Bonnie one week from kidding

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Goats have a 150 day gestation and Bonnie hit day 143 today! She could have one or three kids next weekend. I imagine them to be black and white with blue eyes like their Buck and Doe parents.

The plan is to let the kids nurse for a few weeks then ween them onto bottle feeding and milk Bonnie for cheese, ice cream and cold milk. Nothing like fresh milk!

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Lee Harvey… meet Jack

Craigslist is the best friend of the aspiring urban farmer. I have bought used equipment, found hay, three goats and countless laughs reading the farm and garden for sale pages. Bonnie and Clyde came from a craigslist add. I was looking patiently for the miniMancha bread of goats and a breeder that was approachable and was interested in mentoring me. I was so lucky to find Danielle Hicks and her small goat farm in Prosper Texas. Six months after this find I went back on craigslist looking for a third goat.

See Bonnie was maturing and fall breeding season was coming along. I purchased goats for dairy purposes. I wanted the milk and for a goat to produce they must be freshened… that means they need to be impregnated. I have a lot of folks ask me if I am milking.  I say I will as soon as Bonnie kids. So why are you not milking now, they often ask? Uh…can I milk you? I mean, reducing my smugness, see goats are mammals and they only produce milk after birth.

Shoot! Maybe my city slicker ass thought the same before this experience… We are so separated from our food, I might have believed when cows laughed that milk came out of their nose! So,we pull up to the “farm” out East of Dallas, near Lake Tawakani  to pick-up a black and white miniMancha buck. Male goats are bucks and this one was living in hog heaven with free access to several dwarf nigerian does, which he had already impregnated. This was not really a farm. More of a trailer one a few acres with a cow that had had its ears chewed off by a coyote, a ram and few goats that all looked like they had not had a good life. Mariana and Scott were with me on this adventure and the site of the maggots gnawing on the ears of the baby cow almost made us run-off, but we now saw this as a rescue mission. We couldn’t take the cow, but we could provide the buck a new home.

Enter Lee Harvey Buckswald or just Buck for short to the urban farm. By this time Bonne and Clyde had moved to my house for the winter, so he had full range of the stockade and grazing field at the farm. 

He fit right in and in a month of good feeding this buck was downright handsome. He had blue eyes just like Bonnie and Clyde! Bonnie went on her first “date” with Buck on a Sunday afternoon in October. Like all romance stories, she didn’t express much interest in him at first.

Her next meeting would come at 2 a.m. a Does enter heat once a month for a few months in spring and fall for only a few days. They get frisky, cry out for attention and present themselves. Clyde being a whether (castrated) was thoroughly confused by the display and being her brother was probably a bit put off.

I snapped Bonnie up and the second date was a success as she never entered a heat period again and currently two weeks out from kidding. Buck had done his job and he settled into a pattern of getting pampered by visitors with apples and fresh hay offerings.  Buck was just starting to get comfortable and would even let me pet him more regularly, when a stray german shepard, Ill call him Jack Ruby, with two pups started showing-up at the urban farm. Stray dogs are common around these parts and usually head out after not finding any food, but this bitch thought the goat pen and shelter provided just the right place for rearing two mutts. She invaded the pen through a small hole in the fence that Bonnie and Clyde had once escaped from when they were little. I patched the hole and cursed the dog away.

The next day I arrived at the farm and Mariana was fixin to open the bee box. Between preparatory smoking and covering she mentions a dog in the pen. Jack Ruby, with the same determination of the nightclub owner that had bought the infamous revolver down the street from the urban farm at Ray’s hardware and sporting goods ended Bucks days.

Inspecting the fence I found that the dog had pushed over a five foot limestone wall I had built. Lesson learned. Fences need to be fences. Five foot tall at least and impenetrable. Buck you will be missed and your stock lives on.

 

 

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Asparagus rising

The supermoon this past Thursday did more than bring out stargazers, it shot the sprouts and shoots of spring plantings. The second year asparagus at the urban farm grew inches to feet seemingly overnight.

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Asparagus is a perennial plant that typically takes a few years to produce. Thinning in the first few years is not recommended, but they just looked so good! Even raw, I could tell the difference and cannot wait to have my first fresh buttery rendition of this wonderful plant.

The asparagus crown looks more like an alien landing than a cousin to the onion. Plant these crowns in winter and wait for them to sprout in spring. A great companion plant is tomatoes. Dash some table salt immediately around the crown to reduce weed growth. Asparagus, asparagi, them asparaguses do well in North Texas and could prove to be a great cash crop for the urban farmer with enough acreage to dedicate to this perennial.

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Bonnie and Clyde Arrive (again) in West Dallas

My urban goatkeeping adventure began in April of 2010 when Bonnie and Clyde, brother and sister MiniMancha goats, came to Granja Urbana.. A vacant lot in West Dallas, my friend Mariana was beginning to transform the old stomping grounds of the original outlaws into an urban laboratory for agricultural and cultural experimentation. Bonnie and Clyde took up residency and became a hit with locals and friends from nearby Oak Cliff, even being featured in a Dallas Observer expose‘ on emerging Oak Cliff culture.

My bud Jonathon puts up the support beams for the goat house.

There first night at the urban farm was not so glamorous as the article describing their current “goat condo” might lead you to believe. Despite knowing they were being delivered by my goat mentor Dani, I was not ready. My friend Jonathon and I rushed to build them a home by sunset, but it was not complete.

Goat fences should be at least four feet tall and gates six. Yeah they tend to jump higher in places they see you exit...

See goats are very hardy animals, but they do not take well to rain, wind and blaring sun. A strong shelter with at least three sides (not open to north) and a rain proof roof is critical for healthy goats. Feeling a bit at ease leaving my goats alone for their first night, I decided to spend the night in a tent outside the partially built goat palace. I was not sure the newly constructed fence would keep out predators too, so a night to observe was not out of question.

11:45 P.M. Jonathon calls to inform me that the lightning I am seeing is headed our way and will bring strong winds and rain. “Thanks bro, I guess if it come to it the goats will huddle down with me in my old purple tent.” Heck I didn’t like it too much anyways. It was purchased jointly with my old girlfriend and she had packed her bags for Seattle leaving me the tent, a sleeping bag and the odd repulsion of Starbucks coffee.

12:30 the storm hits and the incomplete goat hut leaked like a cardboard box. “Bonnie, Clyde come on in,” I yelled. The two young kids (goat babies are called kids) jumped in the tent. Dry and warm they spent their first night at the urban farm at my feet. I was surprised the next morning to find little trace of them in the tent. I opened the flap and they jumped out to releave themselves.

Potty trained goats? Then I remember Dani, my goat mentor, telling me that they didn’t go in the car on the way to Dallas from Prosper, either. Bonnie and Clyde now frequently saddle up in my SUV and never leave a trace. Next step is to get them to stay put in a trailer behind my bike!

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Green 1/4 Acres

It was a chilly January night at the Texas Theater when two distracted attendees shared secretes. “I want to be a goat herder,” Andrew. Oh yeah! “I want to be an urban farmer,” Mariana. A few months later those fantasies became realities with Granja Urbana and Caprine Outlaw Dairy taking root.

That is the kind of place Oak Cliff and the people who dwell there are. We are a community of doers that are as diverse as the settlers who first plowed, painted and postulated life on the banks of the Trinity River.  So we began to scrape a 1/4 acre lot of one hundred years of residential and industrial residue with dreams of green fields, happy animals and emerging community. Follow us on this blog as we discover goatkeeping, beekeeping, farming, the best feed stores, dumpster pools, urban agronomics and just meetin people within two miles of downtown Dallas.

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