Gavilan Trading Post

Valley of the Moon Ranch, NM
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April Snow Showers Bring May's Hardiest Perennials

Danielle's picture


(The day after the snow)

Along with two of our wonderful interns, we have been busy in the garden with planning, plotting, prepping, and planting our early season crops. Yesterday we ended our gardening day early, postponing our carrot planting agenda because the wind was blowing fiercely. Besides the risk of our carrot seeds blowing right out of our hands continuing on over the continental divide, it was a less than pleasant work environment.

This morning we awoke to the ground covered in snow, and big fluffy wet flakes have been falling rapidly and consistently all day. Even if the cold is a little hazardous to our more tender plant species, the moisture is always a most welcomed sight here, being that the dry periods are often times far too long and are not very conducive to growing much of anything. It is genuinely exciting for us when we think of the opportunities and productivity that a little spring moisture can present to our arid landscape.

Before the snow hit, Diane and I were out checking some pastures and discussing how the grass is growing this spring (The conversations around here are absolutely riveting, let me tell you). On the way back we swung by the mailbox. There we found a single letter with no return address; the envelope included a few packets of vegetable seeds, a generous cash donation, and a really touching letter. As we sat in the idling car next to the quiet highway, reading the letter, we couldn't help shed a few tears at such a kind gesture from a stranger feeling some spring joy; and we're feeling it too! Thank you Rozanne, and please do stop by if you're in the area!

Dobby!

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We had a surprise on March 18th but I am late to report: Introducing Dobby the house-goat!

Kidding season does not start until April but as things go, you can usually count on a surprise or two when waiting for kidding season to begin. I was out in the garden on March 18th when I heard the sound of a goat bleat in a sort of grunting tone that clearly meant a labor contraction (Apparently, I speak goat). Antoinette was going into early labor! She kidded without issues and showed a lot of interest in caring for her two new kids, unfortunately these two kids needed a lot more help than a towel off and a teat. They were severely premature and were unable to even try to stand. So, into the house they went.

We set them up on the heating pad near the wood stove to 'cook them' a bit longer and they were tube fed a mixture of Colostrum and Coffee to get them started. I've honestly never seen such pathetic looking kids, they were so under developed that we all had our doubts about their survival. We lost the weaker of the two on the second night, while the stronger one was slowly making progress towards becoming a goat. He could be picked up and set on his feet to stand for short amounts of time and was becoming brighter and was happily eating between long sound sleeps. Within a few more days he could stand and walk a few steps and by about a week and a half old he was caught up to what a new born goat should be; able to stand up, walk and lightly frolic. At week two he is finally able to run, jump and cause trouble, like any healthy goat should!

To my dismay, the once eager mother was not able to bond with her kid while he spent his time in the warm house incubating and she understandably has no interest what so ever in caring for this kid, there is also no other kids for him to hang out with in the barn (yet) and so he has been living in the house and under foot, thus he is our little house goat. It's only a matter of time before he is jumping on the table so we're all hopeful he'll have some friends soon to keep him company in the barn!



He dances!

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Grazin'

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My First Holistic Planned Grazing Chart!

I hatched this baby out last month (well, it's still got a lot of blanks that need filling in). The picture is not very descriptive or interesting but this chart is going to be a real game changer around here, as it serves as an open ended plan for this season's grazing period on the ranch, as performed by our two herds of animals; the goat herd and the bovine/equine herd. This chart is a great stress reliever by allowing us to “see” our potential time, space and forage requirements vs. availability for the season, while also aiding us in our efforts of monitoring, and manipulating our animal friend's movements in a healthy effective manner, and in doing so, will move us towards our goals of improving the land's ability to support a diverse community of life.

This chart comes from “Holistic Management International” and It's difficult for me to really explain effectively what I am going on about, as it's pretty complex and I am still fairly new to these ideas myself, having been slowly emerging myself in Holistic Management for the last two years (If only I had emerged a little faster!). Luckily for you and me both, the founder of Holistic Management recently did a really good Ted talk about holistic planned grazing and so I can spend less time trying to explain all of the stuff swimming around in my head and just direct you to his talk.

I also want to ad that even if you have no interest in my grazing plan, watch the video anyway – it's impressive and important:


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Spring

Danielle's picture

The Spring Equinox is just a few days away and we're starting to see radiant green spikes on the land as the grass begins to emerge from the soil. From a few observations, I've declared that March 14th was our official first day of spring this year. This was due to the pigs being warm enough to use their recently thawed wallow for the first time in 6 months; The garden was full of scavenging Robins; A fly was annoyingly buzzing around my window; The rainwater barrels, no longer solid blocks of ice; The specks of green here and there; Geese migrating overhead; That I was able to air out the house without freezing to death; and the fire in the main house went unstoked for the entire day!

We're looking forward to the growing season as well as the rapidly approaching ranch party extravaganza, celebrating the wedding of Jacob & Meghan (hurray!!). There is always never ending amounts of work to be done and we're now shifting into our overdrive work mode that comes with the longer days. Luckily we have a few Interns coming in at the end of the month and beginning of April to help accomplish the tasks at hand and we're very optimistic about the season's activities and accomplishing our 2013 goals .

And speaking of goals, I've been really neglecting sharing aspirations via the website due to being busy but also have been holding out, as we're in the process of giving the website a much needed 'sprucing up' and I suppose once that happens I'll get a little more excited about putting content up (Silly, I know). I have much enthusiasm to share about life, projects, farming, and ranching. Hopefully I'll put it into a readable context.

Anyway, here is a picture of a goat to help make up for my web absence (goats make it all better!):



(Felina with the infamous Rainbo Bread Truck)

Tierra & Zoe

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Tierra and new pup 'Zoe' playing in the snow. These two have endless amounts of energy.

(photo by Danielle)

Ranch Cats

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What would the ranch be without the porch cats? Here is Pickles and Lady Pickles perched on the railing.

(Photo by Danielle)

Let the combing begin!

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The goats are looking mighty fluffy and in one week we will begin the 2013 Cashmere harvest! We have a couple of awesome interns on their way to help comb out the goats for the next three weeks, and we're looking forward to our 7th year of goat combing that will surely be another fun filled Cashmere harvest!

Help needed!

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Right now we have a chance of winning some much needed grant money for a very worthy farm project, however the grant is dependent on how many votes we can get! We're actually doing pretty well but every vote is needed as we do have some serious competition.

You can help out by clicking the link below, reading the story, and than clicking the "thumbs up" icon at the top right of the story. And don't forget to share with your friends!

Thank you so much for supporting our efforts to create a sustainable farmstead!

Raising Organic Family Farms - Danielle Shattuck's Story

Yaksmas

Danielle's picture

So this picture is a wee bit late but I thought it still needed to be posted!

Pictured is a few of the Shattuck siblings: Ben, Danielle and Jeremy. With family friend Joe. And of course, Pabu our cute little bull Yak.

Of fine feathered friends

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In February we acquired seventy five Australorp chicks. These chicks are to serve as laying hens in the future. We are hopeful they will produce enough eggs for not only us but for any of our neighbors whom would like to eat good locally produced eggs. But it will be quite a while until we see any eggs, as these ladies are still young, small baby birds.

Those chicks fill my heart with joy as I have always taken a particular liking to “the flock”. Our family has always had chickens and we have always raised them from a few days old. I had taken a special interest in the chick rearing from a young age and because of that, the chick rearing has been “my job” since I was about eight years old.
I am of the opinion that chickens are pretty cool creatures. Besides the obvious benefits of leaving us with fresh eggs, good manure, and aerated soil. They also possess creepy dinosaur like qualities. At least how I picture dinosaurs which has been greatly shaped by an obsession with the movie “Jurassic Park”, an obsession that started at an early age and has now extended into adult hood. The chickens, much like my perception of the Dino's, look at you like they are always figuring out if there is any possible way they could consume your delicious flesh but so far none of my hens have succeeded in figuring out a way to accomplish that tasty possibility.
When the hens aren't trying to figure out a way to eat you, they usually spend their time chasing smaller things that they can consume, such as bugs and defenseless blades of grass. They also partake in non eating activities, like, taking dirt baths in the sun, roaming around in groups talking with each other in their eerie chicken language (Chickens are very social animals) and sometimes they even spend some time laying an egg. On top of all this, they are also extremely aesthetically pleasing.

Although these Chicken-ey qualities I do find very entertaining, the birds themselves aren't always the most personable creatures. There are exceptions though, like “Red” a hen that made a habit of following Marcus around because he was always working on projects around the farm that would reveal juicy grubs, red worms and the like. He knew what she was after and he obliged his chicken friend by throwing her any bugs he came upon. It's been a few years since Marcus and Red have had their daily bonding activities, as Marcus moved away some time ago. But Red has not forgotten about her special snack time with Marcus and so she stalks around projects to this very day. Unfortunately for Red, most of the farm interns have no idea what she wants and so they don't throw her any scrumptious bugs, and so, she is left to forage for herself. “Keep trying Red. One of these days someone will understand you again”.

The chicks too, lack a bit in the “personable critter department” yet are often times captivating to watch. Not because they do anything all that interesting but there is something about the hypnotic sound of so many creatures peeping and chirping on that is amazingly hard to break away from. You just end up staring at them almost in a trance, as they peck around their litter, lay around and generally do nothing all too interesting. But you just can't look away.
That being said, today the chicks did the most endearing thing I have ever witnessed any chicks do.
I was squatting down in their pen, scooping them feed as I do every morning. A few of the most brazen chicks always come over to me during this activity, so that they can get the first “peckins” of feed when I set the freshly renewed feeders down.
But today was different for these brave little hens, because today I was wearing pants that had loose draw strings on them. One of the chicks spotted the dangling string while I was scooping feed and this particular little chick latched on to that string and pulled as hard as she could. She held on tight and relentlessly. It was adorable. Soon, a few other chicks caught on to what was going on and wanted in on this delectable looking string.
The first chick now growing weary of pulling, let go. Sending the string flying. The other chicks rushed in to grab the now loose and bouncing string. The few chicks fought over the string in a sort of tug o' war and finally a “winner” emerged. The winner, now had her turn at doing the exact same thing as the first chick which was steadily pulling back and hoping that the string would give-in so that she could consume her well earned prize.
Well, this exact same exchange went on for a few minutes and finally it was time for me to move on to the goat barn to check for new baby goats. Before I could leave, I had to pick up the latched on chick and remove the cord from said chick's mouth, which was really more difficult then I could have imagined. Finally after chick was removed, I stood up. But this particular chick was not so ready to give up the fight. She watched that string rise and than made a mighty leap to grab the string in mid air. She missed it and tried again but alas the cord was out of her reach and she went back to pecking at her chick feed.

Often I find most people aren't too interested in Chickens, but I for one do not believe I will ever grow tired of the antics and benefits of the flock and I can not imagine a life without my feathered friends.