The two table lambs go off to slaughter today. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken any of my animals off the property to have them converted into food. I’m naturally nervous and a little stressed by it and feel like it’s a farmer fail, but after raising them for 9 months I just couldn’t […]
Whew. Every winter I get “Long December” by the Counting Crows stuck in my head. It’s one of the surest signs I’m Gen X next to my propensity for wearing large flannel shirts and stompy boots and insisting that grunge was the purest expression of rock and roll ever to exist. So we’ve had ten […]
That’s right, we have not one but two sheep who need name suggestions. And I still need to draw a name for the little light phase Soay wether, so once these two ewes have their suggestions in we’ll just draw all kinds of names in one swell foop. Or rather I’ll put a bunch of […]
Everyone here seems to have survived the “bomb cyclone” – we’re far enough west that we just caught the edge and got maybe an inch of snow as you can see from the above photo. The polar vortex still has us in its grip, though, with sub-freezing highs and brutal lows predicted to continue until […]
Y’all. For two years now we’ve had Piggy Bank, a mild-mannered and well-behaved little boar who is known for his love of tummy rubs and business-like trot where food is involved. Even when Maggie was breaking out of the fence he stayed peacefully in confinement, doing his pig thing.
And then sometime night before last or in the early morning hours of yesterday, he broke out of the fence and traveled a quarter mile down the road to a house where another mini-pig boar lives. We found out because the same animal control lady who dealt with Maggie texted us and let us know. But by the time we got down there, he’d melted into the woods. Great.
Then that afternoon the people who lived there came up to the house because he came back, broke into their pig’s pen, and kicked his ass. We went down there to try to recapture our little asshole and he went zooming off into the woods again, leading us on nearly a mile long chase before we lost him. Right. Great.
This morning the neighbor stopped by, Piggy Bank came back only this time he broke the other pig out and tried to lure him off to a life of freedom in the surrounding woods. Which I guess is better than trying to kill him but JESUS CHRIST REALLY?? The other pig happily went back to captivity but Piggy Bank melted away into the surrounding forest, oinking balefully. He appears to have decided to go completely feral in the space of 36 hours and now wants accomplices.
I mean what the fuck. TWO YEARS with not a single indication he was longing for freedom and now he’s all “I AM WILD BOAR”. The next step is probably you start putting food in a crate down at the neighbor’s house to see if we can trap him and drag him back home squealing and kicking. But really, goddamned pigs.
It feels weird to be doing my year in review now. When you’re a shepherd of tiny Neolithic British sheep you start to really understand why British Celts started their new year around the first of November – late October and early November are when the sheep start breeding the new lamb crop, you see. […]
If this were a real post, there would be more screaming.
As some of you know, I have a Patreon thingy set up, where people who are so inclined can pledge a monthly donation in return for various rewards. The money keeps the sheep and goats fed and I’m hoping we can start work on my credit card bills. To that end, I’m writing my guide to a comfortable apocalypse and publishing the chapters there monthly.
Once the thing’s complete it will be available as an e-book in various exciting formats, but if you want to read the first draft in all its gory unedited messiness then a mere $3 a month gets you access.
Anyway. Here’s the preface to the thing.
Andrea’s Guide to a Comfortable Apocalypse: Preface
Who Should Use This Guide?
This is intended as a general purpose guide to get you started on preparing for the post-apocalyptic future as comfortable as it can be, like you’re in the finest bed and linens. That future may come because of the zombie virus, the oil and water wars, or just a generalized collapse of western civilization due to an overdose of end-stage capitalism. The strategies outlined in this humble offering may help you continue to live in relative comfort after whatever end is coming for us arrives. It may also be useful for authors and other creative sorts who need to know enough about small scale agriculture in a modern setting to sound convincing. My techniques, while historically based, often veer from the historically accurate, and this guide should not be used in an attempt to authentically recreate a historical lifestyle. Thousands of years of human innovation are not discarded lightly, and I try not to do it without good reason, e.g. the expectation that the technology to support a given method will no longer be available once niceties like electricity have gone the way of arsenic face paint.
In each chapter I’ve attempted to sort the subject matter into categories ranging from skills and techniques almost anyone can practice (always depending upon available resources) to those that require you to have at least a little land and privacy, or generous zoning laws (or zoning enforcement that’s inclined to look the other way) and neighbors who aren’t easily appalled. While my treatment of long-term survival skills is somewhat frivolous, picking up a few can give a person great satisfaction and a warm fuzzy feeling of self-sufficiency.
They can also serve as a valuable connection to our more precarious past and the ancestors who made it through to get us here. While I don’t advocate shedding technological advancement in daily life just for the hell of it (except when I do), there is something almost spiritual about taking part in activities that were part of human and community life for thousands of years, even when you’re doing it while taking advantage of relatively recent accumulations of scientific knowledge, technique, and materials.
In short, anyone with an interest in small-scale subsistence agriculture should use this guide, and hopefully enjoy themselves while they do it. Go forth, and fear zombies no more.
Not long after lambing season kicked off, our regular hay guy ran out of hay. No big deal, I thought, we’d just use another supplier to get us through the couple of months until his first cutting was ready. I found someone else who could deliver round bales and thought my hay problems were solved.
And then sheep started dying. I looked for parasites, I looked for subclinical illness, I wracked my brain and laid awake at night going over every detail and came up with nothing. Sheep kept dying. I dreaded doing the chores because I didn’t want to find another one down.
Finally in desperation I sent hay samples out for testing. It was the only thing that has changed. And changed it had. Results came back showing levels of copper much, much too high for sheep. The lab said the overall profile of heavy metals etc was common for hay fields that had been treated with biosolids – aka dried sewage. The hay from those fields is fine for cows but lethal for sheep. I hadn’t even thought to ask when buying the hay, and as a result of my mistake I lost two Soay ewes and their lambs plus my little Rambouillet wether.
I’m still grieving my sheep. I hate that when I make mistakes, it’s my animals who pay, sometimes with their lives. The only recourse in this matter I might have is small claims court but that’s a roll of the dice and I don’t have the time or energy to pursue it. I did leave the guy a message telling him not to sell hay to shepherds anymore.
The happy ending is that my regular hay guy had a fabulous first cut after a wet spring, and with healthy hay, summer grazing, a protein tub, and slightly increased grain rations the rest of the sheep are recovering beautifully. The goats thrived, their mineral needs are more similar to cattle than sheep and they require amounts of copper that will kill their ovine cousins (I normally provide it via rumen bolus).
Whew! We went from expecting lambs to finally having them all, with the last one born while I was away at the Livestock Conservancy’s Service to Stewardship. Because sheep are unhelpful, that’s why.
The final count is three ewe lambs, more properly known as gimmers, and one little ram (or tup). An excellent ratio, pleasing to the shepherd. The little ram will most likely be wethered and stay here to produce wool.
The Service to Stewardship workshop, geared toward veterans and beginning farmers (and veterans who are beginning farmers) was amazing. Compared to the one two years ago there was a much higher focus on networking this time around. I was armed with spiffy new business cards from Brân of Mydwynter Studios which I handed out with mad abandon. Learning how to manage your business is extremely important and sometimes you need that little extra help, in that case I recommend to Click Here to get some goof info.
Anyway, I learned really useful stuff, met some amazing people, and came home with a scythe from Larry Cooper of Gulland Forge. Larry was a really amazing presenter at the workshop and has me all fired up about the prospect of small-scale hay making instead of running a mulching mower over the front and back yards. Unfortunately because of the weather I won’t get a chance to go to work with the scythe for hay purposes until Tuesday.
At least waiting a couple days will give me a chance to rest up, since a combination of terrible weather and being on my feet for 2 days straight has me hurting. Do not acquire mysterious chronic pain problems, that’s my advice.