Farm Thrills.

Post by Lily Baker

As exciting as farming can be, nothing quite gets us going like a good spring-cleaning.  Last Thursday we had our best spring-cleaning yet.  The barn is clean.  I repeat: THE BARN IS CLEAN!  I cannot express to you how wonderful this is both for us and for the goats.  It is very, very wonderful.

The Bobcat is up to this challenge.

Every morning we spread a few bales of bedding hay on the floor of our greenhouse barn to cover up whatever mess the goats made the day before.  Over the course of the fall and winter, slowly but surely, the floor rises; in the few days before our big cleanup I was repeatedly clotheslined by flytape hanging from the rafters.

The springy mat of hay that builds up over the season is not without use: in the dead cold of winter when the goats’ breath hangs in frosty clouds around them, that floor creates its own warmth.  The goats can cuddle up on the hay and feel the summer sun heating them from below.  Or the composting action.  That’s warm, too.

When the Bobcat skid-steer and two little dump trucks pulled up to the barn on Thursday and started hauling the hay out to our neighbors’ field we had no idea what we would find underneath.  Over the course of the day they dug through three feet (three feet!!) of accumulated hay and muck, unearthing cinderblocks, other barn flotsam and jetsam, and eventually, the floor!

The trucks traipsed back and forth for almost eight hours, piling that old hay in a giant heap in the field down the road.  That pile will sit and simmer and stew and compost for 12 months in the open field before we spread it on our crops next spring.  Crops feed us, we feed the goats, goat manure feeds compost, and compost feeds crops.  Farming is all about life cycles.

SO many truckloads of this stuff.  So many.

When the goats came back in from the pasture that evening they had a little shindig on the clean barn floor, kicking up clouds of the fragrant wood shavings we’d scattered inside.  No kidding, we’re teaching them to dance.

-Lily

Heads up, Boston – Here We Come!

Hey Bostonians and near-Bostonians!  I’ll be sampling out our caramel at several fine stores in your area from May 31st to June 3rd.   Drop by and say “Hi!”

Our plan:

Thursday 5/31 in the South End:

Friday 6/1  in Cambridge:

Saturday 6/2 in Jamaica Plain:

  • Demo at City Feed in Jamaica Plain 10-1
  • Sales with caramel and our delicious cheese at Urban Grape 2-5pm

Sunday6/3  in Needham:

 

I hope I do as well as Hannah did during her recent visit to Cowgirl Kitchen in Washington DC!

Aster!

Post by Lily Baker

Some goats are super friendly.  They’ll come up to you just to say hi, to ask for a scratch behind the ears, or to lay their heads on your shoulder.  Some goats are happy to say hello, but won’t seek out human company.  Some goats, though, are kind of a problem.

This is Aster.  She’s all kinds of problem.

But would you look at that face?

Aster happens to be one of my favorite goats.  Why?  Look at her!  She’s adorable, so that helps.  She’s also a complete spaz attack.  When I first arrived at the farm, she would startle and run away when any person walked within ten feet.  Needless to say, dealing with a terrified goat is not very much fun.  They’re fast and unpredictable.  Not something you want in a 100-200 pound animal.  So I decided Aster would be my project.  Last year Katie, one of my coworkers, made an effort to tame Bama, that enormous tank of a goat who had quadruplets this season.  I’ve heard that Bama was worse than Aster, but now Bama, while not really sweet, will usually tolerate our presence.  Katie gave me some tips.


Katie’s tips on how to tame a goat:

1. Feed it some grain.

2. Actually, that’s pretty much the whole plan.

Well, there was a little more nuance than that, but that was the main point.  Grain is to goats as candy is to children.  They will pretty much do anything for it.  I started out by holding out a handful to her across the mangers while she was eating hay.  Eye contact makes skittish goats even more uncomfortable, so I looked the other way.  Annnnnd … she ate it!  She was a little wary at first, but every day, I would slowwwwwly creep up to within arm’s length of her, hold out a handful of grain, and pretend I didn’t know she existed.  After a few days, I started looking at her, and even attempting to pet her while she ate.  A few days after that, she began to come investigate my pockets every time I entered the barn.  If I moved too quickly, she would still freak out and run away, but she was getting better.


Now I’ve been here for almost three months, and worked with Aster for most of that time. She has totally turned around!  We don’t have to move like molasses around her or avoid eye contact.  I almost never give her any grain anymore, but she still comes up to hang out, and even lets me hug her sometimes.  After a week or so of working with her, and calling her name at about the same pitch, she also started coming when called, or at least perking her ears up and looking at me when I wanted her attention.  Seriously this is the cutest thing ever.  Of course she doesn’t really know her name, but it’s still nice.

Aster thinks maybe my sleeve will also be tasty. 

The other problem with Aster is that it seems like she may not be pregnant after all.  She was getting nice and tubby, just like all the other goats, but then when their udders filled up and they started popping out kids, Aster just got fatter.  Now we’re thinking she might just be a little butterball.  While this makes her all the more cute and cuddly, it’s not very good for business.  She’s eating and taking up space, but not making any milk for us.  I’m not sure if we’re going to sell her to another farm, or to someone looking for a sweet little dairy goat or a living lawn mower.  We might keep her, but if she’s not going to pull her weight-and there’s quite a bit of weight for such a young goat-we might not be able to keep her here.

Such is life on the farm I suppose.  I give her a hug almost every day, just in case she’s not here for much longer.

-Lily

New flowers

This stunning little patch of Clematis just appeared in one of the flower gardens this morning. We are all determined to protect these lovelies from goats/chickens/pigs/dogs/aliens.

Ok, now for real spring is here.

Post by Lily Baker

Amber is pretty happy about grazing.


We put the goats out on pasture for the first time just the other day.  Yay!  They are pretty thrilled about it, and so am I.  After what seems like forever of hibernating, and then about a week of rain, the grass is finally long enough and dry enough for them to graze!  Goats are actually browsers, not grazers, by nature.  They’d rather eat things that grow at eye level or above, like tree bark and leaves.  They’re pickier than sheep, cows, or horses, who will keep your grass mown super short if you let them.  Goats will eat about 40% of what a pasture has to offer.  When the pasture has fresh spring grass and dandelion blossoms, though, they definitely don’t complain.

Blue sky, green grass, yellow flowers, happy goats.  Paradise, pretty much.

-Lily

An Old Fashioned Greenhouse Raisin’

Hey all you Fat Toad Farm blog readers!

I’m Lily Baker, an intern here at the farm.  I’ve been here for about three months, and for the rest of my internship, about three more months, I’ll be blogging here every so often.  Nice to meet you all, and hope you enjoy!

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So, you know how in the “olden days” the whole neighborhood would get together for a barn raising?  I’ve never seen a barn raising, but I’ve seen a few barns, and I can only imagine how many people and how much ingenuity it must take to build one of those things without industrial equipment.  In any case, to add to the list of ways in which Vermont is a bizarre and wonderful mix of the new and the very, very old: yesterday I attended a greenhouse raising.

Pretty days are the best for building buildings.  Also, tall scaffolding is tall.

Our neighbors, John and Lynn, own a farm called Spruce Lane Farm.  Though the name comes from their 30+ years in the pick-your-own Christmas tree business in Connecticut, they now have a market garden, and sell veggies, vegetable and herb starts, and potted plants.  They also grow all of the veggies we eat here at the farm, and I work with them at least a few afternoons a week in their greenhouses and fields, getting a bit of veggie work experience and absorbing their wisdom.  A few weeks ago, John and Lynn received a grant from the USDA to install a fancy new coldframe hoophouse!  Yay!  After a long few weeks leveling the land, waiting for the parts to be delivered, hoping for the weather to break, and constructing the frame, yesterday was finally the day to put the finishing touches on the project.

John and his toolbelt and mustache are hard at work.

The roof and walls of this kind of greenhouse are made out of one tremendous sheet of plastic.  I wasn’t there for the part where they pulled the plastic over the top of the house, assisted by a high-tech rope and tennis ball assembly, but I was there for the part where we aligned everything and tacked it down.  Actually most of the neighborhood was there.  John and our neighbor Dan were up on scaffolding at either end, wiring the roof into place, as the rest of us held the corners and the walls taut and in place.  One gust of wind could have sent us all flying, but luckily none came.  After the ends were secured, we moved on to the sides, everyone tugging on the plastic while John, Lynn, and Dan wired it in place starting in the center.   Any little bit of puckering along the edge could weaken the walls and shorten the life of the greenhouse.

Everyone is out here to help.  Many hands aren’t just nice, they’re necessary!

I wish I had a picture of Mr. Childs, Dan’s father, who must must have been about 90 years old, sitting in his folding chair.  In a long and illustrious tradition of old people coming out to watch their neighbors’ construction endeavors, he was our spectator for the afternoon.  Greenhouses get fancier every year, but some things never change.

-Lily

The Creep

Now that the kids are bigger, they are old enough to eat a little grain.  The difficulty of providing grain to kids is, of course, that the adults would be perfectly happy to hog every last nugget.  We’ve built a  clever little system to admit the little ones and prevent the adults from entering the holding pen where the creep feeder is set up..

 

 

Everyone loves a little extra grain.

 

 

The wooden frame lets heads in, but keeps dirty kid feet out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thumper can't fit through the tiny door into the creep feeding room.

Don’t forget your mum a week from today!

Precisely a week from today (Sunday, May 13, 2012) all of us should have paid/be paying/planning to pay homage to your dear mothers. Those lovely, brave ladies who brought us into the world, raised us up right, and then booted us (lovingly) out of the nest when it was time to buzz off.

If you’re looking for a new way to say “Thanks for being the very best mum!” this year, let our uniquely delicious Goat’s Milk Caramel say it for you!
Fat Toad Farm has some fabulous gift ideas for mom this year, click on the photos below or visit our online store!  Order by Tuesday, May 8th to receive your caramel just in time for Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

p.s. Nothing says, “I  love you moooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmm!” like Strawberry-Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast with Goat’s Milk Caramel drizzled on top for breakfast. Whaaaaa?!!   Check out this amazing recipe from Foodess.com: http://www.foodess.com/2012/05/strawberry-mascarpone-stuffed-french-toast/