Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Path to Freedom

"Growing food yourself is a dangerous act because you are in danger of becoming free." - Jules Dervaes

Here is a family who has taken self-sufficient living to a fascinating level.

I've been fascinated for years by the above quote. In danger of becoming free calls my name. I don't know if I could ever take it to the level the Dervaes family does, but the feeling of accomplishment that comes from producing food on my own property is fantastic.

Do you have your own urban homestead? If now where would you start?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Livestock Concerns of Tooele

As I've spoken with representatives of Tooele City one of the concerns they've voiced is that legalizing goats may open the door for people wanting to legalize other "farm animals".

It's a pretty resonable issue to stare down. What is the difference between goats and sheep? If we were to legalize goats, then would somebody want to legalize sheep next? Or pigs? I've never figured out how to define the difference between goats and sheep effectively. But the fact remains that there is one. If you Google "urban goats" the search returns story after story about people who decided they wanted a goat in their city back yard. However, if you Google "urban sheep" a yarn store tops out the search with a few stories and videos about sheep grazing at a city park, etc. In three pages of Google I could not see one story about somebody trying to keep a sheep in their city back yard.

Of course its pretty commonly known that there are severall small breeds of goats, whereas I had to do some research to know that there are also small breeds of sheep.

My personal experience has been that goats are more friendly. The year after I had to get rid of Ms. Billy I attended the County Fair where there were both goats and sheep. The goats came right over to me and were very friendly. The sheep shied away from me. But its possible that the goats had been around people more since they had been brought specifically for the petting area. Whereas the sheep were in completition.

I'd love feedback on this. It would help me define more clearly the difference between goats and sheep. Any thoughts on on why goats are more popular as a backyard than sheep? Or pig? You hear about people keeping pot belly pigs as pets. Where do you think that fits?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Goats and Weed Control

I was pulling some big weeds yesterday and sure wished Ms. Billy was there to take care of them for me. Weed control is one of the many reasons I hear people say they wish they could get a goat.

Have you seen the weeds in Tooele. These pictures were taken June 29, 2011. If you look at the same fields right now the weeds are much more of a fire hazard. But it shows clearly a problem we deal with every year. I think my favorite is the tree hanging into the alley in the center picture. I'm not sure a car could even drive down that alley. It makes me laugh. Those awful elm trees were Ms. Billy's favorite. Stake her out there for a few days or trim the branches and throw them into her pen and she'd take good care.

In many communities including large cities such as Los Angeles, goats have become part of the solution.  They are friendlier to the environment and make the work easier for people trying to solve the problem.  Goats are happy to eat the noxious weeds and brush we are trying to control.  They love elm trees and would successfully open up the alley pictured above if given the chance.

One Tooele resident who has owned goats for eight years is happy with the job they do with his weeds.  People often ask to borrow his goats to get their weeds under control.  Another Tooele resident said, “I wish I could have a goat to help my weed problem.”  Goats really are an asset where weeds are concerned.

Although a few extra goats in the residential zones of Tooele are not going to completely solve the weed problems Tooele faces, it is a step in the right direction. Goats can be part of the solution.

Wouldn't you love to have a goat for your weeds? Where would you keep your goat?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Trend or Pendulum?

Is urban homesteading a trend or just the pendulum swinging back as suggested in this YouTube video published by Urban Conversion? 

It's a fascinating question.

The interesting thing about Tooele is that when I was growing up next door to where I live now, we had cows, pigs, turkeys and rabbits at various times. And it was all legal then.

I have treasured memories of following my dad out back to watch him milk the cow. He always filled a bowl with the fresh milk for the cats in the neighborhood. They knew when milking time was and showed up to wait. Dad would sometimes squirt one of the cats while he was milking and they would proceed to clean the milk off their fur, enjoying every drop of course. The best thing about the cow was that I had all the milk I wanted. 

The year we had 60 turkeys as a 4-H project, I loved to spend time letting them eat out of my hand. As they grew and became stronger I did this less because it hurt when they pecked your hand. More precious memories.

Why did it change? Why are goats not allowed on a half acre like ours?

Because Tooele is trying to imitate the big city. Many people want to be less rural and more urban. However, what they don't see is all the urban areas that are turning back to what is natural. People have the desire to be closer to their food. Many of those people live in Tooele. But we haven't spoken loudly and synergistically enough yet.

Are enough Tooele residents who care about this issue to make a difference? One person asked me, "Have you filled a room yet?" She said this from experience. She's been through a similar process and said that until we fill a room it won't happen.

What will it take to fill a room with people who care enough to help legalize goats in Tooele?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Goats in San Francisco

I always love finding stories like this one.

Many large cities allow goats for family purposes. Evidently, San Francisco is one of those cities. Heidi Kooy says that she is allowed to "have two female goats for family purposes". She raises chickens and goats. From this she is able to produce eggs and milk in her own back yard. She makes her own cheese from the goat milk. Additionally she grows a vegetable garden. Heidi talks about the fact that a generation ago "there was a knowledge about how food was produced, where it comes from, and there was a strong connection to it."

I think Heidi is right about the idea that many people have a desire to hold onto something that seems to be disappearing in our society. We become so fast paced that we can lose something. When we find ways to slow down and become more self-reliant, we find part of ourselves again.

How about you? Do you think we've lost something by becoming so distant from our food? What are the benefits in raising your own food?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Magic of Babies

At some point in our short association with Ms. Billy I looked at her and wondered what was going on with her udders. They were filling up and she was starting to produce milk. The funny thing was that I even took her to the animal clinic where they asked if she could be pregnant. 

"Nah," I told the vet. "Couldn't be," I told myself.

But then started noticing how she was more round in the middle. It dawned on me where she had been before she was given to us. She was one of two goats that had been picked up on the streets of Tooele. The other was male. They were in the same pen. Once I thought that through, I realized there was a real possibility of her being pregnant.

As I watched, I became more convinced by the day, and watched her more closely. One night something clued me in that she might be close (I don't even remember what now). But I checked on her the first thing next morning.

Other than my wedding day and the births of my children there are two events in my life that are more magical than any other. The first time I saw fireflies and the the morning I laid my eyes on those baby goats. I'll tell you, it was like magic.

From that day forward my kids wanted to spend every moment in that goat pen loving those babies. I could hardly get them to come in the house. Of course I was usually out there with them. They thought they were so clever to name the babies Annie Oakley and Billy the Kid.

As magic as that day was, the day that followed was devastating. I remember just as vividly, opening that door to man appointed to deliver the notice that informed us that we could not keep the goats. After he left, I sobbed. I don't remember when I finally brought myself to tell the children. I just remember feeling like somebody had yanked my moment of magic harshly from beneath my feet.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Goats in my Novel

Every story ought to have a goat.

Okay. Maybe not every story.
But they always seem to make it into mine.
Part of what has sidetracked me from the goat effort the last little while is my novel. I finished it but will edit it several more times…I’m sure. I managed to add goats to the underground civilization I created in in my novel, Lost Generation. These fictional people who live underground are trying to be self-reliant and a goat just made sense.
The novel before that had a goat too.
I just started working on a new novel and I’m having thoughts about adding a goat. Another one. I must be obsessed.  I keep looking for other options. But Tahlia needs an animal companion. One that is loving and useful. From experience I know that goats qualify for this position.
Maybe I can’t have a goat, but Tahlia can.
Should I add a goat or would some other animal work better?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Consider Goats?

These are some of the general reasons I've listed in the packet I intend to submit to Tooele City.

·         Most sources state that goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated about 10,000 years ago.  Many sources compare this with dogs, showing that both animals were domesticated approximately the same time.  In fact, when passing Council Bill Number 116014, the City of Seattle stated that “goats, along with dogs are the earliest animals domesticated by humans, roughly 10,000 years ago”.

·         More goat’s milk is consumed worldwide than cow’s milk.

·         Goat’s milk has a more easily digested fat and protein content than cow’s milk.  This makes it an excellent possible choice for those who have allergies or intolerance to cow’s milk.  Sources for goat milk in Tooele are limited.  Goat milk is generally more expensive than cow milk making it harder for struggling families to supply the needed solution for children or adults who deal with this challenge.

·         Many progressive cities are recognizing the value goats have to offer as a sustainable choice for a pet.  These cities include: Seattle (pop. 563,374), Berkeley (pop.169,327), Charlottesville (pop. 41,487), Austin (pop. 26,851), St. Paul (pop. 285,058), Portland (pop. 562,182) and Pasadena (pop. 143,667). 

What other reasons should be included?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Goats Compared to Other Pets

Many in Tooele City residents would argue that goats make better pets than dogs. This is an opinion. But because many cities have chosen to change the definition of goats from “farm animals” to pets, Ive included the following information in the packet I will submit to the city. It shows one reason why the definition of goats is shifting from "farm animal" to "pet".

Comparing Size

A Pygmy goat weighs half as much as a Saint Bernard. A Nigerian Dwarf goat weighs in at about the same as a Greyhound. Even a Nubian goat, which is not considered a miniature breed, weighs less than a Great Dane.

Many of the cities who have changed their ordinances to allow goats have added a weight limit to the wording of the ordinance. The following charts show two things. 1) Many large dog breeds compare to or outweigh many goat breeds. 2) Tooele City could easily apply a weight limit to the ordinance and allow goats that are much smaller than the dogs allowed in the city.

Weights of Various Breeds of Goats

Male (in pounds)
Female (in pounds)
Brown Shorthair
Nigerian Dwarf








Weight of Various Breeds of Large Dogs

(in pounds)
Alaskan Malamute
Belgian Sheepdog
Great Pyrenees
Irish Wolfhound
Labrador Retriever
Great Dane
German Shepherd
Old English Sheepdog
Saint Bernard



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deer in Tooele

You may have seen the deer that hang out in the Elton Park area. They are beautiful and seem to grown in number every year.

They are becoming more aggressive in my garden. It used to be that they showed up occasionally, but if you want to see deer in the early morning hours of each day, I know the spot.

They'll be leaping over my back fence to nibble on my fruit trees and nip off the tops of my struggling tomato plants. Later in the year they will take a bite out of a tomato and then move on to the next juicy red fruit, leaving each remaining tomato inedible by the time I get to it. They've stripped the bottom half of my fruit trees this year.

I finally called the city. They won't do anything. Basically, if I don't want the deer in my yard I have to put up a ten foot fence (around half an acre) or find other means to keep them from eating up my food. Can you picture a ten foot fence across the front part of my yard?

Now here's the interesting thing.

How big is a goat compared to a deer? How much nuisance is a caged goat compared to a deer who can jump my fence? Whose job should it be to take care of these animals that now call our city their home? Why won't the city take responsibility for removing the deer when they required that I remove the goat?

I can't have milk. It's illegal. I can't have eggs. The dogs and raccoons slaughtered my chickens. I can't even have a garden. It belongs to the deer.

In other words, the deer have more rights than I do.

What can we do as citizens to claim our rights?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Changes to the Blog

Yes! It is still the same old me. But the blog looks different. My whole life has been undergoing changes, and its time that effected my online presence. SkinTastic Creations is no more. I really shut down that operation over two years ago and then thought I would use the blog to share information about soapmaking. But the little bit I've added to the blog has been about the goats. So I made it official and changed the title to the Tooele Goat Justice League.

The title of the league was chosen based on the efforts of another woman in Washington who granted permission about a year ago for us to use this variation of her name. See her story and more at http://www.goatjusticeleague.org/Home_Page.html. If Seattle can do it, surely Tooele can. But there are as many stories of denial in changing these ordinances as there are successes.

What will it take to get the attention of the City Council?

First we need people who are willing to work. I am only one person, and a very busy one at that (aren't we all). I get caught up with life and convince myself that its silly to be trying to legalize goats in Tooele. But then somebody asks about it. So I know you are interested. So many Tooele citizens are. Some because they want goats. Others because they own goats legally and understand that it is an issue that should be challenged. Yet other people just see the logistics of it even though they would never own a goat.

What are the comments I get?

Such a variation. But it is interesting how often goats are compared to dogs. I've done some interesting research about that. Maybe I will have to post it here.

I've made a goal to start posting every day. I'm not sure how else to create the energy needed to pull this off.

If you are interested in legalizing goats in Tooele, get involved in commenting. Let's figure out how to organized a group of people willing to make this happen. Post this to facebook, tell your friends about it, and help get the word out. I look forward to helping make this happen.