When I say 'this month' that's because every plan I make for the coming weekend or week ends up being either too wet or frozen underfoot, and the plan at the moment is CONCRETE!! So I make a plan and then we adjust it for the weather, at the moment every job on the to do list has an opening of about a month for me to look at getting it done. We pick and chose the event dependant on the weather.
Every, and I mean every smallholder loves concrete. Well you do if you have livestock in any quantity (and there will be those who absolutely hate it I know) but for us, on our wet ground it's an absolute must and has for the animals health been a game changer.
Several years ago the idea of having a solid platform under foot for the goats and horses was so much pie in the sky the pie wasn't even made yet let alone flying in the air! Those who have followed us know that we are very good at using and up cycling when it comes to this place, be it the pallet buildings or the fencing made from fallen trees, we can save a few pennies here and there. However our biggest failure was the area outside the outbuildings where the goats live. An area of pallets covered with rubber matting which was not cheap to buy very heavy to move and take down to the goat paddocks, let alone roll out and cut up.
Over the years the buildings have stood strong, the bases are solid and they look great, especially after a fresh coat of black paint. The porches, as I used to call them were not. They rotted and fast, the rubber ended up with holes in. The pallets broke underfoot. It was impossible to brush or sweep clean from all the poo and straw. Frankly it wasn't safe anymore for anyone. Nor however was it a sensible idea to lift them and replace with new! Goodness since we last chucked pallets about I think they have increased in weight!!! That or I'm getting old, or of course I could also just be flipping fed up moving them about after the 100's we have collected and used over the years.
The other reason I have come to loath these pallet porches as I called them is they are impossible to clean to a high standard. Our land is wet, not that the changing climate is helping there mind you however we bought a bog, on a hill which is something really. It is being drained slowly and the soil structure is changing for the better but this is going to take years to fully repair and that's another story.
Perhaps we should have bought water buffalo but we had goats and goats hooves are pretty special. They don't do well on wet ground, and with all the issues we've had with the wet and and in addressing this issue this we've not been able to rotate them much into different areas. So we've had to be very mindful of worm burdens in the goats, and feet issues. A yard that you can clean properly means that the goats can keep those hooves clean of mud (and poop), drier, which means their hoof walls get worn down correctly and are easier to trim. However initially until the track was re-surfaced getting any large deliveries of anything to us wasn't going to happen. Thankfully at the time the track was being done we met a local guy who's sole trade was to pop to the local quarry and deliver various things in bulk to people in places like ours in a small van with a tipping back. We were decided, no matter what the cost, we could now consider concrete yards. So with all the permissions sought etc a fairly simply process we started.
At the time of writing this we had hoped to have the diary building also with its own yard out front but the weather turned on us pretty quick and taking stone down for a base initially then concrete over wet ground in a barrow was impossible, so thats on hold. Frustrating however as we are approaching kidding time already and this building with the dairy/milking area next door now won't be ready. However the main barn for the girls and the two houses for the male goats now have concrete yards out front. New fencing suitable for goats to stand on also, as they will, so you might as well build it for them to do that on, means every goat is now off the mud. They can return to the grass once it has had a chance to recover fully this time.
Keeping them high and dry in the depths of a wet winter is key to maintaining their health, not only can we monitor hoof health better but we should also pretty much eliminate the issue of worm burdens in the goats. Cross grazing the land with our horses removes any eggs left on the pasture before allowing them access again. However we have also addressed the other fields so rotating them more will hopefully this year be something we can actually do.
So whilst I have planned out the next few weeks, mostly looking at the bigger job of putting concrete under foot for the horses I wake each day and check weather reports regularly. It often changes quickly so whilst I wanted to give Zoe a nice clean pad to stand on she might need to wait another week before I can think about starting that job as I think its going to rain again this week.
If you would like to know more about keeping goats or running a smallholding we are going to be running online courses this year however we are still accepting bookings for face to face courses later on this year, and for those who would like a real holiday on a farm with a difference we are developing those as well. If you are at all interested then please email us for more information.