Lull in the mess of rain

Brief lull in the downpours
Brief lull in the downpours

Another insanely crazy week is moving by. A family friend from NJ has been staying with us for the past 10 days and left today, to make the drive back to the NY area. It’s been a wonderful visit, and in the midst of all that I had to go out of town over the weekend.

I knew this crazy weather system was moving our way, but really did not want to believe that we would be getting the better part of 3-4 inches of rain. The paddocks are a mess, but John and our friend got to replacing a tarp on the greenhouse that the girl goats use for their shelter. Just in time. And the grassy areas in the paddocks are very firm and nice, so I am feeding them up in those areas while things are soggy.

On the milking front, while I was away this past weekend, John was unable to catch SnowPea in order to milk her (that little bugger, she is a caution). So she went another 4 days without being milked. I think I am going to start drying her off. Two 4-day non-milking days in the last 3 weeks is enough of a cosmic sign for me. So we are down to milking every 4 days, and then we will be finished. It’s that time of year!

Tesser update

Tesser having a rest after the last vet visit
Tesser having a rest after the last vet visit

Well, we have more blood results for our little Chihuahua. She does not appear to have a kidney issue, it looks like she is polycythemic (not sure if I have the spelling correct here). She makes too many red blood cells, so her blood sucks all the extra water out of her system into the blood, leaving her dehydrated. As we have been giving her fluids under her skin, she has perked up. It’s all in the balancing act, I guess!

So we have some new hope for our future with little Tess, and we just have to be a little more careful about her fluid intake and watch how she feels, as well as feeding her a more balanced diet. Being a lot more observant is the key. Totally worth it!

Columbus Day weekend 2014

Tesser is looking pretty good this weekend!
Tesser is looking pretty good this weekend!

I couldn’t wait for the weekend, and it’s been great so far. We went out to breakfast this morning at a local Round Pond eaterie, John went up to Jay, Maine, to register the pigeons for tomorrow’s race, and I had some down-time at home to do some cheesemaking chores and a little paperwork. Tonight our grandson is here and we have been watching Thomas the Tank Engine videos and setting up Brio train tracks. The day was grey and cool until this afternoon when the sun finally joined us.

SnowPea is good with the new milking schedule
SnowPea, our star milk goat, is okay with the new milking schedule

Columbus Day weekend is usually the peak of the autumn color in the midcoast Maine region, and it’s right on schedule. The Damariscotta Pumpkin Fest is this weekend, so there are lots of wonderfully carved giant pumpkins in town. I have not gotten any photos yet, but maybe tomorrow. I love a good three-day weekend!

Tesser is holding her own so far and seems to have perked up with the extra hydration. Monday I will take her back to the vet to have some more blood work done, and we will get some firmer answers, we hope, on her condition.

SnowPea continues to give us a goodly amount of milk, just once a day. And she seems pretty happy about it too!

Dog tired

Tesser, all decked out in the bandage from the drawing of the blood
Tesser, all decked out in the bandage from the drawing of the blood, in her cat bed

This past week has been a cluster of running from one thing to the next and feeling as though nothing is being accomplished. Unfortunately, much of the running has centered around Tesser, our twelve and a half year old chihuahua.

Chihuahuas are notoriously finicky, and dogs as small as ours can be fragile and have issues. And she is all of four pounds on a good day! But Tesser has not been eating well, and appears to be in a little pain some days. I would expect that she would have some arthritis at her age, but it’s so difficult to tell about things like that. Most of the time she is still a happy doggie when we are around, and we cuddle and have playtime.

On Monday we spent quite a few hours at the vet’s office getting blood work done, and having her pumped up with some fluids under the skin. Prescription food was provided and we went home trying to be hopeful about indications that her kidneys may not be functioning well. She has perked up a bit, and eaten more than she has in awhile, but yesterday afternoon we spent another few hours in the vet’s office so they could run her blood panel again. Not much has changed, even though she is well-hydrated and eating.

So we came home with more prescription food and a bag of Ringer’s Lactate with which to pump her up every night for a week. One more blood panel next week will either confirm that her kidneys are not working correctly, or show that she is just slowing down with old age. So I am crossing my fingers for a little more time with her, and hope that we can find foods that she will eat and that agree with her.

It looks as if another dreaded life transition has landed on our doorstep. You know they are going to arrive, but just hope they will stay away longer. She has added so much to our lives that I can’t regret any of the years with her. One more cycle in a very sweet life.

Milking train partly de-railed

SnowPea looks so innocent!
SnowPea looks so innocent!

In the last 14 years I cannot remember any time that my husband and I have been away together, except when my mother died in 2003, and he was only in NJ for 24 hours before heading back. Having farm animals can be a little bit limiting in that way!

This past weekend, however, we really needed to be gone together, and our son offered to take care of the goats, and even to milk SnowPea. He came over for a walk-through the night before, and I thought all would be well (he has done a lot of farm chores with us through the years and has milked in the past). The morning after we got to NJ, I got a text that said he could not catch her. Even using all his sneaky approaches, she remained elusive. In the past we have had people around that are used to doing a lot of milking, and this time, it just didn’t happen. SnowPea is older and has more tricks up her sleeve than she did even a few years ago.

Needless to say, she remained elusive for most of the weekend. Since she had had a spotty milking 3 days, I decided it was a sign that I should cut back to once a day milking. She was already on a crazy schedule, so I made the call on Sunday night when we got home, to just milk in the afternoons. I have a lot of work to do with the winter shelters for the goats, so this may be a blessing in disguise. All of our friends that love to share in the cheese bounty are not so happy, but these are the fortunes of farming. Sigh. I was hoping to get quite a few more batches of cheese into the freezer for the winter and the spring, but that’s the way it goes. I will still get some, just not as much. And so the autumn is upon us in more ways than one.

Weekend away

A real NJ antipasto salad!
A real NJ antipasto salad!

Although we traveled down to North Jersey on Friday in order to attend a memorial service for a very close friend’s husband, we were able to visit with some relatives of our own as well. My sister in law very graciously hosted us, so we had a chance to visit with her as well as with my in-laws, who both turned 90 years old this year. It was even better that we had our grandson along, and he got to spend some time with his great grandparents as well. And my older son had dinner with us on Saturday night too.

Tesser was not happy to share a new space with Lucy the Jack Russell!
Tesser was not happy to share a new space with Lucy the Jack Russell!

It was an exhausting weekend with two 7 hour drives in 3 days, but it was very worth the miles. The memorial service on Saturday was not only beautiful in itself, but we were in one of the most gorgeous areas of New Jersey, in the Hope/Belvidere area out near the Delaware Water Gap in northwest Jersey. And, the weather was fully cooperative as well. 80s and sunny.

Tappan Zee bridge
Tappan Zee bridge

We crossed the Tappan Zee bridge twice, and saw the work going on in the Hudson River to begin building a new bridge. Crazy! But it’s definitely part of our crazy, NJ/NY past lives. Thank goodness, in the past. Too much traffic and noise for us there.

Fair going and Happy New Year

Oxen at Common Ground
Oxen at Common Ground

It’s been a really busy week. On Saturday we made our way up to Common Ground, the Maine Organic Farmer’s and Gardener’s Association big festival in Unity, Maine. We try to get there most years, and it doesn’t always happen, but it’s a great fair. I love the working horse and mule teams, and the oxen and donkeys as well. There are always heritage breed pigs and pig breeders there doing talks and demonstrations as well. Saturday was an incredibly blustery and grey day, which made the going a little bit more challenging, but we enjoyed it tremendously (and I scored the seed garlic that I wanted, so it was an extra successful trip!).

Another Common Ground visitor
Another Common Ground visitor

It feels as though I have been scrabbling to get through the work week. The mornings are getting darker, and unfortunately, I had a meeting of the minds with Zelda, the largest goat on the farm, end of last week. It resulted in a spectacular black and blue on my forehead. (She was lying by the feeder, and in the dark I came up to clean out the trough. I bent over and she hopped to her feet at the same time. Neither of us knew what hit, and boy is her head hard! I am very sore, and my husband thinks someone will think he is beating me. Farm-related injuries always look bad!).

View of our elderly birch tree in the afternoon
View of our elderly birch tree in the afternoon

It’s really looking a lot like autumn out there right now, the trees are beginning to put on their party colors. The drive to work has been spectacular this last few days, with mist hanging in the hollows and gorgeous orange and pink sunrises. I don’t mind the cooler weather, either!

And for all of you who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, have a Happy and Healthy New Year 5775!

Friday fun?

It all looks innocent...
It all looks so innocent…

Not. It was barely even Friday when my husband and I sat up straight in bed (3 a.m.), listening to something outside screaming bloody murder. Blood-curdling screams. I had been having an extremely strange dream that involved a pigeon morphed out of a hedgehog/centipede, so when John wondered what that was, I told him it must be a pigeon with blue spikes. I still do not have any idea what it might have been, but it was screaming again about a half hour later. John went up to check things out, and all was calm. False security.

Temporary barrier in the milking greenhouse.
Temporary barrier in the milking greenhouse.

When I got out to chores about 5:15, the sky was cold, clear and sparkling with stars, but I also realized that all was not right. Bagels, that bad boy, had jumped the partition in the milking greenhouse and was wreaking havoc, trying to get in with the girls. Pippi is in heat and she was making the poor boy absolutely insane! His collar was missing, and I had absolutely no way to muckle onto the big guy. He had ransacked the milking greenhouse, knocking over the milking stand and leaving poops everywhere. Yay, Bagels, way to go! (And man, does he stink!)

I penned him near the gate that he was trying so hard to breach, and ran back to the house to get John. I knew I wouldn’t be able to muscle him around. John hustled up, and just as he was climbing over the panel I heard him say, “Um, he just jumped in with the girls.” I said some things that weren’t very nice, and he hurried into the paddock and tackled Bagels. Poor dears! I found an old dog collar and got him set up, then we got a halter on that bad boy and encouraged him to come with us. Not an easy task, that’s all I can say. And poor John was rolling around in the paddock with a buck who was very focused on just one thing, and as stinky as they come. We got him settled in the end, but the girls were so upset that I never could get SnowPea to get onto the milkstand, even after I put things to rights. Bucolic and low-key the morning was not!

This afternoon was much better. Calm ruled the end of the day, and I took some time to set up a little bit of a barrier in the milking greenhouse. It’s always something, and there is never enough time to get it done the way I want it to be. Not as young as I used to be might be the reason! Here’s hoping for a quieter night.

(John thinks the screaming in the night was a fisher cat making a kill. I still have no idea, but it did sound more like a cat than anything else. Brrr. Very. Scary.)

Sliding into autumn

Wednesday afternoon light
Wednesday afternoon light

The week bumps on. Past hump day and into the home stretch. The weather continues to be amazingly gorgeous, we can’t complain about that! Cool in the mornings, fairly warm during the day, in the upper 50s and lower 60s. We don’t have any really nice color on the trees yet, but they do seem to be fading,losing their brilliant summer green.

Little India's pelt
Little India’s pelt

Yesterday I was surprised by the UPS van zooming down the driveway. The last 3 sheep pelts that I had processed came back from Bucks County Fur. It’s certainly nice to have them since we don’t have the sheep anymore. All of them are lovely, and will definitely be useful around here.

HoneyBea's pelt
HoneyBea’s pelt

Pigeon racing continues. We had 4 birds in the top 20 this past weekend, which isn’t bad for beginners. I can’t remember where they are being released this weekend, but the races are getting progressively longer. We don’t have enough flyers to be death-defyingly competitive, but they are definitely holding their own.

Settling gently into autumn is just about my favorite time of the year. It’s here, and it’s time.


Cheese train is back on the tracks

Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.
Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.

Finally. It’s been about a month of one thing or another not working around here, and the refrigerator has been the biggest challenge, by far, much worse than no hot water for two days and the washing machine on the fritz. Two weeks. The freezer part of it worked, thank goodness, although we have 4 other freezers, but the fridge is such a huge part of everyday functioning, it’s easy to forget it.

Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom.  Essentials are all that are left!
Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom. Essentials are all that are left!

Today the repairman was able to come, and it wasn’t even a huge amount of money. The fan motor, or something like that. Which meant that tonight I was able to keep SnowPea’s milk for cheese making!  What a day. So her half gallon evening milking is all alone on its shelf. Not for long, however, so I am ready to go. Phew!

And so it goes with the stuff that we absolutely couldn’t divest ourselves of in the refrigerator. Most of it gone now, and a clean start with our old standbys: Tonic, pickled jalapenos, eggs, jam and milk! It’s all good!!!

Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!


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