This kind of rain keeps me pretty close to the house, and I have been reading up on goats. Our goat-tending neighbor down the road dropped off his goat library, five titles in all, touching on all issues related to goat care and farming. One book in particular has caught my interest, Goat Husbandry by David Mackenzie. In the first few chapters he details the reasons why goats have never fit well with industrialized farming. Goats have always been the cornerstone of subsistence farming, especially those pushed to marginal farmland. I was amazed to read our story echoed in his pages, a story centuries old, of subsistence farmers who tried to raise a family milk cow on marginal land, as a way to try and feed the family as well as raise a supplemental income. More often than not, the needs of the cow would push them into debt, and the needs of milk on the table and cream for income, would deprive the calf of the only protein rich food available, stunting the calf, and further jeprodizing the family's ability to get out of debt.
So I am exploring what it means to be a subsistence farmer, and how subsistence farming works within a community. Our ideals of farming have changed dramatically since we began our adventure. We used to think of our ideal farmstock as consisting of cows, pigs and chickens, with heavy draft horse breeds providing for the extensive amount of grain cultivation and hay necessary to maintain the stock. These animals in particular fit well into industrial or market economies. We are now transitioning to goats, sheep, rabbits and ducks, using only standard horse breeds or possibly draft ponies for the relatively small grain and cultivation needs. Goats, rabbits and ducks (with the exception of sheep), have never fit well into the traditional market farm economy, but are relics of a still older, and perhaps more stable, subsistence farm economy.