The Once and Future Tomato

What would life be without homegrown tomatoes? Well, not as good as otherwise! Last year was a bad one around here for tomato crops. Ours came in late; enough to eat, but we barely had enough left over to can 7 quarts, and none for frozen pizza/pasta sauce.

I am determined to have a good crop this year. Our frost date is late May, but we were getting into the 80’s in early April, so I went ahead and bought two 4-packs of plants at a local hardware/grocery store. I went with two heirloom beefsteak-style varieties: Mr. Stripey (1800’s, mid-Atlantic, low-acid, colorful red/yellow) and Mortgage Lifter (early 20th Century, West Virginia, big-n-meaty, pink/red).

The weather stayed pretty mild so at the end of April I prepped my tomato beds — two of our five 6′ x 6′ terraced beds. First, I dumped the last of the winter woodstove ashes:

Then I added several tractor bucket loads of goat shed compost on each bed, mixed, and leveled:

Then, for several weeks, the weather, especially at night, turned chilly. It is my understanding that if tomato plants are repeatedly exposed to temps below 50 their yield will suffer the entire season. So I waited. And waited. I bought some peat pots and re-potted the root-bound plants.

Finally, in late May (admittedly, our historical frost date, but weeks and weeks and weeks after prolonged spring/summer temps), I deemed the forecast suitable for transplanting; in the background you can see the goats enjoying the bolted collards that I cleaned out of the nearby beds. I planted 4 plants per 6’x 6′ bed with landscape fabric mulch:

A month later the plants are going gangbusters. I have tied a few plants with baling twine to encourage them to grow through the “tepees” I made with short sections of cattle panels:Tomato-2017-06-19

2017 Goat Kids On Rock [Video]

This year’s kidding started three weeks ago, and within five days we had a good crop of seven little ones. We thought we were done, but somewhere along the way another one sneaked in because now we have eight. On Tuesday (so the kids here are 1½ to 2½ weeks old) they were all having a great time playing on a big rock, doing their best to answer the question “How many goat kids can fit on a rock?” The answer: “Not quite all of them!” Part way though you can see two of them run over to mamma for a nosh, but mamma does not agree that now is the time for that.



Goat Kids, 2017 Edition

Kidding was easy this year, five goats produced seven kids over four days.


Four of the kids, gathered in the southern portico of the goat shed, where they are confined with their mommas for a few days to facilitate bonding. (Some of the more headstrong moms tend to wander off with the herd, leaving their newborns wanting and wandering.)


Brain (♫ a goat they called Brain! ♪) letting hers nurse.


The three remaining kids frolicking in the sun.

Winter’s Last Gasp?

We got 6½ inches of snow last Thursday, followed by an arctic blast, and then, finally some unseasonable warmth. Today is a typical cool and rainy March day. We are certainly ready for Spring.


View from the air Sunday. As you can see, the siding is just about done on the addition. The insulation sub is supposed to be here this week to to finish spraying, batting, and blowing. Then next week, now that the bitter cold has broken, the rest of the wallboard will go up. Then on to chimney cleaning and sealing, and wallboard mudding. In the lower left you can see the trails that the goats have made in the snow going down to the spring run for water. Their shed is in the upper left.


The goat shed compound. From left to right: the Airlock (has gates to/from the Dairy Paddock, the Lower Driveway, and the Southern Portico); the Southern Portico (used variously for goat feeding, penning up new moms with their kids, penning up lactating goats overnight away from their kids for morning milking, and locking up Bersheba when she has dug out until we can fill the latest hole); the Main Shed; and the Northern Portico (The driveway half is for storing square hay bales and dog food, the Paddock side is the dog feeding station.) Behind the shed you can see the top half of the Apothedairy/Barn/Garage.

Goats Kids 2015, Early Edition: Two More


Two more goat kids in past several days. Since kidding is early we are very grateful that it has been relatively mild weather.


Goats Kids 2015, Early Edition Rounds One and Two

For unknown reasons.

For unknown reasons, our rutting season started early this year, so our 2015 crop of kids has already begun. Here are the first two, one born this morning (the tawny one in the back) and the other a couple of days ago. Both first-time moms seem to be doing OK — we have them locked ion the southern portico of the loafing shed with their kids to encourage the bonding process.

The kids are under the attentive watch of our sole remaining chicken — the rest were killed in a series of fox attacks in the early fall, and this one decided to move out of the hen house down in the obviously dangerous meadow paddock up to the loafing shed with the the goats and the dogs. She lets the goats kids play with her … well at least she tolerates it much better than when our dog Bersheba “plays” with her.

Side Garden Terracing

Side_Garden_TerraceWell, we finally dealt with the 3 pallets of concrete block that have been sitting the side yard since November. Early last autumn while we were getting the gardens ready for winter, we started brainstorming on a better way to user our side garden area. It was a long, sloped garden that always seemed to get away from us over the course of the growing season. We decided to break it up into a series of level lots by terracing. We looked at several more attractive options, but the cost seemed out of whack, so went went with our tried-and-true dry-stacked grey concrete blocks (aka “cinder blocks” or CMUs), capped with red concrete pavers. We (somewhat optimistically) went ahead and ordered the blocks in November, hoping that we would get our usual periods of decent weather in December and January, but that did not happen.

We just got the plots done over last weekend, and I spent Monday hauling compost from the compost into them, and moving piles of compost-to-be (aka cleaning out the goat shed.) Compost_PilesWe have a system that works well for us. In the picture to the right you see that I ended the day with two compost piles, the darker one on the left and the lighter one on the right. The lighter one is the bedding that I pushed out of the goat shed — a year’s worth of uneaten hay and goat berries. This started composting in place, giving the goats underfloor heating all winter. It has now been stirred, and the goats (and dogs) will play on it and trample it down. Next spring (or maybe in the fall, depending on conditions) I will move it over to the side for a second round of stirring and trampling — the dark pile you see is last year’s cleanout. The previous second-year pile is what I just put on the new garden plots.

This coming weekend I am going to plant the 12 tomato plants I bought a month ago and have been nursing in little pots, hardening them off. I will get them in the ground this weekend (only a few days our May 15th frost date), using my new and improved cattle panel trellising system.

Caprine Chorus

The goats always notice the start of feeding time, especially in the winter.

Major Snowstorm Barn Chores

Like most of the US East Coast we are in the midst of a major winter storm. This has been a very cold, snowy winter so far from the first arctic blast in early December through this current storm-in-progress. 16″ on the ground with more on the way.

Here is a 10-minute video of our barn chores this morning. Once they plow our road I can get the tractor out to plow the upper driveway followed by the lower driveway we are trudging on in this video.

Goat Kids 2014

We’re still alive here at Riversdell. I know we haven’t blogged for 3 years, but sometimes life just gets in the way. The goat-raising has taken a back seat to other priorities, but we are getting back to it this year.

So, with no further ado, the first round of 2014 goat kids.

Hecate [HECK-uh-tee]  (in front), b. 1/30, Miyumkin [me-YUM-kin] b. 2/2, both girls

Hecate [HECK-uh-tee] (in front), b. 1/30, Miyumkin [me-YUM-kin] b. 2/2, both girls

Boy Per [PEAR] b. 2/4

Boy Per [PEAR] b. 2/4:

Adelle (daughter of Anette), b. 2/8, with Bersheba always ready to help

Adelle (daughter of Anette), b. 2/8, with Bersheba always ready to help

Snowmageddon II

Yesterday, Eric slogged down to the billy pen, dragging a bale of hay using a small tarp as a sledge. Here are the anxious billies who were quite grateful for the feed. Amazingly and happily, their shipping-pallet hut with 2×4 rafters is withstanding the snowload.

Snowmageddon II [Continued]

Snow PathWell, true to our suspicions, a few minutes after the post below went up, our power went out, and stayed out for 3 days. As for snow totals, it is hard to get a precise measurement, but we have 26+” in the clear areas with drifting up to 3 feet or so against fences and rises. I amused myself by hand-shoveling 230 feet of trails to the woodshed, to the chickens, to the goats/dog/barn-cat, and to the driveway. Unfortunately, they are now partially re-filled with snow from the six additional inches we got since yesterday and the 30 mph winds we are now experiencing.

Barn Life

I hae me hay, I hae me dog, life is good.

Goat Kids

For various reasons, we decided to only breed a few goats this year. Here we have moms Oona (the white one) and Queen Bee (the brown one) with their little ones. Oona kidded on the 4th, one boy, one girl, and Queen Bee went the next day with this girl (plus one kid that did not make it.)

Farm Chores [Continued]

The first, long overdue task was cleaning out the goat shed. There was over 2 years worth of bedding and goat berries in varying states of compost to haul out.

In the foreground is a pile in our side garden — should be ready to till in next spring. In the background is a pile that Eric simply pushed out the back of the goat shed — it will continue to compost and what with the goats playing on it constantly, it should spread out rather nicely to help even out the somewhat steep slope there.

This picture does not do justice to size of these piles — there was about a foot of bedding in the 14 by 30 foot goat shed, so that’s roughly 420 cubic feet of material, which is the equivalent of over 3,000 gallon milk jugs!

We are, though, VERY happy to have all of this black gold, though, especially in light of a recent story out of the UK about gardens dying due a herbicide that was applied to cow pastures, and was still active 12 months later, after having passed through the cow, been composted, bagged, stored, and then sold to gardeners at their local home center. We know what is in our compost!

[Continued next picture …]