February warm up week

It’s almost unreal.  The temperatures have been very kind to us, although it’s disconcerting when I think that we are in the middle to the end of February, and really it’s not too normal for weather like this (40s approaching 50).  But there is nothing to be done about it, so we are enjoying it!

Feeding frenzy
Feeding frenzy

The animals are enjoying it as well, although the snow is still so deep that their movement is curtailed a bit.  We are watching our girls like hawks, and this afternoon we noticed that Betsy, our yearling, is losing her “mucous plug” today.  So it won’t be long and she will be having her baby.  Hard to tell how long it might be, but I would expect it to be in the next 24 hours, hopefully sooner.

While waiting for babies a few of us have been getting ready for the SPA NETA spin and knit weekend coming up, this weekend!  I am supposed to be heading down to Freeport (Maine) tomorrow so that we can get the ballroom ready for the vendors, as they will be coming in on Friday to set up their wares.  The big kick-off is Friday evening, so we are all getting excited.  It’s a great weekend full of fun and folks we may not see from one end of the year to the other.  And Freeport is full of fiber-loving people everywhere you look (every hotel common area is crammed with knitters, crocheters, and spinners.  Awesome!).

Betsy, a year ago
Betsy, a year ago

So we watch and wait.  I was supposed to go to a dual birthday luncheon tomorrow before heading down to Freeport (a good friend and I have February birthdays), but we shall see how things progress here with our Betsy.  She is a peach, but a first freshener, so we really want to monitor her closely.

More news soon, I hope!

 

Sun-filled winter Saturday

todayIt was a really beautiful day today.  I drove down the driveway this afternoon and sat in the car with the window open, my face to the sun.  And I could feel the luscious heat of it, such contentment.

It got up to the high 30s today so we have had some melting.  But the sun was the real news, and it just never stopped.  A real joy to be outside.  The goats were in and out all day, running back and forth between the greenhouses, and that is about it.  The sum of today was sun and almost warm temperatures.

Edna wants to know what's up!
Edna wants to know what’s up!

The pregnant girls are progressing slowly.  Betsy’s backside looks a little pinker today, and her udder is larger than it was yesterday.  So the late night and early morning checks continue, and we shall see.  At the beginning of every kidding season I agonize over all the little signs, and by the time a few of the girls have kidded we are just in take-it-as-it-comes mode.  The first is always a nail-biter!

Sun on the snow
Sun on the snow

I am going to have to do a little dance next weekend, as it is the yearly NETA Spa Knit and Spin weekend in Freeport, and as I am one of the planners, I am supposed to be there.  So we shall see what happens with the early due girls, and if I am in Freeport and something is happening, I am not very far away, 50 minutes, perhaps.  But still, if I think anything is percolating, I will be here for the duration.   My goatie babies are the most important thing for me.

It’s school break this week, so I get to spend some extra time with my grandson.  We will be having some fun in the next few days, along with picking up a load of hay.  For a good time, it’s here on the farm!

Winter wonderland

Drifts and piled up snow out near the goat paddocks
Drifts and piled up snow out near the goat paddocks.  We are running out of places to put the snow!

I love the winter in most ways.  But 60″ of snow in a 10 day period is a little nuts!  We didn’t get the 1 foot last night that we were forecast to get, so I am very appreciative of that (we just got about 6 or 7″, but it’s heavy stuff).  And so it goes.

Trees between the house and the goat pens
Trees between the house and the goat pens

The sun was out for a good portion of the afternoon, and it was a blessing.  It was a pleasure to spend some time with the goats, and all is well with them.  I am still watching Betsy, Delta and Eleganza like a hawk, but there does not seem to be any forward movement on their status.  They have developed small udders, and some days their bellies look like they have dropped, and some days they do not, and there is a tiny bit of vulva swelling, but not what it should be.  So things are percolating, but not quite done yet.  It’s a long road when you do not have any idea of due dates, so we will just keep doing what we are doing.  The late night checks continue on.  They got their CD&T shots, so everything is good to go.

View of the pigeon loft across the work area in front of the goat paddocks.
View of the pigeon loft across the work area in front of the goat paddocks.

The goaties are also getting used to the drill of having narrow pathways between their greenhouse areas.  This weekend we are supposed to be having some 40F weather, so perhaps some of this will melt.  Maybe we can also push some snow off of the paddocks to get them a little more room.  Pregnant does need their exercise, and right now it’s not an optimal situation, although I notice a lot of running to and from on what I call the train tracks, as they jostle and chase each other one way and then the other.  And so we will wish for continued clear weather!

Blizzard 2017

Looking out the living room window to the west, where the almost 5' tall Rugosas are looking like dwarves in the drifting snow
Looking out the living room window to the west, where the almost 5′ tall Rugosas are looking like dwarves in the drifting snow

Has definitely been here.  It’s almost gone, but the work entailed in dealing with it is going to take at least another day.  What a mess.

Greenhouse snow caves
Greenhouse snow caves.  Our fences appear to be getting shorter as well!

It certainly is a beautiful, white world out there, and the snow is light, but when 2 feet of it falls in such a short time, it’s not so light to remove :*)  We will deal better tomorrow with the paddocks, but for now the goats are fine in their houses, which really are looking more like snow caves tonight.  Even the metal donkey shelter (portahut) is covered in snow, as it’s so high up the sides, the stuff on top had nowhere to go.  I don’t know how much snow the wind will shift tonight, as it is roaring again out there, with 30-40 mph gusts.

Stuff this deep is really a struggle for me to get through as I am so short.  But I have to say that the goats are doing well, and when we showed up at 3 this afternoon for the supper run, Pippi broke a trail through to the new greenhouse, where she knew the grain would be offered.  She actually almost knocked me down going past.  Fergus, however, stopped to jump up and say hello, and see if he could get my hat from me before I noticed.  Not a chance, Fergus!

Ut oh, you can't change direction on a path that narrow!
Ut oh, you can’t change direction on a path that narrow!

Most of the photos I took look like nothing but white, with a few higher white things sticking up here and there.  But it was a doozy, and we are supposed to be seeing a storm Wednesday night into Thursday that could bring another 6+ inches.  I truly hope not!

Traditions

My dad
My dad

Growing up during the ’50s and ’60s my family was comfortable.  We lived in a suburb of NYC and my dad got on the bus or the train every morning at 7:20 and went to The City, to return home each night at 7:30, and as a CPA he did a lot of traveling over the winter months.

But on the weekends, we always had some of my dad’s extended Italian family gathering either at our house, or at cousins’ houses in Brooklyn.  I know my dad really valued his family, and I always knew it was the highlight of his week when he could cook up a big meal with one of his sisters or his younger brother on a Saturday night, and then after dinner he and the uncles would play cards and smoke.  All us kids would be off somewhere else, playing or doing puzzles (or hiding on the dark staircase outside the dining room and listening to the adults talk while we giggled).  Being an only child, I looked forward to these weekends as well.

Breaded veal cutlets
Breaded veal cutlets

And that is where I began to learn to cook.  From the aunts and my dad, I learned a lot and have continued to try and re-create many of the things we ate back then.  At the time, many of the ingredients had to be brought to the suburbs with whichever aunt or uncle was coming out our way, because there were not a lot of local stores in post-war suburban NJ that carried imported Italian products and really fresh meat and fish (if we had lived nearer to Hoboken or towns right on the Hudson, I am sure we would have had no problem, but the town I lived in was very WASP).

Marsala sauce
Marsala sauce

One of the traditions in our family was that whoever was having a birthday got to choose the dinner meal for that night.  To this day, I prefer staying home and cooking my own favorite birthday dinner of breaded veal cutlets with Marsala sauce, scalloped or oven roasted potatoes, and kale, rather than going out.  Having a February birthday always meant that kale was available, and it has been my favorite vegetable since I was a little kid.

Scalloped potatoes
Scalloped potatoes

My mom was a competent cook, but she never attempted most of the wonderful Italian meals we had on the weekends.  She did, however, learn to make breaded veal cutlets, and so even if my birthday was on a weekday, I still got my choice of birthday dinner.  And yesterday, it was exactly the same.  We had a lovely dinner here at home for my 63rd, and of course, it involved veal cutlets, potatoes and kale.

I do not want to get into the veal question here.  I have always been happy with ‘rose’ veal, and every summer I sock some in the freezer that is locally grown and very delicious.  As a kid, I knew nothing about the veal industry, and as an adult I am so very glad that we live in a place where there are many small farms raising happy, pasture-based beef critters.  And so I can continue to indulge in veal cutlets on my birthday.  (As a teenager I did a 6 year stint as a vegetarian after learning about the meat industry.  I do not remember what I had for those birthdays, but it was probably eggplant parm, my second favorite thing in the world!).

On the goat front, still no babies!  We are awaiting the Big Blizzard to roll in this afternoon.  Got the greenhouses cleaned off in readiness for the predicted 14-20 inches.  Mama mia, I love winter, but that much snow is just on or over the edge of crazy!

 

New Snow for the Snow-Eaters

Pippi's post-prandial snow feast
Pippi’s post-prandial snow feast.  Who you lookin’ at???

Overnight the snow did turn into sleet.  It was quite nasty out there for our 11 PM goat check last night.  Everyone was snug as a bug, and no one looked as though they were going to be standing alone in the corner anytime soon, listening to their inner baby bio-rhythm, so it was back to the house for some sleep.

The choices are endless today. Fresh snow everywhere!
The choices are endless today. Fresh snow everywhere!

After my husband plowed the driveway yesterday afternoon, we must have gotten another 4 or 5 inches of snow, with a crust of ice on the top.  Lots of snow was coming off the greenhouses this morning, and Pippi and her daughter Beezus were in heaven.  Yes, Beezus loves to eat snow as well!  After their grain this afternoon, they both were in their element, noshing at the best and the freshest.  It always gives me a chuckle.

Pippi and her daughter Beezus, having a go at the new snow
Pippi and her daughter Beezus, having a go at the new snow

I am adding one more doe to the short list of possibles earlier than later.  Eleganza the white Guernsey has a nice little udder coming along, and her belly looks like it may have dropped as well.  Baby watch is getting a little more serious.  It’s supposed to be bitterly cold Thursday night into Friday, so we shall see.  We can hope to have a miss on that one!

More snow tomorrow.  Nor’easter on the way.

Ready, for the most part

Back of the kidding greenhouse
Back of the kidding greenhouse

It’s still snowing, and at least 12 hours into the storm.  It’s cold and quite windy as well, but the snow is dry and light.  For now.  The temperature is supposed to keep going up overnight, and the end of this ‘event’ early tomorrow is predicted to be rain.  Blech.  That is one thing I can do without!

Open end of the kidding greenhouse
Open end of the kidding greenhouse

Windy conditions make me nuts around kidding time; it is the super bad guy in our little world.  If I can get to babies immediately after birth, or be there while they are being born, we can make sure they are in a draft-free zone, and help the mamas by doing some of the drying off.  Once the kids are relatively dry and are stocking up on colostrum, they are usually ok.

We got our back wall windbreak up today.  Two pieces of exterior plywood, tied tightly to the galvanized panels that are the gable end barrier (where there is supposed to be a real wall and a door…).  We got the plywood under the tarp overhang, drilled holes in the board, and tied the tarp down to the grid panel on the inside of the wood.  I thought it was going to work ok, but it’s actually tighter and nicer than I envisioned.  The tarp on this greenhouse drags on the ground a bit, and now there is a lot of snow holding it down.  The open end of the structure faces due south, and I have a windbreak green panel with a tarp at that opening.  Our prevailing winds come most usually out of the north and the north west, so it should be a good setup.  Nice and snug.  Here’s to hoping it stays that way!

Two pens available
Two pens available

I have two pens set up in this greenhouse, one is a catch pen I use from time to time, and initially that will be our labor pen (it’s about 9′ X 8′).  Once I know a doe is in labor, I like to give her some privacy, and I don’t want her looking for a corner of the paddock out in the snow to get away from all the Nosey Aunties.  After the baby or babies are born, I can put them into the jug right next to that.

Birthing box all ready and restocked
Birthing box all ready and restocked

And so The Watch is on.  Delta is a go for launch, I do believe!

Preparing

It’s finally feeling as though we are really getting into some longer days.  1.25 hours so far is not too shabby!  More daylight certainly gives me a bit of a boost.  And Pippi the doe is definitely happy to have some snow on the greenhouse, as she prefers to eat snow to drinking water.  Go figure!

Finishing up dinner
Finishing up dinner

Today I was putting together my (hopefully) last list of items I need to order for kidding.  My birthing box is clean and restocked, and now I am just waiting on the vet to answer a question about dosages for Tetanus Antitoxin, so I will be ready for disbudding.  I have not always been on target with this, but I am trying to be more organized this year, what with 9 does pregnant (or so I believe).  Even though the moms will have had their CD&T vaccines within a month before kidding, it’s not always right on the money.  And most vets are recommending a Tetanus Antitoxin shot at the time of the disbudding, just in case.  It gives coverage for 7-14 days, which is almost enough to get them to their CD&T at 4 weeks old (which has a long-acting Tetanus component to it).

Tracks around the favorite goat toy, the Big Rock!
Tracks around the favorite goat toy, the Big Rock!

Two of our girls are looking a little closer to kidding than any of the others.  Delta, one of the new girls, and Betsy, our doeling from last March.  It’s going to be close to see who gets there first, but my money is on Delta.  I detect a slight puffiness in the vulva, and she has a little udder started.   And so tomorrow we are scheduled to get the plywood end on the back of the newly covered greenhouse.  (Not really much of a construction project, just going to tie two sheets of plywood to the galvanized panel for a better windbreak… but that means drilling.  I love the battery-powered drill!).  And the tarp will overhang the plywood for a nice, tight fit.  Always a work in progress.

Tonight we are expecting to see some snow coming in, and it’s supposed to keep it up until early Wednesday morning, when rain and/or sleet is scheduled.  After our little plywood project, it might be a nice day to do some knitting!

Today was the day

Fergus challenging one of the new girls after we opened the gate
Fergus challenging one of the new girls after we opened the gate

To make the big move and combine the two groups of does.  After the hay was parceled out in all the usual spots, I opened the gate, and Fergus initially was the only one to take the plunge.

Everyone is staring at the new girl! Pippi is warning her off. Dorcas doesn't care, she has a mouthful of hay!
Everyone is staring at the new girl.  Pippi is warning her off. Dorcas doesn’t care, she has a mouthful of hay!

Ferg dueled the longest with Eleganza, but then he turned his attentions to the other 3.  It was pretty funny.  Soon, just about all of the regular crew were over in the east side pen, and everyone was getting into the act.  Rearing and feinting, with a few head bumps happening, but the thing that I always watch for, especially with pregnant does, is the side-bashing.  None was in evidence, thank goodness.  Pippi, Queen of the Herd, came into the fray after everyone else had been at it for awhile.  She went after the newbies with a kind of a growl/grunt and then followed that with a guttural chirp, while motioning with her head down and away.  I have to try and video it someday, it’s quite a show.  Then she just walked away.  No street brawling for the Queen!

Delta smiling at us from the old hay bunker
Delta smiling at us from the old hay bunker

Sam and I stayed up with them for over an hour to make sure that things were not going to get bloody or too nutty.  These guys have been nose to nose through different fences ever since they got here, so nothing new there.  But it’s always a little struggle to define who is in what order on the pecking line.  This afternoon I was pleased to see everyone mingling, sort of, and little Delta was standing in the old feed bunker, happy as a clam!

New feeding lineup
New feeding lineup

We covered the empty greenhouse yesterday, in spite of the wind, and now I just need to get some plywood for the driveway gable end.  This is the intended kidding greenhouse, so I have a little more wiggle time, but I do need to get that sorted sooner rather than later.  One of the new does (for whom we have no due date) is looking a lot closer to kidding than the end of February (Delta).  And our little Betsy girl could be earlier than that as well.  We are keeping a close eye, and are already starting some nighttime checks.  Never a dull moment!

 

Progress

It’s been a crazy week! We finally have all of our blood and fecal test results back. (The fecals came back 24 hours after the lab received them, so I am not complaining). The lab that was working on the CL testing was backed up from the holidays, and we took our turn in the queue.

Betsy, Saffron and Battie get working on breakfast
Betsy, Saffron and Battie get working on breakfast

Anyhow, all the bloodwork is negative for Johne’s, CL, Brucellosis, and CAE. These new goats came from a farm where the older goats had all been tested, but you can never be too sure, and I am glad to have had the testing taken care of.

The fecal results came back and surprised me quite a bit! Our 4 new goats are almost as worm-free as any ruminants I have ever encountered.  I had sent in samples from Pippi and Saffron, two of our older group, and they turned out to have higher worm counts than the other 4. No tapeworm, either. We do Famacha checks fairly regularly, and I had noticed that Pippi and Saffron were a little less than perfect in the mucous membrane color department, so I am glad that we sent in the samples. (Famacha only gives an idea about the stomach worm, haemonchus contortus, but that is the one that kills the fastest).  So I do not have to worry about the wormer that we should not use during pregnancy.  That will be our big gun after each mom kids.

Beezus, Pippi and Fergus at the feeder they like best
Beezus, Pippi and Fergus at the feeder they like best

Those 4 girls will be dewormed tomorrow, and hopefully we will be introducing our two groups together shortly.  The greenhouse is yet to be covered, but plans got a little derailed earlier this week.  We are still moving forward.  As we get closer to the due dates of our first 4, I am adjusting feed as well.

And so it goes. All the rain we had the other day is now crunchy ice, better than a skating rink, but there.  This winter has not delivered normal winter weather yet, very much like last year. Not a trend I was hoping for!

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