Friday, April 19, 2013

My Pappaw would be proud...our Farm Store remodel

Thirty five years ago my mother's parents moved to Virginia to be close to one certain little red headed Both natives of Northeast Tennessee, they had spent the preceding decade in Florida. My sweet Granny wanted to live near each of her grandchildren. When her two sons moved to Florida to start familys, she followed. I was the last of the grandchildren born, so in the end they moved here to southern Virginia. This is where my mother had settled down after accepting a nearby teaching job and marring dear ol' dad. My Granddaddy Taylor sold my Granny and Pappaw ten acres of the Taylor family farm so they would be near by. It was so awesome growing up next door to both sets of grandparents!
Me and Pappaw doing a little farming in the early 1980's.

My Pappaw was a carpenter by trade and farmer from birth. As soon as he completed construction on their new Virginia house, he began work building his tractor shop. A nice size building, 2,000+ total square feet, one half was a tractor repair workshop, the other a store. He built it all himself, with help from my daddy and uncles. Here he sold Belerus tractors and implements and did tractor repair work. His store was filled with hand made wooden bins which neatly organized every size nut, bolt and washer you can imagine.
Before we began the remodel

The workshop has a huge sliding door on the both front and back. On warm spring days, when I got off the school bus, Pappaw would be sitting in that door way. From his chair he enjoyed the westerly breeze as he balanced an ever present cigarette among his stubbed fingers. Years of farm machinery repair, and one childhood wood splitting accident, had left him with only three intact fingers. The rest had been amputated at varying lengths. He came for a generation that did not over use the term "disability", they only knew of challenges that must be over come to get a days work done. I wish I could bottle up the work ethic and morality of his generation. Couldn't we all use a dose of that?

As time passed, so did my Pappaw and sweet Granny. His beloved tractor shop fell into disrepair, the neatly organized bolt bins lost order, the paint faded, the siding rotted and the windows cracked. The entire family used the store half for the storage of "stuff" that all should have gone straight to Goodwill. The workshop became a catch all for tools and yard equipment. It was a nightmare conglomeration and borderline worthy of the next episode of Hoarders! Of all the work we have done thus far to restore this farm, the task of cleaning out the old tractor store was the most daunting.
The old store sign

We began by hauling off to the dump anything that could not be recycled or useful to anyone else. That was about half a dozen truck loads. All the totes of holiday decorations made the trek to our house and up to the third floor attic. There were literally hundreds of pounds of hardware. Figuring someone could use some of the various sized pieces, I called up another local farmer and expert tinkerer. Big Everette, as we call him, came right over and went to work sorting through the metal madness. As he hauled off several five gallon buckets of nuts, bolts and assorted goodies, I don't know who was happier, me or him!

Now thats how to dress up overalls, a pink bandana.

I saved a few of every size of anything that looked remotely useful, this kept my daddy happy. Throughout the entire cleaning out process he was over my shoulder chanting, "ya'll gonna need that one day". I reassured him time and again that if we did need it, and it happened to be a part we had scrapped or given away, I would gladly drive to Home Depot and get a new one. I'm all about being prepared and having items on hand, but I feel certain no emergency will ever arise if we don't have a carburetor for a 1982 model Russian made tractor on hand. A side note, the Belerus tractors my Pappaw sold were Tennessee orange, gotta love that ;-).

Once we got every thing cleared out the fun part began. What I consider fun, is my husbands idea of torture. When we got married he had four requests, 1. He never had to rake leaves 2. He never had to paint 3. He never had to do any form of carpentry and finally the most important request, 4. We never run out of ketchup. So, abiding by our unwritten pre-nump, Allen was out for the remainder of the remodel. Thank the good Lord for good neighbors! Enter stage right...Dwayne, our neighbor and hobby carpenter.

Two sides done!

Dwayne and I spent his every day off, from first light till the afternoon working on residing and painting the exterior. During this process we came to several conclusions. First, I can't cut a straight line to save my life. Second, Dwayne's measurements were always off. Third, our job foreman, my Daddy, would undoubtedly point out a minimum of three things we were doing wrong per minute. Our solutions, Dwayne did all the cutting, I did all the measuring and we both wore ear plugs. It took several weeks of working a day here and there to complete the exterior of the front and one end of the building. We will tackle the other two sides as soon as the garden is planted, hopefully ;-).

Inside the Farm Store

Since I was old enough to get out of my parents sight, I have been roaming this farm. Every summers day was passed with my BFF and I playing in its creeks, building forts from fallen limbs and exploring every barn and out building on the place. My family purchased this land in the 1880's, however there was one building that still stands today which dates to the very early 1800's. We call it the old kitchen. It is a small two story building, built presumably as the unattached kitchen for the first house ever on this land. Its attic held many a treasure to my young, adventuresome heart. We pilfered through its artifacts with the enthusiasm of archaeologist Howard Carter opening King Tut's tomb. We would load our treasures in a wagon and proudly show them off. I would then stash them safely back in the old kitchen, hoping some day I would have a use for them.

The old sickle
Back to the creation of our Farm Store, with the outside looking presentable and the inside cleared out, it was time to decorate! That has to be a top ten favorite word in every woman's vocabulary, even those of us who spend more time in muck boots than heels. For the interior paint, only authentic barn red would do. Primarily because I had lots left over from the exterior painting and Allen had recently began chaperoning my Home Depot visits. I believe he became alarmed when I repeatedly asked how much over budget I could go on the project. With the walls painted, I finally had a place to display some of the treasures I drug out all those years ago. Each piece had a farming purpose and was used by my ancestors right here on this land. Most appear to have been hand forged, made in an attempt to simplify or hasten one of the many daily farm chores. When I begin to whine about weed eating the fence line this hot, humid July, please remind me to take a look at the old sickle now displayed in the Farm Store. I'm sure that will shut me up, at least for a little awhile.

Allen replacing the sign after I painted it

We are all very pleased with how the remodel is turning out. We still have quite a ways to go. The work shop half must be organized and the remaining two exterior sides still need new siding and paint. From our "new" Farm Store we sale the all natural, pastured raised meats we raise right here on this farm. We raise our livestock much the same way my forefathers would have done 150 years ago, except I have traded their sickle for a Stihl weed eater.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Know your food, know your farmer

The new rallying cry of the local food movement is, "know where your food comes from". Mothers are persistently trying to educate their children that hamburger does not grow in the back room of Wal-Mart. This is so important as with each generation we become further and further removed from the farm. Most of us can recall first hand farm-life accounts from a grandparent or other "Greatest Generation" member. According to the US Census, in 1910 72% of Americans lived in a rural setting, 100 years later that number has dropped to just 16%. Our society is expeditiously loosing touch with agriculture, the sustainer of life. Believe it or not, life would go on without your iPhone, but not without our farms. Having said that, when my iPhone is misplaced the day comes to a screeching halt until it is found since I have two toddlers vying for its destruction.

Be aware the USDA has NO standards for "fresh" or "natural" like they do for "organic", so those words on a package mean nothing, just another adjective. A commercial label reading "all natural" might as well read "raised on Mars", it bears the same weight. However, we found an organization that ensures a meat product is truly "all natural" and "humanly raised".  That was one of the reasons we sought out auditing by Animal Welfare Approved. AWA is the only third party recognized by the USDA that certifies livestock as being humanely raised and fed an all natural diet. This service is free to farmers, so the AWA has "no dog in that race", or "pig" in our case, ensuring audits are unbiased and unbought.

The only meat in my freezer was raised right here on our farm. I wouldn't have it any other way and realize how fortunate I am to have that luxury. Every night when I prepare dinner for my family, I know without a doubt that the meat is healthy, safe to eat and was humanely raised. An interesting fact, only FOUR mega-corporations process 80% of US beef. Every pack of discount beef, pork or chicken found in a big box store was commercially raised on a confinement farm. The farming status quo raises thousands of animals in minimal space, to save money. Economical, yes. Morally acceptable, no. Safe, probably not. Here's a scary fact, 80% of antibiotics used in the US are found in livestock feed. The meat safety issue is a whole other story. I'll save that for later. But for now, here is a link to Physicians for Social Responsibility It is a simple article that is very informative, written by doctors who should know.
Taylor comforting an injured piglet.

Do a quick You Tube search of "commercial hog farm abuse", replace "hog" with "turkey", then "chicken",  then "beef", the results are horrifying. Not all large scale producers mistreat their animals and not all small farmers treat their livestock like family pets. Just be aware that livestock abuse is a problem and it does help to know your farmer. You can visit our farm and see the animals happily grazing on pasture or taking a mud bath. Try that at a commercial hog house or feed lot. If you could stand the stench, that reaches for miles, I'm certain you would not like what you saw.  I know the meat I feed my children, I know that animal was well cared for its entire life, it was never given any chemicals and was processed by a AWA approved slaughter house to ensure once the animal left my hands it was treated humanly till its last breath.
Our sons, Jack and Micheal.

We work very hard to ensure the well being of our animals. I firmly believe that a high quality of life results in a higher quality of meat. Ethically, it's a no brainer. Everyone is on the made in America kick, which is great. It's nice to know your clothing, tool and house ware purchases support American companies. The "Made In America" trend in a global market place is comparable to the "Buy Local Food" movement on a national level. I see moms in the grocery store go over the ingredient label on a box of cereal with a magnifying glass. One isle over she tosses a commercially produced pack of pork chops in the cart without a second thought. That's just my observation. Knowing where your meats and veggies come from and how they were raised is just as important as the unpronounceable list of ingredients on a box of Fruit Loops. That's just my opinion.
The Wright men.

Speaking of ingredients, after searching the entire east coast, we finally found a real German butcher who specializing in artisanal, fully cooked meats. This search was sparked by my husbands love of bologna. Have you looked at that ingredients list? Uggghhh! And, just so you know, bologna shouldn't be pink, that's a dye. Anyway, The Weeping Radish in Grandy, NC turns our pork into one pound packs of deliciousness! They use no artificial dyes or chemical preservatives. This small, family run business has the same dedication to their trade as we do to ours. The same is true of the small slaughter facility we use, no mega-corporations needed. I know my abattoir, I know my butcher and I certainly know my farmer. Each of us has a passion for what we do, it's more than just a job to us.

Our son, Jack, a farmer in training.
The daily chores required by this farm are not tedious, they are a rewarding part of daily life. Much like raising children, it has its ups and downs, good days and bad.  I wouldn't trade my worst day on this farm for the best day behind a desk. When one loves their work, they are usually better at it. In the back of my nostalgia clouded mind, I realize that this farm is still a business and must be made profitable. We have invested so much into the infrastructure of this farm that I doubt Allen and I will ever net a true profit in our lifetime. It is my hope and dream that at least one of our children will want to continue what we have started. I pray that one day, my grandchildren will be practicing sustainable agriculture on this land as well. That was the whole reason we started out on this farming adventure, to put "family" back in the family farm.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pig wrangling 101

Wiggles with her litter at 1 week old.

Wiggles latest brood of Berk babies were weaned a few weeks ago and were ready for "greener pastures".  With the completion of our latest fencing project, we had a new twenty acre pasture just waiting for them. Now for the fun. To catch, load and unload eight pigs, comprising of 30-40 pound of solid muscle each. I have yet to built a ramp to aid with loading into our trailer and the pigs were still short enough to underneath of it instead of into it, so using the trailer was out. This meant we had to hand catch and place each one into the covered truck bed to transport them across the road to their new home.

I used the billiards analogy of "breaking a game of nine ball" do describe how piglets fly off in different directions the last time we had to catch these little angels, see Back behind bars from 1/14/13. They were all less than five pounds back then. Man how fast they have grown! If you have read the previous stories you know that Wiggles is a ferocious mama pig. So, before we even attempted this task we had to make sure she was WELL confined. She happily followed me and a bucket of feed into a barn stall. I then closed the wooden gate, latched it, reinforced it with a metal gate and pulled our Polaris Ranger up against it, sandwiching it all together. And then I set the brake to make sure it couldn't be pushed backwards. Can't be too careful when dealing with this mad mama pig!

Next, we backed our truck as close as we could to the fence and enlisted our neighbor, Larry, to operate the tail gate. We lured the piggies into their sleeping shed with some grain and tied a gate up to block their escape route. Now that we had all eight pigs locked up in a 12' x 12' shed and the truck backed right up to it, you would think it would be simple for Allen to pick up each pig, lift it over the 4' high fence, pass it off to me, then Larry would open the tail gate and I would place it into the back of the truck. Our plan was perfect. Oh how simple it all would be...I say in a tone oozing with sarcasm.

We pride ourselves on the gentle treatment of our animals and try to make every handling episode go as smoothly as possible. And trust me when I say there was NO better way to accomplish this task. Now while our breeding herd loves our attention and welcomes ear scratching and belly rubs, these little guys have yet to fully develop those warm and fuzzy feeling towards us. And after Allen caught the first one, the others become quite certain that they wanted no parts of this little joy ride!

Have you ever tried to contain a toddler in mid temper tantrum? Now, increase the muscle mass by 100%, give them four legs, each with a sharp cloven hoof, throw in full epileptic seizure body contortion and ear piercing squeals, rivaling that of Christina Agulara trying to shatter a crystal wine glass with her voice alone....get the picture? So, Allen has the first one in a full bear hug, which is the only way to physically contain that degree of wiggling madness. He heaves the heavy load over the fence where I had to fully bear hug the pig as well, before Allen could let go of his embrace. Somewhere amidst all the commotion my nose become keenly aware that our little piggies had a bit of the "nervous bowel" syndrome. I was now plastered in piggy pooh...oh the joys of farming!

 After the first two or three we got into a rhythm and it went rather smoothly. We got all eight safely loaded into the covered back of the truck and driven the short distance to their new home. Once there, the eight decided they were not coming out of the truck bed. That is when Allen had to belly crawl under the bed cover to the rear of the truck to pull each one out one at a time. Remember those nervous piggy bowels? The pooh that covered the truck bed now covered Allen as well. There are some days our work clothes never make it inside the back door. We have to strip down on the back porch, hose our clothes off with a garden hose and then toss them STRAIGHT into the washer...this was one of those days.

Enjoying greener pastures.

The eight little piggies are now quiet at home in their new abode. They have a large barn with an open corral all to themselves. We will leave them in there for a few days so they can learn where they will be fed and where their water is. Then we will turn them out into the large pasture with acres upon acres of green grass to be grazed and tons of dirt to rooted. There is even a giant mud hole just waiting for them.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This lil' piggy went to market, this lil' piggy stayed home...

 Disney's 'The Lion King' taught me years ago about the circle of life. The father lion poetically explained to his son how the lion eats the antelope, and when the mighty lion dies it is returned to the earth to feed the grass, that the antelope then eats. Thus creating the circle of life...we live, we eat, we die. Grasping the true meaning of this leads to a better appreciation of where our food comes from.

Our latest batch of finishing hogs reached slaughter weight last week. They are from Wiggles previous litter, a group of six, five boys and one girl. The five brothers made the trip south to Acre Station Meat Farm. This is an USDA/ Animal Welfare Approved slaughter facility in NC. The only sister stayed here with us. Polk-a-Dot, named for the black dot over her left eye, is now a 'diva' in our breeding herd. She will become a beloved, spoiled member of our farm family. The others will become a delectable, gourmet meal, to be appreciated and enjoyed.

One of the 5 boys.
The "some go, some stay" aspect of farming is dynamic and took me awhile to accept personally. We spend so much diligent time and thought raising all of our animals, only to see most of them off to the slaughter house. How can you eat something you raised? That question is posed to me on a regular basis. It's a very complex feeling/emotion but I'll do my best to explain. The answer is three fold and goes like this,

1. My family's health is paramount. All parents are inundated with news reports and warnings about what is in our children's food. The red dye found in highly processed hot dogs, cortisol (a stress hormone) residues found in the meat of over stressed livestock, the common practice of irradiating meat in processing facilities, the list of concerns goes on and on. I feed and care for these animals every day so I know they have not been given antibiotics, treated with growth hormones or been mistreated.  The butchery's we use, such as The Weeping Radish,  are small, family owned and operated businesses that exhibit our same high expectations of quality and food safety.

Muddy pigs are happy pigs!
2. Because I love animals. This is the explanation that confuses people. How can you love animals and raise them for slaughter? Simple, do a quick Google search of  "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations" and see how mass produced pigs live. With ZERO access to green pasture and very little room to move around, these animals can not be happy. This misery certainly effects the resulting pork product. Think of it in human terms, for the most part people who are miserable are sickly and not well, those who are happy tend to be healthy and active. Who knows which comes first, the misery or the illness, but the correlation definitely exsists. Pigs are one of the top five most intelligent animals, ranking much higher than dogs. The general public would never stand for dogs to be mass produced under these conditions. For the time that our finishing pigs (those that will go to slaughter) are with us, they are guaranteed a happy, stress free life. To further ensure their well being, we use a slaughter facility that is certified by AWA as well. Thus, ensuring the humane treatment of our pigs for the brief time they are out of our care. So, because I love animals, I want to be certain no animal was miserable and suffered for me to enjoy a sausage biscuit. A side note, I'm not as fanatical as I should be on this subject, because I still eat out and consume fast food. I guess its like recycling, we could all do more, but some is better than none.
One of the piggies, last July

3. I'm not a vegetarian, I applaud those who are. If I were, it would erase all my personal dilemmas with truly "knowing" my food and we would be raising crops, not critters. However, corn and wheat sprouts would not be as adorable as our baby pigs and goats, and not nearly as entertaining! Since we do eat meat, we have put all efforts into producing a superior product. If I'm gonna raise and eat it, it's gonna be great!! I do love meat, in fact, my personal opinion is that bacon should have its own section on the food pyramid!
Berkshire, a.k.a. "kurobuta" pork chop
Now back to the little piggies that went to market. They were born right here on our farm. From day one, they had lots of room to roam, root and play. Their mommy was not locked in a steel crate, unable to turn around, like is done on commercial hog farms, despite the fact that she has tried to kill us a time or two. She is extremely protective and becomes "hogzilla" when she has babies, see A baker's dozen of little piggies from 1-5-13. The five that went to market took eight months to reach an average of 300 pounds. Commercial hogs reach slaughter weight in about half that time. Allowing our pigs to grow slowly, at natures pace, allows for the true pork flavor and texture to develop. Pork chops from our Berkshire pigs are deep red and well marbled, looking more like a ribeye steak than the chops you see in regular groceries. And the flavor, all I can say is gravy needed!
Happily rooting for acorns in a natural pig environment.

These were happy, healthy pigs that spent their numbered days blissfully rooting for acorns and wallowing in mud holes. Allen and I together loaded them up and took them to market, said our goodbyes to them and left, knowing they were in responsible hands. In a few days we will return to retrieve about 1,000 pounds of premium pork products to be served by local restaurants, sold at our on farm stand and enjoyed by our family and friends. I can truly enjoy this pork, knowing it is safe to eat and was humanly raised. Though these five pigs days were numbered, they were happy days.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The sequel to Noah's Ark

Me and one of the twins
 I would be running the sequel to Noah's ark if I didn't have my husband to reign me in at times. I grew up on a farm with animals and would love nothing more than to have two of every kind. Aside from my BFF Christy, there were no other kids around to play with. When mom sent us out to play there were no pick up games of ball or hop scotch down the sidewalk, in fact there weren't any sidewalks. We spent our summers and weekends playing in the creeks or roaming the pastures playing with the horses and cows.

I had wanted to add goats to our menagerie for some time. Providing a herd for Jose, our donkey, was the perfect excuse. Before I could come home with a trailer load of goats, I had to prove to my financier, aka Allen, my husband, that they could be a profitable addition. We currently raise a variety of all natural, pastured meats. I have learned to love our animals, while respecting them for their intended purpose.  I would love for this farm to be a exhibition where every animal lived out its life in the lap of luxury and died peacefully of old age. Unfortunately, I  am not a millionaire, so the farm must turn a profit in order for us to maintain the 'diva' lifestyle our breeding stock and their offspring now enjoy.


 I just love our goats. They each have a unique little personality. They are very intuitive and sensitive creatures. Freckles, the sweet, shy one, still waits till very late to go into the barn at night. She refused to go in at all for a  full week after Grandma Goat suffered her stroke in the same barn, see A goat tragedy from 1/21/13. Her orphan, Frosty, is very shy and not as playful as Freckles kids, the "twins".

Strawberry and Frosty

The twins

Strawberry is our acrobat/escape artist. I have always heard that a fence that can hold a goat must be "water tight", meaning, it could hold water. Our five strands of high tensile electric fencing keeps in all but her. I feel certain she could escape from the innermost vaults of Fort Knox if given the opportunity! Her antics have become a bit subdued in the last few days as she is VERY pregnant and should give birth sometime next week. I can't wait to share the pictures, baby goats are just so adorable!

Billy, our male, has a new, troubling way to great us. When we go into his pasture he stands on his hind legs and tries to "head butt" us! As my husband will assure you, I am seriously hard headed, but no match for a goats thick, horned skull. He is a young buck, less than two, and weighs nearly 175 pounds. When standing on his hind legs, he is at eye level with me, not a fact I really wanted to learn, but did.

Billy and his rectangle pupils
Speaking of being eye-to-eye with Billy, goats and octopus are the only two animals that have rectangle shaped pupils. It is very odd when you first see this up close. Take a good look next time you find yourself face to face with a goat.

Here are few other interesting facts about our friends the goat. They were the first domesticated animal over 10,000 years ago, as evidenced by caveman paintings. Columbus brought the first goats to America in 1493. Goats milk is naturally homogenized, meaning it has a uniform consistency, making it easier to digest than cow's milk. In fact, it takes only 20 minutes to digest goats milk versus nearly a full day to digest the same amount of cow's milk.

Here's were we come to the profitability. Would you believe that 63% of red meat consumed world wide is goat meat? It is lower in cholesterol, fat and calories than chicken. Who knew!? I personally have never tried goat meat. I guess if I am to market my products in order to finance the upkeep of my beloved herd that will all have to change. Goat burgers anyone?

Friday, February 8, 2013

This precious piece of land...

Taylor, blankie and Mr Snubby.
 We all have possessions, some more than others. We all cherish our children and pets of course, but each of us has that one tangible 'thing' we own that we could never bare to part with. Some store this priceless item away in a lock box, while others display their treasure prominently on the mantle. For each of us, that one item is different. My 2 1/2 year old, Taylor, drags her beloved blankie around with her everywhere. It was patiently sewn by my Nana's arthritic hands and is now worn soft by Taylor's love. Bed time does not come for her without it. It is her one priceless treasure.

Over the years what we hold dear waxes and wains like the moon. What we are inseparable with today will be found neatly folded away in an attic box tomorrow. I recently rediscovered my own treasured childhood possession in a storage box, Mr. Snubby, my teddy bear. My Aunt Carol had given him to me when I was born. He had stood guard in my crib as an infant and had a spot on my bed till I was nearly grown. I'm not sure when he found his way into that box, but I was delighted to see him again. His fur is matted down and his faced permanently squished to one side from all those years of snuggling. I'm sure he wouldn't fetch more than a dime at a yard sale today, but during my childhood, he was priceless. Some things just can't be replaced nor purchased for any amount of money. Some times the true value of a possession is far greater than its appraised value.

In the 1870's my great great grandfather, Edward Lee Taylor, purchased a farm just north of the Meherrin River, near the Lunenburg/ Brunswick County line in southern Virginia. Here he built a home for his wife, Sarah, and they began to farm and  raise a family. The stone chimney from their original farm house still stands. It was hand built from local field stones, each selected for their unique size and shape. A mortar mixture made of red clay provides both buffer and bond between each stone. It is a design that works, for it has stood tall and strong for over 140 years.

A rainbow over the old chimney.

Over the decades the Taylor family continued to live and work here on this farm. My great grandfather grew cotton and wheat, my grandfather planted tobacco and my father raised cattle and hogs. Like my ancestors before me, I grew up right here, working side by side with my father. He taught me what his father had taught him.  As an only child, I was my fathers shadow. 

With its red clay soil and ancient oak trees, I cherish this farm and dream of its possibilities. This piece of land has always been my home, as it was to so many Taylor's before me. And even though my last name has changed, my heritage has not. I was fortunate to marry a man who made my dreams for this farm his own, and who works tirelessly along side me to see them through.

 This farm is my one precious 'thing' with which I could never part. Money can not buy a family history like ours, embedded root deep in this piece of land. Every day I gaze out of my front window and see that old chimney. Statuesque and proud, each stone an individual, bound tightly to the next by that red clay soil. The Taylor family is reminiscent of that old chimney. Strong and proud, each individual with its own shape and unique qualities, bound together through the years by soil, the soil of our family farm.
It's a daily reminder of where we came from, and where we're going.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pedicures for the goats

Today was pedicure day for all of our goats. Goats hooves are designed for agility and stability on rocky mountain sides. In that kind of environment their hooves wear down from the friction of the rough, hard terrain. The red clay pastures of southern Virginia aren't very abrasive and allow for little to no wear on their hooves. So the hooves grow and grow so we must trim and trim. This is a painless procedure for the goats and necessary to prevent hoof root and other painful foot disorders.
I have enjoyed my share of pedicures over the years. They typically involve a comfy massage chair, warm bubbling water, lavender scented salt scrub and idol gossip with my BFF. Never were Carhardt overalls, muck boots, a five gallon bucket and pruning shears a prerequisite...until today.

 When we purchased the goats back in October, the Garretts at had given us a hands on demonstration in hoof trimming.  This was the first time we had attempted it on our own. I went online to refresh my memory in trimming techniques and out to the pasture we went.

Jealous little Jose
We decided Billy would be the first to get the 'goat spa treatment'. With a trough of sweet feed in front of him, he was happy for the duration. As long as the feed didn't run out, I feel certain we could have included a wash, cut and color and he wouldn't have budged. Jose, our donkey,  has adopted the 'kid brother' role to Billy as they share a pasture. He was quite jealous that Billy was getting all the attention and wedged his way into the action as close as he could get.

The "business end" of Billy.
 With Billy being our first hoof trimming ever, and the most in need of it, the process took awhile. The longer it took, the more sweet feed he ate. The more he ate, the more his tummy grumbled. The only way to get the right angle to trim his rear hooves was for me to straddle his back and hold the hind leg up while Allen held his horns for my safety. This is one of the proper ways to restrain a goat to work on them. The "business end" of a goat over indulging in feed is never a good place to be. I can now say with confidence that I have had a close encounter with goat flatulence...and it didn't smell like lavender salt scrub!

Now that Billy was all trimmed up and aired out, we moved on to the girls. The twins were their typical curious selves and climbed all over us and Freckles, their mother, as we trimmed her hooves. The girls were a bit more reluctant, so Allen had to hold tightly to their horns to keep them still. Thank the Lord a goat has a natural handle! 

The curious twins climbing while Freckles gets her pedicure.

I swear it looks like the kid is smiling!
As usual, Strawberry was having no parts of being caught. Attempts to lure her with treats didn't work this time. It took four of us to slowly corral her into the barn where we finally got ahold of her. About mid way through her pedicure she decided she was done. It was Allen vs. Strawberry...round two. I wrote about their first bought back on 1/4/13 in And then there were goats... This time Allen was sitting on a bucket in front of her holding her horns as I trimmed her rear hooves. Strawberry lurched to the right spinning Allen off his bucket to the ground, but he held on! She spun him completely around on his back in the thick straw bedding at least four times before we regained control! Allen is no little man, and that is one strong goat! She settled down and we finished her up. The three kids all got a trim this morning too. Afterwards, all were given treats for being such good patients, even Strawberry.