Nov 20, 2012

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Grace in her "day dress" at Liendo.

This past weekend we paid homage to the history of our area and to the men and women who sacrificed, day in and day out to shape that history.  Our county seat is Hempstead, TX, at one time known as "Six Shooter Junction".  Obviously a reference such as this does not come without a price.  The town served as a Confederate supply and manufacturing center and was the site of a Confederate military hospital and several Confederate camps.  Liendo Plantation, on a hill on the outskirts of Hempstead served as a Prisoner of War camp as well as a rallying point for Confederate troops and was occupied after the war by Custer, whose wife was nursed back to health at the plantation house.  Every year (barring historic drought conditions such as were present in 2011) a three day long event is held on the plantation grounds to honor the history and educate visitors about life in a Civil War era camp.  The Civil War Weekend is hosted by the current owners of Liendo Plantation and the 11th Texas Cavalry unit and is looked forward to every year by the Carlson family.  This year we made the decision to only sell at two, rather that three markets in order to allow more of the family to participate at Liendo.  The goal is to portray conditions for those who lived in camp, whether as soldiers or as the civilians that traveled with the army whether as cooks, laundress', blacksmiths, chaplains or more.  The hardy sleep on cots in canvas tents,  food is cooked over open campfires, and women and girls must take care to not catch their skirts on fire as too many women did "back then".  The boys work their way up, from running firewood up to being "powder monkeys", all looking forward to the first year that they will be old enough to participate in the battle reenactments, the highpoint of the weekend for the boys while the girls look forward to the lawn dance.

We are now two days out from "Liendo" and instead of the graceful young lady pictured above, Grace now looks like this...

It seems that we returned home with a virus of respiratory nature that has made it's way through the household with alarming speed.  To be honest, we most likely went to Liendo with this brewing but it is now kicked into high gear.  No one is deathly ill, coughs and congestion are the order of the day, with earaches and fevers thrown in for good measure for the younger set.  Thus far our resident asthmatics are handling it well but we have nebulizers ready at hand.  We are keeping everyone well hydrated and using our tried and true immune support supplements and are hopeful that we will have it kicked to the curb by Thursday as we are scheduled to travel to East Texas to visit our dear friends at Texadus Farm and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth from both our crew and theirs if we cannot make the trek.

Other than that, things are rolling right along.  We are definitely in our low season, milk production is now at one fourth of our Summer level.  Goat bellies are getting larger and lower. and we are watching the calendar as goat due-dates approach--just not fast enough to suit us!  We are working on a project to turn a section of our garage into a baby goat nursery so that perhaps, for the first time ever, we do not have a living room full of bins of baby goats.  It is a theory, anyway, I really do not see my family giving up cuddling with new babies.

We made the tough decision a few months ago, to drastically reduce our herd size.  As I have shared before,  we did not get goats with the intention of starting a dairy.  Our goal was milk for our family and the ability to participate in goat shows.  We had absolute liberty to keep the goats that we liked and sell others, purely on the basis of affection, beauty or whim.  As time went on, once we were licensed as a dairy, we added goats on the basis of milk production, but we continued choosing who to keep or sell on an emotional basis, and who wants to see adorable babies?  Or the only remaining daughter of our first goat?  Or that one that had such a rough start that she spent her first month in the house being pampered?  We were prompted by close friends a few months ago, to take a hard look at the list of goats that we owned.  We considered how many goats we needed to be milking, if the goats were of average or above average milk production levels.  We considered how much it would take to feed that number of goats plus a reasonable number of babies each year to serve as replacements for retiring milkers.  When we finished number crunching we realized that with judicious breeding and culling we could be milking 3/4 the goats that we currently milk (for 3/4 the feed costs) and likely be getting more milk if we standardized the decision making process for who we keep or sell.  Once we determined how many goats we really needed to make the dairy productive we were stunned to realize that we could easily reduce our numbers by 40% over time.  Well...the term "easily" is a bit deceptive in this case, as deciding on paper that a goat is better suited as a "backyard milker" or pet is entirely different from actually listing that animal for sale and seeing it leave.  We have effectively done that which we set out to do, but that doesn't mean that I did not cry last night, thinking of the goat girls that left during the day.  We are content that our girls are going to homes where they will be loved and cared for, but the parting is still hard.  Next year--we will know ahead of time whose daughters we are keeping or selling, so that we know not to get attached.  I hope.

On a lighter note--or rather, a darker note--it is truffle season!  Each year from Thanksgiving through the New Year, we turn some of our chevre into chocolate truffles.  Addictive and decadent they usually sell very quickly, to our children's great dismay for they would rather they come home from market and go into our home refrigerator as happens to product that does not sell well.  The chocolate addicts in the house anxiously await the appearance of truffle season.  The Weight Watchers members in the household (sadly also chocolate addicts) bemoan the price tag, lifestyle-wise, and everyone is ready to see truffle season draw to a close as each truffle is individually hand rolled.  

So there it is.  Liendo is over until next year.  Low season has begun, we anxiously await baby season.  Time passes, the seasons roll by, as comforting in their predictability as they are disconcerting in the increasing speed with which they come and go as our children, spouse and business gets older.  As noted in Ecclesiastes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven".  This we know to be true.

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