Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays everyone.

Before we get too far into Christmas and New Year’s at our house I wanted to revisit a favorite holiday of mine, my birthday.

It’s December 9, if you want to mark it on your calendar. Technically it’s a “Christmas birthday” but it’s far enough out I can raise enough of a fuss to make a clear distinction between the two. The Christmas tree does not go up until after my birthday.

This year I turned 40. Leading up to the day I spent some time contemplating on just how best to celebrate.

When I turned 30, my wife and brother rented Sumo suits, giant foam cushioned suits designed to make the wearers look like sumo wrestlers, and me and all my friends battled it out in the yard. It served as the perfect way to bring in 30 and turned out to be greatly prophetic about my 30s.

It was during my 30s that I transformed a martial arts hobby into my fitness business.

So I felt that my fortieth birthday should be just as special. I wanted it to reflect who I’ve become and to usher in a new era of maturity and growth.

Enter the work party. Samantha first mentioned the idea and I was instantly excited.  A work party reflects who I’ve become.  I enjoy the time and effort I put into my projects and can see how the effort and reward have gone far to shape the man I’ve become.  What better way to celebrate that man than to share some of those opportunities for growth with my friends?  Besides, I’ve got a ton of work to get done and free labor is really handy.

The goats have managed to eat all of the foliage in the back that they can reach. What remains are all of the woody stems and anything growing over three and a half feet.  Clearing as much of this space as we could would go a long way to getting us ready for spring planting.

The 9th (write it down) was on a Friday this year, so we set the party for the afternoon and evening of the 10th. I invited lots of friends with the plan of three or four hours of work and then an evening of sitting around a bonfire talking and drinking, enjoying each others company and a hearty beef stew.

It was a huge success. We cleared a large area of densely tangled wisteria, privet and briars, cut fodder for the goats and built a huge, cheery blaze.

As you can see from the photo we had a great time doing it as well.

As a young adult I couldn’t see the appeal of quilting bees, canning days or barn raising as social events. Now they make perfect sense. Helping each other out not only insures that the jobs get done but make difficult or laborious tasks much more pleasant as the joys of good company erase any of the negative aspects of a hard chore.

I don’t think I’ll wait for my next birthday before I do this again. Should you decide to have a work party of your own let me know. If I’m near by I’d love to come by and pitch in, just keep the beer cold and the food hearty.



Filed under organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening


“Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak…”

Sunday was Bronwyn’s twelfth birthday. We spent the afternoon at her favorite spot, the horse barn. She gave her friends the grand tour. They spent time grooming and then had a contest over the most decorated horse. That meant braids and ribbons and all kinds of foolishness. I didn’t fully understand it, but I don’t have to and luckily the horses didn’t seem to mind.

We got home for wheat free carrot cake cupcakes (Bronwyn has a wheat sensitivity. You probably do too but that’s for another post) and presents. Afterwards I suggested she show off the goats.

Stephanie had come by to work in the garden before she picked up her daughter and so we were all outside when Bronwyn and her troop of friends, corn can in hand, attempted to call the goats. They were slow to respond and before I knew it all the girls were in the Back Forty trying to call them.

“You know that’s not gonna work,” I said.

Right then we heard the ring of Honey’s bell off to the right. The girls came back into the yard and headed in that direction.

‘The goats are out!” Bronwyn called.

Sure enough Honey and Harriet were outside the fence in what was technically my absentee neighbor’s lot.


Stephanie’s husband is Rob, the Pet Stop guy, and I could see her mind racing. How? What could be the problem? Did the fence fail?

My concerns were more immediate. How on earth am I going to catch these goats? How am I going to catch them with everyone watching and not look completely inept?

My neighbor on this side has been absentee for over ten years. I’ve only seen her once in the three years we’ve lived here. At one time this was a beautiful property, we refer to it as “The Secret Garden.” There are the remains of a once beautiful garden with fish ponds, a cedar shake house that’s starting to fall in on itself and even an endless pool nestled in a bamboo grove. All of this could either work for me or against me.

I made my way through the jungle and got behind the goats. I manged to get about twenty feet away before they noticed me. How could I make this work?

I signaled for Bronwyn to keep shaking the corn can and to even pour a bit out to try and attract them. Once they were eating corn I closed the distance to within a few feet.

All the while I kept thinking of a time when I was about 18, mind you a very soft 18. Dad and I were out with my grandfather who had gone to pick up a goat he had purchased. This goat was housed in a narrow barn of that was 10 or 15 feet wide and about thirty or forty feet long. The owner was an old farmer like grandpa and since Dad and I were the “young bucks” it was our job to catch the goat. We were total keystone cops and all the while these two old geezers kept giving us shit.

“What’s wrong with you boy? Grab that goat!”

“Have you ever seen such a thing? Why I’da had that thing locked up ten minutes ago.”

It was embarrassing really.

The privet growing all around The Secret Garden would either be a help or a hindrance. It would slow the goats some, but it would slow me more. I had John Paul circle around and block the west, depending on extra thick brush to block the north and the fence line on the east. I came in from the south.

One step more and they abandoned the corn and headed toward John Paul. He raised his arms and shouted and they shot southwest. Sure enough the privet slowed me up and Harriet slipped through. Honey was not so lucky. Thank God for three legs! She bogged down in the bushes and I was able to get a hand on her. As I gathered her up Harriet bounded up the hill. As I held Honey we began to speculate on how we might catch Harriet. Next thing we knew she slipped through the fence where she had gotten out and was back in the fold. Small miracles.

The first thing I did, after putting Honey over the fence, was assess and repair where they got out. I had some left over wire fencing and used that secure the two possible areas.

While I was fence mending Stephanie was on the phone with Rob working on what had gone wrong with the Pet Stop fence. In the end, nothing. Once again, it was operator error. The batteries on the collars last 3 months, none of us realized it had been that long.

We let the goats into the backyard, and trapped them in the shed. Samantha and Stephanie removed the collars and replaced the batteries. Stephanie then bumped up the strength of the collars to a more stern level in the hopes that they’d be all the more deterred from trying this little adventure again.

This brings to our attention the need for a few changes. Taming the goats at this stage in their lives seems to me a far fetched solution but there will be times I need to corral and handle them. That means a holding pen of some sort.

Friday is my birthday and I’ve planned a work party to celebrate on Saturday. My goal is to get a sizable piece of the lower Back Forty cleared to make room for larger raise beds in the spring and a holding pen. If I’m lucky they’ll even be room for a chicken coop. All of which I can construct over the next few months.

For now, I’m just getting through the rest of the week, looking forward to my 40th birthday.  Look for pictures.


Filed under goats, organic gardening, self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening