A retaining wall

The project for this weekend was starting a retaining wall. It is going to form the east side of the little parking lot we are going to make.

Why do we need a parking lot? Well, our dirt is 100% heavy clay. High in nutrients, very low in drainage. When it rains, it turns into a swamp. And then motorized vehicles get stuck when they attempt to turn around so they don’t have to back out onto a busy highway.

A swamp

Mr. Possum thinks we had a great time accomplishing a project. I think we survived an ordeal.

We measured and dug…

… leveled it and lined it with rocks and sand …

The sand layer isn’t pictured because I was too tired

Spent ridiculous amounts of time making it level and I’m not sure whether it’s because you really have to do it that way or just because my husband is an incorrigible perfectionist…

The husband in question

And finally got the first two layers of wall stones set.

Looks nice, yes? (If you don’t say yes I’m going to bite you. SAY YES.)

Mr. Possum laid a third course of stones after I went inside to yell at the kids to clean up the kitchen so I could feed them a rotisserie chicken make dinner like the perfect mother I actually am. I did not take a picture of said third course of stones because …

There was a heating pad on a chair when I got inside and I don’t know who put it there or why but as soon as I saw it I claimed it for my butt. (Don’t worry, Mr. Possom also got to use it later. But I got a good long turn while he was laying ridiculously heavy stones in the dark. Not even sorry, because he totally did that to himself.)

Do I know more about building retaining walls than I did this morning? Yes. Will I voluntarily use this knowledge in the future? Also yes, but not for a while.

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Heartbreak

We woke up at 4:30 this morning to a rabbit scream. I ran to slip some boots on and check outside, while Mr. Possum went to the window and saw a coyote slinking away.

He stopped me at the door and said, “There’s a coyote out there, be careful.” I did the only reasonable thing to do when there’s a rabbit-killing monster outside: tromped out the door completely unarmed ready to see for myself what’s going on.

I think I had a vague intention of kicking it in the head.

Keeping a weapon by the door might not be such a bad idea. Even a baseball bat would be a better idea than kicking a coyote in the head.

Of course by the time I got out there, the coyote was long gone. So were five of the baby buns I had in one of the pasture cages.

I just took this picture of them yesterday

I hope some of them escaped, but I fear the coyote just stuck his ugly nose in through the top and ate them one by one. They were really just snack size.

I’m completely eaten up with grief, which is weird since these rabbits were destined to be eaten anyway. It just feels very different to raise them yourself, snuggle them, worry about whether they have enough delicious food, pet them and get them to trust you, and then eventually kill them quickly and painlessly … than to have a wild animal attack them in the middle of the night and make them scream.

Also, I was really hoping to talk Mr. Possum into letting me keep some of them for future breeding stock. Especially the white one, which Possumling #3 had named Pinkaboo.

When it’s light outside, I’ll go look in the woods and see if I can find any escapees. I doubt there are any, but I’m going to look anyway.

I guess you live and learn. Those pasture cages weren’t as safe as I thought. They’re fine for the daytime but all the buns need to be put back in the hutch at night. I just wish I could have learned this lesson without losing five rabbits, especially one of my favorites.

Just living the dream

Mr. Possum: “Your parents must think we’re crazy. I know my parents think we’re crazy. But, you know, we’re living so many people’s dream. Just think of all the people who are jealous of us!”

Me: “Correct me if I’m mistaken but I was under the distinct impression that we’re living OUR dream. Was I wrong about that???”

Mr. Possum: “um…😂”

So there you have it, folks. We’re living somebody’s dream. We’re not actually sure if it’s our own or if somebody needs to come get their dream because it got out. Like the rabbits. Y’all, if we can chase 15 rabbits in the rain, at night, you can come get your own dream back.

Just kidding, it’s our dream now. Finders keepers.

Rabbits in the henbit*

Oh, don’t mind us. We’re just some bunnies living our best lives.

Now that green things are growing again, the animals are enjoying munching on the delicious things and I’m enjoying not spending so much on food.

This includes the buns, who have moved from their depressing and overcrowded winter hutch to cheerful and overcrowded dog cages in the yard.

It’s crowded in here because rabbits tend to do what rabbits tend to do

Tbh I’m not super worried about the crowding, though. As long as I keep the cages moved to new grass frequently, they’re more interested in nibbling green things than each other. Besides, as soon as Mr. Possum gets an afternoon off work, some of the bigger buns will be in the freezer and the rest will have more room.

I’ve read a tutorial or fifty about how to make rabbit pasture pens, but it turns out that a basic dog kennel makes a perfectly useful rabbit tractor. And we happened to have a few lying around. The bunnies are prevented from digging out of the large gaps in the bottom by the simple expedient of flipping the thing upside down.

That’s a lot of bunnies in one cage, and there are two more just like it

It wouldn’t work in the long term to have them this close together, especially if I didn’t move the cages many times each day to give them fresh greens. But I’d rather give them all fresh things to eat, and do a little more work myself, than keep most of them cooped up in the winter kennel and only let a few of them enjoy the springtime.

Springtime is for everybunny!

Enjoy the henbit, cute bunnies. Munch to your hearts’ content and get super fat!

* Mr. Possum informs me that this is not henbit but he can’t remember what it’s actually called and it looks like henbit to me so.

Bursting at the seams

How many animals can one little 2-acre farm fit on it?

Whatever the original answer was, add 4 to it.

Our sweet mouser, Mabon, presented us with 4 mini-mes yesterday. The girls got to watch the kittens being born. The boys were at the grandparents’ house and still don’t know about the baby kittens, which is a state of affairs which I believe the momma cat probably appreciates deeply.

Little sweet girl was very worried yesterday morning, when I got up before dawn to send Daddy Possum off to work with some hot tea. Her water had broken and she did not understand why she kept leaving a mess in the floor wherever she went. I made a warm birthing box for her, petted her, and reassured her that everything was fine and also that she was in for a lot of work today so get ready. I’m a very nurturing and caring midwife. I’m like, “sorry they don’t make epidurals for cats, honey, you better buckle up.”

And then I went back to bed. Yes I did. I’ve given birth 4 times, I know it takes a while. Possum Baby #1 took 18 hours after my water broke, so go ahead and judge me for going back to bed, but in my experience animals give birth best when they’re not being f*cked around with anyway.

At 8 am said Possum Baby #1 ran into my room announcing that Mabon was having her kittens, and from then on it was a whirlwind of assisting with the miracle of birth keeping the girls from hovering and squealing and touching and making everything horrible for the poor Momma Cat. My daughters, having never given birth themselves, did not understand how bothersome EVERYTHING can be, but I have and I do. In the end, there were long boring periods of waiting before each new baby arrived, and it became easier to keep the noise levels down to manageable levels. I would say that they learned about the beauty and messiness of birth, but the fact is that goat births are a lot messier than cat births and we’d already done the goat birth thing.

However, we did get to learn about placentas. I guess they’d blocked that particularly messy bit of the goat births from their minds already. Hooray for teachable moments! I think!

Machine milking vs hand milking

Y’all, machine milking is not part of my aesthetic.

Nope. Not even a little bit.

Yes I did just google “industrial milk production” and take the first image that popped up. That picture is definitely not mine. It’s Wikipedia’s. Anyway.

My vibe is everything handmade and vintage and charming and inconvenient and slow. I knit and bake and ferment weird stuff and don’t know how newfangled cars work. My kids know more about what you can ask Siri to do than I do. And honestly the only reason I’m not still using a flip phone is because my husband made me. But I digress.

Yes. Hand milking. Hand milking is my thing. It’s nice and cozy and squishy and fun. Even when it’s cold outside, your hands are warm up under a goat’s belly. And you remember koosh balls? It turns out that goat nipples are remarkably similar with regards to the satisfying squishability, and superior due to not being rubber.

One of these days I might just make an ASMR video about hand milking. Probably on a weekend, when I can get Possum Husband to hold the camera phone for me.

So yes, hand milking is fun and primally satisfying. But it has some drawbacks. A lot of drawbacks, actually. And they are all in the form of …

HAIR.

Goat hair. It sheds like dog hair, and it falls into your milk bucket, and then the gorgeous bucket full of warm, fatty, sugary milk turns into a large, delicious Petri dish for all the poop bacteria that were hanging out in the straw where the goat slept. Because you could muck out their shelter five times a day and go through a bale of straw every six hours and there would still be poop there, y’all.

I’m good with poop. I’m good with shoveling poop and putting it in the compost. I’m good with growing veggies in compost that came from poop.

I’m not good with poop in my milk.

“But Kate,” my imaginary interlocutor says, “they make filters you can put on your milk pail.”

They do! It’s true! And I’m still eeked out because then the milk is getting squirted over the hair that the filter catches, instead of the hair floating in the milk until I filter it out later. You see my objection? Pre-filtration is moderately better than post-filtration, but not as good as not having the milk touch the hair at all.

And, like, maybe you’re a hand milker who is completely confident in the cleanliness of your milk post-filtration. I’m not judging your process. I’m new at this and there’s basically nobody who’s ever touched a goat who doesn’t know more than me. But you’ll excuse me for not taking milk with my tea when I’m at your house. Call me a germaphobe if you like.

So thus we come to machine milking. It’s nowhere near as cozy, and it’s certainly not as picturesque or adorable, but it’s much easier to keep things sterile. Wash the udders off with soapy water, hand milk the first stream of milk (which is most likely to be contaminated by bacteria), dip the nipples in iodine, wipe off with a clean cloth, and you’re ready to plug your goat in and go.

“Plugging a goat in” is not something I imagined I’d be saying about any part of my farming process

When the milk flow slows, you give your goat a nice little booby massage to encourage her to let down as much as possible. If she’s cheerful like my Little Momma Goat, she’ll keep munching her grain and totally ignore you.

Leave me alone and let me eat, she says.

If your goat is a Grumpy McGrumpface like my Big Momma Goat, she’ll try to kick the milkers off at this point. It’s ok, you’ll learn how to contort yourself to hold them on while she levitates her hindquarters and attempts to scrape all foreign bodies off her boobs.

It’s not that I don’t understand the impulse, it’s just that I’m gonna milk you anyway.

When even a vigorous boob massage no longer yields milk, it’s time to unplug the goat and start on the other one.

After both goats have been milked, it’s time for my favorite part of the morning, when we RELEASE THE BABIES!

Seriously. It’s like a tiny tornado of goat babies as they rush out of their shelter and joyfully reunite with their boobs moms.

I took a video of the Release Of The Babies this morning but I can’t figure out how to embed a video. So here’s an old photo of the babies instead.

And don’t worry, there’s still plenty of milk left over from them. The mommas don’t let down all their milk for the machine.

Ever sneak into somewhere you weren’t supposed to be and then realize it was a mistake?
Yeah. Him too

Baby goat cuddles

are a lot more fun for the cuddler than the cuddlee.

WTF WOMAN

This one’s name is Polka Dot, or Dotty McDotface, or SuperDotMan.

You can see why.

It is his great misfortune in life to be cuddly and irresistibly cute. He wishes to be known as an impressive and studly man.

Got some bad news for you about the wethering process, my dude.

Also E decided to try out the milking stanchion. I was about to go inside when I heard a little “help!” and I found

May your adventures be less unexpectedly entrapping than my son’s.

Baby goats! (doo doo doo doo doo doo)

You’re welcome for the earworm.

We weren’t expecting these baby goats to arrive until next week, and the polar vortex wasn’t anybody’s idea of the perfect time to attend a birth, but both of our goat ladies decided to have their babies on the same day, likely (hopefully) the coldest day of this winter. It was an adventure.

By the way, we are terrible at naming goats. Sorry.
Yesterday morning, I noticed that Momma Goat was hanging out in her shelter and didn’t come out for grain. I brought her a bucket of hot water to drink and guessed she was probably soon to be in labor. I rushed through my work just in case she gave birth fast, but she beat me to it – by the time I was finished and went outside to check on her, she had 3 little babies all cleaned up and fluffy next to her.

Girl Goat, meanwhile, had taken up the space in the shelter and was looking distinctively grumpy. I figured I should stay outside and keep an eye on her. I’d learned my lesson. And indeed, I did manage to https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWarmlyYoursKate%2Fvideos%2F2017120488406393%2F&show_text=0&width=267“>Facebook Live her birth as soon as the kids got off the bus.

I have spent the past weeks reading about how to assist with goat births and becoming low-key terrified that I was going to have to put my hands up a goat’s vagina to get a baby out, but these births were lovely and easy. One of the babies got cold and needed to be warmed up and fed some colostrum in the house, but by bedtime all six babies were dry and warm and happily nursing on their mommas. I still got up twice in the middle of the night to make sure everyone was ok. Yawn. They’re getting steadier on their feet by the minute, and I am really excited about the abundance of goat milk we’re about to enjoy!