Happy Hanukkah!

Menorah
Menorah

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together. What a hoot! There has been a ton of chatter about it in the media, and I won’t belabor the “next time this happens will be 75,000 years from now” bit, but it is pretty neat. Although it kind of cheats us out of having a Hanukkah/Solstice party this year.

For all of you who celebrate, enjoy the Festival of Lights; the latkes, applesauce, sufganiot and all the other delights that go with it. Until next year, when we can again schedule a Solstice party right in the middle of Hanukkah!

Belated Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday's snow
Tuesday’s snow

I am hoping that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We had a quiet one. It was actually a quiet week all around, except maybe for the weather!

Chipmunk tracks (or perhaps squirrel)
Chipmunk tracks (or perhaps squirrel)

Tuesday morning we had a little bit of a slow commute. The snow flurries that we expected turned into more than predicted. Buses had trouble getting to school, and there were accidents all over the place. Of course it didn’t last long, the next day we had torrential rains and gale force winds again. Sigh.

Thanksgiving morning
Thanksgiving morning

On the goat front, two of the girls came back into heat, so I switched out the bucks. Beige Boy thinks he has died and gone to heaven, unfortunately Bagels is feeling a little blue :*(  We shall see how this works!

Talk about adjustments!

The weather sure has thrown us for another loop. I expect it to get cold in November, but I think one day last week it was almost 60F and yesterday the temperatures tumbled into the teens, the wind gusts were over 40 mph, and the struggle with frozen stock tank water began in earnest. The wind was so bad that we spent most of the afternoon with the generator on because the power was out.

Of course we have stock tank heaters, and you would think that we would be all ready to go with them, but with the power out and the generator only taking care of certain things, we never got to it yesterday. When I did chores last night there was not much ice in the water buckets, so I thought this morning would not be too difficult. Wrong again! I was almost late to work today (and I left the house with the bed unmade which makes me nuts) because I spent so much time with the sledge hammer breaking up ice.

This afternoon the wind had finally died down, and we at least got one tank heater into the biggest water tank. One of our other stock tanks sprang a leak, so I had to bring that in to dry and see if John can fix it. It’s definitely winter out there :*)

The flaw in the change

A big fly in the ointment. My big changes in the paddocks have created a situation whereby I have to take SnowPea out of her paddock and walk her all the way around the greenhouse to the milking stand. Not a really huge issue, but sometimes the others in the pen are very interested in where she is going. So I have to very surreptitiously open the gate and let her bolt out and around. She knows exactly where to head and has no problem getting there and onto the milk stand. On the trip back, however, I have been putting her on a lead. After eating her grain she has the potential to be less motivated to go back around, although I haven’t found her to wander at all. She is a good goatie girl.

I think it takes them a lot less time to make these changes than it takes me! But they do seem to be getting along fairly well so far. And no one has come back into heat yet!

Calmer days

photo (25)Things have calmed down a little bit in the last few days. None of the animals got hurt (that I am aware of) in the change over of groupings. I have to get used to the new feeding amounts, so my schedule has changed quite a bit at chore time as well. It’s an adjustment!

I am getting a little bit of a rest from cheese-making because I wormed SnowPea the other day.  As the does may be pregnant I had to use Ivomec as a dewormer so we don’t have as long a waiting period as we would if we used a “white” wormer like Valbazen. I have not read any information coming out of the United States on these wormers used on goats (Ivomec was made for cows and pigs and is “off label” for goats and sheep). But the Brits have done a lot more research on wormers made for cattle and used in small ruminants, which is definitely helpful. So I usually only wait 5 days after giving Ivomec, which will take us to the weekend and then I will start collecting the milk again. Kind of nice not having the milk bucket and bottling cleanup chores for a few days! It’s a mini vacation :*)

Anyhow, the temperatures have dropped radically over the past 12 hours and the wind is blowing hard. Winter is probably on it’s way. The countdown is on in our house to the Solstice! Daylight, such a blessing!

Change happens

In the worming pen
In the worming pen

Oh my. What a day! It’s been a totally crazy weekend. Yesterday I basically spent the day on the road picking up and delivering the fresh pork for our customers as well as for ourselves. Our wonderful butcher is a little more than an hour away and yesterday my husband had also scheduled our new Subaru for replacement tires. (I know, it only has 3,000 miles on it, why the new tires? The tires that Subarus come with are actually very good ones, Yokohamas, but they are not great in ice, snow and really rainy conditions. So John wanted to put my favorite Michelins on while we could still sell the original tires). As a result, I didn’t get as early a start as I had planned on. By the time I made the rounds the afternoon was well on its way, and I still had to put our meat into our freezer (an athletic event, at the least!). So there went Saturday.

This morning was a big morning: worming time for the does and the ewes. I do not worm regularly unless they need it, although we try to do Famacha scoring as regularly as we can. But sometime in November when the ground is beginning to freeze and the cold weather is here, we worm everyone just to get rid of any nasties before the winter. I don’t worm them in their paddock area, I set up a pen outside the paddock and worm them in there on an empty stomach. Then I make them wait for breakfast. Not a happy bunch! After a few hours they get fed, but I keep them in the outside pen for as long as I can so they shed their wormy poops out of the paddock. I can’t always leave them out for the whole day, as I like to do, and today we had to go get hay, but they were out as long as we were home.

Worming was just the first of the strenuous activities, however. After strong-arming the does (they are definitely not happy about the nasty tasting stuff) and hustling the ewes I was tired enough. But I needed to get all my cattle panels wired together before the winter, so I did that, and then I got a third paddock gated so I could put Jingle the donkey and Beige Boy the buck into that one. Not a happy scene, I am afraid. Jingle was not pleased to be in that pen, and when the buck was introduced, she went crazy. That was just the beginning! I then put all the does in with Bagels the buck and Zorro the llama. Another crazy scene. By the time I finished chores, most of the inmates had settled down. I am concerned about the does being stressed with this move, as they have all been bred by hand in the last two weeks. Sometimes stress can cause them not to “settle” or not let the fetus implant. If so, hopefully they will come into heat and get bred again. Don’t want to make this too boring for Bagels!

Chèvre almost ready
Chèvre almost ready

One other activity that is keeping me busy every day is making chèvre. We gave most of SnowPea’s milk to the pigs while they were here. After they left, I went into high gear, starting a new batch every three days or so. I know that freezing is anathema to most cheese gurus, but I find the chèvre we freeze is quite good on the other end. So most of my batches go right into the freezer, and I use some of it right away (as well as share the goods with friends and family!). So that is what I am left with tonight, beside the laundry, packaging up the newest batch. And then I think early to bed is in order.

More love by moonlight

Last night I didn’t get home until after 5 because of parent-teacher conferences. The day had gotten exceedingly cold and there was a very strong, gusty west wind. Quite the wardrobe changer! When I got out to milk, I realized that our last doe, Zelda, was in heat. Sure enough, she was plastered against the fence, and Bagels was right there, trying to get through to his new love. And Zelda’s mother, Elf, was right there egging them on. Those two does have kept a really close relationship all these years, they curl up together at night and at naptime, and are never far from the other. So she had to get her $0.02 cents in, I guess!

I was a little concerned that I would not be able to break Zelda out into my little love pen because of Elf, but the power of grain won out.  Of course all of this is complicated in the dark, but I managed to get her into the pen with Bagels, and he cooperated pretty easily. Zelda was a wild woman and really tried beating him up, but I think we were successful.  She was still mooning around the fence this morning so I gave it one more try.  Hopefully that is it.  If Bagels isn’t shooting blanks, we have a nice cluster of goatie births next April.  I would not mind if they came into heat again and targeted our April break right on the nose, but this is good, too.

Sorry no photos, I have not seen the girls in the daylight since Monday!

Weekend love and fences

Our two Stud Muffins
Our two Stud Muffins

Yesterday morning when I went out to do chores (I did sleep in a little, so I was later than usual) I saw Pippi and SnowPea plastered against the fence, cooing at the boys. SnowPea would not leave Bagels’ side, and Pippi was making eyes at Beige Boy. Oy. I am not quite ready to get them cohabiting, but I decided to give breeding a push and I set up a small pen on the boys’ side of the fence. After I fed the grain out to both groups, I got SnowPea into the pen and let Bagels in with her (and there was no hesitation there, that’s for sure!) .  When Pippi got a turn, she was not so happy about it. Poor Bagels, he really took a bit of a beating. It turns out that Pippi was holding out for Beige Boy! Funny how that happens. SnowPea wouldn’t give Beige Boy a second glance, thank goodness because he is her son, but Pippi would have none of that. They are a hoot.

Can I meet another one of those girls?  Please?
Can I meet another one of those girls? Please?

Today we got a stand-in tarp on the lambing greenhouse (not a real livestock greenhouse cover, but one of the ‘heavy-duty’ black and green tarps) and I worked on fences after that all afternoon. We are one step closer to having the ewes’ side of the paddock ready for them. Tomorrow I have a Monday holiday, and after my doctor appointments, hopefully I can get some more accomplished out there. It should even be a nicer day than today, so maybe I will work up a real head of steam.

So the two white goats are now bred, we think. Which makes three out of the four. Now all we have to worry about is Zelda.  I am still aiming to get Bagels in with the girls after I get the ewes moved into the other paddock, and if any of them come into heat again I will have to decide whether or not to put Beige Boy in, or let Bagels try one more time. Working with unproven rams or bucks is always a white-knuckle deal. You never know, but the AI we did in the past two years did not get us results, so we are going back to square one. And I am hoping to be able to keep Bagels around for a few years. He has an amazingly great personality, and is cute as a button on top of it!

High Plains Drifter shawl is done

High Plains Drifter Shawl by Kirsten Hipsky
High Plains Drifter Shawl by Kirsten Hipsky

Finally!  Finished!  It has been a lovely knitting project as it didn’t take too many brain cells to do it on autopilot,  4 increases every other row and garter stitch the whole way.  I have been working on it since last June (embarrassing!). Wow! Even though it isn’t blocked yet, the ends are all tucked away, and it had its maiden voyage to the Yarn Harlot evening we went to last Saturday. I love it! It’s soft and it has a lot of drape, and I handpainted the yarn in colors I love.

Me and the Yarn Harlot
Me and the Yarn Harlot

I knit the shawl from our farm yarn that was done with about 15% mohair added in with our sheep’s wool and it was spun into a three ply sock weight. (Well, it’s a little heavier than what I consider sock weight, but it’s beautiful).

High Plains Drifter Shawl by Kirsten Hipsky is a free Ravelry download.  Take a look!

More crazy boychiks

Elf
Elf

In the past week since I wrote the post about which buckling is really ready to tackle the four does, I have seen a huge change in Bagels the Brown Buck.  It’s amazing, really!  Now he is spending all his time at the fence, peeing on his legs and crooning at the girls.  I did some fence-tightening on Sunday afternoon because he was so beside himself I wondered if he could squeeze through.  Monday morning I knew why!

We have come a long way since this photo!
We have come a long way since this photo!

Even in the dark as I walked up to the pens I could see that Bagels was glued to his side of the fence, and Elf, our oldest doe, glued on her side of the fence, flagging her tail like mad. They were so seriously in love that even the grain in the feeders did not call them away.  So while everyone else was busy breakfasting, I thought I would give love a little help. I put Bagels on a lead and we nipped through the gate and into that dark little corner of the girls’ pen, and Bagels learned about the birds and the bees.  The look on his little goatie face was priceless!  It was a classic moment, a goatie coming of age :*)

Amazingly, I got him back into his little corner of the world before any of the others noticed what was going on. Phew!  And if we caught Elf at the right time in her estrus cycle, her kids are due on Friday, April 4th.  Wow.