Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unexpected side effects of coyote attacks

If I lived out here 100 years, I think I'd still be learning. After losing two sheep to coyotes more than two weeks ago, we put all 17 sheep and all 40-something goats into one interior pasture where we thought they'd be safe. When we made the decision to do this, I thought the biggest problem would be that the grass would get eaten down quickly. While the sheep and goats were safe from coyotes, the grass was covered quickly with parasite eggs and larvae. I couldn't see the parasites or the larvae, but I could see the affect. The goats started losing weight.

The grass was eaten down quickly, and that made the parasite problem worse, because the larvae were concentrated on the lower couple inches of the grass. The lack of grass and the higher parasite load also meant that the goats were ravenous every night when we brought them inside to be milked. They'd gobble up all the hay we gave them to eat while their herd mates were being milked.

As soon as the llamas arrived, we moved the sheep back to their usual pastures with the llamas. The original plan was to leave the four llamas with them for a week, then move two llamas with the goats to the pastures across the creek. The grass over there is a couple feet tall, and it's free of parasites, since goats haven't been there since last year. While it does provide a lot of food, the nutrient level goes down when it gets that tall, so we've been losing on several fronts here. After Teddy was attacked, I was afraid to move the goats since I didn't want to split up the llamas. Would only two of the llamas have been able to chase off the coyotes?

Today we finally decided to take a chance. We moved 23 goats across the creek to taller, cleaner, greener pastures. We are hoping the electric fence will keep the coyotes from indulging at the goat buffet. We know it has deterred them in the past over there.

Another side effect of the coyote attacks is that we are now the owners of four llamas. After finding Princess's remains, I was desperate for a solution and started searching the Web for donkeys and llamas, both of which are supposed to be good guard animals. I have not had great luck with guard dogs, not to mention how much they eat. We have a 115-pound Anatolian shepherd, and he eats about two pounds of raw meat every day in the summer and four to five pounds of raw meat per day in the winter. (Raw food is a post for another day, but suffice to say he did not do well on premium dog food.) I really can't afford to feed two or three dogs that much, but several people have said that a single dog can't handle a pack of coyotes on his own. Since donkeys and llamas eat mostly grass, that makes them more economical, as well.

And finally, we have become neurotic about locking up all poultry mamas and their babies. The turkey hen and her eight poults are doing splendidly in the movable pen, and the adoption of the little black chick has been completely successful. Yesterday, we noticed a mama hen with seven chicks. As we discussed how we could catch them and put them in there before they become coyote supper, the mama hen took her babies into an open dog crate in the barn last night. Hallelujah! I quietly closed the door, and this morning, we took the dog crate out to the movable pen and put Mama Hen and her chicks in there with Mama Turkey and her babies. They seem to be getting along just fine.

I don't recall if I've ever blogged about my absolute dislike for movable pens, also known as "chicken tractors," but I really hate them. Today, however, as we were walking back towards the barn to finish chores, I said to my husband that we have finally found a perfect use for the chicken tractors.

This is my 201st post. Seems like I should have commemorated the 200th post somehow, but I was too distraught over Teddy to notice that I'd made 199 prior posts. So, does this make me a real blogger?

Monday, July 28, 2008

A sheep survives

Sunday morning, Jonathan called us to the sheep pasture when he went out to do his chores. Teddy, my brown spotted ram, was missing a large piece of skin from his right side. It was the work of coyotes. We brought him into the barn, and I washed the wound with peroxide. A four-inch by six-inch piece of skin was gone, and there was a long vertical slice in the meat of his leg. Seeing such a huge piece of exposed muscle and fat, I immediately remembered what happened to Princess last summer with the maggots. I grabbed the can of Catron to spray it so the flies would stay away, but then Margaret convinced me not to use it since it says you can spray it on "superficial wounds."

Doing what I've done for the past five years, I posted messages on two of my Yahoo groups -- the Shetland sheep group and my homesteading group. People on both groups had lots of good advice for how to handle the situation, and I was encouraged about Teddy's odds for survival. One woman said she had a ewe whose neck was completely skinned by coyotes, and she survived. So, combining the advice of nearly a dozen people, I washed Teddy's wound with iodine and sprayed it with the Catron after we had a debate of how one defines "superficial wound." My husband argued that since blood was not squirting out, it should be okay. It was only meat and fat that were exposed. Wanting badly to spray the Catron on the wound, so I would not have to spend hours picking out maggots in the next few days, I quickly agreed with his definition. I also gave Teddy a shot of tetanus antitoxin and penicillin.

I suppose the llamas are doing their job. Unfortunately, they did not know about the coyotes until they had attacked Teddy. However, if they had not been there, no doubt we would have found nothing more than bones and Teddy's gorgeous spiral horns scattered across the pasture. Seeing what happened to Teddy makes me feel even sicker about how Princess died. I am learning more about how coyotes attack and kill their prey, even though I never wanted to learn those lessons.

After decades of being inspired by Walden, I've concluded that Thoreau learned little during his time in the woods compared to what I've learned. He talks about wanting to experience the ugliness of life, but I don't think one truly understands ugliness until you've experienced personal loss. Losing animals to parasites, hypothermia, or disease is ugly emotionally, but losing animals to coyotes is visually ugly, as well. And as painful as it was to find the bones of my beloved Princess, it is even worse to be faced with an injured sheep several times a day as I nurse him back to health. I only had to see Princess's remains once, but I have to see Teddy constantly -- and be reminded constantly of how ugly life can be.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In the midst of death -- life

I hadn't realized how little I'd smiled lately until yesterday when I saw a turkey hen walking across the grass with eight newly hatched poults. I screeched and squealed and must have been incomprehensible in my excitement, because Katherine came running outside with wet hair and a towel wrapped around herself. She thought there had been another coyote attack. "No!" I squealed. "Babies! Look! The turkey hen has eight babies!" My daughters looked at me as if they were thinking, "Okay, Mom's losing it. They're just turkey poults." Then in my best Shakespearean actress voice, I raised my arm and proclaimed, "In the midst of all this death, there is life!"

But Katherine's comments did bring me back to the reality of life on the farm. Margaret, Mike, and I went to get one of the portable chicken pens for her and her babies. They would be able to live on fresh grass and get plenty of air and sunshine, but the coyotes would not be able to get them. At first we tried to encourage the mama turkey into the pen, but she wanted nothing to do with it. Then we decided to catch the babies, hoping she would go inside if she saw her babies in there. It worked. I had to grab the camera to get a picture of her. Sorry, you can't see the babies yet. She refused to stand up while I was there. She was being very protective.

That black spot at the end of her tail is a chick. He was hatched by a duck several days ago. The lovely duck is sitting on a nest filled with nothing but chicken eggs. We were worried that she'd lead this little chicken into the pond, and he'd drown, but she is smart enough to know that he is not speaking her language. She completely ignored him, continuing to sit on the seven other eggs. We decided to put him in the pen with the turkey to see if she'd accept him. She did. Hopefully he'll bond with his adoptive siblings and won't have much of an inferiority complex when all of them get to be much bigger.

I didn't realize how much I was smiling until my cheeks started hurting. It was the happiest work I'd done in at least a week.

The four llamas were delivered yesterday. They are lovely, and as far as we can tell, everyone survived last night. I am looking forward to getting back to the business of routine care for the animals and the garden. In one week, we lost two sheep, three ducks, and three chickens. We would have lost a turkey hen if Porter hadn't alerted us to the attack. I was starting to get into my melancholy Thoreau mood ... well, you wanted to suck all the marrow out of life, even if it was ugly. One thing is certain -- when I get to the end of my life, I won't be lamenting that I had never lived.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A survivor and two more victims

Thursday night was blissfully quiet, but on Friday night our English shepherd, Porter, started viciously barking close to midnight. The kids let him out of the house, and Katherine followed. She saw something rather small fighting with a turkey in front of the barn. It dropped the turkey and ran west down the road. Porter -- remember he is a herding dog, not a guardian -- first ran to the turkey and pounced on it. Katherine convinced the dog to leave the poor traumatized turkey alone and chase the attacker down the road, but it outran them and went under the bridge beyond the west end of our property, which was when they gave up.

We're thinking it had to be a young coyote. It was too small to be an adult, and an adult would have taken the turkey with it. We've seen a coyote run off with an adult turkey or goose between its jaws. The attacker could not have been a raccoon because it ran much too fast for a coon. And it makes total sense that it was a coyote since it ran under the bridge down the road. That's the same end of our property where all the other coyote attacks have taken place. We're thinking that a pack of them is living by the creek down there. Luckily, the turkey survived, although it did lose a few feathers in the fight.

Last night was worse. Margaret went out at 10:30 to take the livestock guardian dog for a walk around the property. She heard chickens squawking in the barn pasture -- the interior pasture where we put the sheep after the sheep attacks -- the place we thought was the safest place on the farm. An intruder would have to go through two fences to get in there. Margaret took the lead off the dog and let him run. Two dead chickens lay in front of the buck pen, beheaded and half eaten. Obviously, there was more than one intruder, but they escaped before Margaret could see them or the dog could catch them. The dog has no trouble catching coons, however, so it appears coyotes are the most likely culprit. This morning, Jonathan found another mostly-eaten chicken.

I'm not at all happy that a pack of coyotes has decided that my farm is their buffet. Hmm ... what shall we have tonight? Lamb? Chicken? Turkey? The only thing they haven't had is goat. This didn't make sense to me at first, but then I realized that it takes a pack to get something as big as a sheep, but a single coyote, even a juvenile can get poultry. The sheep were in a pasture that had electric fence around it, and on one of those days, I know the electric had shorted out because the lower part of the pasture was flooded. That would make it quite easy for a pack to enter the pasture and take down a sheep. Since the goats are all behind woven wire or livestock panels, I guess it's just not as easy for several coyotes to jump the fences. Since the chicken attack in the walnut grove, we added a single wire of electric above the woven wire out there. But when you consider that there were probably three coyotes in the pasture last night, it's surprising that they went for chickens, rather than another sheep -- unless they were juveniles.

As I'm writing, my family is talking about this situation, and we just realized that we have not seen the three half-Muscovy ducks that live in the pasture. Best guess is that the last time they were seen was a week ago. A blog read emailed and asked me why we don't keep the chickens inside at night. We do have a chicken house, but there are always a few chickens that decide that they don't want to live there. They are the free spirits of the chicken world -- the fowl that want to take full advantage of being free range. That's the case with the chickens in the pasture. I can hardly even claim them as ours. They live on what Mother Nature provides them, and they lay their eggs in tall grasses, where they eventually set and hopefully raise a clutch of chicks.

Our guineas and some of our turkeys also roost in trees, although a coyote certainly couldn't snatch them from a branch 20 feet up a hickory tree. So, when a bird decides it wants to live wild, there isn't much we humans can do about it. On a homesteading list a few days ago, one woman was chronicling her ongoing struggle to get her guineas inside at night. I told her to give up. Besides, guineas are more wild than domesticated. A friend of mine told me that during an ice storm one year, her guineas clung to the tree limbs with icicles hanging off their feathers.

As for the half-Muscovy ducks, they spent their first summer between the creek, the pond, and the pasture. Their mother, being a Muscovy, really didn't care for the pond and creek much. She spent almost all of her time in the pasture; she still does. We've tried moving her out to the chicken house, which sits on the edge of the pond, but she wants nothing to do with it. So, her ducklings eventually decided to stay in the pasture with her.

It's frustrating that the pasture and all the fences seem to be worthless now, at least when it comes to keeping out intruders. In the past, it was the chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese that were at risk because they were not confined by fences. Lately, they seem to be the lucky ones.

The llamas should be arriving today. I have such high hopes that they'll get this problem under control.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another coyote attack

This morning, shortly before dawn, Katherine was awakened in the pasture by the dissonant sound of chickens squawking, metal clanging, and hooves hitting the ground. She sat straight up. The bucks were already at the gate where she was sleeping. A coyote had grabbed a chicken that was sleeping on top of their shelter, which is only a couple feet high at the back. Several chickens roost there at night.

There are at least two especially disturbing things about this. First, the coyote attacked a chicken less than 20 feet from a human being. Second, it jumped woven wire. They've never done either of those things before. Margaret thinks their population is out of control, so they're desperate for food. I don't know why this is happening. I just want it to stop.

I have reached an agreement with a woman about getting four llamas. She can deliver them on Sunday. We have four days and nights before they arrive. Coyotes can do a lot of damage in that time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The battles continue

If my life were a book right now, I'd stop reading. As the plot unfolds, I hate it more every minute. It's too dark. Every time I think about Princess, my throat tightens, and my eyes start to fill with tears. I start thinking, "You should have ..." But then I remind myself that I've walked the perimeter of the pasture, and I still don't see how the coyotes could have gotten in there -- twice!

Last night, my daughter spent the night in the pasture, and my husband was out there for part of the night. They heard coyotes trying to get through the electric fence and yipping when they got shocked. Later, my daughter thought she heard an animal step on a twig and break it. Then she heard the sound again. And again. She realized it was a coyote eating bones. And later she heard the horrible screams of a cat near the creek. Last year, we never heard anything when we spent the night in the pasture, so this is especially worrisome.

Right now, life out here feels like one battle after another. This morning when I went outside I realized that the Japanese beetles have attacked the peach trees again. This is the worst ever. This morning and this afternoon, I've gone out there with my bucket of soapy water to drown as many as I can knock into the bucket. It's surprisingly easy to knock them off balance from their perch on the peach leaves. I drowned a couple hundred this evening alone.

In the garden, I'm fighting an invisible enemy that's eating the eggplant, and there are these tiny little green balls attaching themselves to the brussel sprout plants. The leaves are being skeletonized, so I'm assuming it is the fault of the little green things. Something is chewing on my jalapeno plants and turning the leaves brown, but the rest of the pepper plants are fine. I've never had anything eat any type of pepper plant before, so I am at a loss for what to do. This evening I sprinkled diatomaceous earth on everything that was being eaten, hoping it will help.

But the battle in the garden seems trivial when compared to the battle with the coyotes. I've decided the guard dog is completely worthless at this point, and I have locked him up in the barn so at least I don't have to worry about him getting out and attacking my herding dog. Last night, I had finally decided to put the horse halter around his body and tie him to a tree in the pasture. Katherine said that as soon as the sun came up, he started fighting the cable and whining. A couple hours later we found him in the barn. I've been emailing a woman with llamas, hoping to get a couple of guardians soon. I'm hoping they will be more reliable.

We finally discovered the identity of the white ewe that was killed. It was Fee, the first ewe my oldest daughter ever bought. The white sheep in our flock are her daughters and her granddaughter. I started to think the sheep were trying to keep her identity a secret as they were always turned the wrong way for me to read their ear tags, and right now, they spook far more easily than they used to. I really don't like going into the pasture with them at all, because even the normally friendly ones are extremely flighty, and I feel guilty for startling them. Fee was Margaret's most special ewe. She's the one that we've milked on occasion, because she has long, easily-milked teats. Unfortunately, her daughters did not inherit that trait. Because of Fee, we were able to keep frozen sheep colostrum in the freezer in case we ever had a lamb that needed it, and we even made sheep milk yogurt one time. It sounds like a cliche to say that Fee will be missed, but she will. She had a special place on our farm.

We're out in the pasture again tonight as the battle plan evolves.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Grief, doubt, and blame

My Princess is gone. The coyotes are back.

When we were doing chores tonight, the sheep came up to the gate of their pasture and stared at us. Margaret and I walked over there, and I counted. There were 17. We have 19, I said. A couple days ago, I counted 18, but someone called me to the barn before I had a chance to go into the pasture to make sure I wasn't miscounting. I'm accustomed to making mistakes when I count the sheep, so I didn't panic. They're usually moving. It's hard to get an accurate count. Margaret counted 17. I counted 17 again. We started listing the family lines. Margaret realized one of her white sheep was missing, and I realized that Princess was missing. I went into the pasture and walked the fenceline. There was nothing wrong with it, but yesterday we had a flood, and it was shorted out for a while. I called Princess's name and tried not to get upset. Don't get dramatic, I told myself, she has to be here somewhere. Right?

The grass is tall, so after seeing nothing around the perimeter, I started walking through the middle of the pasture. I shrieked when I saw a white leg and shoulder blade. I closed my eyes and felt my head floating. I was glad it was white, glad it wasn't Princess, but immediately felt guilty for not consoling Margaret about the loss of her sheep. Katherine called from the barn, asking if something was wrong. Margaret and I simultaneously yelled, "Yes!" Katherine came running. I walked a little farther and found another white leg and gasped.

I started walking faster, wanting to get through the pasture and not find Princess. I wanted to find her running around in another pasture. The last thing I wanted to see was a pile of her black wool in the grass. I screamed. I think there were words, but I don't remember what they were. I spun around with my back to the pelt. I couldn't look at it. I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to imagine how it had come to be stripped off and left in the pasture. Margaret and Katherine came running to me. Margaret hugged me, and I sobbed.

I heard Mike yelling from a distance. Then he was there with us. The girls were telling him what we'd found. He was cussing, screaming so loudly it echoed. He was so angry that the dog had refused to stay in the pasture with the sheep. He blamed the dog. I blamed myself. When I only counted 18 sheep a couple nights earlier, I shouldn't have doubted myself. If I had figured out then that the coyotes were back -- and taking down adult sheep -- Princess would have been there tonight for me to scratch her head, just like every other night.

These animals depend upon us for everything, and I feel like we let them down terribly. We should have tried harder with the dog. I had suggested putting a horse halter around his body to tie him up, because he can slip out of a dog collar or a dog halter. Even though he can't chase a coyote when he's tied up, at least he can bark to alert us to a problem. So, tonight he's tied up with the sheep, who have been moved to an interior pasture. Katherine is once again sleeping with them. Some people might think that's overkill, but we lost six lambs to coyotes last August. They are relentless, and we now know it's a pack. A whole sheep would feed quite a few coyotes. Human presence was the only thing that stopped them last year. We've lost two adults in the last couple days. We have to get serious, or we won't have any sheep left in a month.

There are no easy answers. When things are going well, it might look like we're trying too hard, maybe even being paranoid or perfectionist. But in a natural world, there are no compromises, no do-overs, no lawsuits. You can make excuses about why something didn't get done right, but excuses aren't worth a handful of manure. When you don't give 100%, you can lose so much, so suddenly.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Farm dogs

Yesterday, as I was skirting fleeces, I realized that mental exhaustion is the thing that makes me feel beaten. I've discovered that I love physical work. It's like a drug -- the more I do, the more I want to do and the more energy I have. But the mental challenges are the toughest, and they never come from where you expect them.

Before we moved out here, I thought I knew a lot about dogs. I had taken three different dogs through obedience, attended dog shows, and read widely on dog training. But I quickly discovered that everything I knew about pet dogs was irrelevant on a farm. My first mistake was to buy two Pyrenees littermate puppies when we moved here six years ago. They bonded with each other and wanted nothing to do with the livestock. Well, that's not entirely true. They wanted to eat the chickens and other poultry! I found pet homes for both of them.

I went through a string of dog mistakes. Some dogs lasted for minutes before their current owner put them back in the car and headed down the road. Many adult dogs want to chase and kill poultry, so it's a good idea to get dogs that have been raised on a farm. Then there are certain breeds that are better for certain jobs -- livestock guardian dogs for living with the animals and herding breeds for actually moving them.

I thought that when we bought our Anatolian shepherd almost four years ago that we had finally found the dog for our farm. I had researched the breed thoroughly by reading and talking to breeders. I joined a Yahoo group that discussed LGDs and learned that I needed to make sure I bought a dog that had been properly socialized. It's a common belief among some people (even printed in a USDA brochure) that LGDs should be handled as little as possible to preserve their guarding instincts. But on the Yahoo group, I learned that dogs like that could become dangerous to human beings, and I wanted nothing to do with such an animal. Some people could not go near their dogs and had to sedate them with drugs in their food in order to take them to the vet for routine care. So, I made sure I bought from someone who had socialized their puppies.

Sovalye was a sweet little thing when we brought him home. He lived in the barn his first few months, and I even have pictures of him with the barn cats sleeping on top of him. He bonded with all the animals and worked well. He killed his first raccoon when he was only eight months old. He seemed perfect.

Two months ago when we took him in for his annual vet check, they said he had heartworms. I learned that the phrase "heartworm preventive" is a misnomer. It doesn't prevent worms. It works as a dewormer just like the dewormers I give the goats. This is an important distinction, because he should have received the "preventive" longer last fall. I incorrectly thought that when he received a pill on October 1, he was protected for the month of October. But no, the October 1 pill killed all the heartworms that were in his system from September. Given that bit of information, we're lucky he never had heartworms before now.

But my latest big challenge is that since he has been treated, he has turned into a barn potato. He refuses to stay in the pasture. He just wants to be in the barn or the shed, somewhere away from the animals, where he is essentially worthless. For the first month, we were supposed to keep him inside and quiet, but at the end of that month, he didn't want to leave the barn. The vet had said he would probably have a lot more energy after being treated, but instead, he has less!

The irony, however, is that he will go to great lengths to get out of the pasture. We have created the Fort Knox of pastures, and he escapes. At first, he was injuring himself, scraping the hair off his head to squeeze under the gate. We fixed that. Then he pulled the woven wire down far enough to get his body below the electric wire that runs above the woven wire. We added a second wire that was lower. He escaped. We added a third wire ... and a fourth! Yesterday, we saw him clear the fence like a dressage horse!

I'm feeling beaten and emotionally exhausted trying to figure out how to create a pasture that the dog has to stay in. I've been thinking that there is probably no way a coyote could ever get into the pasture we've created for the dog -- and the problem is that even if we could keep the dog in this one pasture, we can't keep him in the others, so he's not worth a lot if he can only protect one pasture. Last year, we put him with the sheep when the coyotes started taking our lambs. We tried putting him in the sheep pasture a couple weeks ago, and he escaped to go to the barn.

I'd surrender if I knew what that meant. Do I just let this 115-pound dog spend the rest of his life in the barn, sleeping and eating two to three pounds of food every day? Six years on a farm has turned me into an incredibly practical person. Everyone around here has a job. Although I do let old animals retire and enjoy their golden years, a dog less than four years old is in his prime. What do you do with a 115-pound barn potato?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Small-Scale Livestock Farming"

People often ask me how I learned to do everything I do. Many assume I grew up on a farm and are surprised to learn that until 2002, I lived in the Chicago suburbs for nine years. I grew up in a small town in Texas, went to college in Connecticut and grad school in Rhode Island, and then married a naval officer and literally moved to the four corners of the United States: from Connecticut to Washington State to Florida to Hawaii. We had a dog and cats and even a guinea pig and a rabbit when we were suburbanites, but how did we learn to milk goats, raise chickens, and make cheese? Between the Internet and books, I don't think there is a lot that a person could not learn to do. Getting back into farm life after grad school, I came across one of the books I read six years ago, Small-Scale Livestock Farming by Carol Ekarius.

This is a great book for anyone contemplating raising livestock in a natural environment. The book doesn't give you enough information about any particular species to be able to raise them, but it gives you a basic idea of what you'll need to know about housing, fencing, and feeding. For more details on goats, for example, you would need to get a book devoted to caprines.

The best part of this book is the explanation of how grass grows and the ideal timing for cutting hay and rotating pastures. Considering the scarcity and price of hay this year, this part of the book is especially interesting to me now. I mostly ignored it the first time I read this book, because our hay field more than met our needs. We have a lot more animals now, and I think we could still be completely self sufficient with hay, but we have a lot to learn! We've already made some mistakes this year, but hopefully, next year we'll be able to rotate pastures properly and harvest enough hay that we won't have to buy any.

There is also a marketing section in the book, but I am trying to ignore it because I want to focus on just being self sufficient, rather than trying to make money. After all, when you live on a farm, every penny saved really is a penny earned -- and you don't have to pay taxes on it! Yesterday, three of us picked $64 worth of raspberries (based on local cost) in 90 minutes. Not only did we get all those delicious berries, we didn't have to earn $64 to pay for them, nor did we have to pay sales tax on them. The carbon footprint of those berries is also absolutely 0. But I digress -- if I ever decide to start marketing our products seriously, this book has a lot of good ideas on that topic also. The farmer profiles are especially interesting, but I have to remind myself not to get seduced by their financial success stories. After all, I really do not want to raise hundreds of chickens or dozens of pigs every year. I just want to have delicious, organic food produced by happy animals who are living the life that nature intended.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mother Nature's sense of humor

I have at least a half dozen unwritten blog posts in my head. I've been so busy that I fall into bed every night thinking about what I wish I would have shared on here. Every day is filled with caring for the animals, gardening, and cheesemaking, as well as cooking meals from scratch and making desserts. Yesterday, I stewed an old rooster that Mike butchered. He made mozarella. I made butterscotch pudding. Katherine made pasta primavera for lunch using our homegrown peas and goat milk. In the afternoon, Katherine and I canned seven half-pints of raspberry jam. Then Katherine made a raspberry crisp for dinner's dessert. I pointed out to the kids that very few people would be able to enjoy a raspberry crisp because the cost of raspberries is prohibitively expensive. Who could afford six cups of fresh raspberries? Yesterday, Mike and the kids picked six quarts of fresh black raspberries.

No, the raspberry bounty is not due to any great gardening expertise on our part. That's what makes this funny. We planted raspberries twice since we moved here. They all died. We've also planted raspberries in the yards of two other houses when we lived in the Chicago burbs. They died. A couple years ago, Mike was walking in our woods and found a small raspberry patch. Today, our woods are home to several patches of black raspberries. Maybe we were planting a type of raspberry that doesn't like our soil or climate. Maybe they didn't like the full sun where we planted them. Maybe they don't like to be fussed over. Or maybe Mother Nature has a sense of humor. Seeing raspberries thrive so close to where we tried to grow them makes me feel like I am missing the punch line of a joke, something so obvious that I shouldn't even have to think about it. But I'm not complaining. I'm too busy enjoying all the raspberries!


Related Posts with Thumbnails