Change is the essence of life

Pickles and Sassafras
Pickles and Sassafras

I guess!  I am feeling a little sad, as we said goodbye to Pickles and Sassafras today, SnowPea’s only twin girls, ever.  The girls are a Lamancha/Alpine cross, where their mother and grandmother were purebred Lamanchas.  The Alpine in them is how they got those big old ears!  (It was a bit of a rodeo as we took them out of the pen… Sam had them on leads, but they took off backwards, and in the process they mowed me down and took Sam for quite a ride.  But all was well, Sam never let go.  Oy.  I have a sore knee, but it will all work out!).

Dynamic Duo
Dynamic Duo

Decisions about how many animals to keep on the farm change from year to year as our needs and capabilities change.  Having slightly morphed our focus toward breeding the Guernsey goats made me have to take a really hard look at how many goats overall I really can manage to milk in a season.  Keeping more than a few girls just ends up with me only breeding half, and carrying the others along.  Not only is it more work and management, but it’s an added drain on the budget for hay and grain.  The market for crossbred goats is not huge around here.  I am hoping that the Guernsey youngsters will be more salable, so keeping some around and not milking all of them will hopefully pay off a little bit.

We shall see!  It looks as though Pickles and Sassafras are going to a wonderful home where they will have plenty of other goatie friends.  Lovely folks.   And now we are down to only one Salsa/SnowPea progeny, our little friend Fergus the Buck.  He will have to carry those wonderful milking genetics forward to some of our new girls.  It’s all good :*)

Last Sunday in November, 2016

Was a totally grey one.  November has been pretty true to form, and as the leaves have finally left the trees, we have seen almost no sunny days.  It’s ok, this is what November is all about.  Good knitting and cooking weather!

Guinea hen cup and new skin cream.
Guinea hen cup and new skin cream.

This morning I made my annual trek to Maple Lane Pottery‘s annual small business weekend sale.  I love Robbi, and she not only has a great lineup of pottery items, but she has a few other small business folk there as well.  Cari Balbo of Ridge Pond Herbals was there and I was able to get my new supply of winter face and skin creams in.  It’s always fun and I could not restrain myself when I saw that Robbi had a mug with Guinea Fowl painted on it.  How could I pass that up???

In the Ruit Farm goat world, we decided that today would be the day to take Reddog the Buck out of circulation.  We have had him in with the 4 girls since Wednesday, October 12th, which makes it a total of 46 days.  Goats have an estrus cycle of anywhere from 17-24 days, but the average is about 21 days.  So we are a little over two average cycles, and no one has really appeared to be in a second heat.  Reddog has spent most of his recent time at the fenceline, ogling the girls over there, hoping for some action.  Poor guy, he really didn’t have too much of a challenge with just 4 does to breed.

After we moved Reddog back into the buck paddock with Oreo and Jingle the donkey, we opened the gate between the two girl paddocks.  And there we had our afternoon entertainment!  It took a few minutes for one of them to find the door, but after that, it was a free-for-all of head butting and running around.  Beezus, who has been sharing a pen with Saffron and Battie, the Guernsey girls, turned around and pursued Saffron for at least a half hour.  They were nuts.  Fergus the buckling took the opportunity to try his moves on Pippi while she was busy fighting off all comers from the top of the big rock.  I have to give him lots of points, he really keeps trying!  Zelda the beautiful wandered into the opposite pen and found a new head-scratching post, and ignored the rest of the fray.  Always a work in progress.

Zelda checking out the other side of the fence
Zelda checking out the other side of the fence

And so it goes.  I am hoping that my friend Jane, who co-owns Reddog, can come by and pick him up soon so that he can do some work at her farm.   3 of the non-bred girls are currently for sale, and even though I thought they were spoken for, I think I may need to re-advertise them.  It’s all good.  I only want Zelda, Pickles and Sassafras to go to a good home with someone who will really appreciate all that they have to offer.

And, I can’t believe it’s almost December!

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

My sage has not died back yet, and the turkey was happy to invite it along
My sage has not died back yet, and the turkey was happy to invite it along

A little late, I know, but I hope everyone out there had a wonderful day with family, friends, or just on their own.  (One of my most interesting Thanksgivings was when I was a junior in high school and my parents had gone to Portugal or Spain with my uncle Morty, supposedly for 4 days, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I think it was to look at what eventually became known as ‘time shares’ and they were offered another free three days, which they took advantage of, but which also meant that they couldn’t make it back for the holiday.  My dog Jason, the sweet Bedlington terrier and I, had a vegetarian Thanksgiving all by ourselves. Well, he ate meat, I did not.  I think I had broccoli and stuffing.  It was a very instructive and insightful holiday!).

Tesser the 14 and a half year old Chihuahua
Tesser the 14 and a half year old Chihuahua, in front of the wood stove, of course!

Anyhow, not being a vegetarian any more, we had a lovely, if very low-key day yesterday with a 22 pound turkey.  Just the three of us and Tesser the Chihuahua.  Of course I make the same amount of food no matter who is coming, because it’s all about the leftovers for me!  The only thing I did not do was hors d’oeuvres, because without real company, it didn’t seem all that important.  We had a toast to our lovely neighbor who passed away this past August, as she (and previously her husband Jim) had been a fixture here every Thanksgiving since we moved in 13 years ago.  And then we took our time eating our lovely dinner, all of us in something other than holiday garb, and closer to the PJ side of things.  A most relaxing day.  (The goaties got to celebrate with some celery and romaine leaves).

Pumpkin/cheesecake pie, mostly taken from the Smitten Kitchen recipe. Delicious!
Pumpkin/cheesecake pie, mostly taken from the Smitten Kitchen recipe. Delicious!

And so it goes.  It’s a very grey and rawly damp November day here today.  I had a morning visit with a good friend, and then came home to sit by the woodstove and perhaps do a little knitting or spinning.  I slept in until a shocking 7 am this morning and have absolutely no reason to be tired, but a quick nap on a day like this could be just the ticket.  I love Thanksgiving :*)

Blustery day

Finally got the garlic in
Finally got the garlic in

It was a quiet Armistice/Veteran’s Day yesterday, but by noontime the wind had tuned itself up out of the NW and I thought we might be having a windy power outage at some point.  The lights flickered many times, and a big piece exploded out of our elderly birch tree at the top of the driveway, but nothing serious came down near the house.  Last night the King Moon shone brightly and, very uncharacteristically, I went to bed close to midnight so I had a few hours to enjoy it.

They took a break from fighting to see if I had anything good for them
They took a break from fighting to see if I had anything good for them

Animal-wise, things have been quiet on the farm.  (With the exception of the day that we went out to do afternoon chores and found that Oreo the Buck had done a Houdini from the buck pen and was trying to bash his way into the breeding group’s area.  He wasn’t hard to catch and he went back in with Jingle the Donkey, pouting all the way, with a bleeding headbone).

The tentative news is that all 4 does have been bred!  At least I believe that all 4 girls came into heat, and each one was courted in her turn by Reddog the Stinky Boy.  (The Guernsey girls do not show their heats as clearly as the Lamanchas, don’t know if it is a breed characteristic or not.  I know they are 100 times more laid back than the Lamanchas, who are pretty laid back to begin with).

Beezus is shy, but she always has an opinion!
Beezus is shy, but she always has an opinion!

So now we just have to sit back and count the days until each doe should come back into heat if Reddog is not fertile.  But if he has done his job, we will have a nice little cluster of kids at the end of March/beginning of April.  (March 27th to April 3 or so).  It would be perfect.  Just hope that the predicted Polar Vortex isn’t howling then!

This Week in America

Time change. No more Daylight Savings!
Time change. No more Daylight Savings!

I was all ready to write a post about how I believe all my breeding does are bred, but this week kind of de-railed me.  I have been extremely anxious and upset during this election season, which seemed to go on much longer than it should have, but most of us get up every day and hope for the best from our country and from the world, and keep on going.

I am an optimist and eternally cheerful and ready to meet the challenges that we have in life, and this election was definitely a big test of that point of view.  Even so, I felt sucker-punched by the outcomes of this vote which stank of hatred and intolerance.  And yet it does not totally surprise me, because there are a number of people in my family who have been feeling disenfranchised and side-lined by this country even while the economy has technically been on the “upswing.”

The breeding group at supper. Gotta watch your back, or Pippi or Reddog might bump you out of your spot!
The breeding group at supper. Gotta watch your back, or Pippi or Reddog might bump you out of your spot!

At the basis of this all is that I am totally abhorrent of hate-speak and prejudice of any kind.  I have had plenty of practice in being the person that is ignored because of background and ethnicity, even in the country of my birth.  We are a country of immigrants and need to be mindful of that always, even of those that have come to the party more recently.

Saffron the Guernsey goat. No election anxiety for her!
Saffron the Guernsey goat. No election anxiety for her!

I wish a lot of things for this country, but most of all that we can make an effort to heal ourselves.  Be the change that we want to see, be inclusive, and advocate for a language of tolerance instead of hate.  And I am on it!  Call your representatives, call your senators, call the White House after the changeover.  Make yourselves heard about what is important to you, because I know that I will be.  We need to be vigilant about all of our civil rights, and I fervently hope that we can move forward instead of back, together, as a country.  And I wish this also for the world.  Rebecca at Grongar posted a lovely segment from Carl Sagan about our world and how small and precious it is.  I hope that we all can see that in the days and years to come.

After all these years

Our beautiful new hydrant!
Our beautiful new hydrant!

I finally got my wish!  John had a hydrant put in up near the goat pens.  It’s the best 35th anniversary present I could get :*)

We have a dug well with a sump pump in it and hoses at least 100′ long that we use in the warmer weather to get water to the animals.  Hauling water out from the tub in the house (those 6 gallon cans are killers) in the winter is a royal pain.

But not anymore!

 

Breeding 2016 commences and continues

My last post was actually written about a week ago, and it got put on the back burner accidentally, so when I published, it was a little misleading.  I am definitely using Reddog for our herd sire, keeping our fingers and toes crossed, of course.  We are putting our faith in him!  He smells like a randy buck and is certainly acting like one, which I am counting on to mean that he is all there and able to do the job.

Reddog coming in for his grain, with his girls
Reddog coming in for his grain, with his girls

The 4 does and Reddog have been penned together since October 12th.  So far I have pretty good proof that he is doing his job.  If he is not shooting blanks, Beezus is due on March 27, and Pippi is due on March 30.  I had initially thought that Saffron was in heat around 10/18, but I did not see the courtship dance and snuffle at that point, and I am thinking she is coming into heat today or possibly tomorrow.  And then it’s just down to our Battie.

All of this is well and good, but the proof will obviously be in a few weeks.  If the girls come into heat again, one by one, then we will have a clue about Reddog’s worthiness as a buck.  Only time will tell!  The suspense is on :*)

 

Breeding season 2016

Reddog the Studly boy
Reddog the Studly boy

I have spent the better part of this past year quietly worrying about whether or not Reddog the Guernsey buck could really do his job this year for us (you know the kind of worry:  you wake up in the middle of the night and it’s just kind of on the edge of your consciousness).  Last year after our friend Jane and I bought him, he went home to her place and she had plenty of does in heat, but he did not give them a second glance.  Jane had gone to work and fed him up quite a bit (I don’t think he was getting any grain on his home farm) and I continued that.  Even though we witnessed him actually breeding 3 does last December, only one of those breedings took.  Our little Fergus is his boy.  (The other two does are girls who have never failed to be bred).

Beezus the Beautiful, just had her courtship with Reddog
Beezus the Beautiful, just had her courtship with Reddog

And so we know we either have a very enthusiastic buck who can only produce enough viable semen to impregnate one doe, or we have a buck who has grown well, will not be pushed around by the adult does, and is healthy enough to have viable sperm and get the job done with our 4 does.  Truly, we really are not asking very much of him, compared to what some farms do!

I argued with myself all summer about this breeding.  I have another buck, but he is directly related to both Pippi (his mother), and Beezus, his half sister.  Do I depend on Reddog to get the job done, with a buck in the wings that can probably do it, but only on two of the does, the Guernsey girls?  And then how to get my best remaining Lamancha milker bred?  Take her down to our friend’s Saanen farm again?

Since I am definitely committed to breeding Golden Guernsey goats, I really need to begin looking for another Guernsey buck.  That much is perfectly clear!

October fiber fun

It’s been quite a month for fiber activities.  It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual.  Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!

I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years.  Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!).  And so I have begun to prioritize them.  (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)

Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these - I need the bobbins for my next project!
Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these – I need the bobbins for my next project!

First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm.  Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.

Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder
Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder

Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago.  As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away.  It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it.  (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out.  My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years.  So that put me back a little on the project).

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year.  Yum!  I can hardly wait.  That is definitely #3 in line.

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

And number 4:  the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck.  Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project.  Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!

A Tasty mess

Grating beets is a total mess!
Grating beets is a total mess!

I have been hoarding a bag of really beautiful beets from a friend’s garden.  My plan right along has been to make a nice pot of winter borscht.  I have not made summer or winter borscht in a few years.

When I make borscht in the summer it is a very simple recipe:  mostly just beets, some veggie stock or chicken stock, some onions and it’s pretty much done.  Eat it cold with sour cream or yogurt, and it’s just perfect.

After the chopped cabbage goes in
After the chopped cabbage goes in

My winter recipe, however, is something that I rarely make because it is quite the time consuming affair – have to start it early in the day.  And so I just have to mention it again!  Retirement has offered me the opportunity to make a recipe like this on a weekday.  What fun :*)

There are hundreds of variations on borscht, and no one agrees on much when it comes to a definitive recipe.  My mother always used beef stock in her winter borscht, but no actual meat in the soup, and she never added chopped cabbage.  I have used meat in it for the last 30 years because my husband can’t stand to eat a meal without meat tucked in somewhere.  (If you want to make it a kosher meal, obviously you would not add sour cream to it at the end).  I have begun shredding the beets instead of dicing them up more recently…  I saw it in someone’s recipe, perhaps one from Joan Nathan, as I like her stuff.

Looking pretty good!
Looking pretty good!

Anyhow, I started the whole process about 7:30 this morning, and it’s still simmering away.  The cleanup continues, although there is no help for my beety red hands!  Even though I am looking forward to this for dinner tonight, it’s definitely better the next day.  My one poor bit of planning is that I didn’t set up bread yesterday for baking up today.  Poor us!  Maybe biscuits will have to do for tonight.  Such problems!

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