Saturday September 27
In the month leading up to our departure from Santa Rosa, we agonized over weather or not we should take the goats with us. Would the 3040 mile journey be too stressful for them? So far we had only managed to breed and successfully milk Honey and it seemed like we might have some fertility issues, did it make sense to bring all of them? Relocating ourselves would be epic enough, did we need to make it more complicated with goats in tow? But, could we part with our beloved goats? Wouldn’t life on the lush Katywil hills be a great life for them? The small area dedicated to them under the Redwood trees on our Benjamins Road property seemed miniscule and limited in vegetation. One day we decided it was best for them and us to find them a good home and leave them in Santa Rosa, the next day we decided it was best to take them with us only to change out minds again and again….
We have now been here for 3 months, and we now know that it was absolutely the right decision to bring them with us. Honey, Clover, Cinnamon and little Buttercup are simply thriving out here on the Katywil hills and pasture. They have unlimited fresh brush and grasses to browse on, hills and rocks to climb on and prance around in, our Katywil neighbors visit them and bring snacks from their gardens and kitchens. Their daily smorgasbord of multiflora rose, sumac, blackberries, goldenrod, wild apples, grasses and wildflowers is supplemented with nutritious, high protein spent brewers grain from Justin and Katie, our neighbors who own and operate The Stoneman Brewery. The girls browse within 400ft^2 of flexible electric fence. It takes about 4-5 days for them to clean up the area, so every 5 days we move the fenced area to fresh pasture. Life is good, their coats are shining, there is a skip in their step as they prance around. They are positively gleeful, and they have become much more playful. Finally, while Honey and Buttercup have always loved to eat and were our chowhounds, Clover had never seemed to have much of an appetite and has never shown much interest in food- until now. Amazingly about a month ago, Clover found her appetite. Her enthusiasm for food now rivals that of Honey, Buttercup and Cinnamon. And she has gained a little weight.
We are learning about goat keeping in the winter climate out here in New England. While we are working on building a sturdy winter house (topic for another post), I have also been looking for a source of winter hay to stockpile. There will be no fresh pasture available in the winter months. If we can figure out how to store it all, it is most cost effective to buy all our hay for the winter months now when the price is low. I have found a source of organic hay from a goat farm on Wilson Hill Rd up the hill from the log home where we are moving to. Amazingly, the price is $4/bale (in California we were paying ~ $24/bale). If the goats are not milking or are not breed, out here they are fed the “first cutting” of grasses, the first cutting in the spring which can be a bit weedy. “Second cutting” is reserved for when they are breed or in milk, it is a higher quality hay and has a higher protein content. Feeding alfalfa is not common because there is a supply issue. It is difficult to grow locally, with all the rain it is challenging to dry. Still, it seems that they can get enough protein and nutrition from the hay and grasses without the alfalfa as the goats out here are thriving.
Our neighbors Haynes and Nancy are raising heritage turkeys. They are using a similar portable electric fence system to keep the turkeys grazing on fresh pasture and after spending the daytime hours free ranging the turkeys are locked up every night in a house built on a tractor. Last week we set up the browsing area for our goats opposite the turkey’s free range area. This was a hit with both the goats and the turkeys! The goats ended up spending most of the day camped out next to the fence that was closest to the turkeys. Likewise, the turkeys spent a lot of time huddled up staring at the goats opposite.
Haynes and Nancy’s turkeys get out on occasion, especially as they get older their wings are stronger and more developed, and they have more “attitude”. Typically only one or two at a time get assertive enough and fly out as they test their wings. Usually the escapee(s) does not get very far and wrestling them down and retrieving them is no big deal. This morning though one of the plastic support posts holding up the electric fence collapsed. I was walking by on my way back from the goats and saw almost all 22 turkeys pecking around all over Haynes and Nancy’s property. Then I saw the collapsed fence laying on the ground. I alerted Nancy and together we managed to round all of them up and restore the fence without loosing a single turkey. Tonight Paul and I were driving up the hill and in the distance we saw 2 turkeys on lot 13. Lot 13 is an unsold empty lot. The lot is next to ours (14) and like ours it is flat at the top and then sloped steeply. The two turkeys were sitting on the flat upper portion, staring at the rest of Haynes and Nancy’s turkeys. We jumped out of the truck, I ran towards them and Paul ran around the bottom of the lot to come at them from below. Unfortunately our good intentions spooked the turkeys, and with one giant swoop of their wings they took off from their perch on the top of lot 13 and flew over the lot towards the trees, they disappeared over Vincent brook. We were stunned and impressed by how easy it was for them to take off, up until now none of the turkeys had gotten farther than maybe 50ft! Hell bent on retrieving the turkeys and seeing $$$$ disappear over the tree top for Haynes and Nancy, Paul took off down towards Vincent Brook while I ran to alert Haynes and Nancy and then down to Vincent Brook to join Paul in the hunt. After some time it became clear that the turkey had won this one, they had flown beyond the brook and were up high in the tree tops. Out of breath and discouraged we huffed and puffed our way back to break the bad news to Haynes who was just now emerging from the house to join us in the hunt. As I broke the news to Haynes, Paul wondered if perhaps more than just 2 turkeys had taken off, so he stopped to do a head count of the remaining turkeys within the fence:22. “Haynes, how many turkeys do you have???” “22!”
Oppse. Those were wild turkeys! Duh.