OK, so I never got another post written about the absolutely amazing book that I read a few weeks ago, Goat Song by Brad Kessler. I was blown away by his writing as well as by the story of the way he and his wife got into raising goats in Vermont. I can’t find a website or a blog to link to, but I highly recommend the book if you want to read a very inspiring look at the connections between humans and domesticated farm animals. While moving sheep fence down the street in the pasture today I had a chance to think about how lucky we are to be doing what we are doing with all the wonderful sheep and goats here. I am feeling the pressure of impending “back-to-work” mindset, so I guess I am enjoying the last fleeting moments of the summer, as well as enjoying the time to do more reading and feeling a connection to other folks who are doing what we are trying to do :*)
Our friend Pam of Hatchtown Farm loaned me a copy of the book The Year of the Goat by Margaret Hathaway with photos by her husband Karl Schatz the other day and I have not been able to put it down! Another great book about goats. A very moving story of two people who give up their comfy life in NYC and travel the country meeting with goat people, and then settling down in Maine. And to top it all off, they have a wonderful blog at Living with goats that chronicles what their life is like now on their farm, Ten Apple Farm in southern Maine. As I finish the book I am going to have to go back and read through their blog archives, but the few posts I have read are great. Another blog for the Google Reader to keep me updated on! More Jewish farmers in Maine. Yay!
This is a sight that I rarely get tired of viewing: the rear view at the feeder :*) At this moment we have our dairy does and our lambs together in the upper paddock. The market lambs will be loaded up tomorrow morning and John and I will take the ride to our favorite butcher in Albion, Maine. But yesterday morning I really got a kick out of the shorn rams sharing space with the udderly beautiful does and fleecy old ewes at the bunker. In this photo we have Rosey on the left, with SnowPea (after milking), a ram lamb, and then our well-endowed Persimmon all trying to get as much of the grain allotment as possible!
Our feeders were made for us by Dan of Henbogle, using the plans available on the Premier Fencing website. There used to be a downloadable pdf file with the plans, but it looks like they may be selling it as a booklet now for $3. They are wonderful feeders and have stood up well to a lot of abuse!
I wasn’t really up to snuff this morning when I was getting ready for Emily the shearer to arrive. If I decide not to deal with lamb pelts, I usually have her shear the lambs that are on their way to the butcher. Today was a beautiful day and I used one of the tried-and-true methods of catching the lambs: putting a little grain in the feeder and then approaching them from behind, grabbing a back leg, and trying to get them backwards out of the paddock into a holding pen (or get a halter on them and then walk them out). Hah! I always forget how little the lambs are truly socialized! When they are adults and have been through a whole year of handling, they mellow a little bit :*) I caught one or two and got them into the holding pen, and by that time I was perspiring buckets, and the third ram I grabbed was not very happy at all… so I was yelling to my husband and he finally came to my rescue. When is that grandson of mine going to be helping with those sheep???
Emily arrived and everything went very smoothly. We ended up with 5 beautiful piles of lamb’s fleece which I then spent a few hours skirting to get it ready to go to the mill. The silver saddled fleeces are always my all-time favorites, but the white is beautiful and lustrous as well, although a little bit dirtier than the colored fleeces.
I want to combine one of these batches with something else, possibly some alpaca. It will be gorgeous! So I never got any pictures of Emily shearing, but I do have some photos of the lovely fleeces. Next time maybe I will be more prepared!
If it’s summer, it must be cheese time! The goat milk is flowing and I am milking and making fresh chevre two or three times a week. Anything that we don’t consume or share with friends goes into the freezer so that we can enjoy it all winter. I also am having some fun with making cream cheese. Especially with those lovely native Maine blueberries!
It’s that time of year again! All of us fiber folk on the tour map are having an open house this weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9-5. This is a great time for people to come and visit our fiber farms and studios. I will be up under the birch trees in the EZ-Up tent, doing some spinning and felting demonstrations.
Wow. That’s all I can say. What an amazing and wonderful book. Not just a description of living with milking goats and how that changed his life, but a commentary on pastoralism and how we as human beings have removed ourselves from what helped make us human thousands of years ago.
Having cleared our land and built our house means that we did not have any already existing structures for our animals. We don’t have a brick and mortar barn, just the greenhouses, and our perimeter fencing is made up of t-posts and 52″ cattle panels (16′ long galvanized grids). So technically everything is movable, ready to be morphed into whatever we need it to be next.
Of course, that’s always easier said than done :*) Moving 16′ long flexible grids is something of a process, and I have the bruises to show for it! I stick my arm all the way through one of the square openings, grab onto it down lower, and lift it onto my shoulder and drag. I eventually get there in the end, after a lot of swearing and getting caught on tree roots and other things that jump into my path. It always drives me crazy, however, because if I want to get one animal group into a different area, it frequently necessitates getting a different group of animals moved first. So today I finally had the panels changed around to my liking, and I got most of the boys into the lower paddock.
(2 bucklings have so far eluded me, and I may need some help with them – one of them has enormous horns and knows how to use them!). As soon as they are out of that paddock, in go the piggies. Well, almost… first I have to run the electric inside that paddock and I don’t have a ground rod nearby. So the final hookup can’t come until John or JD pound one into this lovely, rocky ground. I don’t think I should take bets on how long it will take me to coordinate this!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!