Homesteading Tips: Caring For Goats, Using Herbs and More

One homesteader shares his advice for keeping goats healthy and treating scours, crafting herbal remedies, storing and preserving food and making delicious kofta bread.

| January/February 1974

  • Chicory
    Chicory roots can make a good coffee substitute.

  • Chicory

A couple of your contented subscribers passed on your magazine for our inspection (thinking, I suppose, to enlighten our gross ignorance). We call ourselves organic farmers and — until we read your publication — believed we were self-sufficient. I must point out at once that we're not turned on by the same things that delight the younger generation, we're just old-fashioned, and have isolated ourselves from our neighbors, who think we're slightly out of our minds. Still, even without books or knowledge to guide us, we've done fairly well.

I'll grant that I could have used some of your helpful hints at times, especially when we blew our five-acre dream in northern California. We were in paradise, except that we had no water. Our entire supply had to be hauled from 25 miles away. I dug a well (by hand, with an axe) to a depth of 15 feet. The real estate agent had said that if I didn't reach water at that point he'd have a shaft drilled at his own personal expense, but when I'd got down to 23 feet all he said was, "Well, well, that sure is a deep hole."

Another of that agent's famous remarks was, "It never snows around here." You guessed it: We were totally unprepared for the four feet of snow which fell in September. By good luck, the forest rangers vaguely remembered that some idiots were living in a trailer house on the mountain. They checked on us periodically to find out if we were still alive, and plowed the road so we could get out. The whole affair ended with us living in the valley . . . but living.

At present I raise a variety of animals (mostly goats and rabbits) and poultry (geese, pigeons and chickens). The chickens are Araucanas — the "rumpless" variety, which lack upstanding tail feathers — and I've served as regional secretary for the International Araucana Society for the past year. I've also written a book about the breed in which I've tried to debunk some widely held erroneous beliefs, but the work may never see the light, since, so far, it's failed to attract much interest and I can't afford to publish it myself. Such are the tides of life.

Caring For Goats

Here are a few hints on goat-keeping I'd like to share: Lots of carrots and garlic in the animals' diet will cure intestinal parasites, or perk them up when they're in poor health and get them back into production. At first you may have a problem getting the goats to eat the garlic, but after a few tries they'll nuzzle you for it.

A good armload of rose leaves and stems will act as a fine overall tonic, and the same amount of bean straw, given along with the regular hay ration, will keep the goats' stomachs in working order. This fodder is cheap (we pay about a dollar a bale) and, in many areas, available free. It's about as high in nutritional value as alfalfa, but should not be the animals' sole source of crude roughage. Bean straw contains lots of beans — which the goats love — so feed it sparingly at first to avoid gas.

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