Welcoming new goats to the Farm Family!

Eula and her twins in their first days

Eula and her twins in their first days

It's really feeling a bit more like Spring lately, huh?! Well, as you might imagine, we are feeling Spring strongly here -- from the bursting greenhouse of vegetable and herb seedlings, to the faint green of leaves appearing in the trees, to the... oh my! hehe ... the long awaited baby goats in the barn! Over the last few weeks we have welcomed 9 baby goats into the family; two of which came last night, both healthy boys, making the tally 5 bucklings (boys) and 4 doelings (girls) so far, with 3 or 4 more expected by the end of March. 

 

Gloria discovering motherhood -- babies taking their first big drink.

Gloria discovering motherhood -- babies taking their first big drink.

I am so grateful to have the gift of being present to midwife our goats, as every birth is a truly timeless and humbling experience to witness, always a lesson in the powerful wisdom of mothers. The birth last night was of a first-time mother, Gloria. Watching and supporting her through labor, then in the first day of motherhood, it has obviously been a huge rite of passage for her -- a transition that demands focused learning and transformation -- what feels to me a mix of an activation of the creature's innate knowing, integration of modeled behaviors from their mothers aunties and grandmothers, and just plain figuring it out. For the first week after birth we keep the mothers and newborns in their stalls to allow for deeper bonding. Separation from the flock for a week tends to ease the whole process, as the mothers for a while are very concerned whenever they can't see their newborns. So by a week old, when the new goat's legs have developed enough, they are integrated back with the rest of the flock. Currently, the small red barn is our nursery, where the three mothers sleep with the 7 two-week old kids and everyone curiously peeks in on the new mother's stall. A few times in the night, the mothers wake their babes to drink, and of course the kids go into late-night play -- chasing each other or trying to jump on their moms or aunties, before getting woozy and snoozing away again. 

Francis and twins on one of their first outings

Francis and twins on one of their first outings

To ween the little ones from their mothers milk, in stark comparison to a "conventional" dairy, we strive to make the process as gentle as possible. It starts three weeks after birth, when the kids are naturally getting curious about solid food, by taping the mother's teat for a portion of the night. This portion slowly becomes longer until after three months, the kids are fully eating solid food. 

Today I was reminded of a story told to me by one of our beloved board members on his return from backpacking in Tibet. It was an image of a steppe nomad family that he stayed with. The family's cozy black tent of woven Yak-hair protected both the family and their animals from biting winds -- you can imagine a small pit fire in the middle of the tent and toddler Yaks fidgeting next to their cud-chewing but otherwise still mothers. It was in this setting that their host went into labor with few human companions present, and after having a normal birth, she returning not long after to the role of host. For me, this image summons a sense of grace, perseverance, and loving tenacity of motherhood, something I witness in the barn, too, in a goat kind of way. 

Here's to Spring! Wishing you all the tenacity and perseverance of Spring in all your good work in the world. Let's celebrate the strength and beauty of our diversity.

Seed Saving

Seeds, and the saving of seed from the plants we depend on, is a vast subject rooted deep in our human story and evolution as a society. These last few weeks, our mailbox has filled up with seed catalogs. To a present day gardener or farmer, opening a seed catalog can feel like a smorgasbord: exhilarating, overwhelming at times, and somehow nourishing just to look at. The great sense of abundance can be misleading, as we lose hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits every year. Few of us know what seeds our great great great grandmothers may have been collecting in their gardens or forests, let alone still keep them. The pressures of modern farming to be profitable has led many farmers to depend on big seed companies to control what varieties “make the cut” (often those that have an appealing and consistent shape and appearance and keep well for transport and marketing), and what varieties are lost (often the most nutrient dense).

Millet drying on the stalks is then brought in and shaken to save each little seed. 

Millet drying on the stalks is then brought in and shaken to save each little seed. 

School Group Students help sort seeds for winter storage

School Group Students help sort seeds for winter storage

Many hands make like work.  Students harvest the tiny Millet Seeds

Many hands make like work.  Students harvest the tiny Millet Seeds

At GeerCrest, we still buy a good portion of our seeds from a few amazing seed companies, passionate about preserving varieties of great diversity, hardiness, flavor and nutrition. However, those lasting relationships we develop with varieties we save seed from year after year provide a deep sense of connection for us and our visiting children, to the past as well as our own responsibility to care for the future. Most every student coming to the farm has the opportunity to relate to some aspect of the cyclic concept of seeds, whether through harvesting seeds of lettuce or millet, planting heirloom beans or squash seeds, or sorting corn kernels, few aspects of farming are so already infused with timeless magic.

In 2016 we were lucky to grow 6 different types of corn, yielding enough that every student coming in 2017 will learn to make (and eat!) fresh tortillas from the jewel-like kernels. Perhaps, next time you sit down to a meal, consider the vast human attention and energy through time that has kept our relationship to those foods alive. 

Variety of Corn drying by the fire

Variety of Corn drying by the fire