Monday, May 26, 2008

Sampling Honey

With the warm dry days, the bees have been busy gathering nectar and we've been busy adding more honey supers to keep up with their harvest. Our little samplers said one thing about the honey - "more please."

Organic brush control: our goats

Last fall after our offer to buy our current farm was accepted but before we had even moved we took our first step into mammalian husbandry with a young dairy-type goat. We named her Ronda after our community in Wilkes County, and we tethered her at the back of the garden where she cleaned up the privet, greenbriers, multiflora rose, and brambles. This spring we purchased three more just-weaned female goats -- which we aspiringly named after traditional goat's milk specialty cheeses: Bucheron, Garrotxa, and Majorero -- and a young billy to breed them all early next year. We're really just toying with the idea of milking them for maybe just a month and using the milk to make enough cheese to last us through the year -- we have a cow now to supply us with our regular milk -- but our leading purpose in buying goats was for clearing and cleaning up hard to control areas: poison ivy around buildings and in fence lines, brambles growing in ditches, and wilderness just generally encroaching from the edges and trying to swallow our whole farm. Of course, most other farmers don't find themselves in need of goats, but most other farmers freely use chemical herbicides. We wanted a more elegant and organic solution. If you had been watching the inefficiency of our efforts to move and contain our goats these last months "elegance" is probably not the word that would come to mind, but we're learning what doesn't work and the whole process is leading us to solutions and ideas that we never would have found otherwise. Meanwhile, the goats have really shown their potential in clearing various perimeters of unwanted and -- apart from goats -- unprofitable vegetation. What wonderful alchemy, turning poison ivy and thorny brambles into cheese and tender, young goat meat!