When the Cows Come Home and Other Signs of Summer

I came home last Monday night after three days spent in Washington working on business for the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, and it was one of the most glorious homecomings I could imagine. Not only was there the joy of coming home to my boys and Eric, but also my home is more like paradise in June than at any moment.

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(Mac the Marshmallow waiting to welcome me home)

We're headed into the transition point from spring to summer, and you can feel it. The spring bulbs are behind us, the peonies are in bloom, the animals are fat and happy on lush growth, and there are jars of jam multiplying on the shelves and herbs hanging to dry in the mudroom. There are peas, strawberries, the cherries will be ripe next week, and instead of a sense of new beginning, there's a racing towards fruition.

Literally fruition in this case - despite a chilly, wet spring generally, we were fortunate to have only a couple of light frosts in late April and May, and so the fruit set has been the best we've ever seen. Our apricot, peach, quince, apple and plum trees are as laden as they've ever been. It is never wise to count your apricots before they ripen, but we're cautiously hopeful for a delicious summer.


Eric's two hives of bees got off to a slow start, arriving in a period of cold, wet, dreary weather that slowed them down, but they are building comb and there's plenty of brood now, so we're cautiously optimistic that summer will go well.

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The first cycle of goat birthing ended in May, when Mina gave us the most adorable little buckling we've ever seen, Aristaeus (Greek God of Beekeepers, of course). He joined Calliope, Polyhymnia, Urania (no we only got 3 muses ;-)), Daedalus, Orpheus and Janus as the first batch of babies.



The second group of six goats, due in late June and into July will be named for alcoholic beverages (at the suggestion of good friends of ours). I'm personally hoping for triplet boys named "Grog" "Porter" and "Stout" while our friend propose "Midori" and "Chambord" as pretty names for doelings. Eric wants an "Ouzo." We are taking suggestions, but have already firmly rejected "Mad Dog 20/20" fyi ;-).

In other goaty news, our dear friends Jamey and Carol, who sold us our first does, did the breeding that provided much of our herd and have provided us with endless support and advice are getting out of goats for personal reasons. We have purchased two of their senior does, Erica (Jessie's Mom) and Morgan; and best of all, their buck, Wiggy, who we once borrowed, and who is the author of Arava's astoundingly wonderful udder.

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Wiggy is here on the farm to our delight - he is the sweetest and friendliest buck we've ever met, with the personality of a puppy. Frodo, however, our beloved senior herd sire (also incredibly sweet, but less goofy - Frodo has a friendly dignity that he brings to everything) is well, sulking. Wiggy's arrival has displaced him, and while the other goats take the new power arrangements in stride, Frodo resentfully turns his back to us and Wiggy, won't let us pet him and is otherwise informing us that we're jerks for bringing in this other boy.

Erica and Morgan will come to the farm in a month or so, since Morgan is still nursing her babies. We're excited to have them!

Our first batch of chicks lived by the woodstove for a long, long, long (did I mention it seemed long ;-)) time too early, but we're expecting a batch of meat birds, turkeys and a few more layers any day now. I love brooding chicks in summer!

One of our hens hatched out two babies - a trio of Buff Orpingtons!


As the herbs come into flower, drying them becomes a major project here. We convert our mudroom into a drying room, and the room fills with scent and bouquets of herbs. Our goal is to dry quickly and get them into glass so as not to lose scent, flavor and other important qualities.

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And why did I mention cows in the title of this post? Well, technically bulls - our shared sheep arrangements didn't work out this summer, and something is desperately needed to eat the grass in our larger field. Something, it turns out, is two bull calves we bought from neighbors at the other end of the valley - they will be raised for beef this winter first on extra goat's milk and then on the lush grass. The kids are enjoying the project of bottle feeding them.

Getting them home was an adventure in low-energy transport. It turns out that two large calves can, in fact, fit in the back seat of a Ford Taurus, but not without some minor dismay on the part of the driver. Also, if you are going to drive with two calves in the back seat of your compact car, you should probably consider covering the seat with something other than an old polyester sheet - polyester is slippery. Either that, or definitely avoid sudden stops. But everyone made it fine and a good time has been had by all!


And that's what's going on here! Please, if you haven't let us know what's up with you (in the previous thread) do share!


(The bucks send their regards!)


More like this

I thought y'all might want to see as well as hear what's going on around here. First, there's the baby goats: (Asher with Midori) (Isaiah holding Margarita) (Poppy nurses little Grog. Stout is in the background waiting his turn.) The baby goats aren't the only baby things we have in profusion…
(Stachys, at about 3 weeks) Today Stachys and Hemp enter the monastary. They are the youngest of the boys and at 8 weeks plus, it is time for them to leave their Moms. Stachys is just about 8 weeks, and at that point, could conceivably start breeding his sisters and his Mom (he's *huge* too - I…
(Just in case you didn't grow up in the 1980s and need the reference.) Two years ago, we bought Jessie the goat from our friends Jamey and Carol. We wanted Jessie because of her great genetics - she's a milk machine, and a sturdy, healthy goat who makes stunning babies. Zahra, her first daughter…
We shared two cherry tomatoes this morning, the first ripe ones of the year, and that, to us, is the proof we're fully into high summer. If I don't pick the zucchini every day, I'm sorry. The weather is hot and sultry, the apricots are close to ripe and the peaches are following. The boys drown…

Metheglin, Melomel, and Kvas would all be fun to shout over a field on a regular basis. Do your goats actually know/respond to their names? For other ideas, check out all the other named variations on mead:


In full swing of summer here with a succession of WWOOFer volunteers scheduled out through late August. Been too busy and tired to post anything to my own blog for a while now, and far behind on my blog reading too.

Saying a car is low energy transport reveals lack o situational awareness about the car..

Relying on a car still means reliance on the massive global infastructure built around conventional oil. American transport model of 1920, with moderate car usage and ownership, but very comprehensive railway matrix is more sustainable. See "tahoevalleylines" posts in theoildrum for more on ways and means of scoping the railway as Guarantor of Societal & Commercial Cohesion.

By tahoevalleylines (not verified) on 21 Jun 2011 #permalink

Tahoevalley, so you mean you'll build a rail network between my dairy farmer neighbor's farm over the valley and mine, and then convince the (presumably) passenger rail system to allow you to take 100 lb calves on board? Do they have to wear diapers?

It is low energy transport compared to a truck - 36 mpg, as opposed to about 12.


Get yourselves a solar electric fence to go around those hives! We're in your general neck of the woods, and it sure ain't no fun to find your hive boxes smashed and strewn around, victim of a bear!

After losing a hive two years in a row (the second to the bear), we captured a swarm late last summer- it made it though the winter and has been going great guns. Actually swarmed this past weekend- wish I'd known enough to recognize the signs so we could have baited a new hive for them as they seem like a really strong strain, but they're off to somewhere else. Those left behind just kept on working away!

Now I'm envisioning a very funny blog post about the ideal farm country railway setup. You would, of course, have to have separate the livestock and fruit and vegetable cars ... no letting the kids run back and forth between them...
Would there be seating areas by the livestock stalls?

Dear Sharon and Eric and Co.

If you only have one vehicle consider installing a trailer hitch and buying a used trailer.

I own two boat trailers and they cost the princely sum of $30 each a year to register and nothing to insure.

Mind you when I haul gravel or hay I usually borrow my neighbors trailer, If I did not have access to their trailers I would build a plywood box for one of the boat trailers.

A small car should be O.K. for up to about 1000 lbs all up for trailer and load, more than enough for two calves.

Keep up the good writing and good living.


By Alan Woodbury (not verified) on 21 Jun 2011 #permalink

Could Mac be more beautiful? And the goats of course. And the baby bulls. . .

I don´t know if you´ve done a post on how exactly you process the herbs you grow. Could you point me to it if it already exists?

Thank you!

I'm sure Tahoevalley was offering to build an aerial ropeway for transporting livestock and other trade goods. Aerial ropeways are much more efficient than trains in hilly territory!

Given your honeybees, you definitely need to name one of those goats Mead. He can be friends with Aristaeus.

@NM -

Once the track is laid, one simply needs strapping young men and women to power a passeneger and freight-sized hand car. If you can power the vehicle, you can ride for free. And to think... people *pay* to go to a gym.

Saying a car is low energy transport reveals lack of situational awareness about the car..

Sharon, Tahoe clearly has great faith in you and therefore I look forward to your future article about getting your bulls onto a bicycle... especially the accompanying pictures ;)

By Richard Eis (not verified) on 22 Jun 2011 #permalink

Sharon-great pictures,those babies are just so cute! Love the mental image of the calves in the back seat of the Taurus! Kate@LivingtheFrugalLife-have missed reading your posts-looking forward to when you get a break to fill us in! This year I have planted my biggest garden yet and will try to extend my season with all the great info I have been getting from all of you. May we all have a glorious summer and harvest!

By Karen from CT (not verified) on 22 Jun 2011 #permalink

Sharon, I think next time you should just ride the livestock home ;-) I was watching a programme about Ireland in 1976 (I live in Co. Kildare) and it showed people carting their purchases home from the local fair. The funniest one was the bemused calf that was unceremoniously dumped into the boot of a compact car (my Mom distinctly remembers this kind of stuff going on all he time, people used what they had). Last year I was travelling on the bus from work with an elderly gentleman who told me the stories of when he was a kid they used to start driving the cattle (on foot) to market in the evening arriving in Dublin the next morning and when they were sold they often had to herd them to the port when they were already exhausted. It was a great conversation with lots of interesting titbits about local history.

By Eva Elisabeth (not verified) on 23 Jun 2011 #permalink

Great pictures, but I'd love to have seen one of the calf-stuffed Taurus!

Speaking from total ignorance, can there be a correlation between getting the hives put in and the terrific looking fruit harvest?

Jason, there would normally be, but we got the bees in mid-May during a spate of rainy weather, and by the time the bees were really active most of the fruit trees had alraedy bloomed and set fruit, so I'm guessing not too much this year. That's part of why we want them, of course, though.