Since the harvest moon has just passed we have been in preparation mode for the winter! Preparing our garden beds for the snow cover, curing food for the root cellar, harvesting fodder for our goats winter food supply, and breaking new ground to make beds ahead for spring. The recent cold weather has kicked us into a new gear, and we have been really embracing the change. Yesterday morning was our first frost of the season, we were shocked to wake up to icy silver dew on the grass and ice on our car windshield. Today we enjoyed the day harvesting fodder for our goats to eat all this winter. Fodder is usually defined as dry feed for livestock. In our case we are pollarding trees for the leaves to feed to our goats. This time of year the leaves on most trees are starting to turn color, sadly by now, you’ve missed the chance to harvest fodder for livestock.
On Willow Brook Farm however, there happens to be a clear cut on the property that just was cut last year. During the summer all the stumps yielded tons of top growth that is still vividly green even now, which is why we are still able to harvest the growth for our animals. As we all know, tree leaves turn color in the fall as the plant sucks many of the important nutrients back out of the leaf and into the trunk, so fallen leaves are more similar to straw than they are to hay. A goat might eat some fallen leaves, but they’re not going to fare very well on a diet of fallen leaves alone. But since we are cutting our tree growth still in it’s green stage, we are capturing all of the very important minerals and vitamins still in the leaf. We then tie the bunch together with string and hang them up on a tight rope hung between two trees to be dried by the sun for a few days. We now will have very dry bundles of brownish leaves ready to be stored in the barn to be fed to our goats through the winter, especially around the Hunger Moon that appears around the middle to late february when the land has been covered with snow and ice for many moons already. During that time the goats will have gone through a lot of their hay already, then, they really start to crave something different and more nourishing. Now is the time the fodder really comes into their diet during late winter to nurture their bodies with all the minerals and vitamins secured in the tree leaves. They need them the most now since they will be getting ready to give birth in the weeks to come.
The images below show the process that we used to cure the green leaves, also, we added a stunning photo that we captured of the sun rising on the equinox over the mountain ridge in our neighboring town Gilamanton.
What a majestic time of year!