Happy Thanksgiving

From all of us here at Ruit Farm North.  I hope that everyone is having a peaceful and relaxing holiday with friends and family.  I am very thankful that both our sons are in the area for now, and that we can be spending a lot of time together.  And I am ever so thankful for all our friends, both human and 4-legged.

And thank you all for being a part of our farm family!

It’s coming

What awaited me this morning!
What awaited me this morning!

A few reminders are being thrown our way:  yes, winter really is on the horizon!  It’s been such a warm autumn that I have been lulled into not paying attention.  Although we have been working fairly diligently to try and get the paddocks and animal areas ready for the onslaught, it is still a little bit of a shock when the white stuff begins.

One more day of school and then Thanksgiving break is here.  Many in the family are dropping like flies with whatever viral thing is going around, but so far we are hanging on.  It’s going to be a quiet one for us.

We continue to give Marigold her vitamins and feed her up, but I do not see improvement yet.  We still hope, but I am getting myself ready for the worst.  I don’t know how long I can watch her like she is.

No change

Marigold during better days.
Marigold during better days.

We continue to take care of our sweet Marigold.  I honestly have to say that I don’t see any improvement.  After her 5 days of intensive worming and anti-inflammatories, we continue to give her vitamins, and need to give it time now, I guess.

She is pulling herself around a  little in her pen, and she is eating, drinking, peeing and pooping.  I am having trouble finding out how long the ‘usual’ recuperation time might be for this.  I suspect that a lot of animals get put down when this happens to them, so there isn’t a lot of anecdotal information floating around out there.  From what I have read, it’s at least a month before a final decision should be made about the animal’s future quality of life, if they are still alive.

I am now worried about keeping her warm as the cold weather descends upon us, when she is not able to move around much on her own.  We shall see, I guess.

The Hard part of farming

Marigold on the right.  Sweet girl!
Marigold on the right. Sweet girl!

While all our joy is devoted to our new Golden Guernsey does, at the same time we are dealing with a potentially devastating situation with my favorite yearling doe, Marigold.

When I got home from Vermont last Sunday afternoon, everyone was fine.  On Tuesday morning I went out to do chores about 5:20 a.m., and I found that Marigold was on the ground, pulling herself around with her front legs.  Her back end was not working, although her legs have power, but her back is not cooperating.  The classic symptoms of Meningeal Worm infestation.  (The worm goes into the spinal column and wreaks havoc with the nervous system).  My beautiful girl, strong and lovely, is struggling with a very ugly problem.

I am devastated.  We have two new Golden Guernsey does, but I have been counting on Marigold to be one of our breeding stalwarts.  Not to be, I know, but it’s a blow to the farm plan.  She is one of my favorite goats, one of the most colorful and friendly, and I am grieving for her struggle with this disease.  Those damn snails that carry the awful worm.  Aargh!  We will see how things go.  As of today she has had 5 days of the prescribed treatment, so now it is up to her and the vitamin injections.  Fingers crossed!

Welcome Batty and Saffron

The new girls - Saffron and Batty!
The new girls – Saffron and Batty!

We are finally able to announce that we have some new friends on the farm!  Saffron and Batty, our Golden Guernsey goatie girls.

I have been wanting (well, lusting after might be a better way to describe it), Golden Guernseys for at least 30 years.  I read about them way back when, and even though I adore my Lamanchas, the Golden Guernseys have been a dream that I never thought would come true.  They are smaller than most of the Alpine breeds of milk goat, have long lovely red/blond hair, and are reputed to be extremely docile and laid-back.  Getting genetics from Europe has been difficult for years because of the fear of disease transfer.  Bringing animals into the country is impossible, but sometimes the genetics can get into Canada, and then eventually over the border.

That is what happened with the Guernseys.  Channel Island goats and cows have a really wonderful reputation for being wonderful milk animals, with high butterfat ratios to the amounts of milk that they give.  I am hoping that my Guernsey/Lamancha crosses will be a winning combination.

Batty the doe
Batty the doe

Saffron and Batty are bred does.  We got them from Ardelia Farm in northern Vermont.  My friend Jane, who lives in Peacham, Vermont, and I also bought a buck to share from Ardelia.  Right now he is at her house, but hopefully soon he will be here to take care of some of our Lamancha does.  And so it goes.  New genetics on the farm!  New hope for the future of our smallholding.  It’s a new endeavor here at Ruit Farm!

It’s been awhile

November 1st.
November 1st.

Not blogging has felt terrible, but the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year were overwhelming.  Our coastal summers are usually humid and hot in July, and warm days/cool nights in August with almost no humidity.  This summer was a true bummer.  Hot and humid all the way through August and into September.  Oy!  My asthma was not happy, and I did not get many things accomplished that I had on my list.

I found it difficult to rebound after my mother in law’s death, even after our wonderful time in Vinalhaven.  Work consumed me.  I ended up prepping for the new shape of my school library day job (taking over the running of 5 more school libraries, adding it to the two I already supervise), and I am ashamed to say that I let it suck the life out of me.  Then halfway through August I took a bad fall and concussed myself, which led to at least 2 weeks of total shut-down.  And there we have the summer that wasn’t!

I won’t even look at the list that I had so optimistically created last spring.  No reason to do that.  The one thing that kept me going all summer was my quilt project.  I have been planning a quilt for our queen-sized bed for many, many years (I used to quilt like a maniac back in the ’80s).  My original plan was side-lined because I just feel like I have very different tastes now that we have lived in our open and extremely light timber frame house for almost 13 years.  But once I stumbled upon a pattern that is fun and very logical, every day I tried to sew up a few squares, and as of a few weeks ago I have 216, 7″ squares.  So that is my summer legacy:  a bevy of audiobooks and my sewing machine upstairs.  Awesome!  It is the first time I have pieced quilt squares with a machine, and it was addicting.  I love it!

Woodtove is stoked and going
Woodtove is stoked and going

And so it goes.  November is upon us and as much as I dread the time change, I do welcome the quiet and the time for working on things inside the house.  But until the cold and the snow really envelope us, we are rushing to get the goat paddocks up to snuff and set up for the winter.

It’s good to be back to the blog!  I have missed it.

Bossyboots Pippi

The Beast (and Beezus the yearling in the background, eating her own little hay portion!
The Beast (and Beezus the yearling in the background, eating her own little hay portion!

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.

Watching back
Watching back

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.

Beautiful stretch of summer days (too humid for me, but I am wimpy that way)
Beautiful stretch of summer days (too humid for me, but I am wimpy that way)

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!

We’ve got curds

The curd is here.  What a relief!
The curd is here. What a relief!

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.

And the curd is in the forms.
And the curd is in the forms.

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.

Milking time, finally

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.

View from the milkstand
View from the milkstand

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.

No curds in sight.
No curds in sight.

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.

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 203 other followers