Archive for December, 2014

December 21, 2014

While We Wait

by Cynthia

Christmas on Walnut Ridge

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The halls are decked with greenery and bows, and even the mallard on the mantle is feeling festive. The stockings are hung from the chimney with care

 

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and I’ve got a wild boar roast (provided by my son-in-law) brining in the refrigerator for our big family dinner on Christmas Eve.

Inside the farmhouse, everything is warm and close, the white lights on the Christmas tree spangling the room in a glow of peaceful contentment.

Outside, all is cold and drab.

The tree limbs are naked spires, lifeless without their skirts of leaves to sway and shimmer. The high grass brittles in the wind and dead things are everywhere. The animals wear thick winter coats; the cats loll on the porch like tiny old women in expensive furs. Gray-ness prevails outside the door, making it too easy for me to hibernate by the fire and neglect the farm chores.

There is something lonely about winter. It is easy to forget that hibernation is a time of fervent, but invisible activity.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.”

–  Andrew Wyeth

The whole story here on the farm is that things are happening. Big things. Transitions. While we wait for Christmas, and the new year, and the green grass of Spring.

Winter involves waiting. Waiting requires patience.

We’re waiting here on Walnut Ridge. Waiting for Christmas, waiting for the interminable long nights to get a wee bit shorter, giving the sun a chance to hang around in the frigid sky until we get back to the farm from our jobs in town.

We’re waiting for the kids who will be born in February to our does.

      (We’re talking goats, not reindeer, and baby goats, not children).

These fat mamas-to-be were happily gobbling up sweet feed this morning.

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Our goats are Kikkos, a breed of goat that originated in New Zealand.  Kikko is a Maori word that means, basically, flesh to eat. Eating the flesh of another creature involves making an ethical judgement if one is a thoughtful person. Some of my friends just don’t do it. I understand. I do it, but not without ambivalence.

Caring for animals that you know are going to become food for humans feels like a pretty heavy thing.

Some people say that humans should stop eating other animals, but I’m content for now with eating and farming animals who are easy on the environment, and raising and slaughtering them in the most humane and sensitive way possible.

Goat meat is the protein of the future.

It’s certainly the most consumed red meat in the world, (almost 70% of the meat eaten globally) and it’s popularity in the United States is growing exponentially.

Here are a few reasons why you should be eating chevon (meat from adult goats) or cabrito (meat from young goat)

1. It is both kosher and halal.

2. It has 1/3 fewer calories than beef and 1/4 fewer calories than chicken and much less fat.

3. Goats are easy on the environment, unlike cattle. Goats are browsers; they eat weeds and shrubs and don’t require supplemental feeding.

4. Goats can thrive in different environments, especially our Kikkos. Kikkos can adapt to dry arid climates as well as to colder, moister areas.

You can search online for a local source of USDA approved chevon or cabrito. Or check out the website http://www.eatwild.com for a list of pasture fed animals in your area.

                                                                           Princess Grows Up

I wrote last year about our little doe, Princess. Like so many of us, she kept making the same mistake over and over. She just couldn’t resist the grass (it’s always greener) on the other side of the fence so she spent a good deal of time with her head stuck, helpless until my husband or I noticed her absence from the rest of the herd. She was so unable to remember the inevitable that we had to wrangle her out almost every day. (If she were a person, we would say she was ADDICTED).
She started losing weight because she spent more time with her head in the fence than she did grazing. The other goats began shunning her as she got weaker and more sickly.  As a last resort, we removed part of her horns to keep her from getting stuck. She looked pitiful, but it worked! She started restoring some weight, and the other goats let her back into the herd. (Herd animals often instinctively drive out a sick member as a way to protect the herd from disease)

 

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Here is princess with her nubby horns and her fat, pregnant belly. All grown up and one of our nicest does.

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The sheep are also thriving on the good grass that still remains from a summer that blessed us with plenty of rain. The lambs  born this March are grown, and may become mothers themselves next Spring. Here they are their birth day.

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And here they are today. Mom is in front, and her two babies are behind her. They should have gone to market in the Fall, but we decided to hold on to them and see if they produce lambs next Spring.

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Even though the world looks bleak outside, deep,mysterious things are happening. Babies are growing into mothers. Tiny roots are pushing further into deep soil. Trees are drinking in the nectar of decomposing leaves and life is nourishing itself in the womb of winter. Things are happening. While we wait.

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