Breeding season 2016

Reddog the Studly boy
Reddog the Studly boy

I have spent the better part of this past year quietly worrying about whether or not Reddog the Guernsey buck could really do his job this year for us (you know the kind of worry:  you wake up in the middle of the night and it’s just kind of on the edge of your consciousness).  Last year after our friend Jane and I bought him, he went home to her place and she had plenty of does in heat, but he did not give them a second glance.  Jane had gone to work and fed him up quite a bit (I don’t think he was getting any grain on his home farm) and I continued that.  Even though we witnessed him actually breeding 3 does last December, only one of those breedings took.  Our little Fergus is his boy.  (The other two does are girls who have never failed to be bred).

Beezus the Beautiful, just had her courtship with Reddog
Beezus the Beautiful, just had her courtship with Reddog

And so we know we either have a very enthusiastic buck who can only produce enough viable semen to impregnate one doe, or we have a buck who has grown well, will not be pushed around by the adult does, and is healthy enough to have viable sperm and get the job done with our 4 does.  Truly, we really are not asking very much of him, compared to what some farms do!

I argued with myself all summer about this breeding.  I have another buck, but he is directly related to both Pippi (his mother), and Beezus, his half sister.  Do I depend on Reddog to get the job done, with a buck in the wings that can probably do it, but only on two of the does, the Guernsey girls?  And then how to get my best remaining Lamancha milker bred?  Take her down to our friend’s Saanen farm again?

Since I am definitely committed to breeding Golden Guernsey goats, I really need to begin looking for another Guernsey buck.  That much is perfectly clear!

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October fiber fun

It’s been quite a month for fiber activities.  It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual.  Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!

I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years.  Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!).  And so I have begun to prioritize them.  (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)

Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these - I need the bobbins for my next project!
Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these – I need the bobbins for my next project!

First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm.  Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.

Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder
Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder

Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago.  As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away.  It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it.  (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out.  My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years.  So that put me back a little on the project).

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year.  Yum!  I can hardly wait.  That is definitely #3 in line.

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

And number 4:  the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck.  Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project.  Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!

A Tasty mess

Grating beets is a total mess!
Grating beets is a total mess!

I have been hoarding a bag of really beautiful beets from a friend’s garden.  My plan right along has been to make a nice pot of winter borscht.  I have not made summer or winter borscht in a few years.

When I make borscht in the summer it is a very simple recipe:  mostly just beets, some veggie stock or chicken stock, some onions and it’s pretty much done.  Eat it cold with sour cream or yogurt, and it’s just perfect.

After the chopped cabbage goes in
After the chopped cabbage goes in

My winter recipe, however, is something that I rarely make because it is quite the time consuming affair – have to start it early in the day.  And so I just have to mention it again!  Retirement has offered me the opportunity to make a recipe like this on a weekday.  What fun :*)

There are hundreds of variations on borscht, and no one agrees on much when it comes to a definitive recipe.  My mother always used beef stock in her winter borscht, but no actual meat in the soup, and she never added chopped cabbage.  I have used meat in it for the last 30 years because my husband can’t stand to eat a meal without meat tucked in somewhere.  (If you want to make it a kosher meal, obviously you would not add sour cream to it at the end).  I have begun shredding the beets instead of dicing them up more recently…  I saw it in someone’s recipe, perhaps one from Joan Nathan, as I like her stuff.

Looking pretty good!
Looking pretty good!

Anyhow, I started the whole process about 7:30 this morning, and it’s still simmering away.  The cleanup continues, although there is no help for my beety red hands!  Even though I am looking forward to this for dinner tonight, it’s definitely better the next day.  My one poor bit of planning is that I didn’t set up bread yesterday for baking up today.  Poor us!  Maybe biscuits will have to do for tonight.  Such problems!

Another great 4-day weekend!

New Tappan Zee bridge work going up alongside the old structure
New Tappan Zee bridge work going up alongside the old structure

It’s a good thing I retired last June.  If not, it would have been very difficult for me to get to Rhinebeck last weekend, and turn around on this past Friday morning and drive back down to north Jersey for our nephew’s wedding!

Our nephew and our younger son are in the same age bracket and were very close when they were little, until he and his mom moved a little farther away.  But his mom, who is divorced from my husband’s brother, has stayed very tight with the Ruit family, as well as with us.  We love Stevie and adore his bride, and even though we knew it was going to be an expensive weekend, we had to go.  Our son and his fiancee could not afford the trip, so we grabbed our grandson and took him along.  These events are so important to a family, and at the age of 7, I knew it would make an impression on him.

My husband did all of the driving down there, and it was brutal with the rain and the traffic.  But we had a chance to spend some time with my 92 year old father in law a few times over the weekend, so that was definitely a bonus.  The wedding was amazing, at the Skylands Manor in the state park and botanical gardens in Ringwood, New Jersey.  We had an enormously wonderful time.

The beautiful bride and groom looking down into one of the large downstairs rooms (hors d'oeuvres time)
The beautiful bride and groom looking down into one of the large downstairs rooms (hors d’oeuvres time)

Our grandson, however, was not initially impressed!  It was boring, it was this, and it was that.  But once the dancing started, we got him out on the dance floor and he never looked back!  He danced with all the bridesmaids, and the bride and the groom.  We had to drag him off the dance floor at the end of the night, because he was still showing everyone his “moves.”   No, he is not shy!

And so another chapter in our extended family is in the books.  It was a lovely weekend, and we even had a chance to visit with another old friend as well.  The trip home today was a little smoother than the trip down, so it’s all good.

And now back to dentist appointments and catching up with what has been going on with the goatie breeding group.  And getting ready for the cold weather.

Post-Rhinebeck week

Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house
Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house

I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show!  Retirement has its benefits, for sure.

Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year.  The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time.  The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well!  (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there).  We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show.  Sometimes this is the only visit we get.

View from the porch
View from the porch

This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual.  Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well.  You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice.  With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too.  Sunday was almost too hot!

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew).  But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep.  This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.

Foster Family Farm yarn
Foster Family Farm yarn

There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding.  I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep.  And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl.  This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands.  Lovely, very clean fleece.  This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat.  And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!).  So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

I also found more little treasures at the show:  some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn.  I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest.  The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’

And so it goes.  Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark.  I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl.  It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!

 

Oh boy!

Reddog surveys his domain
Reddog surveys his domain, that handsome guy

The heavens have aligned and yesterday was the day that we separated the group of girl goats into two (intended breeders and those who will not be bred).  And it also worked out that we were able to grab Reddog the buck and put him in with the intended four does.  We planned for every eventuality, going into battle calmly and carefully (if you have ever handled a buck in rut, you will know what I mean!).

Oh my!  I try to get the buck in with the does when none of the girls is in heat so they get used to each other for awhile before the buck gets to do his thing.  (Bucks are very aggressive with the does, and sometimes I think the girls get scared and will do their best not to have anything to do with the big stinkpot, even when it’t time).  This time it worked as planned, none of the girls is in heat at this point.

Reddog and Saffron have a truce
Reddog and Saffron have a truce

When we put his stinky butt in with the 4 girls, he went absolutely nuts!  The first doe in his sights was Beezus, the extremely shy brown doe.  He chased her around the paddock with his nose up her tail, until he realized that she is not in heat.  And he did that for each of the girls in turn.  It was very funny for us, although probably not for the does.  In time, the action ratcheted down, and you could see all the girls relaxing.  So we left them to their own devices for the night.

The girls cluster around some of the feeders. Not anywhere near the big boy!
The girls cluster around some of the feeders. Not anywhere near the big boy!

Today things continued to be fairly low-key, but every once in awhile you can see Reddog catch a whiff of something interesting, and off he goes to investigate.  A lot of that involved trying to get a sniff of the girls in the next paddock…  it’s always greener!

And so we wait to see how things go.  Reddog was only able to breed one doe last year, and I am desperately hoping that he has grown up and can meet the challenge!

 

Smell like a buck

Autumn color at last
Autumn color at last

Not the nicest of smells, that is for sure!  We are getting ready for the breeding season, and one way to tell that it is time is that the bucks smell so bucky.  Yow!  The older the buck, the stronger and more eye-watering the stench.  You know it is autumn, when.

I have been getting nervous about whether or not Reddog the Guernsey will be able to do his thing with more than one doe.  We have been watching the buck behavior, and the Lamancha buck (who loses every battle with Reddog) has been hogging the corner of the paddock that meets the corner of the girls’ pen.  He is always over there, stretching to see the ladies.  I was worried that Reddog was not showing the appropriate interest, and that had me in a bit of a panic.  Anything that goes wrong at this stage can mess up your whole following year!

Emily helps us out with the hoof trimming
Emily helps us out with the hoof trimming

Well, Reddog has proven us wrong.  He is doing all the appropriate things, but whereas Oreo just stands in that corner as a matter of course, Reddog kicks him out if one of the girls is in heat.  So, I am as sure of anything as I can be.  And when our friend Emily came to help me with the hoof trimming, she started to laugh because she told me his feet were absolutely saturated and dripping wet.  Not because we have had rain, and even the dew would not be that bad.  He is holding up the honor of all buck-dom, and peeing all over his legs.  That’s about the best thing I have heard all year!

It's definitely autumn when the giant pumpkins arrive
It’s definitely autumn when the giant pumpkins arrive

And so it goes.  I am not in a total panic about the breeding, but I am going to pop Reddog in with the breeders a little earlier than I had wanted, just to make sure that we have time to see what is going on.  And if he is shooting blanks, we will have a chance to put the other buck in without losing too much ground.  I really don’t want babies in March, April is really my target date.  If Reddog does breed someone next Wednesday, our babies would be due around March 11.  Earlier than I want, but the does cycle in approximately 18 day turns, which can put us back almost a month, which then leads to later and later kids.  (One year we had a doe in heat on New Year’s Day.  That is a breeding nightmare, and not much fun!).

This year I am not even minding the big buck smell, because I am hoping that it means the hormones are working correctly.  But you just never know with animals…  The best laid plans and all that.

36 hours

And so October is in and we finally got a little rain.  I don’t even think it amounted to 0.5,” but at least it was something… we even have a few puddles in the driveway!  That’s quite a novelty for us this summer.

Pippi is not happy with me
Pippi is not happy with me

Since I need to be finished with milking before I go away toward the end of this month, to that end I have been spacing out the milking schedule a little more and more.  I know some folks go from twice a day, or every 12 hours, to an 18 hour divide (which means the middle of the night), but I back it off to once a day as I am lowering the feed ration a bit.  The first few days are tough, lots of milk in that udder and almost tough to get it emptied before the girls rebel and want off the stand.

Next to last milk bucket for human use this year
Next to last milk bucket for human use this year

And so I am working on this right now.  I don’t want to stop milking, I love the milk that we get in the autumn, the curds are larger and we get more cheese for our efforts out of each 3 gallon batch I make.  But this year family obligations and another weekend (a fun weekend), have conspired against me!  Two 4-day weekends in a row that I will be out of town.  Neither my husband or my son milk.  Even if one of them started, the girls wouldn’t be trusting them all that quickly.  The milk and cheese thing really is my specialty, so I plan accordingly.

I have been milking just once a day for the past 5 days, and I did my first 36 hour separation today.  I won’t milk again until Tuesday morning.  On Wednesday the girls are going to be wormed in preparation  for breeding, and that will effectively mean the end of the milk usage, even though I will continue milking farther and farther apart.  We have a 7 to 9 day withdrawal on the wormers that we typically use, so by the time that is up, so will the milk!

Something new to chew on
Something new to chew on

Another year’s cycle is coming around, and as much as I love Joni Mitchell’s rendition of The Circle Game, I am kind of sad to see this part of the year go into dry dock.  But, then we have the excitement of the Breeding Game to attend to!  Farming is all about the yearly cycles, and each one is exciting in its own way.  And this year I get to experience it all without the stress of the day job.  Yay for retirement :*)