Sustainability

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IMG_8929October 16, 2015

The broom weed is waste-high and their hands squeeze tight as I help the girls navigate through the tiny yellow flowers that breeze past their eyes. The mesquite leaves are beginning to cover the walkways, masking the cracks in the soil that I once thought only existed in faraway places.

We still pray for rain. The seedlings Abram and Daddy planted all died when we couldn’t spare the water. A check this morning of our elevated water tank concluded that 50 usable gallons remain before we will have to haul barrels from a neighbor. The ponds still have enough for a couple of weeks for the goats, chickens, and trees.

The garden gates are unwelcoming, for a change, as everything has been dead for some time. Even the okra is completely dried up and stripped of its foliage; the annual November sweet potato harvest will not be. It is this way every year, I tell myself, and remember the blackberries and mustard greens and black-eyed peas of early summer? There is talk of pursuing more animals… once another fence is built.

The chickens are starting to lay again as we creep into fall, though the near-100 degree days this past week remind me that summer likes to hold on here – or not, depending on the year.

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The goats are settling into their new homes and seem more comfortable grazing around their picket lines. I bookend my days in the kitchen with milk filtering and pail-washing. We are now hay people and I can’t say I mind that sweet smell when I walk past the towering stack of square bales. It smells like summer at my grandparents’ farm and the kind of life I always thought felt real.

I am trying to ease the children back into a regular school schedule and had forgotten how tempting the bikes and homemade kites and never-ending birdhouse building is for one who is seven or nine. Multiplication and reading and handwriting seem important to me but there is this wonderful place called outside, mom.

Truth be told, I’d pretty much always choose outside too.

IMG_8938 IMG_8941 IMG_8948 IMG_8952 IMG_8953 IMG_8955We’ve had those lovely cool mornings in which hot coffee seems just the thing but by breakfast the sun’s warmth has erased any memory of such thoughts. By afternoon we are into the 90s and sweating again and by nightfall little Ruthie gets jammies or a blanket.

Along with a slight change in seasons has come a big change on our homestead. For some time we have held off on bringing on any more animals. Adding to the family, garden work, and setting up systems of living – ways to do those things that need to be done every day for basic living – have consumed most of our efforts these past years.

But it seems we have recently turned a corner. We are grateful to be expecting another addition to the family come early next year but we’ve also felt ready to move past house construction and those daily systems of living and jump further into producing some of our own food.

When our neighbors generously offered to give us one of the goats they had been raising, along with her daughter Daisy, we tried to be ready. Free milk goats don’t just come along any day of the week, right? We started reading up on goat care. Our oldest started milking with our neighbor and she taught him how to milk so well that he now does most of it himself.

Stewart built a small shelter for Daisy and her Mama Abby and we gathered the feeding and grazing supplies we thought we needed. One night the boys came home from their usual milk pick up and declared that “Daisy is weaned! They are ready!” with eyes as big as saucers. I can’t remember the last time they were so excited.

So we loaded the whole family into the van and hitched up the trailer. When we got just down the dirt road and pulled up to the gate, we found out that indeed tonight did not have to be the night, despite our eager messengers’ insistence. But our understanding neighbors helped us load up our newest additions and off we went.

Three minutes later we were home and unloading Abby and Daisy and welcoming them to the homestead. Ever since that evening it has been morning and evening milkings, bringing home a trailer full of hay, and taking the girls out to feed the “doats” when the opportunity arises.

It’s not a huge step and there is much more work to be done, but it feels like a hurdle we had to cross in order to move forward with this little agrarian journey we are on. And we are ever so grateful for the helping hands we were given in the gift of these goats and the milking apprenticeship for our Elijah.

We’ve had chickens from early on but these goats have added such a fun – and sometimes crazy – element to this homestead.