Goat Worship: A Halloween Exclusive!

Dance with me in the witches’ grove! Bwah ha…ha…er…. Well, okay, if you’re not so into that, I’ll take an apple instead.

This Saturday our friends Gloria Putnam and Steve Rudicel at the Mariposa Creamery in Altadena gave a free, two-hour class on the basics of goat keeping. I was there with bells on. I’ve always wanted goats.

It was a wonderful afternoon–about forty “goat curious” people like me showed up. Gloria and Steve’s goal in this, as in many of their activities, is to build community. They want more goat owning neighbors. They want everyone to be as excited about goats as they are.

Gloria also said that when she got her first goats, she didn’t know any goat keepers. She knew nothing. Everything she read on the Internet contradicted and confused her. The goat message boards were full of scary stories. She wants people to know that it’s not hard to keep goats. A lot of it is common sense. Good management goes a long way toward preventing the situations that lead to the scary stories you read on the message boards. As a beginner, what you really need is other goat keepers you can call on, and watch, and learn from. This is why she and Steve are spreading the good word–they want to build community–so local goat keepers can support and educate one another

Gloria produced a beautiful handout which she has given me in PDF form to share with you all out there in Internet Land. Download it here. It’s a great overview of the basics, with a list of resources at the end. It does focus on goat-keeping in the Los Angeles region, but it will be useful no matter where you live.

Lots of goat porn to follow, interspersed with some of my notes.

Steve and Gloria tellin’ it like it is to the goat curious. Steve is wearing his Altadena booster shirt. Altadena rocks! And Gloria is in her Backward Beekeepers sweatshirt, which is the fashion statement of choice in these parts.

Why keep goats? Why operate a home dairy?

Why should you keep goats? Well, for the milk, of course. And the cheese–which is milk’s higher purpose.  In an urban area (at least in this part of the world) it can be nigh near impossible to lay your hands on fresh, organic raw milk. If access to that kind of food is important to you, you almost have to be DIY. Did you know that a good milk goat can give a gallon of milk a day?

Then there’s the ethics. As many of you know, Erik and I stopped buying eggs at the supermarket because we couldn’t support the egg factories anymore, especially once we learned that “cage free” and “free range” are just marketing gimmicks. We started keeping hens to sidestep the insanity. If we had the room, we’d keep goats in a heartbeat, for the same reason. The industrial milk business is not something we want to support. We use very little milk, and the milk we do use is goat’s milk. 

Beyond this, there’s pure pleasure. Believe us, fresh goat’s milk from a well run creamery does not taste “goaty.” Nothing can compare with fresh, raw milk from animals well loved and fed and carefully milked.

Gloria also points out that for her, goat keeping provides an almost mystical connection to our ancestors, a reconnection to this ancient, ancient human activity of caring for milch animals. Again, like keeping chickens, keeping a few goats was once normative. Well, it is still is normal in a lot of the world–but here and now, it’s exotic, an almost forgotten art. And that’s a shame. Goats are wonderful creatures.

Enter the paddock! Goats are escape artists, so gates like these need to be secured–carabiners work well

A milking station elevates the goat and provides snacks, which are a great incentive toward cooperation.

Look at that foam! A good dairy goat can give a gallon of milk a day. Steve and Gloria milk their goats twice a day. Once a day is acceptable, too, but twice a day increases the yield by 20%.

This device is called a strip cup. The first squirt of milk from the goat goes in here. The screen lets you know if the milk texture is off–a sign of trouble.

How much does it cost? 

You don’t keep goats in the city/suburbs to save money. Just as it is with eggs, you’re always going to be able to buy milk at the store for less than it costs to raise it at home. However, if you’re committed to high quality, fresh, raw dairy and gourmet cheese, you know how hard it is to find, and if you can find it, how expensive it can be.  I think you can get good milk for more reasonable prices in other areas of the country, but around here raw goat’s milk goes for about $20 a gallon. Gloria and Steve estimate their own milk costs more than that, but they admit it is much higher than it need be because a) they are keeping several non-producing goats as pets and b) they are buying really expensive hay for logistical reasons and I’ll add 3) they’re paying SoCal prices for everything.

(I should insert here that Mariposa Creamery is not a commercial dairy. They are producing milk and cheese for their own consumption–and keeping goats because they love goats. So this isn’t at all about profitability.) 

They say they could save a lot of money on hay if they had somewhere to store it and could buy it in bulk, instead of having it delivered in small quantities. They’d save even more if they had time to forage for the goats. Goats actually prefer tree trimmings to expensive hay. All in all, they figure it costs them about $5 per day to support each goat, that include the food, supplements and medicines. But theoretically you could almost feed your goats for free, if they had access to forage or you had time to forage for them.

In planning your own costs, you will also need to factor in the cost of the infrastructure: fencing, housing, feeding and milking equipment. This can be expensive or it could cost relatively little. It depends on your circumstances and leanings. 

How much does it cost to buy a good milk goat? Around $300 locally. That’s for a goat with her kids just weaned, ready to milk. Of course it’s much less cash up front to raise up a baby.


Meet Mint. She’s thirsty after being milked.

How much food? What kind of food? Milkers eat 2 flakes of hay each per day. The non-milkers eat 1 flake. (There are 10-12 flakes per bale, roughly.) Goats eat hay, but would prefer some nice foraged tree branches. They also get a little grain, veg scraps, and access to the condiment bar. See the next pic…
This surprised me as a goat newbie: the goats get constant access to three nutritional supplements: kelp, mineral salts and baking soda. They nibble at these when the like, when they feel they need them.

Spontaneous still life: hay hook and a green egg

Goat milk does not taste “goaty” if handled properly. First, it has to be processed instantly: out of the goat, straight into the dairy, where it is filtered–which is what is going on in this picture–and then chilled down as quickly as possible. All the equipment, of course, is very clean.

If only my kitchen were so clean.
I admit I was kind of getting off on all the stainless steel.
But back to the point. Once the milk is filtered it is cooled down fast by being placed in a bucket of cold water packed with those blue ice brick thingees, and then put in the fridge. Submersion in ice water cools much more quickly than simply putting the milk in the fridge, or even into the freezer.
If you have goats, even just a couple, you’re going to have plenty of milk. What do you do with it?

Make cheese, of course! Aren’t these incredible? Gloria and Steve made these with their own hands. This is the triumph of the DIY spirit.

Source–>Product–>Paradise

Goats in the City and Suburbs

Goats, being smaller than cows and happy to live on forage rather than pasture, are ideal milch animals for smaller spaces. You need to keep two goats minimum, because a single goat in an unhappy goat. Three goats is apparently a very good number, though Gloria says the more the better. They’re busy, curious animals and having lots of companions keeps them happy and less dependent on you for company.

Exactly how much room you need to keep goats is one of those questions which is hard to answer. More room is always better. Gloria and Steve’s eleven goats are living in a yard about the size of generous suburban back yard. The kind of yard where you can play fetch with a big dog or toss a football–but by no means a pasture or huge space. Within that space is the goats’ shelter, a pile of logs for them to climb on, their feeding and watering stations and a chicken coop. The specific codes of your city or county might specify a certain size lot for livestock or a certain distance the animals must be from neighboring structures.

This is their first aid kit for the flock. It’s pretty straightforward. Stuff for wound care, charcoal paste for poisonings, an epi pen for allergic reactions, and antibiotics for serious emergencies. The most important item in here may be the thermometer, which is an important early warning device.
Sometimes life is just pretty
Did I mention these are Nubian goats. Their milk has the most butterfat for any goat this size.

This is my new best friend, Dot. The sweetest kid in the world. She followed me around like a puppy asking to be scratched and giving me the big eye treatment. I was seriously tempted to stuff her in the hatchback and make a getaway.
Hay, nice manger!

Dot is shaking her head, saying, “No, you cannot capture my cuteness with your tiny box. Put it away and pet me!”

A milking goat drinks 5 gallons a day. This system refills automatically, so Steve and Gloria know their goats will never run out of water, even if they get stuck somewhere and can’t get home to refill.
A log pile provides entertainment for busy goats. So do children.

Goats and chickens get along well, but goats will eat all of the chickens’ feed, so you have to protect those areas. It’s very bad if a goat is allowed to gorge on large amounts of grain–it can kill them. Yep, they can digest oak branches but grain is a problem. It turns septic in their stomachs.

This kid got up on the log pile and started posing. She’s Dot’s sister.

This is my wistful look.

Did you want a profile?

I pulled back to capture the nobility of her pose.

Seriously. Can we just bronze it and put it in a park?
All hail our Caprian overlords.

Happy Halloween everybody! (Photo courtesy of Gloria Putnam)

One Craptacular Week

It’s been one hell of a week. First we find out, via a soil test, that our backyard may have high levels of lead and zinc. We’ll write a lot more about this once I confirm the results–I’ve sent in another sample to a different lab. And my doctor has agreed to give me a blood test. Whatever the results, I want to help get out the word about this serious issue–ironically, next week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

Then yesterday we found out that one of our kittens, Phoebe, has a some sort of serious heart defect. The blogging muses can sometimes leave us at times like this so don’t be surprised if it takes us a few days to get ourselves back together.

So please hold our dear little kitten in your thoughts and prayers as well as the worldwide need for healing our soils. After all, we all need to eat, and all food whether it be plant or animal based, has its origins in living soil systems.

Root Simple and Edendale Farm on ABC-7

A local ABC affiliate did a nice, short piece on growing food in the city featuring us and our friend David Kahn of Edendale Farm. I’ll note that David runs a real city farm (he sells eggs) while I call what we do simply gardening, as we don’t grow/raise enough to sell.

It’s good to see vegetable gardening and keeping chickens going mainstream–it’s the bright side of the “great recession”.

Building With Adobe

Architect and Root Simple friend Ben Loescher, along with Kurt Gardella, is teaching a class on adobe construction. I’m going to attend the second day, November 6th, and hope to see some of you there. Adobe has a storied past and a promising future in the Southwest U.S., in my opinion. Here’s the info on the class:

adobeisnotsoftware is pleased to host Kurt Gardella for the first in a series of classes on adobe construction within California. Kurt developed much of the online curriculum for Northern New Mexico College’s adobe program, and has great expertise in both adobe construction and earthen plasters and finishes. Intended as an introduction to adobe construction for individuals and building professionals, the course will give attendees sufficient knowledge to make adobe bricks, build a garden wall, and understand typical building code and detailing challenges that confront adobe building projects in California.

Topics:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Adobe Construction
Soil Selection and Testing
Making Adobe Bricks
Water Resistance and Stabilization
Adobe Forms
Brick Laying Techniques
Doors, Windows and Other Openings
Detailing
Seismic Design
Permitting
Adobe for the Owner/Builder
Instruction Type:

This is a hands-on class. Attendees will have the opportunity to get dirty and use tools and equipment typical of adobe construction. Due to the course format, enrollment will be limited to 14 individuals. Children under the age of 14 unfortunately cannot be accommodated. In the unlikely event of inclement weather, instruction will occur indoors.

Instructors:

Kurt Gardella teaches adobe construction at Northern New Mexico College, is Director of Education for Adobe in Action, and is certified as an earth-building specialist by the German Dachverband Lehm.

Ben Loescher is a licensed architect, founder of adobeisnotsoftware and principal of golem|la.

Location:

The class will be conducted about 12 miles outside of Joshua Tree National Park in Landers, California, some 40 miles from Palm Springs. Joshua Tree and the surrounding area have a wealth of great hiking, climbing, lodging and food options. Directions to the workshop site will be provided to attendees prior to the class.

Registration:

The cost for the two day workshop is $250/person, a reduced rate of $150/person is offered for full-time students with valid ID. Coffee and nibbles will be provided at the beginning of the day; lunch is included. Register here!

Questions?:

Please do not hesitate to contact Ben at [email protected] or (760) 278-1134 .

Greywater Workshops in Los Angeles

The folks at the Greywater Action Team asked me to spread the word on a few workshops they are doing in the LA area in October:

Going Green with Greywater

When: Friday October 14, 2011 – 9:00am – 12:00pm
Where: LA Eco Village 117 Bimini Pl Los Angeles CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $25-50 limited work trade positions available
Register here
Reusing greywater, water from sinks, showers, and washing machines, is a great way to save water! In this workshop you will learn safe and simple ways to reuse greywater, common types of systems, what products to use, and take a tour of several existing systems. We will also be creating a mock-up of a laundry-to-landscape greywater system with all the parts and tools needed to install it.

Greywater System Maintenance: Advanced Workshop

When: Friday October 14, 2011 – 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Where: LA Eco Village 117 Bimini Pl Los Angeles CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $25-50
Register here
Simple greywater systems require very little maintenance, but a small amount is needed! An hour or two a year can keep greywater systems well functioning and improve their effectiveness.  In the workshop we’ll review best practices for creating long lasting systems. We’ll observe existing greywater systems that are between two and three years old, from washing machine, shower, and kitchen sink. Participants will practice balancing greywater flows, checking mulch basins, and doing any repairs needed on the system.We will also review greywater system design, calculating greywater flows, plant water requirements, and new greywater technologies.This is a hands-on workshop, please wear clothes and shoes for working. Please bring a notebook for taking notes.

Hands-on greywater installation workshop

When: Saturday October 15th, 11am-4pm
Where:Los Angeles (exact location will be emailed after registration is complete)
Cost: Sliding scale $30-$100, limited worktrade positions available
Register here
Learn how to divert greywater from a washing machine to irrigate the landscape with a laundry to landscape greywater system. This type of greywater system is low cost, does not require a permit, and is easy to install in most home applications. This is a hands-on class, participants will be learning about and participating in the construction of a real greywater system. The class will cover: Greywater principles, the best plants to water with greywater, common pitfalls and how to avoid them, and how to install a system that is legal under the new California code.

(for Santa Monica residents only) Design and install your own laundry to landscape greywater system
October 8th and 9th, 8am- 5pm Day 1: Santa Monica library. Day 2: Your house! (You’ll be installing your own system)
Free workshop sponsored by the City of Santa Monica!
Contact [email protected] for questions.
Register here http://www.smgov.net/Departments/OSE/Categories/Water/Greywater.aspx

The low down on pee and poo-a composting toilet workshop.

When:Friday October 14th- 7:00 pm
Where: LA Eco Village 117 Bimini Pl Los Angeles CA 90004
Cost: Sliding scale $15-$5
Reservations required: [email protected] or 213/738-1254
This workshop will cover: Ecological Sanitation – waterless toilets and urine harvesting – can save water, protect the environment, and create free fertilizer around the world. Learn the “how and why” of composting toilets and urine reuse, see projects from Mexico, China, Sweden, Zimbabwe, and the United States. Learn about options for homescale composting toilets from urban to rural applications, operation and maintenance needs, and common problems and solutions.

Upcoming Classes: Edible Gardening and Vermicomposting

A reminder: we have two very talented speakers and educators coming to the Root Simple compound to teach a series of classes. Sign up soon–they are selling out fast.

The first is Darren Butler teaching his Beginning Vegetable Gardening series, starting Oct. 4, and his Intermediate series starting Oct. 18th. The second is Nancy Klehm’s teaching an in-depth Vermicomposting class on October 23rd. 


Details below:

Consulting Arborist and Ecological Landscape Designer Darren Butler will be teaching two classes at the Root Simple compound starting next month. I’m currently taking a class from Darren right now at the Huntington and to say it’s amazing is an understatement. If you’re interested in taking either of these two classes email Darren at [email protected]. Will be great to meet you all! Sign up soon as room is limited.


GROW LA VICTORY GARDENING BEGINNING CLASSES
In partnership with the LA County Master Gardener Program

In Silver Lake: hosted by Root Simple
Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Oct 4, 6, 11, 13, 6:00 to 9:00pm
$85 early registration for payments received by September 23, $95 thereafter
$25 per single class if available
Silver Lake series is filling up quickly 

Recommended for those who have moderate organic gardening skills, are new gardeners, have moved to Southern California after gardening elsewhere, or who haven’t been satisfied with their garden yields.

Expected topics include seed starting, seasonality and what to do when, building raised beds, choosing containers, plant selection, transplanting, soil preparation, irrigation, wise water use, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, composting, harvesting, and seed saving.

INTERMEDIATE ORGANIC GARDENING FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Hosted by Root Simple in Silver Lake
Tuesday and Thursday evenings,Oct 18, 27, Nov 1, 3, 6:00 to 9:00pm
$115 early registration for payments received by October 7, $125 thereafter
$35 per single class if available
Special combined pricing for both courses hosted by Root Simple (if available):
$185 early registration for payments received by September 23, $200 thereafter 

Class topics:
Session 1: Intermediate Vegetable Gardening and Nontoxic Pest Management, including methods to maximize year-round harvest in Southern California
Session 2: Soil Science, Intermediate Composting, and Aerated Compost Tea
Session 3: Drip System Construction and Best Practices
Session 4: Fruit-Tree Care, Planting, and Pruning


Vermicomposting with Nancy Klehm


If you live in or around LA, we encourage you to take this unique class that we’re hosting in the Silver Lake area. While it’s pretty easy to get basic information on starting a worm bin, it’s rare to be able to dig deeper, especially with a teacher as knowledgeable as Nancy Klehm.

GET YOUR LOOP ON!
A workshop on extreme vermicomposting for the city dweller.
October 23, 2011
9am – 1pm
This  class is suitable for both beginning vermicomposters and experienced  ones with interest in integrating their worm bin with their larger  household systems.


As cities struggle with basic recycling programs, and citizens  learn how to grow tomatoes for the first time on their decks in soil  from stripped from farmland and purchased at a store, there are some who  are curious about having a more intimate connection to their waste and  unveiling its worth.

In this workshop we will go “beyond the bin” and build a large,  outdoor vermicomposting system designed to handle both kitchen and yard  waste. The basics of worm farming will be covered, but emphasis will be  placed on integrating the worm bin into the wider ecosystem of yard and  house, such as:

* How to combine vermicomposting and thermacomposting in stepped systems
* How to integrate vermicomposting with a dry toilet or pet waste composting system
* How to best use your castings in the garden
* Tips for the apartment dweller
* What to do with all those extra worms…

And more!

Nancy  Klehm is a long-time urban forager and grower, ecological system  designer, artist and intrepid soil builder. She spent over five years  designing and running a closed-loop vermicomposting project in Chicago  that used 100’s of thousands of worms to digest 10’s of thousands of  pounds of food and paper waste to create healthy soil. She started The  Ground Rules, a community soil building center in North Philadelphia and  developed and ran a two year collective human waste recovery project  Humble Pile Chicago. She is the on-going bio-instigator of soil systems  at C.L.U.I.’s South Base in Wendover, UT.

www.spontaneousvegetation.net
www.socialecologies.net

Like Root Simple

Despite my mixed feelings about Facebook (we’re doing a lot of work for free for all those marketers, not to mention the creepy privacy issues), I try not to let perfection be the enemy of the good. Facebook can be a useful tool for interacting with folks. And I love hearing from you, our dear readers. So I’ve finally got around to creating a fan page for Root Simple. Please “like” us:

Vermicomposting Class

If you live in or around LA, we encourage you to take this unique class that we’re hosting in the Silver Lake area. While it’s pretty easy to get basic information on starting a worm bin, it’s rare to be able to dig deeper, especially with a teacher as knowledgeable as Nancy Klehm.

GET YOUR LOOP ON!
A workshop on extreme vermicomposting for the city dweller.

October 23, 2011
9am – 1pm

This class is suitable for both beginning vermicomposters and experienced ones with interest in integrating their worm bin with their larger household systems.


As cities struggle with basic recycling programs, and citizens learn how to grow tomatoes for the first time on their decks in soil from stripped from farmland and purchased at a store, there are some who are curious about having a more intimate connection to their waste and unveiling its worth.

In this workshop we will go “beyond the bin” and build a large, outdoor vermicomposting system designed to handle both kitchen and yard waste. The basics of worm farming will be covered, but emphasis will be placed on integrating the worm bin into the wider ecosystem of yard and house, such as:

* How to combine vermicomposting and thermacomposting in stepped systems
* How to integrate vermicomposting with a dry toilet or pet waste composting system
* How to best use your castings in the garden
* Tips for the apartment dweller
* What to do with all those extra worms…

And more!

Nancy Klehm is a long-time urban forager and grower, ecological system designer, artist and intrepid soil builder. She spent over five years designing and running a closed-loop vermicomposting project in Chicago that used 100’s of thousands of worms to digest 10’s of thousands of pounds of food and paper waste to create healthy soil. She started The Ground Rules, a community soil building center in North Philadelphia and developed and ran a two year collective human waste recovery project Humble Pile Chicago. She is the on-going bio-instigator of soil systems at C.L.U.I.’s South Base in Wendover, UT.

www.spontaneousvegetation.net
www.socialecologies.net

Edible Landscaping and Gardening Classes With Darren Butler

Consulting Arborist and Ecological Landscape Designer Darren Butler will be teaching two classes at the Root Simple compound starting next month. I’m currently taking a class from Darren right now at the Huntington and to say it’s amazing is an understatement. If you’re interested in taking either of these two classes email Darren at [email protected]. Will be great to meet you all! Sign up soon as room is limited.


GROW LA VICTORY GARDENING BEGINNING CLASSES
In partnership with the LA County Master Gardener Program

In Silver Lake: hosted by Root Simple
Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Oct 4, 6, 11, 13, 6:00 to 9:00pm
$85 early registration for payments received by September 23, $95 thereafter
$25 per single class if available
Silver Lake series is filling up quickly

Recommended for those who have moderate organic gardening skills, are new gardeners, have moved to Southern California after gardening elsewhere, or who haven’t been satisfied with their garden yields.

Expected topics include seed starting, seasonality and what to do when, building raised beds, choosing containers, plant selection, transplanting, soil preparation, irrigation, wise water use, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, composting, harvesting, and seed saving.

INTERMEDIATE ORGANIC GARDENING FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Hosted by Root Simple in Silver Lake
Tuesday and Thursday evenings,Oct 18, 27, Nov 1, 3, 6:00 to 9:00pm
$115 early registration for payments received by October 7, $125 thereafter
$35 per single class if available
Special combined pricing for both courses hosted by Root Simple (if available):
$185 early registration for payments received by September 23, $200 thereafter

Class topics:
Session 1: Intermediate Vegetable Gardening and Nontoxic Pest Management, including methods to maximize year-round harvest in Southern California
Session 2: Soil Science, Intermediate Composting, and Aerated Compost Tea
Session 3: Drip System Construction and Best Practices
Session 4: Fruit-Tree Care, Planting, and Pruning