This week the Homestead reached a massive milestone; Wednesday 27 August marked a full year since the first goat arrived on the Homestead.
The entrance of Nessie, then Leia and her kids, to the menagerie was a pretty momentous occurrence. Suddenly, with feed to mix, a paddock to muck out, and goats to milk, we began to take this way of life seriously. There simply wasn’t enough hours in the day to do anything but. So, Wednesday was the anniversary of us changing from a quirky family with silver beet growing among the border flowers and a couple of backyard chickens, to Union Homesteaders.
How does this differ from what we were? Probably to the onlooker, it doesn’t . They may notice our front garden is now entirely turned over to food production or that the backyard flock is larger and more varied, but the real change is in how we view ourselves. Whether we’re spending our days in someone else’s employ or scuffing our gumboots around the Homestead, we’re now marching to our own tune and we reckon that’s worth celebrating.
How better to mark a year of living a more simple existence than a home-grown dinner? Since The Farmer had recently happened upon a couple of new coop residents, Priscilla and Quilla (silky/barnvelder ladies, right at point of lay), space had become a little cramped in the fowl house.
With this in mind, two flock elders took a trip next door to visit Mr Ezekiel Tigerlily, a gentleman who is well versed in the art of poultry dispatch. It was a simple transaction resulting in one chicken per household, ours earmarked for that Homestead favourite: Chicken and Vegetable Curry. Wednesday evening saw this delicacy teamed with bought in rice (hopefully next year our potatoes will come to the party – literally), followed by Blackcurrant Crumble and washed down with Union Homestead apple cider. Yep, it was a meal to be proud of and one over which we reflected upon the highs and lows of the past year.
The hardest thing to get our heads and hearts around has been consigning members of our flock to the pot. More than once we’ve heard the golden rule of not naming the animals you intend to eat. On a farm this option tends to be a little easier. Room exists to maintain a decent physical distance between yourselves and a future curry, so attachments aren’t formed. Even were we to resist naming the animals, having them scratching and bustling around our gumboots every day as we go about our Homestead business exposes each bird’s idiosyncrasies and personality traits. We get to know them. We know, for example, that Raven loved warmth, draping herself in a most unladylike fashion over the sun-baked tyres (intended as protection for the roots of the Medlar tree) the moment clouds appeared. Houdini, as her name suggested, spent her days examining the compound for, and acting on, security breaches. Resolving ourselves to culling these two, their egg laying days a thing of the past , is something we’re still working on.
Which brings us to the latest two Homesteaders: Otis and Ruby. Goat kids, like human ones, grow so fast! Farm Girl barely makes it in the gate after a hard day down the Kingdom of Nova salt mines before she’s down in the paddock. Bike, school bag and cycle helmet lie jettisoned enroute, as she rushes to indulge in the convoluted game of Diamond League inspired all-in tag trampolining the three of them have cooked up. To be fair, I doubt whether all participants are on the same page regarding rules or the official training course (up the plank to the top of the compost heap, down the heap, over the brick and plank see-saw, onto the trampoline, up the apple tree, swinging down, and repeat) but that doesn’t seem to impact on their enjoyment. There’s nothing as joyous to watch as gamboling kids of any species.
But, what does the future hold for the goat kids? It’s not that we don’t think about things in advance. Truly it’s not. We ponder, contemplate, discuss, debate, pontificate and postulate but it’s all in theory. Cold-hearted, clear thinking theory tells us that we need our goat girls to procreate in order to provide us with milk, their passport to being Homestead residents. We also know that our little patch of land can’t sustain four full grown goats and, even if it could, Miss Ruby is a while off being able to add to the milk production line and Master Otis will never be able to provide that particular (ahem) service, being as how he’s related and all.
Good old rational practicality screams “salami”. Could we do it?
What we’ve decided to do is enjoy the moment. If this last year has taught us anything, it’s to take time out to have fun and that answers to life’s conundrums have a way of appearing in the most unlikely guises. In theory, we’re burying our heads in the sand and hoping, in a very irresponsible, impractical, airy fairy manner.
See, that’s the thing with theory. It’s devoid of emotion.