My latest lambs, the Ile de France, Dorset, have managed to join the flock. Not my choice. The ram with them broke out of the south pasture. They figured out within a day how to escape as well. With any luck I may be able to recapture them. However, I have about six very handsome ram lambs left to sell. And have just raised their price. The French-English ewe lambs shall have to live in the carriage house in the eventuality that they are bred. I’d like them to freshen in there. The best to come for them.
It is August. And winter intrudes now in my thoughts. Sitting in front of the fire encourages that of course. I am a paper and pencil farmer and scribble seemingly endlessly numbers. One goat milking, four pounds grain a day. One hundred and twenty pounds a month. Each. Five bags a month for two goats. Approximately seventy-five dollars a month. Does this come out of the monthly food budget or the farm income should there happen to be any? Ever. It may come from the sale of their kids. I was told by an agriculture business professional that the value of the milk should be deducted from the cost to produce it. Retail value of goats’ milk even in WalMart would far exceed their grain and hay costs when they are in milk. Of course retail for cheese would make the expense sheet look even more appealing. However, I’d never buy either of those products. Therefore, the math will never work out. Except on paper. So be it.
One of the principle attractions is that milking does give form to the day. This summer I succumbed to a rather formless life. And found it very much to my liking. Far more “got done” in the long run then when I’ve forced myself to follow my own instructions and attempted to organize my tasks in an orderly, sensible, practical manner. Inroads were made in areas as I encountered them and in the final analysis I found closets gradually sorted, pens randomly shoveled, manure placed around the leaks in buckets full after a week or two found themselves in a crucified state that would never had been had they worked on under orders. My orders. Suddenly rooms, closets, buildings, are now found to be in order. Nicely. For that matter.
Guilt lifted its relentless ever encroaching head yesterday and moved on only to wait, in the background of course, for a new opportunity to take hold of my conscience, self esteem and integrity. But it did leave me. In an unexpected moment. I had found, upstairs in the barn, a newborn chick, racing madly about, looking for its mother. I caught it. Brought it into the house. Tried to convince it to drink milk, or water, or milk soaked bread. I failed. It died. A day or two later I saw one of the few grey hens outside under the Pound Sweet apple tree surrounded by five black or dark grey chicks. Do I capture them? Put her in a cage outside and let her mother the chicks. The little ones could slip out from time to time to learn how to forage. The hen would, of course, call them in when they seemed to go too far from her watch. At night she’d bring them in and tuck them under her wing. I have saved chicks on a number of occasions, in the past. But the chicks must be chicks this way on their first day out of the nest where they were born or they will be too knowledgeable of the many nooks and crannies in which to hide. If any are left behind and not rejoined with their mother they surely will die.
I watched them for awhile and decided to let nature take her merciless course and left. Every day I looked for the hen and her chicks. A grey hen would turn up from time to time. Without chicks. So be it. Although it seemed to be rather fast to lose all five. How that hen maneuvered so many from grain of the upper level of the barn to the north barnyard, so very far away was beyond my comprehension. That is not an unusual thing for me. All of my animals have taken turns in confounding me. In part, that is what keeps me going. But a chicken possesses a much smaller brain. brain then the other livestock who live here. Certainly far smaller than mine. Yesterday I saw a grey hen scratching madly under the apple tree. Surrounded. Yes. Surrounded by her five chicks. And guilt fluttered away on little grey wings.
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