Sometimes Rob and I joke that our farm seems like a petting zoo or 'funny farm' because of our odd menagerie of animals. We have 40 - 50 chickens of various heritage breeds and 20 Indian Runner ducks plus two Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, and one llama. Our intern, Ian, has a Saanen dairy goat and four Jacob sheep, which he keeps here as well. As you know, we also have 9 active bee hives. And finally, we have two dogs and two kittens. Oh, and don't let me forget that we are getting two Kune Kune pigs in the fall!
Combining the care for animals with the requirements of a market garden can make time management a difficult thing. The day-to-day care of animals such as refreshing water, providing feed or clean bedding, and milking doesn't take an extraordinary amount of time but does require dependability and regularity. Animals don't like it if you sleep in and they don't get fed or milked! Luckily, Rob and Ian complete the majority of the animal chores so I am able to focus on the market garden.
Animals, like any good sentient being, have minds of their own. And this is what can really throw a wrench in an otherwise finitely planned day! Sometimes they decide to jump fences, get sick or hurt, or just generally refuse to be cooperative (case in point: shearing llama and sheep). When these things happen, the other day's tasks have to be dropped and attention given to the animals.
But these animals with minds of their own also make a farm rich and diverse in excitement and resources. Not only do all of our animals have unique characters and personalities which add meaning to our lives, they also provide us with many useful resources. Eggs, milk, wool, manure, honey, and meat all play an important role in a economically viable farm. And I get immense satisfaction knowing that the majority of the food that we eat is comes from the 10 acres outside our backdoor.
Raising animals also brings you face-to-face with questions of ethics and morality, environmental responsibility, and needs versus wants. As many of you know, we are a vegetarian family. I have been vegetarian for almost 20 years, Rob for nearly 10, and our boys since they were born. This was a decision we made when we were living urban lifestyles and looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint and avoid supporting inhumane farming practices. But now that we can raise our own animals in a kind and sustainable manner, the division between vegetarian vs. meat eater becomes much less clear. I don't mention all this to start a debate on the 'rightness' of either point of view (I've worked hard to avoid those conversations for my 20 years as a vegetarian who likes to 'fly under the radar'!). But I mention this to explain that the richness that animals bring to our lives also brings with it an uncomfortable collision between these points of view. This uncomfortable collision is actually something I treasure: the chance to think deeply about the lifestyle choices we make.
On a lighter note, we will be bringing one of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, Thelma, to the share pickup on Wednesday! Bring the kids, and have an opportunity to feed her and learn more about raising animals! Rob will be on hand to meet those share members who have not yet had the opportunity to meet him, and to answer any questions regarding the animals, bees, and nut trees, since these are Rob's areas of experience.
We are also exploring the possibility of offering meat products for purchase to share members. Some of these could be available in small quantities this year (pasture raised chicken and ducks), with other options available next year depending on demand. We are considering the following options: chicken, duck, turkey, goat, and lamb. All would be pasture raised and supplemented with organic feed (if necessary). We would appreciate feedback on your interest in these options. Which types of meat would you consider purchasing? In what quantities? Any feedback helps us for future planning. Please provide feedback via email or in-person at the share pickup.
Weekly Share Contents:
Swiss Chard OR Beets
Green and Yellow Beans
*I am writing this on Sunday and am unsure whether enough tomatoes will ripen in time for this Wednesday's share. The cool weather seems to be delaying their ripening but at the very least I will have some cherry tomatoes to taste test, as I did last week.