, as with all of farming, never go according to plan. With Ahab and his brides to be waiting on the coast, we discovered something we had been told (and naively believed)  that we did not have here in the "north:" a coyote problem. Oh we don't have one coyote, not one lone outlier as we used to have on the coast, we have packs. Some nights we listen to at least two separate packs on opposite hills, each trying to out-dual with other with yips, woofs, and howls.

With coyote in place, we could not send our new (and expensive) billy goat and our prized young nannies north until we had a secure fence and a guardian plan. We made the guardian plan rather quickly. Sam and Max came to the farm as eight-week old puppies, Anatolians born and bred to guard goats. But they were puppies, 30lbs of cuddly love and a long way from the 120 pound guardians of the galaxy we needed. So we made one of those "the only thing to be done" decisions: we opened the gate and turned Ahab out with the ladies.

In a perfect world, we would have only allowed Ahab access to the original 12, but folks...sigh. With things being the way they are, Ahab had access to all 60 nannies. We hoped for the best. Over half of the nannies were still nursing younger kids so we reasoned that they would most likely not become pregnant.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Not a farmer joke.

We started kidding a week ago Monday. We kidded and kidded and kidded some more. As of this message, we have 49 goat kids all born within five days of each other. It has been a whirlwind. Thankfully, at 80 pounds, Sam and Max are stepping up. Thankfully, with a summer to work on fencing, we've managed to secure an area for our goat kids that, at least so far, is safe.

Next time up: the rest of the kidding story.

For now:

Cocoa Nibs and her new one...

Cocoa Nibs and her new one...

Beatrice's first kids...

Beatrice's first kids...

New Farm Photos

For those of you playing along from home, here are a few photos of the new place...

The goats in their evening paddock...

The goats in their evening paddock...

One of the new barns...

One of the new barns...

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The creek...

The creek...

The new house...

The new house...

Geese

I'd forgotten, or had the memory blocked from my mind in order to preserve my sanity, about the last time I caught geese. Long time (LONG TIME) readers may recall the episode but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of eight years ago, long enough to remove the scars from my mind and body. Not so anymore.

If you need a few background details, I'll simply offer that a neighbor had had enough of the geese dirtying his lake area and molesting his garden, and offered to give them to us. Some chef friends convinced me that we could do great things with goose eggs and goose meat. I was easy to sway in those days, far more naive than I am now.

So off we went to catch the geese. I think there were eight geese and five of us. The neighbor's land was a rough, uneven, untamed place and I seem to recall spending the better part of two days figuring out how to trap and move the beasts.

If you've never handled a goose, I will offer this: they are mean. They hiss, they bite, they poop with a degree of filth that could be a bio-hazardous weapon, and worst of all, they fight with their wings which are powerful weapons for pain. In short, there is no good reason to ever, ever mess with one. None. And not in the years that followed did anything we ever cooked from goose eggs convince me that the pain I endured was worth it.

But, as I said, time dulls the memory of pain.

Time and the necessity of our current situation.

So what began as eight geese has dwindled to three over the years. Two geese actually managed to fly away during their first week at our farm. Several more became fox bait. But the three remained. Initially we planned to keep them with the chickens (how else were we to harvest their eggs and eventually their meat?) but they decided against that plan and moved themselves across the farm to our 15 acre lake. That was all well and good. Every evening during cocktail hour we swam our dogs in the lake and then fed the geese a small offering of shelled corn. They were happy and we were...complacent with situation.

Then came the sale of our farm, the need to move north to a new farm, and the knowledge that the home we had shared with the geese would soon undergo radical changes that would leave us and them unable to remain.

I am a softie. I admit it. I could not leave the geese. No way, no how.

So how does one catch three half-wild geese that live on a 15 acre lake?

I asked my husband if the alligator trapper from his job would be willing to come and dart them for me. He was not amused. I plotted. I thought. I planned. Then I did what farmers do: I domesticated the geese. Again.

The geese, like all of our animals to varying degrees, are suckers for food. They had grown accustomed to their nightly ration of corn and they were not about to give it up.

We built a makeshift coral. Every night for three weeks we fed the geese in and only in the coral. The first night they went hungry. The second night and every night after, they ate. Finally, one night which held no better shot than any other, I shut myself inside the coral with the geese and grabbed them.

I still have bruises. I still have scratches. The back of my truck still smells like goose poop. But I caught them. I caught them, I put them in a carrier, and I sent them on a truck headed north.

Grandma, who is presiding over all things Silver Creek, assures me that the geese have moved safely and happily into their new home.

And yes, they still come for corn every night.

 

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