Free range is a term thrown around the farming community as a way of describing raising livestock, usually poultry. However, on my farm "Free Range" describes more than the lifestyle of the birds, but also the way the whole farm tends to operate. For instance, if my garden contains almost as many weeds as vegetables...isn't that just free range? Well, that is what I tell myself when I haven't gotten around to pulling weeds for weeks.
If my kids are running around like wild animals....are they just free range kids? Occasionally this method of living can be a bit unnerving. For instance yesterday while I was inside doing chores, Charlie, who is four, was outside playing with the goats...no big deal usually. Checking out the window every few minutes I was keeping track of him, even though he didn't suspect my spying.
Suddenly, he was gone...out of the goat pen! I scanned the area and finally spotted him. He had climbed almost to the top of a large tree in the goat pasture. I quickly went outside to see if he needed help, but no, he didn't want help, he didn't want to come down. His cat, Smokey, was right up there with him keeping him company. Charlie very impatiently explained, " I like the view from here, so I don't want to come down! And Smokey doesn't either!" Finally I convinced him that it was getting dark and that I needed his help in the house and he obliged to climb down. I watched from below as he gingerly made his way back to his "ladder" he had devised to get up the tree, and then jump back to ground. Oh, boy!
Have you ever considered owning a dairy goat? They are pretty darn awesome if I say so myself and here are 5 of the countless reasons why:
1. They make great family pets! I know, I know...you shouldn't call livestock pets, but darn they are so friendly, cute and fun. The kids can feed them from their hands, the goats follow the kids all over the pasture and their is nothing like goat cuddles when you are down.
2. They are (sorta) easy to keep. Contrary to popular belief, it is not that hard to keep them penned in (Once you patch every single hole in your fence...every single one) Also, their diet is simple...grass.
3. They are awesome alarm systems. Every time someone pulls up to the house the goats raise their heads look that way and usually start maaing. If I am at my kitchen window (which looks out onto the goat pasture) I always know when we have company just by watching the herd.
4. They are so efficient. We can move them around the farm using electrical fencing and they will eat down EVERYTHING, they do not tear up the ground like pigs or cattle, each spring my does deliver between 2-3 kids EACH, which in turn I sell to pay for their feed and care costs for the next year.
5. FRESH MILK and CHEESE! If fed a clean diet and kept away from the bucks, doe goats can produce a clean fresh tasting milk without any of that "gamey" flavor that people too often assume comes with goat milk. Also, fresh chevre cheese is awesome! I milk throughout the summer and freeze the milk in gallon bags, and then throughout the winter I use the milk to make all my soaps and lotions.
As Thanksgiving Day draws near we have a minor turkey shortage on the farm. The main attraction of the festive table, the perfectly roasted turkey may be missing. How is that you may ask? Well... once upon a time there were four cute little poults, that were destined for great feasts. Two, were to be served at our Farm to Table dinner. One would be processed sold and the final one would adorn OUR Thanksgiving table. Unbeknownst to us two of these flocked friends were not to make it to the butchering table. One's legs did not develop correctly and we lost him while he was young. The two destined for Farm to Table, were brined and smoked to tasty perfection. The other was within days of enjoying his last meal, when we discovered that a predator decided to enjoy him before we could have the chance. So, this leaves us with a Butter Ball for turkey day this year...not exactly the local, free range tasty bird that was expected.
Small farming lesson learned: Buy twice as many turkeys than what you actually expect to eat!
Teacher. Student. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Farmer (well... I try).