Rise and SHINE!!!

Today was the first day I did all the morning duties by myself. Again, I thought Jason would be accompanying me,  but he couldn't. This however worked out well. I was able to carry my list from one chicken home to the next, letting all of them out and then gathering the eggs. The bunnies were let out and then it was time to take care of the goats. Now, milking a goat is pretty hard when you are new to the whole thing and even have help. I was nervous.

 I waited a minute and read my list making sure everything else had been done and just wanted to be sure the order in which to do the goats. OK. I got this. Go get the hay, feed them and get out the first goat to be milked. Got it. I was so nervous still and a bit slower at milking than the Hendersons, so before I was all the way finished, this girl was getting restless and antsy - time to let her go and feed the babies. The next one was a breeze and I was feeling good. Got my milking pail and went outside the gate to filter and pour into my mason jar. Everyone is done here for the day! Whew! Going home with a dozen fresh eggs and some fresh goat's milk! Once again I feel accomplished and very happy with myself.


Farm sitting? Did I really say YES?

After the blueberry and peach field trip, we divided up the goods and made wines, jams, and cobblers. I actually forced myself to try some of the fresh blueberries and think I can see myself enjoying them (I never have been much of a fruit eater). 

The following week I contacted Springlake farms to see if I could come back out and get another lesson on tending to goats and bunnies and chickens. The Hendersons said they would be glad to have me come back out and I went out a few times and did the rounds with them. They were thinking of taking a few days to go look at some other farms north of Georgia to possibly relocate. I volunteered to help out with the farm while they were gone. WHAT?!?!?!? Eeeeek! WHY did I just do that? Oh well, I tend to surprise myself when I just dive right into things head first, and I was almost certain Jason would be able to help me. I ask Ms. Henderson if she could compile a list of all the duties and it was only A FEW PAGES LONG. A little overwhelming at first but I went out and did a few trial runs while she watched and corrected me. I can handle this - ESPECIALLY if Jason comes along.

I was actually looking forward to this type of responsibility....until something came up and Jason couldn't accompany me. OMG! You see, the Hendersons have free range chickens that have to be put up every night so the raccoons, foxes, and opossums don't get to them. The bunnies also have to be put in their little house - they only have two, but those little things are fast and I think they just want you to chase them, honestly...

OK. Today is the big day. Time to prove to myself I do have it in me to do this and I don't want to let down the Hendersons. I am even surprised they trusted me with this - but hey, they believed in me!! Most of the chickens were ready to go in to their coops when the sun started setting. However there were a few stubborn chickens that made me catch them.....running after chickens and catching them is pretty hard and SCARY! Then on to the goats. I was losing daylight pretty quickly and I still needed to get the bunnies in their little house. It took a little longer than I thought to do the evening duties - BUT I DID IT!! ALL BY MYSELF! I was so proud! I never thought I would find myself in this position EVER. Sweaty, smelly, and dirty, I left feeling accomplished. I couldn't WAIT to call Jason and Ms. Henderson to let them know MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!


Time For More Blueberries....

So we have been invited back out to get some more peaches and blueberries from Emma and Harry. This time I dressed for the occasion - jeans, my cowboy boots, and a hat to shield the sun. I was ready. Even made bets with Jason about who could pick more berries. I messed up since the last visit and shared with him my technique. DANG! This time the peaches were slim pickins. And Jason told me a story of how there had been bear sightings in the area to throw me off my game a bit - it worked. I was totally paranoid. We ended up getting a good amount of blueberries and a decent amount of peaches. This time I was gonna attempt my first peach cobbler with my stash. We headed back to Jason's to collect tomatoes and okra and gather eggs - Jason even gave me some sausage from one of his pigs. Nice to go home with all this naturally grown food! Think I am gonna enjoy cooking up breakfast in the morning with this stuff! Can't wait for the next experience!!


Blueberries and Peaches...Oh My!

Jason had networked enough and set up our next field trip: A bartering deal where Jason traded a pig and in return he was able to have access to blueberry bushes and a peach orchard. The couple (Emma & Harry) that owned this farm were living a very sustainable life. They made their own soaps, detergents, and even liquor. I had never been picking blueberries before and chose a poor wardrobe of flip flops, shorts, and a tanktop. I was very successful though in my first attempt at blueberry picking and if this were a contest, I would have won. Seems this was a hidden talent I had no idea was in me! After gloating and bragging about how I was such a pro at this, it was now time to head to the overgrown area where the peach orchard was. 

We walked toward the orchard and I knew this was gonna be very interesting. The grass was waist high and there were anthills everywhere - not to mention the rotton peaches that had fallen and were covered in ants as well as bees......Just to remind you, I am wearing FLIP FLOPS. This is where I pretty much wussed out. I am tippy toe-ing and running from bees and whining about briars. At least I was the top blueberry picker. 

I managed to pick a few good peaches, but figured I would allow the others to redeem themselves for the lack of blueberries as I watched for the most part from afar while getting some cardio in running from bees. 

We left with blueberries, peaches, a recipe for homemade soap, and a newfound friendship. I was already looking forward to the next visit to this place as we were driving away.


Springlake Farms

The next time we spoke, Jason talked about how he had met a lady who had milking goats. They had a place called Springlake Farms. He was interested in checking them out and asked if I wanted to come along. It sounded strange to me to want to have the milk of goats, but I really wanted to see some cute, furry, goats so I went. This place was AWESOME. They had goats, chickens running around everywhere (REAL free range!!), bunnies, and dogs. It was early in the day and time to milk the goats when we arrived. The farm owners(the Hendersons), offered me the chance to assist with the milking if I wanted.....hmmm.....milking goats.....so I did. It wasn't so bad at all, I was just scared I was going to hurt the goat. Squeezing goat teets is a very strange feeling. Jason had a turn as well and before you knew it we had milk! Ms. Henderson strained and filtered the milk and poured it into a glass mason jar and offered us a sip. I was hesitant to try, but didn't want to be a wimp so I did. Surprisingly it tasted pretty much like store-bought cows milk, although I had heard from many people that raw goat's milk was superior for good health. Jason took home the mason jar of milk.

A few days later we decided to talk about our next "field trip". I go to his house and he has this delicious looking chocolate cake on his table. Of course I ask if I can have a piece....and who can eat chocolate cake without a glass of cold milk? NOT ME. I ask for some milk and Jason proceeds to get the chilled mason jar of goat's milk from his fridge, poured me a little glass and it....was....AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS chilled and complimented my cake wonderfully.


The Possiblilty Of Being Able To Live Sustainably.....

In May, Jason, an old school friend, was in the local newspaper for figuring out a way for anyone who wanted to have the luxury of fresh farm eggs to be able to do so with custom built chicken tractors (a mobile coop that protects the chickens, gives them room to live and lay eggs, and allows them to eat bugs and fertilize the grass under the tractor). I wanted to know more. A few months later at a cookout, I was able to talk to Jason about his reasons behind this venture. We touched on organic foods, grass fed beef, bartering and trading, and growth hormones among other things. 
I have never in my life sown a seed of any kind and this got me thinking.....how awesome would it be to be able to grow your own food? To network with other farmers and growers and go back to the days of bartering? I could never see myself raising and nurturing a pig, chicken, or cow so that I could later eat it. I do however enjoy those things and would love to trade with someone who treated their animals with respect since they in turn would be nourishing our bodies. I was almost certain that the stresses mass farmed animals face every minute of every day affects the way they taste. It would alter their body chemistry the same way stress alters ours. How would a cow taste if it was able to live a nice stress free life in a pasture with grass and other animals and human interaction? 

So back to my conversation with Jason. He grew up on a working farm. I was interested in learning about what that meant. I wanted to visit his land, see his animals, and maybe even take home some fresh eggs. A few weeks later, I did. I also took home some fresh eggs even though I was hesitant about eating them. Why? Well, because they weren't approved by the USDA. I mean, I might get sick, or get worms, or salmonella poisoning! I decided to take that leap. I cracked open one of the eggs and it was the most beautiful shade of orange I have ever seen come from an egg. I cooked it up, fed it to my dog (what? really? you think I am gonna be a guinea pig this early on??), she ate it, and never wanted another store bought egg ever again..... ha! After she didn't DIE or get SICK, I did eat one myself and agreed with Baby...NO MORE STORE BOUGHT EGGS EVER AGAIN (;