Sometimes when neighbors drive by, I swear I can see them doing a double take. Hey, they might be saying to themselves, wasn't that barn over THERE yesterday? Occasionally I go out to tend to the goats or chickens and momentarily forget where they are located. This is not because the neighbors are delusional and I am absent-minded, but because all of our animal housing is portable. We move the chickens every day, so they always have nice fresh grass and bugs to nibble on, and there is no smelly chicken yard. The goats get a new pasture every two or three weeks, which lessens their exposure to parasites, provides them with new and delicious plants to eat, and saves us from having to muck out their barn. In exchange, though, we have to endure the process of moving them, which is exhausting, but ultimately worth it, we think. Here's what happens:
Farmer Fin Clearing the Fence Line
First, we measure out a 300-foot area. That's how much portable electric net fence we have. Then, we weed-whack the fence line. The stalks have been getting pretty tough in the past couple months, so we need to use heavy duty trimming line, and it still breaks three or four times. Fun! When the fence line is clear, we make a small pen for the goats with half of our fencing, and pick up the other half. There are about 12 12-foot panels of netting anchored by step-in posts. More about that later. Once the fence is out and the manger, milking stand, and feed dishes are removed from the barn, the real fun begins.
The barn is built on skids so we can drag it all around the hill. We pull it around with our pick-em-up truck. This can be kind of nerve-wracking, as clumps of weeds or anthills can cause the skids to bind up, which could potentially tear the whole thing apart. Farmer Fin drives and I run along beside the truck, shouting observations, warnings, and encouragement.
Setting UpNow it's time to fence in the new pasture. Our portable electric netting is awesome. Because the "soil" on our hill is solid rock beneath a few inches of clay, you have to find the sweet spots to step the posts in. Farmer Fin wears heavy boots.
Moving the Milking Stand from the Former Barn Site
After we set up the first fence, we free the goats. The first couple times we did this, we felt like we had to lead them on leashes or corral them from the old location to the new one, or else they would run off to live with the deer in the woods. This was really stressful. I think the goats are smarter than deer, though: they recognize the benefits of shelter and electrified enclosure. Plus they just like to follow us around. For a few minutes they run around, all keyed up on sensory overload, wild raspberry bushes and mouthfuls of leaves. Meanwhile, Fin pounds in the ground rod and sets up the charger while I trim weeds around the fence line. The goats get pretty curious about all this activity and soon discover that their shiny new pasture is as rad as the rest of the hillside around it.
For the rest of the day, the ladies get fat on green leaves. We gather up all our tools, head on down the hill, and crack a couple of well-deserved beers.