I have been working on making milking work a little more smoothly. Early in the week I made the decision to only milk Pippi, because SnowPea still has some pain in her right foot, and I could tell that being on the milk stand was not comfortable for her. She has an enormous bag and crazy amounts of milk (sniff, sniff), but it’s better for her to get a break. When her foot is feeling a little better we can try again.
So, the paddock arrangements had to change yet again! Farming requires quite a bit of flexibility, and sometimes it feels like nothing will ever be set up in a way that you can count on from year to year. So there was Pippi, all alone on her side of the fence once SnowPea went back to join with her kids, and all the other girls. Have to have a companion for a lone goat (although she can be nose-to-nose right through the fence with all the other girls when she wants to be). I decided to put her yearling doe in with her, Beezus the sweet chestnut brown girl. She is a skittish one, but I did get her over onto the other side of the fence. Pippi wasn’t all that happy. In fact, not pleased at all! They did a few fighting feints, and it appears as though I need to make sure that there are two distinct areas where hay is available, because Pippi will just fight her right off, with a scene worthy of a daytime soap opera star.
Pippi is not the herd queen, but whenever SnowPea isn’t around to interfere, she takes her almost-queendom very seriously. What a brat! She was pushing Zelda and Marigold around so hard a few weeks ago that she opened up a spot on her bony little head after headbutting Zelda extremely hard. (And the noises Pippi makes while meting out her brand of justice is almost too funny. Grr!)
You just never know with goats! And Pippi is definitely quite the drama queen. (She will be fine with Beezus after her two newest babies are out of the picture… How fickle!)
Always a difficult thing. 5 of us spent a very satisfying and lovely 4 days out on Vinalhaven. We got back on Sunday afternoon, and I have been running ever since. Some work-related meetings as well as just trying to get down to business at home with all the crazy projects I have been wanting to try and do. It’s hot and muggy again as well, and I do not function well at all on these days. The Vinalhaven fiber retreat was balm to our exhausted souls! We all got quite a bit of knitting and spinning done, and we even had an indigo dye day, thanks to Pam of Hatchtown Farm. Once we saw what the results were like, we all scurried around looking for more items to pop into the bucket! One of our merry group grabbed an old canvas hat out of her car and I tie-dyed one of my beloved sleeveless t-shirts. What a hoot! Good times with good friends is what it’s all about. Now I guess it’s time to get back to the daily grind. And while I am doing that, I will be able to dwell fondly on the lovely, restful and fun outing that we were lucky enough to have. Until next summer!
Yes, a new batch of chèvre is in the works and we got curd! I was a little anxious, but I had about 2.25 gallons of fresh goat milk. So yesterday I started a new batch and swaddled it with towels, to be opened this afternoon. I remembered both the culture and the rennet, this time. Phew! It’s early in the milking season (calculating from when the kids were born), so the curds are still very delicate and we don’t get quite as much return for our milk amounts, but it’s amazing, nonetheless.
So when I scooped out the curds, I got 8 forms filled with curd, and the rest of the curds got sent into the colander, so maybe I can salvage all that I couldn’t scoop with my spoon. I added wild Maine blueberries to one of my forms, so that should be a little bit of a treat as well.
I am not separating my does and babies this week because I am getting ready to go on a little bit of a fiber retreat with some friends this week, on the island of Vinalhaven. I can’t wait! But to keep things simple for my husband, who is doing chores, the babies will have to take up the slack on the milk end of things. They won’t mind at all!
A week from tomorrow, hopefully the babies will be separated from the moms and I will be seriously milking twice a day. It’s Weaning Time! Gotta get some serious cheese in the freezer.
This spring has been totally upside down and crazy. I have not gotten going with milking even though I meant to do so, weeks ago. For the moment I am milking in the afternoons. A few days ago I began separating SnowPea and Pippi from their babies right after breakfast, and after milking in the afternoon they are reunited with their brood.
I had moved the milkstand into our hay greenhouse for the winter, where we do things like hoof trimming. My old situation for milking has changed in the past year, and I wasn’t sure that this would work out. But the weather has been quite dry, so I am just pulling the milkstand out of the greenhouse and milking in the open air. Awesomely wonderful! The sky and the trees are as lovely as the milking is soothing, and it’s all coming together.
I have been doling out the frozen chevre in the past month or two, as I am down to just a few left from this past milking season. So I was very excited yesterday to get out all my cheese equipment and sanitize it up and get it ready for the first batch. I had 3 gallons of milk ready to go, so I set it up yesterday and warmed the milk, added the culture, and popped that pot under 3 towels to rest. This morning as I opened up the pot, it was a giant fail. No curds in sight. Mama mia! I was counting on this batch as the first one of the year (some of which I was intending to take on our yearly outing to Vinalhaven island, next Thursday). OMG. Phage or what? Culture that was too old, or did I not drain the milk pot enough after sanitizing? I left that pot on the counter for at least 2 hours, and I stirred it and pondered it for that whole time, in between other activities.
This has bothered me all day, and as I was playing it through in my head yet again late this afternoon, I finally knew what the problem was. What a bird brain I am. I forgot the rennet!!! I guess it’s the curse of the first batch of the year. Just not into the routine, still. Sigh. I hope to do better.
And how! Even doing chores really early in the morning won’t get you out of it. We have had a breakneck weekend, with a friend visiting from NJ who is looking at a house not far from us. He is planning to retire up here in a few years, and a fantastic property came onto the market recently that is perfect for a single guy and his trusty black lab. Plus all his hit-and-miss engines and car toys!
And so it goes. The two youngest goat kids showed up with the scours a few days ago, but the heat and humidity don’t help that at all. They are coming around with the Di-Methox treatment, but I feel so bad for them in the meantime. They are as perky and interested in food as ever, so I think I caught it just at the right time. It’s always something on a farm.
As far as “it’s always something” goes, during our stay in NJ, our friend who was caring for the goats and the pigeons kept calling to say that our bucks were out of their paddock every time he turned around. When we returned, I beefed up all the fences in the boys’ paddock, and still Bagels the Buck was over and roaming about. (He was also luring Henry the Buck along with him, and Henry twisted his leg pretty badly jumping out, so he is a three-legged goat for now, but doing very well). I finally put Bagels into a pretty airtight pen, and there he stayed until I took him to the butcher last Tuesday. I would have kept him around for awhile, but only as a companion for whatever buck we get for the next few years. I couldn’t use him on all of his daughters, and having him breed the 3 moms would only result in more babies related to him. So, getting meat into the freezer is not the worst thing in the world, but I admit that I was not thinking about this for the moment. And I am keeping Henry around to be a short-term companion to the young buck that is still with his mom, Pippi, for weaning time. I won’t allow a buck to be alone, even with Jingle the Donkey, because goats are social animals and need another of their kind to pal around with. It’s the forever juggling act!
And tomorrow is Monday. The humidity is supposed to stay with us for a few more days, but it sounds like the temperatures will stay in the upper 70s, and not hover near 90F. Yay! There are a few things on my list for tomorrow, so I will see if I can get them done without too much trouble. I can’t stand the heat, so even though I am relieved not to have 5 feet of snow on the ground out there, the opposite is not very conducive to creativity or activity either!
I love getting into the summer routine. We have been home from NJ for a week now, and I am still not into it! Aargh! My husband has been working some days and not others; his truck is waiting for parts so that is not running, which means that I have to take him to work, and on and on. I have a list as long as my arm of things that I want to get accomplished over the summer, besides getting some R&R and doing some fun things, but I feel like I am not getting anything done right now because of the routine I have not settled into :*)
I always feel so much more productive when I get going on this! It hasn’t helped that I am not milking SnowPea yet, either. I am all in a dither. We got our new boxspring and mattress delivered on Monday (wasn’t supposed to be here until today), which meant that I had to rush around and trash the house moving stuff so that we could get the old bed upstairs and the new one into our bedroom on the first floor. The corner of the living room that meets one corner of our bedroom has been housing all manner of things that need sorting, so now that stuff is sitting in front of the recliner and the dining room table. It’s too disgusting to even take a photo of it all, I just need to dig in and get going on it (most of the “stuff” are boxes of mixed up junk papers and bills and “real” papers that just need to be sorted and filed or recycled. We do a little better now with that kind of thing, but it has never been our strong suit at all!). Sigh.
But for now, I am going up to let the younger pigeons out of the loft for a little loft toss. They usually fly around for a few minutes and then come down and sit on the roof for a little bit, and then hop back through the tunnel and gate and go in for their food. Our older flyers have been training well. This morning I took them down to what used to be Sherman Lake (now Sherman Marsh) between Damariscotta and Wiscasset, and let them go. All 14 returned, thank goodness. Currently we are missing 3 flyers, but hopefully one or two of those will turn up as they do sometimes. I just hope this crew are ready for the first young bird race in mid-August!
Maybe if I get into my routine, my mojo will improve!
Just as the school year was coming to a close, we got word that my mother in law was doing poorly again, in NJ. Even though I still had two teacher days to go (the kids were out on Friday the 19th), we hastily threw stuff into a few bags, put Tesser the Chihuahua and her bed into the car, and took off on Saturday morning the 20th.
Needless to say, my sweet mother in law really was not doing well, and within a day she had been moved to a hospice room in a rehab center near my inlaw’s home. Someone from the family was with her around the clock, and she struggled for too many days before giving in. It was a very difficult time, and living away from home was difficult, although we were very comfortable with my sister in law and I certainly enjoyed having the time with her and our nephew and his fiancee.
And so the days went, and after she passed away there were a few days to wait for the wake and the funeral. I had hoped to be able to come back to Maine and let our friend Roy have a bit of a break from the goat and pigeon care between Dot’s death and the funeral, but there wasn’t enough time. So we stayed in North Jersey and as it turned out, there were a million things to do. Being there allowed my sister in law to go back to work for a few days, and I was glad that we could be there to help out. We live so far away, I am afraid that she gets the brunt of the care on a regular basis.
Even though it has been difficult losing someone that I have known and loved for 36 years, it is a fact that she had a good life. I hope I can be as healthy at 90 as she was! And of course, the other perk that we had was having some time with our family and old friends. Sometimes it takes something out of our control to force situations like this. And the thing that saved my sanity every day there was the midnight swim in my sister in law’s pool under a glass house.
And that was the beginning of my first weeks of vacation. Let’s just hope that that is as exciting as this summer gets.
It really was. We got a lot of farm work accomplished. It was exhausting, but that’s the way it goes. The weather cooperated, and we were hot out there, but luckily there was a nice breeze.
We have 4 paddocks separated by cattle panels and two of those areas have not been pressed into service for awhile. One of them houses our gigantic compost pile, and one is farther back and grassy. So we needed to move the ‘pig’ hut from the one, to the farthest. We got the boys and Jingle into that area, and they are having a good time eating up the weeds and the grasses.
On Saturday a friend of ours came down and we were able to get the CDT shots done on the goat babies, plus some foot trimming. Along with that, we planted our giant pumpkin plants and are crossing our fingers that we can prevent them from being eaten by deer. And so it goes! 4 more school days until the kids are released and teachers have a few more after that, but not a big deal.
I can taste the summer, it’s close, but tonight we are in the 40’s and it was a day for sweaters and turtlenecks! June 15th. Gotta love it!
We have rain again, and this is a good thing. It’s Friday night and I am lazing around, listening to an audiobook and making some veggie burgers (unfortunately, they are falling apart, but they taste amazing!).
Here we are in June, and it’s turtle egg-laying time again! The painted turtle moms are everywhere: digging in the driveway, by the back door, up by the goats. This afternoon I walked into the hay/feed greenhouse, and there was a beautiful paint, nestled in between two of the feed cans. I presume she was laying eggs, but with all the scrap hay and chaff around, it was difficult to see. I went about my chore business, and she stayed there the whole time.
So round about the end of August we should be seeing tiny little turtles hauling themselves all over the property. They say it is about a 10-week gestation, but I guess the whole thing depends upon the temperatures. It’s an amazing and prehistoric cycle, and I think they particularly love our property as it is very sandy soil. Maine has a lot of clay, but the front of our piece of land is more sand than clay. And we have a little stream that runs through out back to the beaver pond, so there is a very conducive habitat for the little shelled creatures. We love them!
Ah well. It’s been a long week. The weekend is upon us and I am feeling relaxed. Good to be home after the busyness of the week (we had an evening at the middle school for incoming 6th graders – book fair and other activities – and then high school graduation night on Wednesday. I am still not fully recuperated!).
Tomorrow my plan is to sleep-in a bit and then enjoy the beautiful weather!
This past weekend was the annual Maine Fiber Frolic, and I did not have a vendor space this year. I will be very honest: I was thrilled not to have the frantic packing of the car on Thursday night, the frantic drive from work on Friday afternoon to set up, and then the two days of standing. I love greeting people and chatting with them, but it’s still the work year for me and it’s an exhausting part of the year on top of the usual stuff. (Last week I had all kinds of meetings, and our daily schedule began its topsy-turvy dive toward the end. The high schoolers having their finals, the seniors having their marching practice, the middle schoolers getting ready for Community Studies field trips and a day of community service.) It’s wonderful and crazy, and at the same time we are trying to get our libraries put in order and inventoried before the last day on the 19th. But, enough of that, the weekend is what was so special!!!
Our friend Pam, of Hatchtown Farm, and I had a date to go to the Fiber Frolic just for the day on Sunday. We were not in any hurry. I had some extra fence-moving to do in the morning, and we really didn’t get on the road until 9-ish. The Windsor fairgrounds are a perfect size, not too large, and when we got there we mosied across to the barns where the fleece sale and show is, and next door to this is the ‘used equipment’ area. You probably can see where this is headed! I never have a chance to get into the used equipment area when I am vending and have a booth to watch, so this was a voyeur’s treat (so I thought!). We walked in and were greeted by a group of lovely volunteers we know, and they were all pointing us to the back of the barn area. There stood a Bergman 8-harness countermarch loom, handmade in 1936! Loom bench and a huge assortment of reeds were also with it. It’s a compact, folding loom, unlike any I have ever seen. I have read about Bergmans, but they were made out on the west coast and they are not thick on the ground out here in New England.
Well, my eyes just about popped out of my head! I have been looking for a 4-harness counterbalance loom as that would have been all I could afford to buy new. 8 harnesses would have tipped me over the edge, and a countermarch is one step more wonderful (and more expensive) than the counterbalance! I think my ears were ringing, I couldn’t really take it all in. A wonderful weaver in the Maine community who is about to move to the west coast was waxing eloquent about it and showed me all kinds of things on the loom (which I am not sure that I will remember!), and I just fell in love with it. To top off the amazing goodness of all this is the fact that the people who had it for sale didn’t want to have to take it home on Sunday afternoon, so they had lowered the price to something so amazingly affordable that I couldn’t pass it up. Mama mia!
But that is only when the adventure began! I didn’t go to the Fiber Frolic thinking that I was going to buy a loom, and after handing over my check, Pam and I took in the Frolic sites, visited all of our vendor friends, had lunch, and headed back to the used equipment barn and decided to get started on packing up the loom and getting my Subaru Forester loaded. Other friends, Mudd and Esther Sharrigan (vendors – Nordic Weevs), helped by scraping up a bunch of baling twine to tie up the folding ends of the loom so we could move it without something swinging loose and breaking. (And Mudd came over and stayed with us, helped with the tie-up, and generally oversaw the action). Then the fair staff brought their little 4-wheeler and trailer in and we got this extremely solid and heavy loom out of the barn, and I backed my car up. Hmm. And that is where it all hit the fan! Not really much of a shock: I was thinking positively, but not very analytically about the size of the new baby!
If it weren’t for another friend, Tracy, I am really not sure what I would have done. She didn’t think it would fit into her Toyota Sienna van if it didn’t go into my Subaru, but it fit perfectly, so Pam and I drove it back home, John helped us unload it into the driveway, and then we went back to the fairgrounds, now quite empty, dropped the van off for Tracy, and then headed home with all the loom accoutrements in my car. Phew! That was a close one. But I am over the moon about the loom, and even though it needs some serious dusting and wood treatment, it is a gem. I don’t usually have such good luck with things like this. What a great adventure and a wonderful day!
The absolute bestest part about all of this is that my summer break is only two weeks away, so I will have all the time I need to get this beauty cleaned up and humming.
(Shh. I am not going to think about what it’s going to take to get it out of the living room and up into the loft).
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!