September just flew past

Late September skies
Late September skies

I really am having trouble believing it’s the 29th already.  In a blink, it’s just about over.  The autumn is upon us, and the nights are great for snuggling under the sheets and sleeping well.

The drought continues, however, and most of the trees are turning brown with curled up dry leaves.  I don’t think that there will be much bright color.  It’s a shame that so many others have been overwhelmed with rain this summer, but we can almost count on one hand how many raindrops we have had.

Greenhouse bones
Greenhouse bones

Things have settled down since SnowPea went to freezer camp.  I still have 3 girls for sale, but the dynamics of the group are a little bit less frantic.  We are working on putting up a greenhouse that we took down a few months ago, to give us some shelter, a little storage, and dedicated kidding pens away from the others when the time comes.  (I want to have a “nursery” type set up which is less crazy after the kids are born.  The singletons tend to pick on the new little ones, and I would like them in a slightly smaller, more controlled area).  I also want an internal catch pen, one that is not outside the main fencing.  We have got the bones of it in place, mostly, and now need to tackle some ends for that greenhouse (I would like to have a wooden end on the driveway side, if possible!).

Time for baking bread
Time for baking bread

And so autumn has arrived.  My most favorite time of year.  The days are definitely shorter, and knitting and fiber work have a much greater allure. Just wish we could get a little rain!

Ready, set

Feeding time at the black trough
Feeding time at the black trough – one leaving, one arriving

Eat!  For the goats, it’s their most favorite part of the day and they know all the cues that lead up to the magic moment when they get their grain.  Hay is pretty exciting, too, but not the same as the jingle of the sweet feed in the buckets!

Same trough, one less participant
Same trough, one less participant

There is a lot of jockeying for position at one of the 4 trough feeders.  It’s quite entertaining to watch then run from one to the other, many times leaving a whole trough alone, full, with no one on that chow line.  They tend to go to a feeder from the right and kind of move left, so some drop off that line, and run to another.

Same trough, lost one and gained another
Same trough, gained another participant

Sometimes we referee, if one goat is getting pushed out of each feeder in turn.  Goat society is pretty ruthless, so most days we make sure to watch pretty closely.  There is usually one goat that is at the bottom of the pecking order and needs a little protection.  We see much the same behaviors in middle schoolers!  Too bad the goats don’t ever grow out of it.

Ah those goaties!  The numbers are going to be going down a bit now, and one goat is going to freezer camp in the next day or two.  Sigh.  SnowPea is getting old, and if I feel I cannot breed her any more, which is the case, then she may as well feed us while she still has good body condition.

And so it goes.

A good sign?

Reddog the Guernsey buck
Reddog the Guernsey buck

We are into the second half of September and the cooler nights are definitely working their magic on the goats.  Particularly the bucks!

After the saga and struggle of last year’s breeding attempts, I am hoping that the going will be a little easier this year.  I believe that our Guernsey buck, Reddog, was too young and a wee bit undernourished when we bought him, and being a smaller guy, the girls picked on him mercilessly.  He did breed one of my Lamancha girls.  However, we witnessed him breeding two others, and they did not conceive.  There is no one around here that does testing on the viability of sperm in farm animals, which would really be the right way to make decisions about the bucks.

Oreo the  buck
Oreo the buck

But, I am going to have to go with the try-it-and-see-how-it-works method.  If Reddog goes in with the girls in mid to late October and they come back into heat, I will have to use my backup buck, Lamancha Oreo.  (But his mother is in the breeding group, so that won’t work for her).

Most of us complain year after year about the musky buck smell, but every morning that I step out the back door and get that odeur, I smile and cross my fingers that it is a good sign of fertility and the hormones doing their stuff!  We shall see.

And the Down Side

img_1659Getting our two groups of girls together seamlessly was very nice, but we now have another problem:  not enough milk!

Betsy, making trouble again!
Betsy, making trouble again!

Betsy, who is now 6 months old, had been separated from her mother for over two months.  I have had varied luck through the years with weaning;  sometimes I can separate kids and does for 6-8 weeks and when they get back together, everything is fine and I can continue milking the moms.  It does not always go so well, however!  And this is one of those times.  After all the does were reunited, 4 days went by and I continued milking Battie with the same amount of product that we had before.  But that little bugger Betsy soon caught on that she could get the goods before I milked them away, and Battie finally gave in. (Betsy didn’t let up on her and Battie knew when she was beaten…)

Sigh!  My cheese production is suffering…  with only the two does milking, getting that cut down by a lot is not boding well!  I will do what I can with the milk from Pippi, and make smaller batches of chevre.  Maybe it’s time for me to try some small samplings of different cheeses.  Hope I have time, I am busier now in retirement than I was when I was working :*)

Best laid plans and all that

Mingling
Mingling

Yes, with livestock it generally does not work as smoothly as we think it will.  I have had two groups of does and one group of adult bucks since last fall when the Golden Guernsey girls joined us, but the overarching goal has always been to have one group of does, and one group of bucks, with an alternate pen for emergencies or newbies.

Things don’t always work out that way, and we kept things fairly static, but moved Pickles and Pippi into the Guernsey pen in order to wean their kids.  And that pen is definitely closer to the milk stand, so it works quite well for milking times.  But even though Pickles was no longer being drained by her kid Fergus, she has not been settled in the new pen, and she has not gained any weight in the mean time.  Not a successful move, even though it did wean little Fergus!

Guernsey girl Betsy and Beezus the Lamancha are happily noshing in the alternate pen
Guernsey girl Betsy and Beezus the Lamancha are happily noshing in the alternate pen

And then last week we were working in between the two pens of girls, and tidied up and went in for the night.  When I came out in the morning to milk, it was all over without any evident fighting!

I probably had not latched the gate between the two pens well enough, and with a little pushing, they opened it and had a great time getting to know each other over night.  Upon inspection, it was obvious that no blood had been shed, and all the girls were happily mingling.

And so, the best laid plans are out the window, but thank goodness it all worked out well.  Sometimes we get lucky!

 

 

August endings

Rest time
Rest time

This month feels like it has just flown by.  Busy days, and for the most part, beautiful ones.  We have had our share of the hot-and-humids, however, and I think this may have been part of the catalyst for the Coccidiosis outbreak in two of the baby goats.

I am always on the watch for things like this, but we have not had any cocci episodes here since we had lambs, a few years ago now.  It also usually hits us when we are having a very wet spring and summer.  As we are in a pretty extreme drought, it kind of surprised me.

But the really humid and hot weather is very stressful on the goats, particularly the young ones.  Our Fergus was the first to turn into Mr. PoopyPants, and then within a day or two the white buckling started.  We got the sulpha powder mixed up and going pretty quickly, but it’s a rough ride, even when the diarrhea stops within a day.   Sulpha drugs are hard on anyone, and when you are only 20 or 25 lbs., it’s not so nice.  We are doing vitamins as well, and they seem to be responding.

The last load. Not even a big one!
The last load. Not even a big one!

And as it is August, it is haytime.  We have a very lovely hay dealer who keeps our hay and we can go and get it when we need it, but that is for the first cutting bales.  A good friend of ours recently decided to cut his really nice hay field for a second cutting.  His neighbor does a first cut, but for some reason isn’t interested in doing a second.  I was definitely interested, and today was the day we had to pick it up in the field.  It was great to see Matt, and he even played farm boy for the day and helped us transport the goods.  Nice to see our second greenhouse having such a nice collection of bales going into the winter.

The crickets seem to agree.  I love going to sleep by their singing.  Reminds me of childhood vacations on Cape Cod with my cousins!

 

Regrouping

Pickles, one of our yearling does and first-time mother
Pickles, one of our yearling does and first-time mother

On a farm, it is always time for reorganization and re-evaluation of everything that’s happening.  It’s so easy to get into the groove of just feeding every animal that is here, whether they are “working” for the farm or not.

Keeping animals for sentimental reasons is very easy to do, and I fall into it just as much as the next person.  But I try to be aware of and on top of making the kinds of decisions that will help move us forward.  I am only milking two goats right now and I have 9 does (including baby Betsy).  I am never going to be a big enough operation to milk that many, but some of them are here for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons, truthfully, are emotional!

Does on both sides of the fence resting in the afternoon
Does on both sides of the fence resting in the afternoon

The middle of the summer is the time when I am getting prepared for the breeding season, and evaluating who should be here or not anyway, and this year I am trying to take a very hard look at what is happening and comparing that with my goals.  In the past I have kept certain does together, whether I intended to milk them or not, because in a small operation like mine, family units can be very supportive of animals that would otherwise be picked on pretty hard.  Zelda, for example, is a wonderful doe who milks well and is a great mother, but I only held onto her because she was the last doe I had from Elf, who is long gone (and I had kept both of them because they were a family unit).  I had wanted to keep some of her genetics around, but truthfully, she would be better off on another farm where her milk and her mothering skills would be of value.

Zelda the Beauty
Zelda the Beauty

And so it is crunch time, and I am making myself all kinds of notes, but the difficult part is here, and it’s time to decide who will stay and who will be sold.  Zelda and two white crossbred youngsters are definitely on the list to go, as is one of SnowPea’s yearlings, Sassafras.  We are definitely hanging onto Fergus and Betsy.

Instead of having to feed out to 3 groups of animals, I am hoping to just have one pen of boys/Jingle the Donkey, and one pen of girls going into the winter.  We shall see how successful I am at the reorganization!

Cheese train is definitely running again

Marinated chevre!
Marinated chevre!

The Train is on a full schedule these days.  I am only milking two of the goats, Pippi and Battie, but each milking is getting me 3/4 of a gallon.  This means that every 48 hours I have enough milk to begin a new 3-gallon batch of chevre (with leftover milkiness for my grandson and for anyone who wants it in coffee).  It’s lovely!  As the lactation season goes through its cycle, I get more and firmer curd structure, so I actually can get more cheese per gallon than I do early in the lactation cycle.  Yesterday I got 15 chevre forms out of the 3 gallons, and earlier in the season I was lucky if I got 8 or 9.

Draining the chevre
Draining the chevre

Most of my days are spent on the chores surrounding handling milk and cheese.  Sanitizing!  But it’s worth it.  I will end up with a good amount in the freezer to dole out during the long winter and the early spring.  If I can find a day when I am not running in 20 directions, I have to  try and make some more Haloumi and Mozzarella as well.

A peek at the draining cheeses
A peek at the draining cheeses

Maybe I will be able to dabble in some aged cheeses as well this fall.  If I can find a wine cooler, and then also dig out a place to put it.  Definitely a work in progress!

Birthday

Our sweet Saffy!
Our sweet Saffy! What a great goatie girl.

Not mine, my husband’s.  He is 65 today. Lots of wonderful phone calls, one of which was from his dad.  92 years old, but going strong!

I love chatting with my father in law, but today I was struck by the fact that I am extremely jealous.  To be having a phone call with your dad when you are 65 is a wonderful thing!  I would give anything to be talking to my dad even now, at the age of 62.  He was killed by a drunk driver, and was older when he became a father to begin with.  And so it goes.  He has been gone for 31 years, and nothing can change that.

But it was quite a day, and a beautiful summer day at that.  I am so grateful for the time I have had.  And my husband is 65, and still going strong.  A summer day to appreciate, for sure!

August is amongst us

Part of the milky crew getting into her breakfast
Part of the milky crew getting into her breakfast

We have gone over to the dark side of the summer.  August.  It was a very cool day for the first of the month, but later on in the week we are promised more summery weather.

I am supported by the summer weather, and also wearied by it.  The humidity has gotten under my skin and into my lungs, so the first order of events is to lay low and do things in the house.  Not too much exertion.  It’s all good!  But when the humidity goes down, there are so many possibilities available, that I sometimes do not know where to start.

Oreo is undecided about whether he wants to come out and see me
Oreo is undecided about whether he wants to come out and see me

We had our grandson for 3 and a half days, and on Monday I was able to visit with some former co-workers at a retired friend’s house.  What a great time we had!  It was a very lovely day.  And I am not missing the pressure of going in to work to start getting things done before the kids arrive.  Bwa ha ha!!!

 

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