"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Friday, 29 May 2015

Driving livestock.

About a year ago I had a conversation with a lady (name withheld for obvious reasons) about the treatment of livestock. Now while she and I agreed for the most part on the ethics of keeping animals we did have one sticking point. She would never make her animals do anything they did not want to do! If she wanted her cow to come into the milking stall she would lure it in with a bucket of feed. If the cow did not want to come in, it didn't and that was the end of that. She claimed this was OK and she wished to respect the animals rights.
I suggested that it would one day be necessary to drive the animal for its own good, such as so it could receive veterinary help. She replied that if the cow ever needed help it would come willingly.

Now here I must disagree with the lady in the strongest terms. Although it may sometimes be distasteful I firmly believe that any animal in your care must learn to be driven and yarded when you need it to be so. Otherwise you will have an unruly animal that cannot be penned, wormed, milked or given medical care unless it particularly feels like it. And I can assure you that if the animal is in pain, that it will not.

Unfortunately this is exactly what happened. In short her cow had a difficult birth and desperately needed veterinary attention afterwards. The cow panicked and would not come to the lady when she offered it a bucket of feed. When She and the Vet tried to drive the animal (for the first time in its life) it not surprisingly panicked and became utterly uncontrollable. The end was one dead cow, shot from a distance, and a motherless calf. All due to the naieve stupidity of the owner. Needless to say she took it very poorly when I suggested the whole incident was her fault.

If you have livestock it becomes your responsibility to ensure all their needs are met and this means that sometimes they must be forced into situations they don't like. Hooves must be trimmed, worming mix dosed and fly spray applied for the direct health of the animal. A cow in milk must be milked either by her calf or yourself otherwise she will suffer horribly. Calves must be weaned and all animals must learn to go where I direct them and this is for their own good health and well being.This is the inevitable tradeoff that comes with keeping any animal in confinement.
So what is cruel? The lady in question believes that my methods are cruel and I likewise believe the same about her method of animal husbandry. But the end result is that our livestock are all happy and healthy. They have no fear of being driven or touched and as a result can receive help when it is needed. She cannot say the same.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Five years old!

Well it has been five years since the youngest cloud farmer was born and it has been absolutely FANTASTIC! I love being a Dad and wouldn't change it for the world.
As he grows up, his birthdays become more important to him. Not, thankfully, because he expects a haul of presents (although with so many loving Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and extended family he certainly gets more than his share..) but because he enjoys getting older and enjoying the responsibilities that come with it.
Lately he has become very big on gardening, he now has his own row of pot plants all given regular care regardless of whether said care is good for them or not. Mostly they survive. So when we were deciding on what to get him for his birthday the choice was easy.
And he absolutely loves them!

Seasons change

I look at my last entry and realize it was near a year ago. Ouch. Feeling guilty indeed. Therefore, realizing that there is probably no one following this blog anymore, I shall write for myself. Fair enough.
It has been a quiet year on the cloud farm. We have not made as much progress as I had hoped. Mostly this is due to a lack of finances. As we have covered the more inexpensive jobs we are now approaching the big ticket items and thus need money. Where possible we have done whatever preparation we can while we save for the materials needed.
Some projects we have covered though include finishing the first of the kitchen gardens so we can grow herbs and soft vegetables near the house. I have also completed the rock work for a fish pond for the youngest cloud farmer to keep some goldfish in. No doubt the goldfish will have to share the pond with the occasional plastic toy truck and irate cat as he attempts to broaden his knowledge of aquaculture.

The bees are doing really well. I managed to get my hands on some Genoese, an excellent strain of Golden Italian that I have wanted for a long time. These are an extremely quiet variety but still produce a very good amount of honey. So quiet you can almost do light work without smoke on the hive. This is something I would not have even dreamed of attempting on my previous varieties of Italian bees- good producers but stroppy indeed! From one small nucleus hive of four frames of brood and nurse bees the colony is now large enough to fill two large boxes (meaning a brood box and one super) to capacity and are working hard. I will leave them to it over winter and then split off another hive or two come spring.

We also now have meat pigeons. Once a staple part of the western diet, meat pigeons became unpopular after the great depression, viewed as a poor mans food, and so largely died out in most English speaking cultures. In some of the more enlightened countries -with no silly following of food fads, pigeon has remained a staple meat. It is cheap or free to produce, healthy and can be produced in a very small space. They are also very easy to prepare taking around five minutes to kill, pluck and draw ready for the pot.
At the moment we have six pairs although I might be picking up a few more pairs soon. The birds are currently incarcerated in their housing for three weeks until they get used to this being home. They can then be released to fly free range and will return to roost each night. Each pair will raise two squabs (young) each month or so when breeding. This should supply us with a regular addition to our diet throughout the year. The squabs are harvested at around four weeks when they are almost fully feathered but cannot quite fly yet.
The other important product from pigeon is their manure which is the highest nitrogen manure to be found. So rich that it must be well composted and broken down before you can put it on the garden. I intend to be adding this to my #1 lucky mineral mix that I brew for the garden.