Stumbling across the perfect surprise!!

Jason and I were walking the property yesterday looking for a backup water source other than the creek (which will be the main source for the gardenspace), when we spotted a fencepost. A really nice one - the kind that usually belongs to an expensive chain link fence. We got closer and walked as close as we could get (the overgrowth was INSANE) to the fence line. It seemed strange that we could not find a gate.....we were almost done walking the entire perimeter and still didn't see a gate when we saw the most scary part of the overgrowth - a tree had fallen and wild bushes and weeds had completely taken over to the point that the gate was barely visible. This is gonna be fun....
The next day we decided to devote the whole day to clearing the gate so that we could get inside and see what the possibilities were for this space. I show up ready for work in jean shorts, cowboy boots, and a pink bandanna around my neck - last time I worked all day out in the sun I came home with a red neck! I drive as far as I can down to the space and get out my loppers and hedge-clippers. I walk the rest of the way down to the field. Jason is laughing at my fashionable get-up while dressed very practical for the occassion in a long sleeve heavy shirt, jeans, and boots. I realise that shorts probably were not the best option for what we are doing today - BUT IT IS IN THE 70s!!! We chopped. We loppered. We hedge-clipped. I got thorned, scraped, and chased by bees. I whined. I ran in circles thinking bugs were on me. Jason made fun of me. We worked really hard and were making great progress. The gate was almost visible. We decided to chain the fallen tree to Jason's truck and pull it out now that we could get to it. Success! One side of the gate was totally accessible!! A little more work and we can get inside the fence. 
We continue to chop, hack, saw, whine, etc. and WE. ARE. INSIDE!!!! Mission accomplished! Now onto the rest of the day....
We are excited about being able to use this fenced in area and decide to plan on moving the chickens, goats, and Brutus (the Great Pyrenees watch dog) to this area. It will be a lot of work, but so worth it to have them on the same "about an acre" as the gardenspace. 
Now about the garden....
We have also decided in the span of ONE DAY to change the location of the garden.....the perfect spot lies between the new animal area and a creek. PERFECT. We walk around the area and decide where the garden will go, what we have to do to get the land ready, etc. since the other space we were gonna use was already cleared out last year, we will have to put more work into our garden preparation this year. It is going to be beautiful! The creek here is amazing. The land is perfect. There is a couple of wooden fence posts with barbed wire that run parallel with the back of the new goat field and the proposed garden that will be perfect for growing vines - pole beans, peas, and squash. I am really excited to break ground at this new location!!! The soil is ready! My co-worker Jeannie, has offered to come help this weekend with the cleaning out of the land. With a lot of hard work and patience, I am certain we will be planting our crops within the next couple of weeks!


"There's a bull behind you, Sandi!!"

Saturday morning I got an early morning text from Jason informing me that I needed to try to get to the farm by 8:30am so that we could pick up a few new goats by 9. Apparently, a couple has had these goats for years and have been needing to move them out of this field, but wanted to make sure that they would go to a good home and not get eaten. We can take them for sure. We drive over to the farm with a small livestock trailer in tow so that we can bring these goats to their new home. Once we pull in to the field and take a look around, we are amazed at how beautiful these does are - they are all does and range in age from four to six years and appear to be dairy goats. These girls are sensing that something isn't quite right and decide to evade all attempts to capture them and lure them into the trailer. We end up leaving the trailer in the field with sweet feed inside in hopes they will warm up to it and eventually get inside for their sweet treats. 
Now back to the farm to move a calf from one field to another - you see Taco has a sister and she managed to escape months ago into a neighboring farmer's pasture. It's time to come on home! But wait - we just left our trailer at the goat farm.....what to do......what to do......hmmm.....well, let's just get to the field and figure it out. We head out to the pasture with a lariat, some feed, and no idea how this is going to work really. 
I feel like I am constantly reminding Jason that I am strong - that I can handle some of the "tough man" stuff. I mean I may run from bees and whine like a baby when I have to walk in thick brush with briers, but I am pretty tough if I do say so myself.....So, I am outside the truck walking alongside Jason who is driving and there are 20 giant cows following us. You see, Jason has tied a feed bin filled with feed to the back of the truck and we are luring all the cows so that we can catch this one baby calf. As I am walking Jason gets this wide-eyed look on his face and says, "There's a bull behind you, Sandi!", and then he proceeds to speed up the truck a little so I am terrified, running as fast as I can AND sweating bullets, never looking back to see this blood-thirsty bull just waiting to devour me. Then Jason bursts out laughing and says "Just kidding!" and explains to me that bulls are not just waiting out in the field for their next blood meal - a human girl named Sandi. Whew!!! I am relieved and mad. I have no idea about any of this stuff, so of course I am gonna run for dear life if I think a bull is behind me....anywho, we get the baby calf where we want her, Jason throws the lariat, gets a hoof in it and I yell,"I'm strong!!! What should I do??!?" - this has been my line for some time now, just to make sure Jason and whoever else is around knows I can handle this...He tells me to grab it around the neck, he takes the rope from the hoof and I put it around its neck. We get it to the ground, tie its feet together so that we can safely lift it on to the truck bed and we drive it about a mile to the About An Acre farm where she will be reunited with her sister, Taco! 

As we are walking away from Taco and Belle we see our livestock trailer pulling in - seems two of the five goats are here and they are unloaded into Lucky's field. Lucky seems happy to have some company out there and the goats seem real satisfied with all the overgrown land. What a day! 


A new 'lil donkey, a new nubian goat, and the start of the greenhouse project...

Wow! What a day!! So much accomplished in such a short period of time. I was so excited to get started on this greenhouse. I arrived at the farm around 11:30am and we immediately left to pick up Lucky, a one year old Bethlehem jack (male donkey). I had never heard of a Bethlehem donkey, but it has a cross that stretches down its back and across its shoulders and the legend goes like this:

"Legend tells us the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday followed Him to Calvary. Appalled by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but could not leave. It is said that the shadow of the cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey. A cross marking found on many donkeys today remains a testimony of the love and devotion of a humble, little donkey."

We get back to the farm and poor little Lucky is already missing his mama so we decide it is best to leave him in the trailer for his own safety - we don't want him to try to escape and get hurt if he attempts to try to find his mama. I am already completely in love with this sweet thing, trying everything to make him feel better. I have turned into a baby-talking weirdo and then realize it is time to start on the greenhouse.....

The frame of this thing seemed like it would be a piece of cake - we actually drove past someone's place and this carport frame was sitting outside. Jason called a few days later to ask the owners how much they would take for this skeleton of a possible greenhouse....$250 later and we even talked the guy into disassembling it and delivering it to the farm. Pretty cool, huh? .... uh..... yeah. Well, the thing wasn't so easy to put back together. It had rusty screws and a few broken pieces. We did what we could then headed north about and hour away to pick up a few chickens. 

Well, there was a beautiful Nubian dairy goat that Jason decided he just HAD to have. Now, we had no intention of hauling back a goat and therefor didn't have a trailer or a goat pen to put this girl in. What does Jason do? Loads her in the truck with 6 PEOPLE. Yes. You read right - the FULL SIZED Nubian goat rode in the back seat of the truck all the way home.....a full 45 minutes away. That night Jason was able to put her in the field with the others and milk her and she fit in just fine. 

 As far as the rest of the animals, Eli is better than ever, Ellie is still just a little sweetheart, Taco is becoming more friendly, and Brutus is keeping an eye on his new family and keeping them safe from the foxes and anything else that comes close to the field.


It is the little things that can make a huge impact....

A few weeks ago, Jason and I were heading up to the Shiitake mushroom party and we stopped at the gas station. I ran in and got a bottle of Smartwater. He made a comment about how he tries never to buy water or anything else in those plastic bottles. I thought it was strange, but didn't ask why. 
About a week ago, as I was buying some more Smartwater, it sparked my curiosity about WHY he chooses not to buy plastic bottles of water. I called him and asked. He said, "Watch the documentary "Tapped", and tell me what you think - I don't buy bottled water anymore because of the toxins and the waste that ends of in our oceans." 
That night when I got home, I watched the documentary, and decided to never buy a bottle of water ever again unless I had no other option. 

Some key things I can't stop thinking about after watching it:

*The city where they manufacture those plastic bottles (Corpus Christi, Texas)  is killing the residents of the town - they have an 84% higher birth defect rate than any other city in the states.

*The FDA has only ONE PERSON responsible for regulating ALL of the bottled water in the U.S. - ONE PERSON!!! - And in addition, if the water is sold in the state that it is bottled, it doesn't even go through the FDA's regulations because it doesn't cross state lines. The EPA tests our tap water hundreds of times a month to ensure the safety.

*Dasani water comes from Lake Lanier. While the state of Georgia was undergoing a water ban in 2008 and suffering from one of the worst droughts, Dasani was pumping millions of gallons from the lake for profit.

*BPA is found in almost ALL of the larger water cooler bottles, so even if you are cutting down on the amount of plastic you are using by going with the larger bottles, you are subjecting yourself to the deadly chemical linked to a host of problems, including cancer, sexual dysfunction and heart disease.

 * The "plastic stew" twice the size of Texas in the Pacific between San Fransisco and Hawaii that has at least 46 times more plastic than plankton!  The poor sea life are consuming this plastic because it is in such small pieces it is often mistaken for food. Check out The Great Garbage Patch.

I am a firm believer that my own baby steps towards being more aware about these issues can and will make a difference. I would also like to think that if we all decided to stop buying bottled water, maybe those poor people in Corpus Christi would have a better life if we didn't demand such convenience as consumers. I can proudly say that in the last week, I have not bought one single plastic bottle OF ANYTHING - and I was sold on Smartwater for years being better for you than most water because it "contained potassium and electrolytes". No significant change can be made overnight, but over time if we strive to be more in-tune with what is happening around us and ask questions, the generations after us might have a better chance of living in a non-toxic environment.


Eeeek! Something to chew on.....

I have made an effort to stay away from MSG due to the many health problems associated with this "naturally occurring non-essential amino acid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate)".

I finished off a bag of "Kettle Brand" potato chips found in the local healthy organic food store. After doing some research on food additives, I pulled the empty bag out of the trash to look at the ingredients....I would have never guessed that this potato chip that claims it "tastes so great because they are made from all natural, real food ingredients", would contain MSG...it even states in bold letters on the bag:

0 grams of trans fat
Only all natural colors and flavors
Only natural oils
No preservatives
Non-GMO ingredients
Gluten free
Real food ingredients

It sounds like they would be healthy....but it doesn't state NO MSG. So I read the label and the ingredient "yeast extract" is one of the "hidden names for MSG  that contains the highest percentage of factory created free glutamate, with MSG containing 78%... " (http://www.msgmyth.com/hidename.htm )

The FDA considers labels such as "No MSG" or "No Added MSG" to be misleading if the food contains ingredients that are sources of free glutamate, yet they have set no limits on how much of it can be added to food. They claim it's safe to eat in any amount.

"Go into your kitchen, check the cupboards and the fridge. MSG is in everything! The Campbell's soups, the Hostess, Doritos, the Lays flavored potato chips, Top Ramen, Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper, Heinz canned gravy, Swanson frozen prepared meals, Kraft salad dressings, especially the 'healthy low fat' ones.
The items that didn't have MSG had something called Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, which is just another name for Monosodium Glutamate. It was shocking to see just how many of the foods we feed ourselves and children everyday are filled with this stuff. They hide MSG under many different names in order to fool those who catch on. But it doesn't stop there. When your family goes out to eat, start asking at the restaurants what menu items had MSG. Many employees, even the managers, may swear they didn't use MSG. But when you ask for the ingredient list, which they should grudgingly provide, sure enough MSG and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein will be everywhere."

 If you are one of the few who can still believe that MSG is good for us, see for yourself. Go to the National Library of Medicine, at www.pubmed.com. Type in the words "MSG Obese", and read a few of the 230 medical studies that appear.


The Taming of Taco the Cow

 video of Taco's taming (here)

So Saturday was going to be our day for putting up the fence for the garden....BUT the ground was too muddy to work due to all the rain the previous days. We decided to continue to work with Taco trying to tame her so we can use her as a dairy cow in the future. Again we lured her in with some sweet feed and the little calf wasn't as hesitant today as the days before. Today she even let me pet her in long strokes down her neck - and at one point she approached me when I had no food and licked my hand! There is continued hope with her!!
On another note, Eli is doing very well considering only four days ago he had diarrhea, dilated pupils, and hardly any strength. He has been eating well, his pupils are back to normal, and no longer has diarrhea. He also has a very healthy appetite. He is still not out of danger, but every day he survives and eats as well as he has been and continues to get stronger, I get more optimistic about his full recovery. The main issue at this point is he needs to put on a great deal of weight. 
Jason and I sat down at the end of the day and decided what we wanted to plant and talked about who we know that saved seeds - you see we also want to learn how to save our seeds after we harvest our veggies. Jason met Ali last year when she got a chicken tractor and some chickens from him. They stayed in touch and she continues to learn about how to live sustainably. Her goal is to one day not have to go to the grocery store for every little thing, but to be able to provide through growing her own and bartering whenever possible. She is also a big inspiration to us in the upcoming year. There HAS to be a way that a working class family can have the time to grow their own food and eat healthy.

The upcoming week still has Eli's health and Taco's taming as top priorities, but we will also try to put up the fence for the garden that should be approximately 25' x 30' and provide enough produce for several families if everything goes as planned (fingers crossed!). We will post pictures of our progress with the garden fence as well as with the animals. Stay tuned!!


Freezing Rain, Runaway Chickens, And Taco Tries To Escape!!

Today starts off great! As soon as I get to work, I get a video text from Jason and it shows Eli eating and seeming a little stronger on his feet!! Not only that, but Taco the dairy cow has never let us touch her EVER and she walks up to Jason hand feeding Eli, and takes a nibble of feed and lets Jason pet her!! I am so excited I wanna just leave work and work out at the farm all day. Wah! I get positive updates all day via texts and videos. Jason says that Eli is still in very poor condition, but he is hopeful. I can't wait to be done with work and kickboxing so that I can see this with my own eyes!
After kickboxing, I head out to the farm where Jason is talking to Caleb - a 17 year old family member that is becoming interested in what we are doing. This is great! Maybe Caleb can convince his peers that sustainable living is cool! I wish I would have been informed at an earlier age about this - oh well - it's never too late to learn, right? I feed Eli and then Ellie and Sugar. Then Taco comes over for a taste.....and.......BAM! she lets me pet her!!  This is amazing and the kind of positive reinforcement we needed at this point. Eli is definitely more peppy today but he has a long road to recovery. After an hour or so tending to the field animals, it starts to rain and snow on us. As we approach the gate, I realise....IT...IS...OPEN..Eeeek!! Taco is OUTSIDE of the fence eating the sweet feed. Let me remind you that Taco still shys away from us unless we have food. Caleb goes around to one side of her, I go to the other, and Jason is inside the fence. We manage to coax her in. Whew! We are all freezing our butts off and Jason decides he wants to use one of the chicken tractors to start fertilizing his mother's garden space. (If you don't know what a chicken tractor is, refer to the very first blog entry) Really?!?!? It's 34 degrees and sleeting and raining and my face is numb. When I speak it is through frozen numb lips, so everything is coming out all wrong. But if I REALLY want to start living this way, this is part of the job I guess. Time to toughen up a bit, Sandi! I can do this.
We pull the chicken tractor up to the first part we want fertilized. The plan is then to overfill the tractor with chickens so every hour it can be moved to fertilize the ground underneath, and by the end of the day you will have a sizable amount of fertilized garden space. Luckily by this point it is dark and the chickens will be easy to move since they have already roosted for the night. We ended up putting about 12 chickens in the tractor...then one escapes. I got this one! I take off in a quiet run so that I can sneak up on this chicken and catch her! I have her cornered - except she is backed up against the fence which has holes big enough for her to get though. I dive and she starts going through the fence. I got her! Mission accomplished. Time to go home and get warm. As I am leaving still worried about Eli and hope he has the strength to make it through such a cold night with hardly any meat on his bones. I take one last peek at him and he is cuddled up with Ellie and Brutus is on guard. This helps ease my mind a bit and I feel good about his slight progress.

Apparently People Don't Give Goats Baths.....

I woke up this morning, got ready for work and called Jason to check on Eli. He said he was very poor and that he would be surprised if he makes it. This saddens me because Eli is just the sweetest little thing. He is a one year old Saanen buck. Jason said that he was eating in the field but that he was just nothing but skin and bones. I asked about Ellie and he said that she was doing very well and that he was going out soon to spend some time with them. 
Being the super sappy girly girl that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to maybe give Eli a bath and pamper him a bit - you know, make him feel at home. I thought that being shown some extra love and attention, he might get a little more strength to survive. I texted Jason my idea and he made fun of me all day. When I texted him back that he needed to have a hose AND extension cord out there because I was also going to blow-dry him, the jokes kept coming.....he was gonna sell tickets....he asked should we bring him in and give him a warm bath....cook him a fine dinner, etc. 
When I got off work, I headed over there to do my good deed. I was really excited actually, but then I took one look at Eli and how frail he looked and decided that he didn't need to be put through that kind of stress. The poor boy was extremely weak. You could barely push him and his legs would almost buckle. It made me very sad and left me with a lot of questions. How did he get this way? Why was Ellie so much healthier? They both had a temperament that was consistent with being loved and they showed so much affection towards us, the boy at the farm where we got Eli, was doting on Eli the entire time we were there. I was baffled by the condition of Eli. We decided to go to the feed store and get him some high calorie sweet feed.
We get to the feed store and I am trying to get Eli a fancy feed bowl to tie to the fence. Jason laughs and tells me that is not necessary and informs me that it will never work. I continue to look around this foreign place for some zip ties. I am determined to get the bowl and zip-tie it to the fence. I AM WINNING THIS ONE. I can't seem to find any zip ties, but I do see a solar powered electrical fence. I think this would be a great way to keep the deer out of my garden. For a second I am distracted from the whole fancy feeding bowl, and I proceed to get some fence stakes and then decide if I am gonna be a REAL farmer, I need some overalls. If you have ever been to a feed store clothing section, you will know that the selection isn't exactly fashionable. They have no womens overalls, so I pick out a pair of dark, dark, dark, and super stiff overalls that I am sure will look hideous. 
Before we check out, Jason tells me WHY the feeding bowl wont work. He explains that we need to hand feed Eli so that the other goats don't eat his food - so that we can be sure he is eating. This makes perfect sense. I cave and put the bowl back. Jason, you win. We get back to the farm and I head home to Athens still worried about Eli. I am just hoping he pulls through another cold night.


Building up our dairy goat pack....

So this evening after a full day's work I headed over to the About An Acre farm to meet up with Jason so we could go pick up a few dairy goats in South Carolina. We were hoping to make it there while it was still daylight so we could get a good look at these goats, but we got a late start.....I arrive and Jason and his friend and business partner, Jeff, were looking troubled about the trailer that was already hitched on the truck - flat tire. Luckily there was a neighbor that had a trailer and another neighbor that had a goat carrier/ cage. We hitched up the trailer then picked up the goat carrier and the three of us started driving north. 

The ride was very entertaining to say the least. You see, we all have different political beliefs - but yet we all believe sustainable agriculture and sustainable living is the only way to ensure the generations after us will be able to survive. We all debated on the ride up there about different political agendas, we laughed together, and we agreed on many things. We all have a mutual respect for each other and I feel like one of the reasons we had so much fun was because we all are such polar opposites. These guys had me laughing the entire ride to SC. 

We arrive at the farm that is getting rid of their goats. They have a boy about 10 or 11 years old out in the field saying his goodbyes and hand feeding his buddies. Jason asks why the man why he is getting rid of his goats and he replies that he is getting some cattle. We all talk about sustainable living and the little things we all do to make a difference. They also have honey bees and make apple butter. He offers us some apple butter and I take it. We then back the truck and trailer up to the field and load up the goats. The boy is obviously saddened by what is happening and I assure him that his buddies will be well taken care of and he can check out our website periodically if he wants to see what they are up to. He takes a few more minutes to run into the house and get some bread for them and hand-feeds them through the cage while explaining to me that Eli (the buck) won't eat anything if it falls on the ground and that he likes to be hand fed. Ellie (the doe), on the other hand is cleaning up any crumb of food that has fallen on the cage floor. The boy says his goodbyes and we head back to GA.

Unfortunately the ride home was rainy and cold. We stopped at a gas station on the way home to check on the goats and just make sure everything is still secured back there. Under the lights of the gas station, you could tell Eli was very skinny. Ellie looked perfectly healthy and happy - but Eli I became very worried about. 

We finally made it back to the farm and wrapped the cage in a tarp to keep the wind off Eli & Ellie. They couldn't go into the field yet because of Brutus - the field guard dog. He would need to be introduced to them in a special way so he would know he is to protect them - that they were not intruders - and that Eli & Ellie were now a part of this farm.

I left feeling very worried for Eli. I just hope he makes it through the night.