Monday, November 6, 2023

Blue Skies and Tailwinds


All is well. Changes have been falling steadily this fall. New season, inbound and outbound farm animals, and overall smooth sailing have been the flavor of the season for me and my crew.

Sometime earlier this calendar year my vision for my place and my animals gelled. Goat dairy based on Alpine Goats. No more moo cows. No more meat goats. Careful management of male goat offspring. Better physical resources for goats. Early on I was planning to build a new building, then realized I had a building already but it was being wasted storing junk. 

In October changes in population happened. In the middle of October I drove to Silt, CO to buy two registered Alpine nannies. Same age as Marilyn the Alpine I have from the stock sale in Fowler. I bottle fed Marilyn so she is sweet and easy to manage. The two new girls, Polly and Greta are possibly even sweeter. Tina who I bought them from runs a very mellow dairy operation.

I had three Boar nannies, but took them to Fowler October 28 and sold them back to where I bought them. I made a little money, probably almost enough to pay the gas for two round trips to Fowler. But they were wild. Wild goats are a pain in my ass. They are impossible to manage. And Boars are meat goats. You can milk them, but they were not part of my vision. And now I have two bottle fed babies and these new Alpines who are perfectly behaved.

Finally, the day for freezer camp for my steers arrived. I borrowed my neighbor's ancient trailer, made of lead and iron, and loaded up the boys. Chuck went right in after the morning grain I put in there for the purpose of chowing down like every other morning. Brisket the Angus wasn't freaked out, but was hesitant to step in. I texted Andrea and she came over. Three minutes later he was on the trailer.

My Tacoma hauled it surprisingly well. It's rated for around 5500 lbs towing capacity, but we had to be well over halfway there. The cows were at least close to a ton. The trailer was at least a ton. On CR 1A there is one grade that's pretty serious. It's less than a mile long, but it was a slow pull for me. But it's all done, the truck didn't explode, the drive was made, the trailer was returned and the boys were dropped off.

It was a little emotional. It was nothing like losing a dog or cat, but bittersweet. That they were so trusting was helpful but also made me feel like I was disloyal. I didn't want to have to drive them nearly an hour on account of their stress, but surprisingly it didn't seem to bother them. I pulled the trailer into the drop off at the processor and coaxed them out. They didn't seem frightened. Maybe a little relieved to be off the trailer, but not freaking out or anything. Which was good.

I went home and constantly checked for them in the pasture for a couple days. I have 5 of my neighbor's steers here and they were all together before Chuck and Brisket left. For a couple days I'd see one walk up to the water tank and check to see if he was one of mine, then remember. 

Last week I put together a spreadsheet of people who want to buy the meat and posted a notice to Facebook. Nikki who manages the Ark-Valley Humane Society for which I sit on the Board of Directors reached out, interested in a quarter since her husband's hunt had come up empty. I had been thinking of giving close friends a brother-in-law deal, but then I considered the staff at the shelter. They are like my children. I offered them a crazy-low price. So Nikki is taking one and there's another one and a half going to staff. That makes me feel great.

I'm keeping a quarter, one of Chuck's. He was a dairy calf, and it was visually obvious that he was an inferior beef cow compared to Brisket the Angus. His other quarters are going to the shelter staff. The Angus is going to friends and acquaintances. I intend to drive up to Westcliffe when they are ready and then go deliver quarters. Hopefully only 1 quarter will ever see my freezer.

It's all a relief. Pieces of the vision are falling into place. I now have a small herd of very manageable goats. This winter I won't have to witness my boys' suffering in the cold and enduring long dark nights. I won't have to constantly worry about their water freezing, and/or that I adequately drained the hoses. I can finish my barn insulating early this week if I get off my ass and do it. Then on nice days I'll work on sealing the outside of my house so the wind doesn't go right through it.

My firewood kicks ass. I've had 8 or 10 fires so far, and it's a remarkable difference compared to the Cottonwood I burned exclusively last year. It lasts. I can get it going and load the firebox with fuel and it doesn't need to be fussed with for over an hour. Almost no ash. Pleasant aroma.

It's all good. At least for now, it's all good.