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Meet Bebe

15 Mar

I wrote an essay about milking the gorgeous but sometimes bratty Bebe for EatingWell magazine. You can read it here.

And for the kind people who’ve written me to find out what the heck Bebe looks like, her she blows, pictured here on the first day I brought her home, with me and my friend Marg….


And now here she is, with one of her first kids, Orla, who now lives down the street and has kids of her own….


And here she is this morning, eating her kraut, which she loves.

My plan is to take her up North to get boarded and bred when I go to NYC in April. The Biofuel Oasis won a grant from Eileen Fisher, which supports women-owned businesses so we’ve all been invited to go to New York to meet EF and hang out for a few days. I can’t wait. And Bebe will get to meet up with some handsome buck while I’m off partying–talk about win-win. Look for adorable goat kid photos in September…

Goat Town Tour, Dec 20

7 Dec

Due to popular demand, I’m going to have another farm tour!

When: Sunday, December 20, 11am-2pm

What: Signed copies of Farm City, Goat Town t-shirts, fried green tomatoes, and hot chocolate made with goat milk for sale. Goat snuggling and tours free.

Where: Ghosttown Farm, 665 28th Street, at Martin Luther King

How: Don’t park on 28th Street!! Park on MLK, and walk over. Please. I’ll give you the stink-eye if you drive down 28th Street, which is a dead-end street where my neighbors enjoy parking their cars.

My garden looks like hell, especially in December, so arrive with low expectations.

See you there!

And then there were three

7 Sep

I started this week with six goats and now there are three.

Yesterday Moses came over with his friend and whole family and we sent Eyore/Pretty Boy “back home” as Moses put it. Moses is the owner of a liquor store a block from my house. He’s was a goat farmer in his country, Yemen, and so my goat’s death was swift and painless, facing east, and filled with prayer and respect. Still, it was really intense and sad, and I must admit that killing my little goat made me seriously question the wisdom of eating meat.

My friend who raises pigs and treats them like her children until slaughter time confessed to me that she’s going to get out of the pig business. It just breaks her heart. So all you vegetarians:  don’t think that just because I raise meat animals, I’m a remorseless meat eater. In fact, because I am so close to it, I almost begin to feel resentful of meat eaters who blithely eat lamb and never have to think of the fact that a little cuddle-butt had its throat slit so you can vaguely enjoy a gyro.

futurewether

After Moses left, taking his share of the meat and all of the offall (!), I went out to the garden and processed the goat hide. It’s really beautiful and soft, black and white, and so I want to save it. I stretched it out between some boards and scrapped the fat and meat off it. In a few days, Tamara Wilder is coming to teach a class at my farm about animal processing, so I hope to get tips from her about how to braintan the hide so becomes soft and supple. She is a wise woman, and will be demonstrating in the class humane ways to kill animals, and respect them by using all of their parts.

That night I went to do a reading at Mrs. Dalloways Books. I found myself getting choked up while reading the section in my book, Farm City, about killing my Thanksgiving turkey. I actually had to go through my thought experiment again to re-teach myself how I came to justify eating meat. The biggest one is simply economic: farm animals reach an age when they become a strain on the budget of a farm–it’s either eat them or lose money feeding them. Since, as we’ve learned (ahem) that a farm is defined as producing food not feeding pets, I had to make the decision to harvest the male goat.

Then I remember that keeping animals is a way of life for me, and many other people. I like being around farm animals, I raise and breed my dairy goats, and they will occasionally have male offspring that I can’t keep. From these males, then, their meat will sustain my life. That is why I’m so glad Moses–fount of goat farmerly knowledge–comes over to help. And because I know the whole story of meat: joyous birth, happy goat playing, naps in the sun, I often choose not to eat very much of it.

The other two goats that left the farm–Orla and his daughter Milky Way–didn’t “go home”. They went over to 18th Street, at my new friend A’s house. I’m so excited to have a fellow goat farmer only ten blocks from my place. We have plans to share buck service and milking and going on feed runs. Orlie and MW seemed very relaxed about the journey over to their new digs. Before long they were eating and pooping and seemed to be settling in. I’m always amazed how adaptable goats can be.

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I milked Bebe this morning, letting her know that I was sorry about her son’s departure. She stared forward, chewed her cud and let down six cups of creamy milk, more than usual, because this time I got her son’s share too. And for that, I was thankful.

Class Info________________________

For those of you who might be interested in taking the animal processing class: Tamara coming to GT farm this upcoming Sunday, Sept 13. The class will focus on how to humanely kill a chicken, a rabbit, and how to use all of the meat, bone, fur and feathers from these animals, as a way to truly respect and thank them. Each participant will get to process their own animals. It will be truly empowering. Class will start 10am and last the whole day, and costs $100 which includes all materials, and you will go home with the animals you processed.

Here’s the agenda:

10-11am: Introduction and check in, things to think about, etc….

11am -1pm: Rabbit killing and processing

1-2pm: LUNCH (cooking hearts & livers) cook pre-killed rabbit in some way

1pm: put fat on to render

2pm: pour off fat into containers

2-2:30 construct racks and string up rabbit skins to dry.  Demo of stages of tanning.

2:30-3:30 killing, plucking & processing chickens

3:30-4:00 finishing up and farewells

There are a few slots left: email me at novellacarpenter at gmail dot com if you’d like to sign up.

For Sale: Three Goats

18 Aug

Okay, I’m starting to feel like I’m swimming in goats in my backyard. The kids are now 3 months old and should be sold to good homes. I’m having trouble letting go, but I know it’s best for everyone involved. I’ve decided to sell Orla, my first freshener, her daughter Milky Way, and her half sister, Hedwig, the horned mini la Mancha.

A little bit about them:

Orla was born on the farm March 17, 2008 (white goat at the top of the stairs). Her papers from the National Dwarf Goat Association are pending (I’m so lazy about registering!). She is very sweet and cuddly and is a beautiful white goat without horns. This spring, she gave birth to two twin girls without problem. Though she has wonderful body formation, her milk production has been disappointing (this is why I’m selling her). I would recommend her as a pet or as breeding stock. $100.

stairwayfarm

Hedwig was born on the farm May 1, 2009. She’s a blend of Nigerian Dwarf and La Mancha, and as a hybrid, can’t be registered. She has very strong dairy characteristics. She also has horns, and so would not be appropriate for people with small children. I had thought she was a hermaphrodite, but am fairly sure she is indeed a girl. She’s really smart and cool, like a dog. $50.

hedwig

Milky Way is a dream goat, born on the farm May 5, 2009. She has very good character and great milk lines on her father’s side. She might be a champion milker! She’s not registered but I can get her registered once her mom, Orla, is registered. She is very small and cuddly, pictured here at two weeks old. $150.

ginger

What you should know:

Goats need friends, that is why I’m selling these three together. You’ll need a backyard or farm with a good fence, protection from predators, a goat loafing area, plenty of water, and good hay (alfalfa and grass hay). The goats also like tree branches, leaves, jade plant. So you should know they will also freely eat your trees and bushes. I recommend separating them from the garden. The ideal is that you won’t eat these goats, they have been raised as pets.

If no one steps up for the goats, I’ll have to put them on craigslist. But I’d rather know the buyer so I can give advice and visit the goats and see how they are progressing. I’m especially curious how Hedwig and Milky will be as milkers.

Email me directly if you are interested and want to know more:

novellacarpenter at gmail dot com.

Open Farm Tour, Food, and Demos: August 29

6 Aug

FYI: no need to RSVP!

I’m really excited about the Eat Real Festival to be held in Oakland August 28-30. There’s going to be sustainably-raised meat taco trucks, dinners held at restaurants that feature produce from urban farms like City Slicker and People’s Grocery, ice cream cones and a beer garden.

A lot of people have emailed me to say they’re coming to town for the festival and they’d like a tour of Ghosttown Farm. So I figured, hell, let’s make a whole day of it, with demonstrations, tours, bookselling, and a campfire where I burn all the wood and branches that have accumulated on the property. And it’ll be a good excuse for me to clean-up the damn place. And you can all laugh at my pink and red house (thank you my landlord).

Here’s the schedule:

10am

Chicken Slaughter Workshop

Many people who keep chickens recognize that one day they will need to cull a member of their flock. In this demo we will show best practices for killing the bird humanely, how to pluck, clean, and rest the bird for the dinner table. Chef Samin Nosrat will then demonstrate how to butcher a chicken quickly and efficiently into eight pieces and make a rich stock with its carcass. The class will also include a cooking demonstration with tips on how to season, roast, braise and grill so that you can extract maximum flavor from your backyard bird, as well as recipes for using all the offal, heads and feet so that none of your bird goes to waste.

Noon

Farm Tour and book signing

I will give a tour of the farmlette, telling the story of GhostTown Farm, which has played host to turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigs. It now features rabbits, chickens, bees, and goats. I can sign copies of Farm City and books will be for sale.

1pm

Farm Snacks

Just-picked food from the garden will be plated up and served a la carte in the garden. Items will depend on what’s ripe in the garden but most likely will include heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, homegrown eggs, goat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and local honey. Donations are encouraged.

3pm

Goat How-to

Many city people are becoming more interested in goat husbandry. I’ll explain how I raise my goats, the trials and tribulations of goat ownership, and give a hands-on demonstration of how to milk a Nigerian Dwarf goat, and a demo of how to trim hooves.

5pm

Farm Tour, II

Same thing, different time.

7pm-10pm

Open Grill

Bring something from your farmstead (or the store) to drink and grill. We’ll have a campfire and a bbq set up for whatever you want to cook. Mostly, though, we’ll just relax and meet each other, and talk about the day’s events with a big smile.

Here it is in a nutshell:

what: GhostTown Farm Tour, Food and Demo

where: 665 28th street, oakland, ca (at mlk)

when: Saturday, August 29, 10am-10pm, see sked above for exact times

how much: free, but donations gladly accepted

Introducing…

17 May

Foxy Brown.

foxybrown

and

ginger

Ginger.

Not original or poetic, but you know, they are goats. I’m keeping Foxy, and Ginger will be for sale in a few months. They come from champion Nigerian Dwarf milking stock.

A few people have inquired about the boy, Eeyore.

futurewether

I hope to borrow my friend’s tool, the Emasculator, and make Eeyore a wether, fatten him on grain and milk for a few months and then have him star in an animal processing class I’m putting together with the talented primitive skills teacher Tamara Wilder. (The date is set: September 13, if you’d like to sign up for the class. We’ll be killing two rabbits and one goat, processing all their parts, and starting the process for fur-on hide tanning. We may have a guest appearance of a local chef for a how-to cook lean meat demonstration. The class will cost $100 and is limited to 10 people. Send me an email if you want to sign up: novellacarpenter at gmail)

As for  his hermaphroditic sis/bro, Hedwig, here in this photo you can see the extra part (what I’m calling the angry millimeter) on her vagina.

hedwigsangrymilimeter

Hedwig  is really sweet and fun, like a puppy. She/he doesn’t try to hump everyone like Eeyore (I know, already!) and she’s very people-focused. But on a practical note, intersex goats are not useful: they can’t be mated, they don’t make milk, they can’t stud, but they may smell strongly, like male goats. So, it’s a quandry. If I give her away to someone then I lose money on stud fees and feed, and perhaps that person gets a goat with problems. So, if anyone has a suggestion, let me know what you think.

Despite these issues, I’m having tons of fun with the little ones. I take naps out in the goat area and have them scamper across my body. Orla sometimes sleeps on top of me, and Bebe keeps a safe distance except when she wants a quick neck scratch. In the mornings, I milk Bebe and am in the middle of training Orla to behave on the stanchion. Things are lovely and I’m looking forward to a great, goat-filled summer. Let me know if you’d like to come by for a visit.

Goat Babies

4 May

It’s been a whirlwind week what with the new Biofuel Oasis opening up shop and both goats giving birth within a few days of each other.

novellabfoLast Tuesday Bebe came running out of the goat area looking crazy. Extra crazy. And then she started making the deep bleating noises that mean only one thing. I, exhausted from a marathon BFO construction weekend, ran around the house looking for all kinds of thing that I had now lost: iodine, washcloths, towels, beet pulp, molasses. Knowing Bebe, a pro with 4 births under her belt already, would be popping soon. She lay down and got back up for about an hour then started the real pushing. She yelled her head off, and I was reminded that birth is not fun and should not be a priority for me.

Finally, we saw a head poking out. A stuck-ish head and one hoof. Because normal position is two hooves and a nose. I couldn’t help myself, I broke the bag of fluid so I could talk to the head. It was a beautiful black and white La Mancha eared-head. “Ahhh,” it nickered. I cleaned off my hands and gently pushed the hoof back, and fished around for the second one. I couldn’t reach it. So, after another minute, and some intense bleating and pushing on Bebe’s part, and some gentle tugging on mine, Bebe finally got the thing out. These kids were huge compared to the straight Nigerian Dwarf kids.

hedwig1

Then out came the second one without issue. Bebe is the greatest mom ever, and she cleaned them off, made low mumbling noises and eagerly licked them while they nursed. Her udder is *enormous*. I breathed a sigh of relief–birth is very dramatic and scary, not unlike a death.

So, Bebe’s are: Eyore, a black and white speckled sweet boy. and Hedwig, a earless black and white girl who also has a weird extra thing on her vagina. These sexes are not ideal. I felt kind of sad the rest of the day. Yes, the birth went well, Bebe was healthy, and as cute as they are, these are not keeper goats if you’re in it for the milk.

eyroe1

That was Tuesday.

Friday, on the day of the grand opening of the BFO at 11am, Orla ran up to me at 9am with a quizzical expression and grunted. At least I could find everything I needed because the gear from Tuesday’s birth was still on the washing machine. I figured her labor might be short like Bebe’s. Around 1pm, with no signs of movement and lots of heavy breathing, I called Cotati Large Animal Veterinary. The nice lady vet talked me down when I confessed that Orla was having her first birth, she was slightly fat, and that I lived in downtown Oakland: “Has her water burst?” No. “Is she bleeding?” No. “Call me if her water breaks and there’s no progress.” It’s just so nice to talk to an expert (must remember to send a thank you card).

yellowbaby1

By 1:30, Orla was pushing and yeeeellling. I crouched next to her, offered her molasses water, and tried to facilitate the pushing by making dramatic facial expressions. Then, out squirted a spindly yellow thing. Dead. I thought. Because how can something look so skeletal and yellow and be alive? But then she coughed and I wiped her off. Orla, meanwhile, had one of those distant stares. She didn’t know this was her baby. I thought. I pulled on her collar–check out your baby! But she would have none of that. Bill came out to see the baby–an adorable blonde with blue eyes–and so did Bebe who couldn’t refuse the sound of a mewling kid. “There’s another one in there,” he said.

“No, she’s just fat,” I said. And stupid, I thought. I worried that she was like a neglectful teen mom. Visions of me doing 3 am bottle feedings flashed in my mind. Then another baby slide out. Twins! I couldn’t believe it because usually first timers have only one kid. After that one was out, Orla’s motherly instincts kicked in and she started cleaning up her girls.Both girls. Both blue-eyed. It was 3pm, I headed to the new Oasis. A good day to be born.

girls1