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  • Writer's pictureElie Ravitz-Basser

Working Goats--Sustainable Land Clearing

In this week's blog post, we'll cover the importance of sustainability on our farm, especially in a world where environmental concerns have taken center stage. Last week, we transported the entire herd of goats--all eighty of them---to another one of our farms in Northern Virginia.

Water, Water Everywhere Yet Not a Drop To Drink

Farm life certainly has its up and its down. One day there's flooding and the next day we have a drought. However, this summer our worst fears came true...our well ran dry. On the farm, all eighty goats depend on the same well for their water source. They drink all day, and their troughs need to be filled at least twice per day. We didn't realize that this would be so taxing on the well, which we thought was more abundant than it actually is. One day, as I went to turn on the faucet, no water came out. I tried turning on the shower and still nothing. That's when I realized the issue: the well had run dry because of how many animals it had to support. Water is crucial for the very livelihood of our animals, and we quickly realized the gravity of our water problem. We had two options. The first was to drill a whole new well on the property, which would require us first finding an area with plenty of water. The issue with this solution, however, was that finding and drilling a new well takes weeks and our situation was time sensitive. Therefore, the second option made more sense: moving all of the goats to our other farm, a farm we saved from being developed, where there was plenty of water and land for them.

The Solution

I started the process of moving the goats early in the morning by closing off all of the pastures except one, which we used to round them up. Once they were all in the paddock, I used grain and crackers (the preferred snack for goats!) to lure them into the trailer. Then, I climbed into the back to be with the goats while they were moved from one farm to the other. I did this to prevent them from being nervous, as the trailer was a new environment and I did not them to either be scared or hurt each other with their horns.

We Moved Too!

Being moved is incredibly stressful for most animals, and this was no different with the goats. In the trailer, the friendly goats stood by me for emotional support while the more standoffish ones sat nearby. However, even the less friendly goats were clearly calmed by my presence. This is because, as the shepherd, they look to my family and I to lead them. Seeing just how dependent on us the goats were, my family made the decision to move farms with them so we could continue to shepherd them around the fields. Indeed, being a shepherd means moving with your flock. So, after transporting the goats to our new farm, we also packed up all of our belongings and drove to be with the goats. Although literally leaving our house and changing our residence seems like a tremendous task, it was crucial to our animals.

How This Worked Out--Plenty of Water & Happy Goats

Although in the trailer the goats were nervous, I knew that they would be happy at this new farm. Indeed, this farm is practically heaven for the goats. Rich with natural resources, like a running creek (i.e. fresh water whenever they please), luscious green grass, and branches for munching on, I knew the goats would thoroughly enjoy their new home. They have unfettered access to grassy land, bramble and branches--their favorite snack! From the minute the goats stepped off the trailer and onto their new pastures, they jumped with joy-literally hopping and leaping down the hillside and into the nearest woody area. Each day, I wake up in the morning to fill their troughs and walk the goats around their new paddock.

Goats & Their Unlikely Occupation--Land Management

When it comes to land management, an unexpected but effective ally has emerged: goats. These charming creatures, with their voracious appetite for brush and grass, have proven to be eco-friendly heroes in limiting the use of mowers and chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Maintaining large areas of land, particularly farms, often requires regular mowing to control the growth of unwanted weeds. Traditional mowing methods, which involve fossil fuel-powered machines, contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and noise pollution. Thankfully, there is an environmentally-friendly solution to this dilemma: Goats. Leaving minimal carbon footprint and causing no harmful emissions, these animals can eat a tremendous amount of bramble and underbrush in a short amount of time, making them suitable replacements for traditional mowers. In addition to fuel-powered mowers, chemical herbicides have long been used to control weeds and unwanted vegetation. However, they, too, come with detrimental effects on the environment and human health. Goats present a natural, non-toxic alternative for weed control. They efficiently and effectively eat weeds, preventing them from going to seed and multiplying. Unlike chemicals that leave residues in the soil, goat grazing enhances soil fertility by providing natural fertilizer through their droppings. Additionally, goats have an uncanny ability to consume various types of vegetation, including invasive plant species and shrubs that can choke out native plants. By grazing on these undesirable plants, goats play a crucial role in conservation efforts by promoting biodiversity and preserving natural habitats. Their feeding behavior helps maintain the balance of ecosystems and ensure the survival of vulnerable plant species. This vegetation is not only good for the environment, it's also incredibly healthy and nutritious for the goats. For example, while walking around the fields, I discovered that the goats had access to clusters of mint. Mint is incredibly healthy for these ruminants, and is a favorite snack for many of them.

Cobblers, Pies, and Compote--A Study in Peaches

Following up on last week's post, my peaches are also ripening nicely. As the summer days lengthen, the anticipation for the ripening fruit builds. It's a waiting game that demands patience and a watchful eye. Daily inspections are necessary to detect any signs of ripening, as well as to protect the fruit from hungry birds and squirrels eager to enjoy a taste. The feeling of picking that first peach is unmatched - a mix of pride, gratitude, and excitement. The true joy lies in the taste of the freshly harvested peaches. The flesh is firm yet tender, bursting with sweet nectar that is uniquely characteristic of homegrown fruit. From delectable peach pies and cobblers to refreshing smoothies and salads, the culinary possibilities are endless. Read on to find delicious peach recipes!!


Brown Sugar Baked Peaches

2 fresh (freestone) peaches

2 tsp. unsalted butter, divided

4 to 8 tsp. brown sugar, divided

Sprinkling of ground cinnamon, to taste

1. Halve peaches and remove pit. Place in baking dish, skin side down.

2. Place 1/2 teaspoon butter in the hollow of each peach. Then top each peach half with 1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

3. Bake at 375℉ until peaches are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Peach Crisp

for the crumb topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

▢1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

▢1/2 cup light brown sugar

▢1/2 teaspoon baking powder

▢1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

▢dash of ground nutmeg

▢dash of salt

▢1/3 cup unsalted butter ,cold, diced into small chunks

for the filling:

▢3 1/2 pounds fresh peaches (about 6-8) peeled, cored and sliced about 3/4in thick

▢1/4 cup granulated sugar

▢2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

▢2 teaspoons lemon juice

▢1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

▢dash of salt

▢dash of cinnamon

1. Peel Peaches and slice into ¾ inch thick slices.

2. Add the sliced peaches to a medium size bowl. Add ¼ cup sugar and toss to coat. Allow peaches to sit for about 20 minutes, to allow the sugar to pull some of the juice out of them.

3. To make crumble topping, add all topping ingredients to a bowl. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut in butter until mixture resembles small crumbs. Refrigerate.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Drain the peaches, reserving the peach juice, and placing the peaches in a large bowl.

5. Measure out ¼ cup of the peach juice and add it to a small bowl (you can discard the rest, or drink it because it's delicious!). Stir in the flour, lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. 6. Pour mixture over peaches and toss to combine.

7. Pour peaches into a 8×8'' or similar size dish. Sprinkle oat topping evenly over the top. 8. 8. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and top is set.

9. Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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