Winter. Endings and beginnings..

Our summer garden has come to an end. All of the tomatoes and aubergines, pumpkins and squashes, broccoli and cauliflower have been eaten, preserved or given away.

Some of our boer goat ewes are heavily pregnant and so the task of clearing the leftovers falls to them. Here they are making short work of some cauliflower plants.

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It’s now a few weeks since I took that pic. It is now midwinter and they are now eating their way through the lucerne and sericea I baled. The grey is last year’s mulch, and the yellow, this year’s contribution. The goats sort through the bale and eat all of the tasty bits, and spit out the stems and other unpalatable bits. I estimate about a quarter of the bale is turned to mulch, but that is simply a function of the amount of grass growing in the lucerne field when baled.mulchgoats

I will soon start making seedlings again for spring, and hopefully we should be producing abundant tomatoes again before long like last season.

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Some new lambs for the new season:

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So this completes a cycle where goats, lucerne, vegetables and the by products of all of them, add to the fertility of the soil, the goats, and us humans even get some benefit!

Hay Baling by Hand

This was my first attempt at hay making for winter fodder. I had established smutsfinger grass for goat grazing purposes, and my next goal was to try to reduce our reliance on bought winter fodder.

I borrowed a sickle bar mower for my tractor from a friend,  and set to cutting. A sickle bar cutter is supposed to be better than a rotary slasher, as the grass is cut cleanly and not chopped into small pieces.

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I left the grass on the field to dry and then hand raked it together.

I made a simple baling box out of old plywood that I had lying about. The box is slightly tapered so when you pull the bale out, it slides out easily.

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Basically what you do is rake the grass together, drape strings inside the box and stuff it full with grass. A small child is then used to bounce with great delight on top to compress the bale, you then tie the string as tight as you can, and pull the bale out. The bales weren’t pretty, but they did the job. There is lovely rich sugary smell that comes from freshly baled hay! I used sisal twine to tie the bales as it is very strong and biodegradable. I didn’t want to have plastic baling twine or wire all over the farm later.

Each bale took about 5 minutes to make. I managed to make about 150, enough for a reasonably sized haystack. Here is the start of the heap.

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Later I got a hay rake, and built a steel baling box with a lever to compress the bales, and still later a baling machine, but hand baling was a good experience,  to really get to grips with the process.

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