The Deal

What I want to be taking time out for int he mornings!
What I want to be taking time out for in the mornings!

I have had plans in the works for a number of years.  The deal with my husband is that I would retire when I turn 62.  That happens to be this February 11th, and  I really can’t believe that it is real.  Where did the time go?  It has just snuck up on me.  (Of course, I would not retire until June, at the end of the school year).

When I read Jackie’s blog post on Butting Heads Farm – the Art of Aging, Part 1  about aging and what can be accomplished home on the farm while working a full-time job,  I realized that we have been maneuvering ourselves toward this goal for a good number of years (I have had to let go of our sheep, our yearly meat chickens, and our yearly feeder pigs in order to keep things sane).  I have only told a few coworkers and close friends so far, but it’s finally here for me.  I am retiring at the end of this school year (!), and I am hoping to be able to totally give myself over to the farm and to weaving, spinning, knitting and felting from then on.  The money issue will be difficult for awhile, but hopefully I won’t have to go out and get a whole other full-time job.  I feel bad for all my coworkers who retire and a year or two later have to go back to work full-time, but most of those folks are single.  I am blessed to have a partner who has a few sources of income, and with my NJ pension, my Maine pension, and a little bit of Social Security, I might be okay.  (Although Maine is one of the two states in the U.S. who believes that getting SS and a teacher’s pension is “double dipping,” so the SS that I paid into in NJ is going to be drastically cut back when I start collecting because of my Maine teacher pension.  It’s a real bummer).

And so it goes.  I am frantically trying to make sure that things at work are going to be perfect for whoever replaces me, but we all know that that is a losing proposition.  It will be what it will be.  But I am having a wonderful time reading the seed catalogs and thinking that I can actually do a little more in the garden because I won’t be starting back into work by the middle of August, and unable to process the tomatoes and the eggplant that are just really coming ready at the end of August.

I can’t believe that I only have 80 some workdays left in my job as a Library Media Specialist.  It’s been a wonderful career, and it won’t be easy to give up.  But I do think that I will be having breakfast or lunch with my retired teacher peeps on the first day of the new school year.  And there will be champagne or wine involved!!!

Happy Groundhog Day

It feels like Spring out there.  I keep thinking that we are going to get slammed this month, with snow and ice and below zero temps.  But this week they are forecasting numbers in the upper 40s and low 50s!  Dare we hope for an easy winter?  I just don’t know.

Twins investigating the contraption
Twins investigating the contraption

On Sunday Sam and I took the milkstand out into the large girl’s paddock.  Put it down in a flat area so that they could investigate and jump onto and off of it.  It was time for trimming some hooves, and in the past the twins (SnowPea’s girls) have had  a terrible fear of the stand.  I use this piece of equipment for more than just milking; we use it for hoof trimming and other medical procedures as well, if it’s something where we need them to stand for more than a few minutes.

So they all need to get used to it.  I know we are not that close to kidding yet, but usually I will get my mamas up on the stand a lot before the babies come so that they are not freaked out.  And always, way before their due dates, we check the way their bellies are hanging, as well as their udder development.  (They need to get used to me coming up behind them and having an udder feel.  It’s very revealing!).  I don’t want any of this to be new to them right before kidding.

I am also beginning to add some alfalfa pellets into the feed for the girls who may be having their kids the soonest.  It’s a nice source of calcium, and I want to prevent any issues that might arise before kidding with toxemia.  The pre-birth visage of milk fever.  Ugh.  Ugly!

And so it goes.  Battie is the first doe up for kidding, end of February/beginning of March.  And so we shall see,

Projects

Compressed hay bales
Compressed hay bales

Went out to get some hay this morning.  We get some local hay but we also get some of the Canadian compressed bales, which are enormously heavy, but it’s a good bang for the buck, usually.  I was driving the 1997 Ford F-350 diesel pickup today and halfway up I noticed that the brake pedal was going awfully low.  But, I don’t drive The Beast very often, so I said nothing until all the brake warning lights came onto the dash.  My husband said we were probably low of brake fluid, and he would get some and put it in on the way.  Luckily, before the ton of hay went onto the truck, he realized we had a broken brake line in the back (as he was pouring in the brake fluid it was pouring out just as fast.  Grr.)  So moving on to plan #2, we just got a few bales, and turned around to limp home slowly.  Thank goodness John drove!  I would have been more than nervous, to say the least.  Big sigh.  Disaster averted, and another project for John.  I know what he will be doing this week!

Flannel wall of quilt squares. Figuring out the patterns of color
Flannel wall of quilt squares. Figuring out the patterns of color

On a more pleasant note, I have been working on a very big fiber project since last summer.  If you follow my Instagram feed, you may have seen  several photos of my quilt-in-progress.  Until last summer, I had not done any quilting for the better part of 30 years.  Before my youngest was born I always had a quilt or knitting or weaving project on the go.  I don’t know if it was the pins and needles that kind of stopped me with a toddler in tow, or if life just got in the way.    (Most likely it was a space issue; the 4 of us lived in a small ranch in NJ and my loom took up a good chunk of the living room, and the spinning wheels had another corner.  And then there were the toys and the books…  Not much surface left for doing quilts!)

In the past few years I have been following a number of quilting blogs, and have been searching around to find a pattern for our bed quilt.   I frequently have small sewing projects going, so I always have a stash of fabric, and that has been growing pretty consistently over the last couple of years.  I finally began playing with a pattern I purchased from CluckCluckSew‘s lovely blog, something called “Juice Boxes,” and began matching up some fabrics that I am particularly fond of.  I don’t feel that I had much summer last year for many reasons, but the little I did have on my own, I used to cut and sew about 220 quilt blocks.  I have never pieced a quilt on a machine before, so this was a new process for me, and one that I am enjoying.   (I also listened to about 10 audiobooks while I worked away on this lovely pattern.  My favorite thing!)

Quilt progress, I think!
Quilt progress, I think!

Now the time has come to get those blocks sewn together and it’s proving a challenge!  A queen-sized quilt is enormous, and a little cumbersome.  But I am happy with the way it looks so far, although the blocks are not all lining up perfectly.  It’s a very happy quilt, however, with lots of my favorite oranges, greens and yellows.  I am beginning to suspect that it might not be quite as large as I would like, but we shall see.  It’s keeping me out of trouble for the time being, at any rate :*)

Reddog, little big man

Little Reddog and Zelda
Little Reddog and Zelda

Ah yes.  Things went very well the other day when we let Reddog out into the mix with the large doe group.  At least for awhile.

Sam had seen the little guy standing on a very special rock.  A large flattish one that I have elevated on a slant to support one of the green posts that is holding up the fence that separates the two groups.  He was chatting with Oreo the buck who is on the other side (for now), with the two Guernsey does.  Well, apparently when we went back to the house, Little Red got over the fence and in with Oreo.  We can only assume that he scrambled over the fence from that rock, but it’s anyone’s guess, really.  There was blood everywhere, as Little Reddog, regardless of his size in proportion to Oreo, beat the living daylights out of the larger buckling.  Which means that Reddog and Oreo had an all-out head butting war, and Oreo lost.  When we went in, Oreo was standing in the corner, blood covering his white blaze, and Reddog was eating with Saffron and Battie.  The Little Big Red Warrior.  Oy.

All bloodied up
After the battle

Since this is not where I really need Reddog to be, we had to get him back into the other pen, and eventually, with a lot of patient walking to and fro, got him through the open gate and back in with the big girl group (while they were eating their grain in the catchpen around the corner, where they couldn’t get into the action).  Reddog had blood all over him, but it was Oreo’s, not his.  And after Reddog had fought the big boy, he made nice with the two golden girls, and rubbed his head on their necks.  A little surreal.  Everyone painted red.

I am so glad this happened during a time of year with no fly activity.  Oreo’s head is fine, but we never got all the blood out of his fur, and he is so skittish, he hates being handled.  I didn’t want to overdo the issue since he had just been vanquished by the little guy.  And we would have had to get the blood off of everyone else as well.

We put up a little extra piece of fencing at the point above the slanted rock, but I think that since Reddog has fought the fight, he does not seem to want to go there.  Which is a good thing.  I want him in with the larger group, as some of them are not bred, and we just might get a couple more Golden Guernsey cross babies in 2016 this way.  If he was that assertive with Oreo, I suspect his manhood has arrived!  We can at least hope.

Reddog steps back in

(The video above is some of what went on when we reintroduced Reddog back into the main group of does.  He did quite well)

It’s been quite a week and a half.  The wind that has plagued us just did not let up.  The temperatures have risen, however, and we are having some lovely sunlight.  I have been home from my day job for three days now, with a flu-like cold.  As an asthmatic, I get my flu shot religiously, and I am glad it only hit me a glancing blow.

As the days have gone by since we brought Reddog onto the farm, we have been watching the way the does in the main pen have been interacting with him, as he has been penned inside the greenhouse in a corner of their space.  Every once in awhile, SnowPea, our herd queen, will go over and stick her head through the green panels and try to give him a shove, but other than that the girls looked fairly friendly to him.  One of SnowPea’s twins is actually quite smitten with him!

This morning we got up and found the sun coming up, clear skies, and dead calm.  No wind for a change.  So I thought it might be about time to let the little bucky boy out of the bag, and see how they all get along.  I always try to do this when they are hungry and won’t have all their attention on putting the new goat in his or her place, as they are focused on getting some breakfast.  There was some posturing, but right out of the pen, Reddog took the initiative to put the head butting moves on the girls.  The first time we put them together, he just kept running away from them.  This is a good sign.  Sam was out there checking on them a little while ago and he was up the fence line, have a tete-a-tete with Oreo, the buckling in the next pen over.  It’s a good sign.

Reddog is still very shy with people, which is not a bad thing when it comes to rams and bucks.  I don’t like getting too friendly.  (If you make them too friendly, when they get all grown up, they think they can boss you around, as though you are part of their herd.  It doesn’t usually end well, as I can attest to, having been punched down quite a few times by some of our rams.  Not fun.  I am too old for this!).

So we shall see.  I am hoping that one or two of the Lamancha does come into heat, even at this late date, so I can get my Golden Guernsey breeding-up program going.  I won’t mind having kids later in the season.  You just never know :*)

Week of wind

Redo, our little buck
Reddog, our little buck

Finally I think it may be abating.  It’s been a bitter week, with gale force winds blowing constantly.  Our greenhouses are okay, but the gable ends always need some help.  I have been trying to get some panels of plywood setup on the ends, but until then, we set up some new tarps.  Windbreaks.  They are what keep everything equal here.

Cold weather is cold weather, and our goats are used to being in the cold.  They grow amazing, beautiful thick coats.  Cold is cold, but the wind just takes it out of them (and me!).  So windbreaks are the most important thing.  Little Reddog is in his pen with a tarp on one of the dividers.  He has a lot of straw, and is comfy.  The girls all crowd together and have a good tuck in, in the area next to Reddog.  I fed them inside all this week because of the wind.  I hate doing that, they should be out and about, but I can’t force them to use up all their daily calories in order to stay outside and eat!

Tarps are some of our windbreaks
Tarps are some of our windbreaks

And so it goes.  Winter is really here.  The snow that’s on the ground is squeaky under foot and everything is dry.  With the moon almost full out in the mornings, it’s just gorgeous out there.  But we can’t forget our woolies!  Winter and wind have arrived.  But the daylight is coming back to us now as well, so it’s not so difficult :*)

New boy on the farm

Redo our new buckling
Redo our new buckling

Back in the fall when I headed out to Vermont to pick up the two new Golden Guernsey does, our friend Jane and I bought a GG  buckling from Ardelia Farm as well.  Jane kept him as she was planning on breeding earlier than I was, and we were counting on making the switch in December.

Well, farming being what it is, things did not go as planned!   It ended up not being much of an issue as it appears Reddog is not quite mature enough to be interested in the girls.  Sigh.  One more complication in the breeding plan.  But, we finally had the opportunity to make a handover on Sunday.  Jane and I live 200 miles apart, so we met in the middle, in Bethel, Maine.  After the snow on Saturday, Sunday was a brilliant blue and white day.  A neighbor of ours in Round Pond was also meeting Jane, so we caravanned over.  It was a beautiful day for a drive, and with a few mis-turns, we made Bethel earlier than we thought we would.  We had a lovely visit standing in the parking lot of the Good Food Store on Route 2, and had a lovely barbecue sandwich from the food truck in the lot.  Then we headed home.

Sunday was a beautiful day for a drive.  Going toward the White Mountains and Mount Washington was quite a toot, and we had a great day.  Little Reddog the Golden Guernsey buckling traveled well.  Unfortunately, after it looked as though the big group of girls were going to accept him, if a little hesitantly, they ganged up on him yesterday afternoon.  We had been watching the group dynamics pretty carefully, and even though he tried to run under everyone’s radar, it didn’t work.  We had to pen him so the girls would not beat him up and push him out of the greenhouse into the screaming wind and single digit temperatures.  Maybe they will get a little less hostile by the end of the week.  At least he is out of the wind and eating well.  Hopefully he is one of the breed bucks of the future!  He just needs some time to grow into himself :*)

2016 has arrived

Exceptional January weather
Exceptional January weather

Happy New Year to one and all!  I am an ornery sort and don’t make much of the January new year.  Doesn’t make sense to me.  I prefer the Jewish new year, or really what makes the most sense would be starting the new year on the winter Solstice.  But that’s neither here nor there.  I am just a new year humbug!

It’s taken me awhile to get back into the school routine after the break.  Doing chores before daylight.  Doing lots of driving (I admin 7 school libraries, in five rural towns.  Big distances).  At this point I am also rushing to get budget money spent before the central office freezes the funds, etc., etc.  Same old story!

Goatie treat!
Goatie treat!

The plus of being in the car so much is, however, audiobooks :*)  Right now I am getting to the end of listening to all 7 Harry Potter books right in a row.  I have read all the books a number of times, and listened to them all as they were published, but doing it all in one go is awesome.  I love Jim Dale the narrator, and could listen to him anytime.  My listening list is long and not just full of Harry Potters, and I know it will get me through the school year.

Leftovers
Leftovers

The goats are doing well and enjoying the discarded Christmas trees.  We cut ours in two and gave one half to each group, and then our friends at Hatchtown Farm gave us their tree and we did the same.  They make very short work of it! Nothing better than sweet goatie breath after they have been munching on a balsam.  It’s the best breath mint ever!

Today we are weathering the wind storm of the year.  40 mph gusts and many inched of rain.  It’s going to be icy for morning chores.  We have had a number of brown-outs, but so far no power outage for us.  Hope we can get through without one.

Happy January!

 

 

 

Winter might be coming? But it’s still vacation

Golden Guernseys and Oreo the Buck mugging!
Golden Guernseys and Oreo the Buck.  Winter?

We think.  Tomorrow is predicted to be one of the coldest days of the season.  High of 24F.  Today it was in the 40s.  And it rained.  And rained.  I know we have had a few lovely days in the past week or two, but the overall feeling is of the grey sky and damp.  My arthritis is killing me.  It definitely does not feel like December.

Enough complaining, though.  It is past the Solstice, and we are still just wearing light jackets.  Not too shabby!  My husband keeps the wood stove going, and dollars to donuts, we have to keep opening the back door or the windows.  (I get where he is coming from; he hates to have to restart a fire everyday, so he wants to just keep it humming along.  Sometimes that humming is to the tune of 80F in the house.  Too hot for me!)  So it is this season.  Warm so far.  It feels more like a spring mud season than the end of December.  Mud and water galore in the paddocks.  The donkey didn’t want to go into her shelter in the last few days, and we finally realized that it was too wet where we had placed it over the summer.  We moved it this morning, thanks Sam, and now she is cozying into it.

Anyhow, it’s the holiday break and I am loving it.  Sleeping in until 6:30 a.m.  Lingering over coffee in the morning.  Not getting dressed until I have to.  Reading into the night.  I must be in training for retirement.  Hmm.  Sounds good to me!

Merry, merry 2015

treewithtrainsAnd so it goes. Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas! The year is coming to an end, but the daylight is returning to us. Such a relief :*)

Teaser the Chihuahua loves a ride!
Teaser the Chihuahua loves a ride!

We can’t really complain, though, because even today it was almost 60F! It’s supposed to be getting colder by Monday, and snow is forecast for Tuesday. I will believe it when I see it! A friend posted a photo of the dandelions that are sprouting on their property, and I have heard folks discussing the budding of all kinds of plants. It’s not natural for this part of the world to be so warm this late, but it has been something of a respite after last winter.

Quiet time in the greenhouse for Zelda and Beezus
Quiet time in the greenhouse for Zelda and Beezus

2015 has turned out to be quite a year. I have not really had a chance to fully take stock, and we had our downs as well as our ups. At the very least, we were able to finally welcome our first Golden Guernsey goaties to the farm, and I even managed to get Pickles bred a few days ago. Thankful for all the little triumphs!

I hope everyone has had a peaceful holiday/holidays, with your loved ones. Time to look forward to the new year.

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

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