In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

borrowed goats and chickens

Mary and Leroy d'Entremont, the owners of the island's sheep, are going to Ontario for the sheep dog trials. They'll be away for about two weeks altogether. So, they said, how would you like to keep our chickens and goats for us while we're away? Well, we said, if you think we can do it, we will!

So this morning they pulled up to the dock in their lobster boat, bringing: Mary's three goats, Molly, Heidi and Gia; a crate containing nine hens (nameless) and one rooster, name of Chevron; a milking stand for Molly; meters and meters of electric fence and all the various bits and pieces that go along with that; milking pail, strainer, and cheesecloth; two bales of hay; two bales of wood shavings; feed for the goats; feed for the chickens; two troughs and two water pails for the goats; a chicken feeder and a water system for the chickens; and an old broom. Whew! I think that's all.

Mary and Leroy had to get back to Pubnico for Anna's birthday party, so they set up the electric fence and we got quick lessons in milking and instructions about feeding and watering everybody and keeping their areas clean, what to do in case of various things going wrong, and what to expect generally. Don't worry, they told us. You'll get the hang of it. And Mary said, if you need to get another lesson in milking there's bound to be a video on YouTube.

Neither one of us has ever milked anything before in our lives. We have not been around farm animals at all. I did have the luck to have grandparents who kept chickens in their backyard in downtown Little Rock Arkansas back when that was a normal thing to do. So I at least had the child's view of keeping chickens, cleaning out the hen house and gathering eggs. Greg spent some brief and magical time on a farm in Ohio as a young man. But mostly, anything remotely farm-like was a foreign country to us.

But somehow, even though we've never done it before and it seemed so daunting yesterday, this afternoon it seems almost as if the goats and the chickens have been here all along. Sometimes that's simply the difference between the concept and the practical reality. It's also because of the way Mary and Leroy approached the whole thing. They just think we can do it (and gave us everything we need to succeed) and so we will. They want us to have fun, and I'm pretty sure we will be doing that.

In May Greg set about to build our chicken coop, in case we ever actually did get chickens. Our imaginary chickens, I called them then. Now, though borrowed, they are not imaginary any more.
A view of the coop from beneath an apple tree. Notice the ladder into the roost and laying boxes. This coop is made of locally recycled screens and lumber.
These are real chickens, not imaginary. They settled down quite nicely, right away.
A clever hen walking upstairs to lay an egg. So far today I have gathered five eggs.
For some reason Chevron has decided he needs to guard the laying boxes. He looks fierce but Mary says he is a sweetie.
A view of the coop from the front.
Molly on her milking stand. Leroy made the stand. It's a beautiful rig as they say around here.
Heidi and Gia are checking out their new digs. Greg will be completing their new digs while they are still getting settled.


Janet said...

Ahhhh! How nice to have a trial run at chickens and goats before taking the plunge. I'm sure by the time the D'Entremonts get back you will be old hands at it. Take lots of pictures to share with us, please!

yourgogirl said...

How wonderful!
I kept several goats before I married and had a kid born in deep winter that I had to move inside with me for a few weeks.
You'll catch onto the milking in no time - very much like milking a cow, only you use fewer fingers :-)
I made pure white, very sweet butter from my doe's milk by simply placing it in a jar and shaking it for a long time.
Enjoy the next two weeks!
I bet this experience will see a goat, or goats joining you permanently on the island. (I especially like the Nubians....)

Piecefulafternoon said...

Looks like you are set and ready for most anything. I love the sound of chickens clucking about their business.