Sunday, April 26, 2015
Today was the day that we cleaned out the goat room. The past two years we practiced what is called "the deep bedding method." This means that in early winter, when the weather begins to be cold, we start layering in bedding. Rather than removing the soiled shavings, we just add more on top. It starts with shavings,which are absorbent, then hay is added as the goats drop bits of it when they eat. When the weather gets very cold we toss in a bale of straw. The idea is that the deep bedding insulates the cold that comes up from the ground, and the bedding actually begins to compost, which generates heat to help the goats survive comfortably in the cold times. This is all well and good until it is time to remove the bedding in the spring. Then it is a rather horrible, heavy, odious task.
As the old bedding is removed, the lower levels are soaked in urine, and the air is perfumed with ammonia. It isn't pretty. The mix of shavings and hay and straw is heavy and wet. And to make matters worse, the job requires a lot of upper body strength, which I sadly lack. So, my sweet husband volunteers to help me. Not only is the work hard, but the ceiling is short and he is tall and the entire episode is marked with the sound of his head thwacking on the roof joists.
He raked and shoveled and hoed. He used his hands and his big boots and everything he had. He rolled up the bedding and pushed it to the door. And he never lost his sense of humor or his sweetness.
I pulled the old bedding out, and hauled muck bucket after muck bucket out to the manure pile. We estimate it took 50 bucket loads until we reached the dirt floor. It took 3 hours, 2 quarts of iced tea and a lot of stick-to-it-ativness to get the project done. The goats took turns peering in to see what we were up to, and then dancing on the growing manure pile outside. They found it all to be great fun. We questioned the process and decided next year we need a new plan.
We let the room air a bit then added two bales of clean, bright, fresh shavings. The goats explored the space with interest.
It feels good to have that big project behind us. And I am so grateful to my kind and patient husband for always being there, no matter how horrid the task. Left to his own devices, I suspect he'd live in a condominium and not have so much as a houseplant. Yet, here he is, shoveling muck and hauling hay, bottle feeding goat kids and erecting hot wire to keep pigs enclosed. And he does it all with kindness and generosity and deep, deep love. He didn't know he was buying into keeping a "zoo" when he met me, but he has risen to the occasion, beautifully.