The last day of winter break turned out to be the most gentle and almost-springlike. It was at least 45F, and for a lot of the day the sun was very generous. It felt extremely good to be outside working.
We are not really sure when our Golden Guernsey goat Battie is due to kid, but we were told that she could be ready sometime around the end of February or the beginning of March. She has a tiny bit of an udder started, but not much yet. I am checking every day! But, if she is due by the end of this week, we need to have a bona fide kidding pen/jug clean and ready. We got a tiny bit of a start on it late this past week, but most of that was just for planning purposes.
I have a very “flexible” setup in the livestock greenhouse, which has its pros and cons. Good that it can be re-configured as our needs change, but it always seems to me that I am recreating the wheel! It’s exhausting sometimes. I have two separate groups of does and something I have been wanting to do for a few years is to have a pen that spans both sides of the greenhouse, so it can be in use from either side. (Which necessitated the removal of some median heavy, galvanized panels. I could only consider it if I had a lot of help, and my son has the brawn and the youth to help with that!). The dividing panels have been pretty sunken into the dirt floor for a few years now, so it was something i have not been successful with on my own. But today we managed it! My girls are due to kid at such different times that I really only need 1 jug this year. They will all take their turns, from one side, or the other.
One of the most important things we need to take care of in our climate are windbreaks in the greenhouse. The gable ends are mostly open, which can be an issue. So I have gotten some plywood and we managed to get some in place. It definitely will help me to get a better night’s sleep, as I think we are in pretty good shape right now.
Winter break is here and I am enjoying it to the max! We had our grandson for the past 3 days which was a lot of fun. The only downside to the last few days was the weather, with temperatures in the negative numbers overnight, and a lot of wind. That seems to have passed, and we are looking at rain/snow/ice tonight, and temperatures close to 45F tomorrow. Wacko. We will see how that works out.
I have some visits scheduled this week with some old friends, and I am loving the non-stressful days. The goats have come through the really painful cold spell and wind, and are doing okay. I am monitoring Battie the Golden Guernsey very carefully, as she is possibly due to kid in a few weeks. We do not have a firm timeline on this, but I am making sure to put hands on her udder, belly and back near her tail every day, at least twice. (I have seen some baby activity, which is very exciting!) So we are taking as many precautions as we can. Toward the end of the week i need to put a kidding pen together for the big event. I am hoping I do not have to begin making those midnight check-ins too soon!
And on another note, it looks as though Reddog the Golden Guernsey buckling is feeling his male oats. Sassafrass, one of SnowPea’s 2015 twins, was in heat two days ago, and he seemed to be performing his buckley duties. I definitely have the date on my calendar!
We really seem to have winter now. Two snowstorms have left us with a bit of snow on the ground, and the temperatures are going to be dropping like an avalanche over the weekend. But it’s already almost the middle of February, so I am hoping that there can’t be too much horrible stuff left. Or at least we can hope!
This past weekend turned out to be a crazy one. Had to drive to North Jersey and pickup John’s brother’s truck. We have been having issues with our elderly F-350, and my brother in law does not drive anymore, so his F-250 was languishing there. It’s far from being a new truck, but it appears to be in pretty decent working order. The local roads were not great on Saturday morning when we set out, but after we got onto the highway it got better. 7 hours in the car is long, no matter how you slice it. We got the truck running, visited with my father in law, and by late afternoon we crashed at a hotel. I didn’t sleep very well, but we got up and turned around to come back north. John left before I did (I needed to make a run for some real NY bagels!) and we leap-frogged all the way home. He had to deal with a couple of small issues along the way, and we passed each other and met up a couple of times as well. Phew! So glad to be home in laid-back coastal Maine, out of that mess of traffic in the NY area.
On the way back I listened to the last book in one of my favorite series of all times. I love Terry Pratchett’s books in general, but my favorite series-within-a-series is the Tiffany Aching young adult group. (Wee Free Men; A Hat Full of Sky; Wintersmith; I Shall Wear Midnight; and The Shepherd’s Crown). The Shepherd’s Crown is the last book that Terry wrote before he died in 2015. The books take place in Discworld, but it’s about Tiffany Aching as she becomes the Hag of the Hills (the most powerful witch of The Chalk). And the little blue Wee Free Men are my faves. Even if you prefer reading books to listening to them, it’s worth a little listen to Stephen Briggs’ narration, because he really gives life to the characters, particularly to the Wee Free Men. It doesn’t get any better than that! I didn’t want it to end, but that’s the way it goes. In another year or two I can go back and listen to them again.
The audio definitely helped get me home. I have to tune up another audiobook to keep me on task with my quilt piecing :*) And it’s only two more days until our winter break, so it’s all good.
I have had plans in the works for a number of years. The deal with my husband is that I would retire when I turn 62. That happens to be this February 11th, and I really can’t believe that it is real. Where did the time go? It has just snuck up on me. (Of course, I would not retire until June, at the end of the school year).
When I read Jackie’s blog post on Butting Heads Farm– the Art of Aging, Part 1 about aging and what can be accomplished home on the farm while working a full-time job, I realized that we have been maneuvering ourselves toward this goal for a good number of years (I have had to let go of our sheep, our yearly meat chickens, and our yearly feeder pigs in order to keep things sane). I have only told a few coworkers and close friends so far, but it’s finally here for me. I am retiring at the end of this school year (!), and I am hoping to be able to totally give myself over to the farm and to weaving, spinning, knitting and felting from then on. The money issue will be difficult for awhile, but hopefully I won’t have to go out and get a whole other full-time job. I feel bad for all my coworkers who retire and a year or two later have to go back to work full-time, but most of those folks are single. I am blessed to have a partner who has a few sources of income, and with my NJ pension, my Maine pension, and a little bit of Social Security, I might be okay. (Although Maine is one of the two states in the U.S. who believes that getting SS and a teacher’s pension is “double dipping,” so the SS that I paid into in NJ is going to be drastically cut back when I start collecting because of my Maine teacher pension. It’s a real bummer).
And so it goes. I am frantically trying to make sure that things at work are going to be perfect for whoever replaces me, but we all know that that is a losing proposition. It will be what it will be. But I am having a wonderful time reading the seed catalogs and thinking that I can actually do a little more in the garden because I won’t be starting back into work by the middle of August, and unable to process the tomatoes and the eggplant that are just really coming ready at the end of August.
I can’t believe that I only have 80 some workdays left in my job as a Library Media Specialist. It’s been a wonderful career, and it won’t be easy to give up. But I do think that I will be having breakfast or lunch with my retired teacher peeps on the first day of the new school year. And there will be champagne or wine involved!!!
It feels like Spring out there. I keep thinking that we are going to get slammed this month, with snow and ice and below zero temps. But this week they are forecasting numbers in the upper 40s and low 50s! Dare we hope for an easy winter? I just don’t know.
On Sunday Sam and I took the milkstand out into the large girl’s paddock. Put it down in a flat area so that they could investigate and jump onto and off of it. It was time for trimming some hooves, and in the past the twins (SnowPea’s girls) have had a terrible fear of the stand. I use this piece of equipment for more than just milking; we use it for hoof trimming and other medical procedures as well, if it’s something where we need them to stand for more than a few minutes.
So they all need to get used to it. I know we are not that close to kidding yet, but usually I will get my mamas up on the stand a lot before the babies come so that they are not freaked out. And always, way before their due dates, we check the way their bellies are hanging, as well as their udder development. (They need to get used to me coming up behind them and having an udder feel. It’s very revealing!). I don’t want any of this to be new to them right before kidding.
I am also beginning to add some alfalfa pellets into the feed for the girls who may be having their kids the soonest. It’s a nice source of calcium, and I want to prevent any issues that might arise before kidding with toxemia. The pre-birth visage of milk fever. Ugh. Ugly!
And so it goes. Battie is the first doe up for kidding, end of February/beginning of March. And so we shall see,
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!