Re-entry

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!

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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.

Hot and stickies are here

The waves at Pemaquid Point lighthouse park.
The waves at Pemaquid Point lighthouse park.

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!

One of the outbuildings at the lighthouse (used for oil storage, and close to the rocks to pull up supplies in the old days)
One of the outbuildings at the lighthouse (used for oil storage, and close to the rocks to pull up supplies in the old days)

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!

The view from lighthouse park where I released the pigeons for training the other morning
The view from lighthouse park where I released the pigeons for training the other morning

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!

 

Summer routine

One of our squeaker trainees:  #5751
One of our squeaker trainees: #5751

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 :*)

Youngest squeakers coming back to the entrance tunnel
Youngest squeakers coming back to the entrance tunnel

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!

A forced vacation

Lucy, my sister in law's Jack Russell.  What a cutie!
Lucy, my sister in law’s Jack Russell. What a cutie!

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.

Dot and flowers
Dot and flowers

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.

The family.
The family.

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.