Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ten Things I Learned About Goats...

1.)  The terms “billy goat” and “nanny goat” are now considered offensive. Buck and Doe, minus the word “goat” are now the politically correct terms. This makes it hard for someone like me to buy a goat on Craiglist. I kept thinking, “Why are so many people trying to sell deer? Is no one selling goats?”
2.)  Goat hooves need to be trimmed (despite what the Craigslist seller tells you).
3.)  Horse Farriers (people who trim horse hooves for a living) are offended when you ask them to trim a goat’s hooves. Apparently goats are at the absolute bottom of the farm animal pecking order. Who knew? Certainly not me.
4.)  Bucks intentionally try to urinate all over their faces. Why? Because Lady Goats, excuse, me, "Does" really dig it. You probably don’t need to be told this, but it is very gross and smells horrible. 
5.)  Watching a goat eat through your brush is more entertaining than television for at least 10 minutes. Then the wind changes direction, and you all have to go inside.
6.)  After you realize that you never should have bought a Buck and seriously need to castrate him, Google searches only bring results that tell you how to do it yourself. Yes, Google tells me to do this myself. Google has obviously never met me. I can't even trim the thing's hooves. The last thing I need to be trimming know. 
7.)  When we got married back on October 11th, 2008, I had no idea one day we would be discussing who should be the one that holds the goat and who should be the one who does the castration. And more importantly, which of these two should be holding the gun, or as we like to call it, “back up anesthesia.”
8.)  It probably is not a good idea to buy a goat on Craigslist. It is probably an even worse idea to find a mobile goat castrator on Craigslist. 
      UPDATE: It is impossible to find any sort of goat castrator on Craigslist. I just had to put this out there in case you were thinking of trying. Don’t waste your time. Endless searching on Craigslist through multiple states = no goat castrator.
9.)  Once you own a Buck, all the literary references you know where a woman calls a man an “old goat” really start to come into context. No details here. Just trust me.
10.)  When looking up alternatives to do-it-yourself goat castration, you can find some enticing goat taco recipes.

So now we have plan A: amateur goat castration. Plan B: Goat tacos. Personally, I am much more confident about the tacos. We will keep you up to date.

Here is Bill in the mean time:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Pear Storm

Now that we are mostly unpacked, we are really starting to make progress on the homestead front. We have at least 4 pear trees that we have found so far. They are pretty big and have produced a lot of fruit. From what I have learned through Googling, you are supposed to pick them before they are ripe, when they pull easily from the tree. Then you let them sit a week in a cool place. Then they are ready for eating.

I was pretty sure we were wasting our time picking them and bringing them into the house because they were so hard, the tree had not been watered, thinned, or cared for in any way, and I seriously doubt my abilities to preserve such a large amount of food. Despite my timidness, we had a fun time harvesting them. It was great to work together as a family. Here are the kids just before heading out:

We figured out that with only one tall person, it is better to have the tall person shake the branches while the two short people pick them up off the ground. We also learned that spinning in circles under the tree and shouting, "It's raining pears! It's raining pears!" while the pears fell all around us, though a wonderful experience initially, is a really bad idea. A better idea would have been to watch from the shed and shout, "Wow! We are so glad to watch this pear storm from a safe 20 feet away and under the protection of a metal roof!" I somehow did not think to question why Richard put on a hard hat while we were dancing beneath him in straw hats. Instead I thought, "Why does Richard have his hard hat on? It is so hot out here." I guess everyone but me knows that fruit falling from trees is painful. Now I know.
These are what they look like in my laundry basket right now.

They were very hard when we picked them. I don't know exactly how much we got, but it was about a laundry basket full. There were lots more, but it was really hot, and we just didn't feel like picking any more. And I only have 2 laundry baskets. Now it has been almost a week, and I am quite surprised that they are indeed getting softer, though they are still very firm. They may be a canning pear variety in which case they won't ever really be good for eating. I tried a sliver of one today. I couldn't swallow it. It was just too dry and grainy. I am going to give them another week. Then I will try to make pear sauce (like apple sauce) and try to can it.

If it doesn't come out right, I will make wine out of it. If the wine doesn't come out right, well... we can still find a use for it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Did You Move HERE?

Why Did You Move Here?

It is never good when this is your greeting from locals. Truly though, it is what everyone has said to us. This question tends to get asked of us after Mass, and I struggle to answer in the 3-second window that would be polite in such circumstances. I usually say something like, “Well, we can live anywhere.” That only causes more bewilderment and more awkwardness. So here is the truth, and from now on I will just direct people to my blog. Surely that will go over more smoothly.

The primary reason we bought this house in this location is the affordability. When we lived in California and Little Rock, prices were high and particularly burdensome for a single-income family. It isn’t that we could not afford it, and it isn’t that we were struggling, but it did create an uneasy level of stress about maintaining our income. If we had family in the area, I would have considered the prices worth it, but we didn’t. We decided to quit renting (in Little Rock) and buy a home because with our growing family, rent was getting ridiculously high.

We didn’t go the normal route that HGTV showcases. On HGTV, you go to a mortgage broker, find out how big of a mortgage you qualify for, then look for houses in that range. Inevitably you end up liking the most expensive one because that is how desire works. You make an offer for slightly less than the asking price because of course you want a good deal, but you don’t want to offend or appear unreasonable. Then the seller counters with a higher offer. Then your realtor tells you to make your best and final offer. Then you commit yourselves to pay the max you can afford for 30 years.

Our approach was different. Instead of looking to advice from people whose pay was directly tied to how much money we spent (real estate agents and mortgage brokers), we talked to each other about what we really wanted and what was really important. We decided that more than anything, we wanted freedom. We wanted freedom to work and live as we please and enjoy life. We did not want a mortgage that enslaves us to a high-paying job for 30 years. I think we are finally learning that wealth is not what you make; it is what you don’t spend.

So we started at the bottom. We found the cheapest areas that were reasonable for work that were safe. Beauty of the land was also important to us. Once we narrowed it down to a general area, we drove all over it together. We went to parks, grocery stores, and restaurants. We talked to strangers.  We tried to get a feel for the community. After considering all these things, we narrowed it down to a county.

Once we had a county, we started looking at the bottom again -- at the cheapest houses available. We didn’t use an agent because our price range was the absolute lowest, and we didn’t feel right asking someone to invest a lot of time in us. Also, we liked the freedom of just driving to see a house when it was convenient for us. If we really liked a house, we would call to have the selling agent show it to us. So many agents tried to tell us we needed an agent, and it was sometimes obvious our unusual approach made them uncomfortable. 

We often found that we were more familiar with the low end of housing than the agents were. We mostly used Zillow and Craigslist to get an idea of pricing and to see what was available. We would find a few houses and drive out to see the outside of them and more importantly the neighborhood. We did this for over a year. We put in a few low-ball offers; they didn’t pan out. That didn’t matter to us. We didn’t fall in love with a house. We were not searching for “the one.”  We were just searching for something that would work for us and not against us. Eventually we found it, and it happened to be in this town. That is why we moved here.