September just flew past

Late September skies
Late September skies

I really am having trouble believing it’s the 29th already.  In a blink, it’s just about over.  The autumn is upon us, and the nights are great for snuggling under the sheets and sleeping well.

The drought continues, however, and most of the trees are turning brown with curled up dry leaves.  I don’t think that there will be much bright color.  It’s a shame that so many others have been overwhelmed with rain this summer, but we can almost count on one hand how many raindrops we have had.

Greenhouse bones
Greenhouse bones

Things have settled down since SnowPea went to freezer camp.  I still have 3 girls for sale, but the dynamics of the group are a little bit less frantic.  We are working on putting up a greenhouse that we took down a few months ago, to give us some shelter, a little storage, and dedicated kidding pens away from the others when the time comes.  (I want to have a “nursery” type set up which is less crazy after the kids are born.  The singletons tend to pick on the new little ones, and I would like them in a slightly smaller, more controlled area).  I also want an internal catch pen, one that is not outside the main fencing.  We have got the bones of it in place, mostly, and now need to tackle some ends for that greenhouse (I would like to have a wooden end on the driveway side, if possible!).

Time for baking bread
Time for baking bread

And so autumn has arrived.  My most favorite time of year.  The days are definitely shorter, and knitting and fiber work have a much greater allure. Just wish we could get a little rain!

Ready, set

Feeding time at the black trough
Feeding time at the black trough – one leaving, one arriving

Eat!  For the goats, it’s their most favorite part of the day and they know all the cues that lead up to the magic moment when they get their grain.  Hay is pretty exciting, too, but not the same as the jingle of the sweet feed in the buckets!

Same trough, one less participant
Same trough, one less participant

There is a lot of jockeying for position at one of the 4 trough feeders.  It’s quite entertaining to watch then run from one to the other, many times leaving a whole trough alone, full, with no one on that chow line.  They tend to go to a feeder from the right and kind of move left, so some drop off that line, and run to another.

Same trough, lost one and gained another
Same trough, gained another participant

Sometimes we referee, if one goat is getting pushed out of each feeder in turn.  Goat society is pretty ruthless, so most days we make sure to watch pretty closely.  There is usually one goat that is at the bottom of the pecking order and needs a little protection.  We see much the same behaviors in middle schoolers!  Too bad the goats don’t ever grow out of it.

Ah those goaties!  The numbers are going to be going down a bit now, and one goat is going to freezer camp in the next day or two.  Sigh.  SnowPea is getting old, and if I feel I cannot breed her any more, which is the case, then she may as well feed us while she still has good body condition.

And so it goes.

A good sign?

Reddog the Guernsey buck
Reddog the Guernsey buck

We are into the second half of September and the cooler nights are definitely working their magic on the goats.  Particularly the bucks!

After the saga and struggle of last year’s breeding attempts, I am hoping that the going will be a little easier this year.  I believe that our Guernsey buck, Reddog, was too young and a wee bit undernourished when we bought him, and being a smaller guy, the girls picked on him mercilessly.  He did breed one of my Lamancha girls.  However, we witnessed him breeding two others, and they did not conceive.  There is no one around here that does testing on the viability of sperm in farm animals, which would really be the right way to make decisions about the bucks.

Oreo the  buck
Oreo the buck

But, I am going to have to go with the try-it-and-see-how-it-works method.  If Reddog goes in with the girls in mid to late October and they come back into heat, I will have to use my backup buck, Lamancha Oreo.  (But his mother is in the breeding group, so that won’t work for her).

Most of us complain year after year about the musky buck smell, but every morning that I step out the back door and get that odeur, I smile and cross my fingers that it is a good sign of fertility and the hormones doing their stuff!  We shall see.

And the Down Side

img_1659Getting our two groups of girls together seamlessly was very nice, but we now have another problem:  not enough milk!

Betsy, making trouble again!
Betsy, making trouble again!

Betsy, who is now 6 months old, had been separated from her mother for over two months.  I have had varied luck through the years with weaning;  sometimes I can separate kids and does for 6-8 weeks and when they get back together, everything is fine and I can continue milking the moms.  It does not always go so well, however!  And this is one of those times.  After all the does were reunited, 4 days went by and I continued milking Battie with the same amount of product that we had before.  But that little bugger Betsy soon caught on that she could get the goods before I milked them away, and Battie finally gave in. (Betsy didn’t let up on her and Battie knew when she was beaten…)

Sigh!  My cheese production is suffering…  with only the two does milking, getting that cut down by a lot is not boding well!  I will do what I can with the milk from Pippi, and make smaller batches of chevre.  Maybe it’s time for me to try some small samplings of different cheeses.  Hope I have time, I am busier now in retirement than I was when I was working :*)

Best laid plans and all that

Mingling
Mingling

Yes, with livestock it generally does not work as smoothly as we think it will.  I have had two groups of does and one group of adult bucks since last fall when the Golden Guernsey girls joined us, but the overarching goal has always been to have one group of does, and one group of bucks, with an alternate pen for emergencies or newbies.

Things don’t always work out that way, and we kept things fairly static, but moved Pickles and Pippi into the Guernsey pen in order to wean their kids.  And that pen is definitely closer to the milk stand, so it works quite well for milking times.  But even though Pickles was no longer being drained by her kid Fergus, she has not been settled in the new pen, and she has not gained any weight in the mean time.  Not a successful move, even though it did wean little Fergus!

Guernsey girl Betsy and Beezus the Lamancha are happily noshing in the alternate pen
Guernsey girl Betsy and Beezus the Lamancha are happily noshing in the alternate pen

And then last week we were working in between the two pens of girls, and tidied up and went in for the night.  When I came out in the morning to milk, it was all over without any evident fighting!

I probably had not latched the gate between the two pens well enough, and with a little pushing, they opened it and had a great time getting to know each other over night.  Upon inspection, it was obvious that no blood had been shed, and all the girls were happily mingling.

And so, the best laid plans are out the window, but thank goodness it all worked out well.  Sometimes we get lucky!