Squeaky, shining morning

I know that a lot of people think I am crazy for liking the early hours I keep.  Some mornings are better than others, and this morning was spectacular!  It was 17F with a stiff little wind so I broke out my Carhartt vest and did my usual suiting up and was already halfway up the driveway before I realized that I really did not need my headlamp.  It was a completely superficial addition to my get-up because the moon was so spectacular, and I guess the 1/2″ of snow that was dry and squeaking underfoot reflected all that great light.  If I knew how to actually make it happen, I would have run back to the house and grabbed the camera.  It looked like a night sky scene from a film.

Last Sunday in November

Cole the ram shares a half of a pumpkin with Etti and Esther the ewes on Thanksgiving.

And it seems much too close to the holidays and the new year to be!  Hanukkah is the next holiday on the calendar, starting in two weeks, then the Solstice, Christmas and the New Year.

So we ended this Thanksgiving weekend with an overnight visit from our grandson, which is always entertaining and lively.  We had a good time.  Watched some Thomas the Tank Engine movies, made playdoh things, read some books and did some puzzles.  We also visited with some friends and our grandson got to play some softball with our friend’s daughter (who is an amazing high school pitcher, but who very kindly caught Sawyer’s throws as well).

Today was not as pleasant weather-wise as I had hoped. Got some fencing switched around out in the sheep paddock area and after more than two hours out there the wind finally got to me and I came in for some tea.  Now the skies are really looking November-ish, grey and semi-overcast. After evening milking I will begin to get ready for the work week.  Actually a full five day work week.  Not looking forward to getting up in the dark again, however!  I have been spoiled and have not jumped out of bed until almost 6 this past four days.  I guess it will be good to get back into the routine :*)

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

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It’s a frosty one out there.  I slept deliciously late, and didn’t get out to do chores until almost 7 am.  The girls were extremely patient, and after the milking everyone was very happy with their hay.  Later we will give them the last of the pumpkins as their Thanksgiving Day treat.

Cooking for only 3 of us today.  Thinking of our families and friends in the New Jersey area and being thankful for the fact that they are all safe.  Also feeling thankful for our family, friends and happy livestock here in Maine!  I hope everyone has a safe, warm and restful holiday.  No shopping for us, just relaxing :*)

Where’s the crayon?

Cole the ram, trussed up like the proverbial turkey in his marking harness, sans crayon! (I took this photo in almost no light and enhanced it in iPhoto, so it isn’t the best quality)

Breeding the ewes has crossed a definite demarcation line.  Cole the Ram has been in with the ewes for over a cycle.  (Ewes have a hormone cycle of about 15-18 days).  When we get the ram in with the ewes we put a crayon on him and when he breeds one of the girls, they get marked with that crayon color.  We are past the first cycle, and about a week ago Pam and I changed the crayon color to orange, so that we could see if any of the ewes didn’t “take” during the first round, and were being bred again.  Everything was going well, but yesterday morning as I was doing chores in the dark, I bent down to pick up my hay sling, and I thought my headlamp light caught a big empty where the crayon should be on Cole’s brisket.  Well, that’s pretty funny.  I didn’t spend a lot of time pondering it as I had to get to work, but last evening I looked again.  Definitely no crayon!  I looked everywhere around their paddock, but alas have not found it.  Maybe the mice carried it off.  They have a penchant for consuming crayons left outside.  Maybe I can follow the bright orange mouse droppings to the culprit’s lair…

Oh dear.  I know that Cole was chasing HoneyBea Sunday night and yesterday morning, but I won’t know if he bred her Monday.  It might just be boredom on his part, but you never know!  I guess it’s time to get another crayon out for the remainder of the season!

A Satisfying Sunday

Frosty Sunday morning

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood here on the coast of Maine!  I love the clear coldness on these frosty mornings.  Although 18 degrees yesterday morning was quite a bit colder than I thought it would be.  But nonetheless, at least the ground is firming up and some of the mud is now frozen.  Always a plus.

I had the opportunity to have a jaunt into Portland today to go to the symphony.  Portland Symphony at Merrill Auditorium.  Wonderful program with a fresh, young visiting conductor and as always, the music was wonderful.  Horn concerto by Strauss with a soloist who was one of the original players in the Canadian Brass, Jeff Nelson.  And it never hurts to have a great performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.  That’s definitely a blast from the past for me.  Stravinsky was one of my father’s favorite composers.  And as always, the Merrill Auditorium was a lovely venue, with excellent acoustics.  Nice afternoon.  After the concert we hit Trader Joe’s so I could score some economical coffee beans, and then home.

Goatie babies waiting for dinner

The girls were waiting on me for chores, and Jingle let the neighborhood know that I was late in getting down to business!

Jingle voices her complaints!

Back to work for a few days and then Thanksgiving.  Just about my very favorite holiday of the year.

Holiday prepping

Chevre rolled in a variety of herb and spice mixes

I am so very glad that we are now able to use the milk from our goats again (we had prepped them for artificial insemination with CIDR hormone inserts).  The withdrawal period was 10 days, but I waited two weeks as I did last year.  After having this year’s goat kids so late in the season, it has pushed my whole milking and cheese-making back.  But I am working full-speed to try and get as much chevre made as I can before the winter gets too nasty to want to be milking in a greenhouse with no ends to speak of.

Got to get some cheesy goodness into the freezer to last us until next year’s kidding!  And before that we want to enjoy it all during the holiday season.  Great stuff.

Turtle and a crazy week

Turtle, our new buck, at the feeder

The week is over again and I have not gotten any blog posts out.  Horrors!  We had a beautiful day on Veteran’s Day, which was a nice transition from the weekend in Vermont, and then the work week began and immediately on Tuesday morning we found that we had no heat and no hot water.  Furnace problems.  What a pain!  We can’t even begin to complain about it as so many people are in such a big mess in the mid-Atlantic states, but at the same time the weather here hit the low ’20s at night and not much better than the ’30s during the day.  So while I went off to work in a warm building, John was here trying to figure out why the hundred gallons of oil we had delivered about two weeks ago was not working for us.  Our son, who is a heating and air conditioning guy, was unfortunately in Boston at a 2-day course.  So we muddled through and finally, this afternoon, they got it all straightened out.  Relief and a hot bath and a hair wash have gone a long way to making our Friday night a genuinely beautiful one!

In the midst of this we were watching our new goat buck, Turtle, as he began to integrate into the group here.  He is not a full-grown buck, but he seems to have all the instincts in the right place.  We have him in with the girls and they are busy putting him in his place, but he is hanging in there!  He is sweet and very beautiful, an Alpine/Saanen cross.  He is our “cleanup” buck, to breed the girls in case they come into heat after their artificial insemination experience.  I am hoping that at least one of the does will bear kids from the AI breeding, but you never know.  If we have no babies, we have not milk, so there is not a lot of choice!

At this moment I am waiting for the matzoh ball mix to be ready to go into the chicken soup.  We were looking for something to cook up to keep the house cozy and warm for the day.  Crazy having chicken soup right before Thanksgiving, I know, but it’s just how things fell out.  And it sure smells good :*)

Rambling weekend road trip

Well it’s been quite the week.  Another storm, which luckily didn’t cancel school, just gave us a delayed opening.  Then nicer weather arrived with warmer temperatures in time for my jaunt to Vermont to visit with our friend Jane of Brigid’s Farm.  Pam (of Hatchtown Farm) took the ride with me which made the trip a lot more fun.  And of course, mostly the trip was about picking up one of Jane’s dairy goat buck babies.  He is destined to be our back-up breeding buck this year.

Since the weather was good, we decided to take the more northern route which took us up through Lewiston-Auburn and then out through Oxford Hills and up through Bethel, Maine and over into the top of the NH White Mountains.  I have not been through the Franconia Notch in many years, and I was very happy to be traveling that way on such a beautiful day.  Crossing the top of New Hampshire and toodling into northern Vermont was very relaxing.  We only traveled on a major highway for a few miles, and the rest of the trip was on two lane, very scenic roads.

We had a really lovely visit with Jane, her husband, and her beautiful sheep, dairy and angora goats.  Our little bucky boy is extremely sweet, and he weathered the ride in the back of the Subaru in a dog crate quite well.  Luckily he is young enough that he doesn’t smell overwhelmingly buckish, and we noticed the muskiness more after getting out of the car to stretch our legs and take some photos at a small theme park in NH, Six Gun City.  What a hoot!

Here are some photos that highlight the trip.  It was nice to get away, even for such a short visit!

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3 down, 1 to go

Esther stands closer to the camera and HoneyBea is just beyond her with nice blue crayon markings on her coat!

On the sheep breeding front, that is.  Last Tuesday during the storm, our ewe Fern was courted and marked by Cole the ram, and now just yesterday our ewe HoneyBea was marked.  She was still his favorite ewe this morning at chore time. It’s only Esther the holdout left to go now.  And then we can change the crayon in the marking harness and see if any of them get rebred.

At least they are spacing themselves out quite nicely!

Pigs on a toot

Brunhilde and Greta Garbo working on their supper

I had every intention of writing this post a few weeks ago.  Our piggie girls, Brunhilde and Greta Garbo, have been our favorite pigs of all time.  Just having two pigs changes their socialization, and I think that they are more interested in human interaction when there are only two.  But I also think that these girls were particularly friendly.  They always begged for back and neck scratches, and even when they got really large, they retained their playful and friendly mannerisms.  They didn’t use their size to push us around, which frequently happens when there are more pigs in a group, I think.  Maybe it’s a little bit of the gang mentality!

Piggie girl butts show the difference in their breeding

Our two girls are crossbred pigs, Red Wattle/Large Black and Red Wattle/Berkshire.  They are both entertaining and delightful.  Not just laid back and playful, but friendly as well.  We have moved them around and the paddock they spent the last month in is the back winter paddock.  About three weeks ago I came home from work and pulled down to the house at the bottom of the driveway.  My husband was out with a visiting friend for the day and I was getting home and looking forward to putting my feet up for ten quiet minutes before even thinking about chores or dinner.  But as you can guess, Brunhilde and Greta had a different idea!  I pulled down to the house (about 300 feet past the paddock area), got out of the car to grab my stuff, and who met me at the back door, but the frolicking piggie girls!  We had a short discussion with lots of back and neck scratches and pats, and they hung out behind the house while I got into my chore clothes and met them at the back door again.  As I headed up the driveway to the paddock area, I found that the girls were right at my side, snorting and chortling at me.  They didn’t even need a grain inducement to go into the paddock, where I found the panel whose baling twine had rotted and broken.  They love to itch their sides on the galvanized panels, and if there is some rotted or old twine, it just pops open.

Brunhilde and Greta had one last toot this past Friday.  I am certainly glad that I was not home when the livestock transporter came for them.  They were extremely entertaining and lovely girls. The memory of their happy days is a good one.  They will be feeding three families very nicely over the coming year, and we are extremely thankful.