Getting my Sh*t together

My vacation sucked. Baja was freezing. My old back hated sleeping on the beach. It snowed in Arizona. We did eat some amazing borrego tacos (lamb!) and soaked in the hot springs of Puertecitos, but for the most part I felt like I should have stayed at home or gone to Hawaii (never been) like the Obamas.

When I got home, I felt grumpy. Luckily, I cleaned my house before we left so the bed was made and Kuzzin was waiting with open paws for us. My farmgal Friday, Amy, did a great job taking care of the animals, so all was fine on that front. Still, I felt blah. I blamed it on 2011. I blamed it on my birthday (so close to 40). I blamed it on the fact that I just found out it’s going to cost me $20,000 to get a water meter on my abandoned lot. That’s almost how much I paid for the land! I freaked out that Blue Shield is raising my health insurance (i can only afford to have catastrophic in case I get hit by a bus…). I got my first bill for property taxes for the lot, and had to pay liability insurance for it too. Being a responsible adult is so lame and expensive. And I’m not even being that responsible.

That was my state of mind when I first faced 2011. I hunted some flies with my zapper racquet and felt a little bit better. Then I started thinking about little things that I could do to make myself feel better. I mucked out the rabbit area. I fixed the hay “barn” so it won’t fall over during a strong wind. I made some cheese. I mucked out the goat area. I did some weeding. I rearranged the goat milking room. I started thinking about how I want to do things differently this year. I want to streamline my operations so they are pleasurable, not a pain. One of the biggest problems has been with my hay manger.

The manger used to be two sets of window bars lashed together and set on a chair. I had the pleasure of having Gianclis from Pholia Farm over this summer and I asked her (goat expert) how I was doing. I mean, did she think the goats looked ok, had enough room, etc? She said yes, especially because of the stairs, and they looked very healthy. The one thing she said I should do is get a real hay manger. We looked at the homemade manger, hay spilling everywhere, and I realized she was so right. Contrary to popular opinion, goats are actually picky eaters and if hay falls on the ground, they won’t eat it. Even if it’s their fault it fell on the ground. That’s just goats. And my ghetto window bar manger allowed them to pull hay from the side where it would fall to the ground and make a big mess. But I can’t build for shit, and the hay mangers I’ve seen at the feed stores seemed overkill and expensive. Enter my birthday money from my mom (thanks ma!). I drove up to Larsen’s feed in Cotati and bought the Ruff Ranch feeder. It wasn’t cheap: $240. But look how happy this goat is now.

When I installed the manger, I sat and watched the goat enjoy using it. I think they like the challenge of reaching through the bars to get the good bits. And they are wasting 80% less hay. Organic alfalfa is not cheap, either, so perhaps the Ruff Ranch manger will save me money over the long-term.

This kind of pleasure isn’t cheap, but the pleasure of doing something right made me feel good and somewhat responsible. I realized that I just have to set goals, save money, and work slowly. So often I want things to happen quickly, but I realize that change is slow, it takes time to recognize how something can be easier/quicker/better.

So I guess it’s going to be a few years before I save enough money for a water meter, or building an outdoor kitchen, or a greenhouse but pleasure is often sweeter when you’ve waited and yearned. On that note, I’ll be having my first 2011 Farmstand and Food Fundraiser on February 27 (Sunday) from 11am-2pm. Stay tuned for details…And Happy New Year!

22 responses to “Getting my Sh*t together

  1. I snorted when I read the part about the fly zapper. When I’m stressed I pick fleas off the dog and cat, making sure to decapitate the little suckers, or pick lice off the goats (not as rewarding because they are too small to get enough satisfaction in the killing).

    btw, where do you get your organic alfalfa?

    sorry baja sucked. i hate it when a vacation is not really a vacation.

  2. I was going to ask about where you get the organic alfalfa but Heidi beat me to it. I’ve heard that a place up in Petaluma carries it but I’m hesitant to get hay somewhere new because I know the stuff I get in Napa isn’t deficient in Selenium.

  3. Sorry vacation sucked. I can tell you’re pleased with the new hay manger, and the pic with the goat is undeniably cute, but I would kinda like to see your ghetto-hacked version. I love stuff like that.

  4. If it makes you feel any better, it rained in Hawaii.

  5. Sorry your vacation sucked. That sucks! Mine left me feeling underwhelmed as well, but I think that was less seeing my family after three years’ absence, and more coming back to the gloomy Pacific Northwest and still having no damn job thing. But you found out as I did, that a lot of activity makes you feel better. I’ve challenged myself to dump half my sh*t and start living more leanly and cheaply. I’ve started on my Room of Shame, which has been dubbed the Room of Pending Stuff by a reader, which also made me feel better, because it implies action. But like you, I’m finding that change takes time. Good luck getting your sh*t together, and Happy New Year yourself. And welcome home.

  6. Welcome home and Happy New Year! We stayed home and caught colds the last week of the year – bleh. I’m throwing out a lot of stuff because we are finally renovating the house. We bought it in 1998 and it’s taken us this long to save up, plan and get the loan, etc, etc. Anyway, throwing out stuff makes me feel so virtuous along with keeping busy doing productive stuff – especially the income-generating kind. Looking forward to visiting you in 2011 you landowner you!

  7. For my entire life, my mom impressed upon her children that owning is always cheaper than renting, but she never mentioned the property taxes and insurance!

    Yes, I agree. Being and adult can be lame sometimes.

  8. I saw this article on salon.com today and it made me think of you and your farm. http://www.salon.com/life/sustainable_food/index.html?story=/food/feature/2011/01/06/hmong_urban_farmers_ext2011

  9. I got my greenhouse from Harbor Freight. It was cheap, but has been working well for me over the last 3 years. It’s a kit that you build – my husband and I built ours in 1.5 days.

  10. To Be Continued… Nice new manger. I need something similar for my hens. After they ate all the weeds in our yard, I started picking neighborhood weeds for them. But they have a hard time eating them on the ground – a lot get trampled. Since you are on a roll, any ideas?

  11. Looking at the picture of the 240 dollar goat feeder, it strikes me that a liberated upside down shopping trolley might do the trick almost as well.

  12. Hi Novella – my name is Jan and I’m a suburban farmer! I just finished your fabulous book – I enjoyed it so much – I love how brave and funny you are. As I look out at my driveway I can see the hens and rooster picking away – it is snowing but they don’t mind – time for me to start making them the occasional hot oatmeal with old greens, grease and yoghurt – they like it this time of year -especially the grease.
    We don’t have what you do – moving very slowly – had the chickens for a couple of years with the usual head-lopping off trauma and we have a small garden. I want goats and bees but the man is resistant. He was resistant to the chickens though and now he is mad for them.
    The pigs really intrigued me but the character I loved the most in your book was that wonderful turkey, Howard. Oh – he was a gem.
    Well, I’ll be by again – sorry your Christmas sucked – so did mine but for different reasons. I don’t know why I bother – I’m a Buddhist for pete’s sake!
    here’s a link to one of my blogs http://livingtheso-calledsimplelife.blogspot.com/

  13. hey guys:
    i get organic hay from barlas feed outside of cotati. it’s very expensive: $20/bale. but the bales are heavy and last longer than other bales i’ve bought. don’t know about the selenium levels.
    jan: get goats. if you have the space, they are the best thing ever. your man will learn to love them.
    jason: i actually did use an upside down metal desk for awhile (sorry, i don’t have photos of the ghetto manger) but the spacing has to be just right. if you were a welder, you could totally make a manger, no problem out of found crap. i am not, however, skilled in welding.

  14. Hi Novella, sorry to hear your trip was less than great, glad to hear the new manger is working so well, gotta love mom’s and birthday presents.

    FYI, Instructables.com has some really great ideas on building greenhouses out of old windows and sliding doors, check it out:

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Greenhouse-From-Old-Windows/

    Happy New Year from your friends at Two Track Farm.
    Tony, Janelle and Ava.

  15. I’m sorry your vacation went so badly. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time of year? Anyways, I love the new manger. I was looking at one of those for the goat and sheep I am going to get. I figured it looks like a nice option and they will waste less hay.
    I can’t build things either. It fustrates me that I have all of these great ideas and no way to do them. Maybe I just need to get out there and try anyways?

  16. Some of the hoop house systems I’ve seen aren’t too very spendy. This one has been recommended, independently, by two other bloggers I follow.

    Are you able to collect rainwater from your apartment building? If so, a few scavenged drums might go a long ways toward the purposes you had intended your meter for.

    You might also look into building a hugelbeet (wood-filled planting bed): Craigslist often includes ads for free firewood, and the only other necessary ingredient is manure. As the wood gets punky over the course of a winter or two, it begins to soak up and retain water very well.

  17. Hey Novella, I just heard you on my local NPR station out here in Missouri. You were spreading the word about goats. As usual, you were very funny (and informative). Well done!

  18. Killing flies makes me feel better when I’m stressed, too! I need to get me one of those zapper things, though. Will be hitting up the CVS on 51st ASAP.

  19. Don’t go to Baja in December. The first time I went it was December and I hated it. I’m in love with it now though. It’s much better in April, May, late September and November. My mom has a home outside San Felipe and I’ve been about a dozen times. I thought Puertecitos was heaven when I went, but that was before they built the road and it was just an abandon town, don’t know how it is now.

  20. You rock, girl. You are so real and wonderful. I

  21. Darn those expensive farm life necessities! ! I curse them! Sorry. A bit dramatic, I suppose.

  22. A little late, but have you been to Hawaii yet? How about Haliewa, on the North Shore of Oahu? Jack Johnson is doing some terrific work with truck farms & other sustainable education at Sunset Elementary. See Surf Dog blog. My cousins have a home there, and they are interested in getting chickens. And they have space for guests. And they are right on the beach & friends with the Johnsons. I think a plan could be hatched…

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