MOPSY THE MIRACLE GOAT
To fully understand kids, you need to start with their parents. True for Mopsy the miracle goat. Mopsy’s mom, Charlotte is a bit of a celebrity. She is a fainting goat, also called a mytonic goat. Fainting goats, when startled, run and then collaspse as if dead. (Google fainting goats) When Charlotte gets excited, she moves as though she has front wheel drive with the rear wheels locked up. She has been on WGN-TV (in the studio with a turkey) and has been a favorite of the children at the Montessori school where my wife Gwen teaches, staying there for a school semester.
At the school’s winter ball some of the teachers came up to me and said “ Boy Charlotte just keeps getting larger and larger!” So I thought I better go check her out cause she might be pregnant! The next Saturday I went up to the school and opened the door to the goat shed. There were two little goat kids just born with Charlotte, the proud mom! That was two years ago. Flopsy and Mopsy were born last spring to Charlotte and they got some special treatment. Flopsy seemed to get most of the milk, being larger and more aggressive, so we supplemented Mopsy with a bottle. She never did grow to full size and now is just 25#’s. (certainly not a viable size for a meat goat). So she became a pet and a good friend. One could always count on the Mops running up to you with a cheerful grin looking for a handout.
Mopsy had been doing reasonably well over the year until a month ago, when Mopsy leapt from the hay feeder and got her leg caught on it. She was hanging there by her leg when discovered by our crew. Although she had only been there for a short time, it was long enough to seriously injure her leg, but even worse, to sustain a puncture wound through her chest cavity, allowing air to escape out her side, when attempting to breath. We immediately called our local vet, but he was not available, as he was vacationing in Oklahoma. So Julie Larsen, who works with us, took Mopsy to her vet, near where she lives, closer to Chicago. The Vet did not give Mopsy much chance, telling us we could take her to the University of Illinois at Urbana for surgery. However, he thought she would not survive the trip there. I spent some time on the phone describing Mopsy’s condition to the vet at the University. She thought her condition was highly doubtful to recover from, and not worth the thousand dollars or more to treat her.
So Mopsy came home. One of the sad things about raising sheep and goats is that fatal accidents occur from time to time. A PhD friend of mine that raises sheep says, “They aren’t tied to the physical plane very well.” Which in philosophical speak means ‘They die easily’. I did not expect much but I was not going to euthanize the Mops until it was evident that she was headed downhill fast. She seemed to be hanging in there, so I waited for a noticeable change. She was not running a temperature yet, but I know that would come, as a gaping hole in the chest cavity of a goat is sure to get infected. I put her on a course of antibiotics, and kept her on close watch, in the back room of our house. She started running a fever the next day, but only by a degree. I decided that this was over my head, and took her to my regular local vet, who now had returned, for further evaluation. He thought her condition iffy, but did not rule out recovery completely. The chest cavity wound worried him, but a horse he treated with a fence wound, had recovered from something similar.
Mopsy received much TLC the next week and gradually improved. Now I have trouble catching her, even although she is running on three legs. Her drivers side back leg is still healing from tissue damage. It seems when our time is up nothing works to keep us ticking, but if our day has not yet come, we should not give up hope! How do we know when our day has come? We do not know, so Mopsy as a testament to the efficacy of miracles in our lives, still runs among the goats of Mint Creek Farm! (She no longer greets me like she used to, being very tired of all the smother mother care she has been getting.)
When I was a little one my Dad would pick up his guitar and play me the Hank Williams tune “Everything’s Ok”
Last night I thought of this song and it inspired me to write the following:
WHAT ME WORRY?
Organic pricing concerns
Still below chemotherapy
Pure but pompous
My mind starts to atrophy
Hay prices have doubled
What are we to feed
Without a bull
Our Cows won’t breed
Lambs are popping
30 of five hundred so far
Feeding them thru winter
Sure will be hard
Hawks been eating chickens
When they get out
Guard dog watching
Had egg on his snout
Weather turning colder
Winter’s on its way
With the drought grass stopped growing
We didn’t make any hay
Turkeys getting big
Gorging themselves now
Orders rolling in
But we have lots more to sell
Customer just complained
Beef Ribs too short
All I could think to say
He needed a longer fork
With thirty five pages
All needing to be signed
Organic Inspection went well
Just lost my mind
Our main write up
Was no complaint log
Its as if Mr. Short Ribs
Was sent to us from God
Billy goats are following
The Nannies all round
Making crazy noises
Though none in estrus can be found
That’s cause the Nannies
Are now twice the size
From the Billies last go round
Makes you roll your eyes
Both wells went dry
The new one drilled no water came forth
Four hundred feet down
Nothing but dry earth
Hauling water from town
Cost enough to make you cry
Five thousand gallons per week
An ocean by the time I die
When half the markets shut down
I let most of the help go
The ones I kept around
Half the time, don’t show
With bad home mortgage loans
The local bank almost went bust
Leaves you to often wonder
Who all you can trust
Things always go right
Things always go wrong
I have been keeping track
So I could write this song
RAISING ANIMALS WITH EMPATHY
When I was a kid in 1969 the musical Hair hit the stage. The song “Age of Aquarius” became quite popular.
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
I have often thought since then, what happened to the love and peace?
Well it is happening, but maybe not fast enough. The world is changing. How can we help this process go in a good direction?
Most people would prefer the humane treatment of animals. The problem is that we have found ourselves in a rut. Industrial agriculture and the economic structure behind it are built on energy intensive subsidized crop farming of grains and finishing livestock with these grains in confinement. The quantities processed give this current methodology a distinct cost savings. However this process of grain production creates excessive soil erosion, pollutes our environment with harmful chemicals, and consumes excessive energy. Feedlot animals are treated inhumanely, with high prophylactic antibiotic consumption producing a inferior product which is unhealthy to the consumer.
Carl Jung developed a typology based on the way we as individuals make our world by our focus and perception. The four basic types were Thinking, Sensate, Feeling, and Intuitive. Our western culture has been profoundly thinking driven. We have broken all the wholes into their parts and micro-analyzed them but in so doing have lost track of the big picture. Industrial agriculture is a testament to that. This thinking driven economy puts the opposite pole of feeling in the shadow. This means that Feeling is our way out of this mess. To feel we need to engage in a subsuming experience. Working with animals creates empathy for them. Before long you are psychically attuned. You can feel when they need to be moved and when they are out of water. Subtleties of behavior become recognizable and a new sense of belonging in the whole becomes real. I don’t know how to get this without actually experiencing it. Get ones body down to the farm and work with the animals!
The Aquarian Age is about group self-realization. We each have to feel that we are all connected. We must care for our Earth, as it is our home and a reflection of our soul. Bringing this down to our level here. We have these small sustainable farms juxtaposed with huge grain farms and feedlots. Having seen feedlots up close and personal my belief is that not many people would care to eat what comes from them. They would not feel good about the way the animals are treated. The feeling of this would overwhelm you and leave you stricken.
In our thinking driven economy, how things fit in the totality does not matter and individual profitably is the metric of choice. This leaves the small farmer in a conundrum. We have the awesome advantage of believing and feeling strongly about the path of heart in which we walk. Our hope is in the recognition of the value in what we do and the willingness among the enlightened to pay the higher price for our products.
There is one more thing. Investment. It takes substantial capital to build a sustainable farm. Those courageous enough to try have got to be committed to long hours of work often seven days a week. Most if kept track would be working far below the minimum wage. How can they build capital to pay for the infrastructure and production capacity, let alone the cost of land? Most of us that could be consider as successes used capital acquired from previous jobs or have a spouse or family that bankrolls us. If we wish to see our world move in the direction of sustainability then we need to create ways to invest in these farms and their farmers. I have offered previously a personally guaranteed note paying 4% to those willing to invest in Mint Creek Farm. This would be a way you could help us. We are certainly interested in other investment vehicles; this is just a simple obvious option. One thing is sure. We cannot go it alone without your help!
Last night after working late preparing for market
I lay in bed restless the moon was full yet the wind had picked up
The moon tucked its lazy head behind a cloud
An eerie pressure pervaded as a storm was brewing
Light flashed in the distant sky, far off rumbling echoed
Then I remembered that a cow was close to calving
She should be checked and I had forgotten
I arose and dressed and went out into the night
Birth seems to occur at times like this
As does death as well
The crack between the worlds open
Some enter while some others must leave
Wandering into this night I entered the cow pasture
The light of the moon had been switched off
I was on my own in the darkness
The only working head lamp I could find, worked only in the low setting
Illumination escaped me
Finding a black cow calving in the middle of the night
It’s peers spread evenly out through ten acres
She did not make herself obviously known liking not to be interfered
Braying for her missing calf however a Line-back Cow was distressed
We had taken her calf off of her for the locker
She had given birth in early January in the dense cold and nursed it through spring
Not yet ready to let her bull calf go she cried piercingly into the night
Change we find difficult
Though the universal constant we fight it tooth and nail
Death always resides on our left shoulder
No wonder our heads tilt off to the right
Forces beyond our control often usurp our plans
Traversing into the night looking at the backs of black cows
Birthing fluid comes out red
Warning of danger and what might lie ahead
I left the night to the black cows
Fate would find its way till the morning
Back in bed the ghost of sleep took me
In the morning I would return and find the little one doing fine
I might of thought twice had I known what it would entail. My friend Harold who farms 800 organic acres asked me to graze a farm of his ten miles down the road. He wanted to plow and reseed it, as the seeding he had previously made did not take well. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity like this to add to our forage supply, as we would like to minimize our hay consumption during the winter and stockpiling forage on our home farm by remote grazing others, is a way to accomplish this.
Nothing about this particular event went very well. The move over of 800 head of sheep from one farm to another required many livestock trailer loads. We were not able to succeed in moving them in one day as we started late. This meant that young lambs were separated from their mom’s overnight. While this was not life threatening, as none of the lambs were less than 45 days old, it did add stress to the flock and worry to our lot.
Having moved them without other incident we found they consistently challenged our electro-net and busted through to graze the more attractive alfalfa acres adjacent to the field Harold had wished us to graze in. So the entire time we were grazing they needed to be moved more frequently than usual and baby-sat. We decided to move them back home a little prematurely as our labor resources would be diminished during the upcoming weekend.
I breathed a sigh of relief knowing our sheep were coming home. I had some good help with moving them. Derrick, who has been helping with animal care for about five years, Anthony, Raya and her boyfriend Joe. I was tied up processing orders in the office late that afternoon and they almost completed the task when the sheep got ornery and darkness set in. Some got out and could not be rounded up out of the lush alfalfa field next door.
The next morning, a Friday, we had to move quick as I was losing my help for the weekend. Tony our llama was found missing when we arrived to the farm. I went after him. Raya and Joe caught and loaded up what sheep were left, except two Ewes missing their lambs from the night before, hopped over the fence and went trucking off to the west and out of sight.
I found Tony about a half mile away in the middle of a muddy area in an large unplanted field adjacent to where we were grazing. After about an hour of walking and coaxing, I was lucky enough to catch his halter and walk him to our livestock trailer. We went after the two Ewes that trucked off but could not find hide nor hair of them. So we moved what we had back to our home farm and worked on their set up.
I was now in the mode of doing all the animal care for the weekend late Friday afternoon and was finishing up some order processing when I received a call from Harold that our two Ewes had reappeared back at where they had escaped.
Not surprised, I grabbed the livestock trailer and some electro-net to make a funnel to catch them and went after them. By the time I arrived they had made their way about a mile down the road and were grazing a grassy filter strip along a drainage ditch. So I constructed an electro-net funnel and attempted to herd them towards the trailer. They had other ideas. They went west and I was setup to the east. So I followed them on foot over hill and dale for the next three hours until dark, unsuccessful in luring them in the direction I needed to. Exhausted I disembarked back home, conjuring up strategies for catching these two itinerant ones.
The next morning I was tending to the chickens and goats when I received another call from Harold. The Ewes had moved up the road a piece, and were standing in it, at a dangerous bend. Again I scurried on over but in the meantime they had disappeared. I spent the next hour driving around looking for them but to no avail. Now worried that I had lost valuable chore doing time, with many more animals to care for, I went back to chore doing. About three in the afternoon on Saturday, the Iroqouis County Sheriffs dept. called up. Two sheep were seen on the loose at the Clifton road bend, might these be ours, and if so would we come catch them? I told the lady on the other end of the wire that is what I had been doing for the last day and a half but I would keep it up. Within minutes the gentleman officer in the Squad car sent out for reconnasance called and said, “Those sheep are dangerous and I had better get them in” I asked him if he had seen them and he said that he had not been able to locate them but he kept getting calls. I asked him if he wanted to shoot them and he said he could not for liability reasons. I found this odd as I would expect that is why he would desire to shoot them. He informed me he was on OT and his boss would not be happy with him for running up his time over some sheep! I told him I was on my way.
Thankfully, my wife Gwen had made it back and offered to help. She went out with her car looking, and I loaded up our four-wheeled drive utility vehicle. By the time I made it to the dangerous curve in the road a man was out working on his house for rent. (3 bedroom farm house for $650). I asked him if he had seen several itinerant sheep and he pointed north west to a drainage ditch said he saw them there about a half hour ago.
Well that was good fortune, maybe our luck was changing with these two. I called Gwen and she met me at the curve. We proceeded to the spot last seen and unloaded the 4×4. Off we went and search and found the two lonesome doves sitting in a barren field chewing their cud. Springing up on our arrival they went full bore due west again. (Ironically the same direction as their lambs).
Now in full throttle we road these mamas hard over a ditch to a unplanted corn stubble field we could pursue them in. I was able to run one to the point of laying down and quitting, hog tied her and proceeded to go after the other. She being the smarter of the two went into a planted field of corn that I could not drive in. Back on foot and a mile now to the east she entered a tall grassy filter strip. I went back to the 4×4 and drove up the road to connect with the intersection of the filter strip. There lay a big beautiful farm house and lot with cattle grazing. I rang the bell to seek permission to trespass. A nice young girl came to the door and said fine to my request to drive on their grassy filter strip. The mom came running out and offered her assistance. I introduced myself to Glenda and said I think I could manage. Uh hum. On down the strip I caught up with the Ewe. She gave me the so you think you are going to catch me look and made a bolt for it. I raced after her on top of my 20 horse 4×4. Surely in this tall grass I could catch her. Just about pay dirt time she jumped over the bank of the drainage ditch. I slid down after her thinking now I got her! Normally sheep are afraid of water and will not cross a creek by wading. Well there are exceptions and she was one of them. With several leaps she was over and up the bank into another planted field. Oh God I thought will this ever end. Back up the the farmhouse Glenda came running out. Smiling she said the next water way over a half mile was theirs as well and that is where the sheep was headed. She hopped into her pickup truck and accompanied us onward. By the time we arrived the Ewe was in the tall grass and we did a replay. One difference however this was no little waterway this was a river. Not sure how deep and about 40 feet wide, Glenda did not think it was over our heads. Surely this Ewe would not jump in that. Well, wrong again. Never in my twenty years of shepherding have I caught a sheep under water! Caught she was however and I had her. She was not escaping me now. I hauled her with all my might up to the banks edge and Glenda grabbed her. I hog tied her legs and Gwen threw us a nylon strap to tie around her legs and she pulled the Ewe up the bank with the 4×4. Into the back of Glenda’s truck she went and we went after Ewe #1. Together the two for the road accompanied me in the back of Glenda’s truck to our home farm where her lambs were glad to see them.
I was at the local bank doing a deposit and the teller next to me was fielding a call. Someone on the other line wanted to know what a five-year CD was paying. It was something like 1.5%. I thought Gee; I am paying about 4 times that on my credit line.
Yes, farmers have credit lines. It’s a long way to harvest when raising livestock, the money does not flow in until you have raised, fed, slaughtered, processed, packaged, sold, and delivered.
Maybe there is some blessed middle ground to share between those of you who have money to put in a CD, and Mint Creek Farm which needs working capital to grow our business of growing food. I can personally guarantee a loan and have good land and animal assets to collateralize it. I am willing to offer 4% interest and can pay the funds back on demand. I would like the same privilege to return the funds with interest with no prepayment penalty if and when no longer needed.
While we have a good relationship with several local banks, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the people who valued the food invested the working capital of the farm? Invest in good food and sustainable agriculture and earn a better return!
Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any interest in this regard.
The Lawnmower, a raucous beast, quite loud and disturbing of the peace, I have had a long history with these critters. Living in the town of Stelle, which is a community of about 40 homes on quarter acre lots in the middle of the Ford County panhandle, I am constantly exposed to their onslaught. Just about the time you can open the window to listen to the birds singing, guess what someone decides to do? Mow grass!
Stelle being a cool sort of place we are blessed with a lawn mower coop. Those who are members get to share in an expensive mower, which is a zero turn radius model. This translates to loud, as it requires a large gas engine with screaming hydraulic pumps. Since this beautiful beast is shared over much of the community it means its always running.
By now you have guessed that I need therapy. You are right. I will tell you how I came by this state. I was abused by a lawn mower when I was a child. That’s right, one nearly cut off my finger when I was seven years old. My dad loved cut grass and we had to mow our acre and a half every Saturday. This took a good part of the day followed by a trip to the day camp down the road where our little league team practiced. This was a really cool camp in the forest with two baseball diamonds tucked away. Guess who got to mow them! One day on a Sears riding mower the grass was plugging up in the snout where it comes out and I reached in a little too far! Halfway to the first joint of my index finger was almost sliced off. A trip to the emergency room and lots of teeth gnashing I was going to be all right.
I believe it was Carl Jung who said that the area of your greatest wound as a child becomes your greatest gift as an adult. So here I bring to you the concept of Lamb Mowing.
Owning the farm around Stelle we were asked by some organizers of the Earth Day festivities here in Stelle to bring some lambs over to graze for people to see. Well I jumped at the chance and the lambs have been grazing lawns since. They are a wonder to behold!
Having practiced a variety of rotational grazing techniques over the last several decades I am quite impressed with the beneficial sod forming capabilities of what is commonly known as mob grazing. By allowing long rest periods the pasture plants can set deep roots. They can spread thru rhizomes and stolons which allow a general thickening of the pasture along with natural reseeding.
The older more mature plants are often passed over by the animals who graze in high concentrations for very short time periods. This high concentration causes much trampling of the mature plants which enable a thick plant litter on the pasture floor. This litter holds moisture just like mulch in a garden. It also breaks down to feed the soil organisms which proliferate under this scheme. The animals select for the younger more tender plant shoots which are highly nutritious. Due to frequent moves they are always getting fresh choice fodder and the plants are allowed a faster regrowth by not overgrazing.
Truly a perennial polyculture of pasture plants grazed using this method has great potential to heal our environment through the building of soil organic matter (carbon sequestration), reducing erosion, and the improved economics of synergistic resource management.
Sheep as spiritual beings defy our common understanding. While they physically can be a little rough on each other and have a pecking order (or should I say butting order) the flock is of paramount importance spiritually. They thrive in groups and die alone. Literally! Their identity exists only with each other juxtaposed. While we humans thrive in our individualism sheep prefer not to stand out. Occasionally like with all things in life there are exceptions.
“Dunny” as we call her or Daniella, her official name, was a bit of an exception. Raised as a bottle lamb she became the love of our family. She helped us to become a part of her flock as we loved having her as a part of ours. We humans have our pets and those of us raising animals need to have ours as well. These special animals help us to connect in a meaningful way with our world, bringing a way in to an empathetic reciprocity of animal care. The old adage of “Take care of your sheep and they will take care of you” does have merit.
Well today Dunny needed care, she gave birth to a large lamb last night and being 8 years of age had a struggle. This morning when we found her she had a full uterine prolapse. With the help of Randy and Kevin we propped her butt up and replaced the uterus carefully. After stitching we gave her some treatments and she and her lamb seem to be getting along just fine. I realize that I have been living in fear of losing her for the last several years as sheep don’t live that long and soon her time will come. While we have many sheep there will never be another Dunny!
Thanks to all those that helped on our new site at Mint Creek! While the contributors are many a special thanks to Sarah Becan for leading the way. Danielle Marvit for all her efforts and leading us to Sarah. Raphael Rogers, whose work was the shoulders on which this stands. Some great photos by Kate Gross and editing by Tucker Rogers, Julie Larsen, and Jonathan Carr. This is a new beginning and we will do our best to fill up the drop downs with farm food inspirations that not only decorate your plate but satiate your palate.