Time to clean up the barn from the winter! The goats made a huge pile of hay and poop in their stall over the winter. Usually we have to add bedding now and then, but this year they must not have been super impressed with the hay because they pulled out a lot on the floor. It was 3′ deep in the stall they were all in! The stall that was used only temporarily during kidding was about 1 1/2′ deep in the deep spots, less in the rest. We couldn’t open the gates because they open INTO the pens. Poor design on our part, due to our idea of what we thought we would do, which isn’t what we ended up doing – frequent clean-outs and letting the goats have full run of all stalls when they weather was at its worst.
The goat kids like to sleep in the hay feeder, and the hay in the pen was at the same level as the hay in the feeder (which still needs to get cleaned out, too). I don’t have a “before” picture, but you can see how high it was, based on where the hay in the feeders is still at.
The theory is to do these clean-outs throughout the winter. It doesn’t happen often, and this winter it didn’t happen at all. Over the years we’ve relied more and more heavily on our teenage boys to do that job. Keith used to do it more, but now it’s rare. The last time he did it he reinjured his elbow. Unfortunately, kids have this habit of growing up and getting real jobs and leaving their poor, middle-aged mom to figure it out for themselves. Ryan works full-time and has his daughter to care for when he’s not working. Brandon went to college in Minnesota and never come back, and Noah spent this winter in the Czech Republic. He is back now, and he cleaned out part of a pen a few weeks ago, but he is working full-time and also has church youth group responsibilities and socializes now and then. I still have 2 more boys, but they are 8 and 11 years old. Their training in barn cleaning will begin soon. This time around I had to resort to HIRING SOMEONE ELSE’S TEENAGE BOYS. All this time other people hired MY boys. Now I had to hire someone else’s. *sigh* Such is life.
So they came over yesterday and spent all day cleaning out the two stalls that needed it. They did an awesome job! The floor is back where it needs to be. Unfortunately, our neglect has caused rust and holes in the steel barn walls that we’ll have to repair somehow or cover, but for now I’m just thrilled to be able to open the gates again so we can start milking the mamas for ourselves because the kids are old enough to be weaned.
The burning question was, “Where do you want all this to be piled up?” Yeah. Good question. I’d been contemplating that for weeks. The past couple of years it got piled in corners of the goat yards, but there are already three piles in various stages of composting in the north pen, and about 3/4 of the south pen has the piglets we moved in February to get them out of their pen that was a muddy disaster. So, where to put it?? The north pen wasn’t half as deep as the south pen because it was empty most of the winter, so I told them to make a new pile in that yard. They started on that, and that gave me a couple of hours to contemplate what to do with the other one… Finally the moment came. “Where?” I decided on the adjacent garden, along two fence lines that have been a weedy mess for two years. That will smother the weeds and also put the compost right where we want it later. The goats have access to it for now, to keep weeds from growing until we’re ready to plant there next month. If you look closely at the picture, you can see them all grouped together in the corner to the right of the barn. They got a little freaked out by the strangers in their barn yesterday, and are apparently afraid of the piles. Normally every morning they are out in the garden looking for green things to eat. They’ll adjust, I’m sure.
The pile is huge! Lots of compost later I just need to get chicken wire around the fence again to keep the chickens out. I don’t want them spreading it out just yet. They can do that in the fall. In the meantime they were allowed in the dog pen where they are turning over all the dead leaves in corners and edges and eating bugs. Yay for chickens helping with the yard work!