A Visit to Grandma Evie’s Farm
Saturday was a great day. We've been considering what we'd like to do with Windy Woods Farm – the direction we'd like to go with animals, produce, etc., and had discussed goats. In reading about goats, Scott discovered the Kinder goat breed. I'm the researcher of the family, so I started looking into Kinders and found that there's a breeder only about an hour away from us. So we arranged a visit to meet the breeder and her goats.
Our drive was really pleasant, partly listening to The Beginning Farmer's Podcast, and partly talking about plans, hopes, and dreams for the farm 🙂 The whole family enjoys the podcast and, well, I like talking to Scott and I feel like some of our best talking is done in the van (maybe because the children are strapped in and can't get into trouble :p)
The real fun started when we arrived. Evie came out to greet us as we were getting everyone settled and we immediately spotted her beautiful laying hens (Chanteclers). There weren't any eggs at that point, but the kids were delighted a couple of hours later to discover an egg (especially since our hens here at Windy Woods haven't started laying yet).
We then headed inside where we had quite a treat – Scott got coffee with fresh goat milk, and the kids and I all had a glass of cold goat milk. I will say it was some of the sweetest milk I've ever tasted! I was impressed and could have finished off a whole lot more 😉 After a milky treat it was off to meet the goats!
I immediately liked the goats. They're obviously very intelligent and inquisitive. Most were very friendly too; Evie said that those who have been bottle-fed (or played with extensively as kids) are the most gentle and are happy to come right up to humans. One things we're watching for in any animal or breed we choose is a more laid-back attitude. We have a lot of children and we're beginning farmers ourselves, so we need mellow animals!
Evie had her Kinders there, and she's “babysitting” a couple of Nubian goats for friends who are on vacation. It was nice to see the size difference – Kinders are a very small breed. I just loved them and found them to be very pretty, especially a little brown one.
Evie has several babies right now, and it was a lot of fun to see them. It was also interesting to learn about how she cares for them and about different potential issues goats can have. I feel like we're on such a steep learning curve to get the farm off the ground. It's overwhelming, but in a good way. There are so many choices ahead of us and the biggest thing is to simply narrow things down and figure out where we really want to focus.
After we visited the babies we went over to visit the boys. Since Evie and her husband Tom breed goats they have a collection of boys, though their pen is housed well away from the girls! Evie says that keeps the male goats well away from the females helps keep the milk much sweeter. Really interesting!! Her goats' milk is certainly sweet.
Evie gave us a tour of her whole farm while we were there. She also breeds rabbits, so there were a lot of those to see! I don't personally have a big interest in rabbits, but I wouldn't mind if one of the kids took an interest in meat or fur rabbits. Plus rabbit droppings are good fertilizer and frankly, our land needs all the help it can get to turn into the verdant farm and landscape we know it can be 🙂
The next place we stopped at was Evie's garden, and I loved that. I liked it best because my garden is an utter failure this year… and when I mentioned that the first thing Evie said was “give it three years and it will look like mine.”
We talked a lot about the learning experience that starting a farm is. Evie and Tom are in their 60's and just got started with the farm in earnest about three years ago (they've bred rabbits for longer). She said that she's had so much trial and error for everything, and so much learning. She gave me a great resource for learning more about companion planting. Just walking around her garden and having her share with me the different plants, what she's doing, what worked and what didn't, was a huge learning experience for me and helped me realize what kinds of things I need to be looking for as I place things on our farm.
I'm proud of myself because I'm starting to learn to consider things that I never would have before (like north – south or east – west orientation, sun paths, etc.) and trips and learning experiences like that just enhance this. I loved Evie because she was so frank and honest about how everything is a learning experience. The wisdom to realize she's nowhere near figuring it all out!! I feel blessed to have met her and visited her farm!
After we toured the garden I sat and nursed Corwin for awhile and the kids had fun with the goats. I think the goats did more “walking” of Cassidy than she walked them, but it was so fun to watch them. We're hoping for two of the goats to kid in the spring, and will hopefully be able to bring home at least one milker and a friend for her at that point 🙂 Evie was just wonderful and told us the kids could call her Grandma Evie 😉 (if you're interested in Kinder goats and in our area, you can find Evie's contact info under Brookside Acres here).
After we visited the goats we headed the elementary school about a block from Evie's house and had the picnic lunch we'd packed. The kids played on the playground for awhile, and we walked across the street to the high school to look at their hoop house. That's another thing we're interested in so it was good to see that and get an idea of sizing (their hoop house is bigger than the one we're looking at). We headed home through Traverse City and picked up cinder blocks to make a vermicompost bin and a larger waterer for our chicken flock… expect many more adventures from Windy Woods soon as we really get the equipment to make the farm take off… learning a lot, of course, along the way!