Notes from Windward: #67
Of Goats and Guineas
Windward has had a long standing love affair with goats, so it's not seemed like the same place these past few years when we've been "between herds." One of the challenges inherent in the quest to achieve a critical mass of sustainability is that there's just so much to do. Goats have been part of that work from the beginning, but a few years back we decided to take a caprine "time out" so that we could focus our efforts on other projects.
Alison had expressed a strong interest in cheese making, going so far as to send away for some renet and trying to work with store-bought milk. She was so persistent in her efforts along this path that the decision was made to acquire a quality doe in milk so that Alison could learn to milk and make cheese, yogurt and, my favorite, frozen yo-goat--an ice cream like desert made with goat yogurt and fresh fruit.
And so, let me introduce you to Jewel Suisun, the newest addition to our four-legged crew. "Suisun" is Windward's herd name; it's a northern-Californian Indian name for the West Wind, which is close enough to our name to suit.
I'm also pleased to note the arrival of ten guinea chicks. When the coyotes wiped out our duck flock last winter, they took the last of our guinea hens as well. The primary purpose of the ducks is to control garden pests, a mission which the guinea hens compliment nicely since they have a huge appetite for yellow jackets.
Before we started running guineas, we were routinely hassled by yellow jackets in the late summer--since the guineas started patroling our grounds, hardly a yellow jacket to be seen. Yellow jackets nest in the ground, and when the guineas find a nest they take up station at the entrance and gobble them up before they can fly away from the nest.
We were delighted to get the call from the feed store informing us that the chicks we'd ordered had arrived. Now our ten little chicks are safely home and tucked into the brooder for their first night. It's a long and tiring journey for a newly hatched chick to make it from the hatchery to the store and then on to its final destination, but these look like they're in good shape, so our hopes are high.
The guinea chicks have been doing just great in the brooder, and the time has come to move them out into a larger space. Eventually, they'll earn their keep by wandering around Windward snatching up bugs--they're especially fond of yellow jackets--but for now they still need some protection.
And so, Kai partitioned off some space at the end of the chicken run so that the young birds could get used to moving around in a larger area without having to compete with the now-full-grown chickens. As you can see, they're sticking very close together in their new home.
The guineas chicks have been occupying the southern end of the main chicken run, and both the guineas and the Rhode Island Reds have grown to the point where more room was needed. And so we undertook to convert the garden shed into a guinea coop.
At first we sealed them into their new coop, but after a day or so of that, the young hens started to explore the world around their coop--always ready to run back to the coop if anything unsettling presented itself.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67