The Pemaquid Peninsula is home to our small sheep and goat farm. Our flock consists of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep as well as LaMancha dairy goats. I am a spinner, felter, knitter and weaver. In our professional lives I am a school librarian and John works as a truck driver.
It is finally the end of the kidding year! Well, really, just the end of the movement of kids from here to wherever they are going to land in their new homes. Yesterday, our last two goatie girls, Dorcas’ doelings, left our farm to join a lovely family in New Hampshire.
Our first kids were born on March 3rd, and these two girls were born last, on April 12th. It was a crazy and eventful kidding year, and even though I knew I had to sell these two, I have not been trying very hard!
Awhile back, Dorcas had gone to live at another farm. The babies were ready for weaning, and Dorcas really needed to be her own herd queen. I hear that she is very happy with her new situation, and yes, she is in control! But when she left, and so many of the other kids were leaving, her two girls became even more joined at the hip (they never go anywhere without the other), and they just seemed to be a little lost. I always feel bad in these situations, but there is not much to do about it, and they did have each other.
I am not sure when it happened, but one day we began to notice that the two girls were always at the feeder near Saffron. Her babies had found their new homes quite awhile ago, and as the days went by we saw her cuddled up with these two in the morning, together in the field, and almost always together at the hay bale. They found a surrogate mama, and I am sure Saffron enjoyed the company as well!
It’s always interesting watching the social interactions in groups of farm animals. There is always something happening that has the ability to surprise.
But now, good bye babies for the year! Twig and Peanut will be our only hold overs. Nice to get our feed calculations on a steady course and begin looking forward to next year’s new little ones!
I am sorry to have been so long without posting. Cardiac rehab is still dominating my schedule, but I feel like I have a little more breathing room now. And the summer weather has continued to shine on us even into October! We are very dry here, but we have hopes of some rain coming in early this week. This evening is a misty one, and it’s looking good for some precipitation.
There is a lot to take care of on the farm at this time of year. I am looking forward to breeding season, which will happen here after I get back from the New York Sheep and Wool show around the third week of October. (I can’t wait!) But, in the meantime we are making sure that the does are on a steady and slowly rising plane of nutrition. Have to get them in shape for their amorous interlude with our stud, Reddog!
It’s a difficult thing for me to balance, this nutrition rise. At this point I have cut back to a once a day milking routine, which means that the milking mamas are getting less grain, so they don’t make as much milk. And since they are still in milk, they need their calories for that as well as for the energy to get into their breeding cycles. Sometimes I dry them off before breeding, but this year it’s been so mild I think I will milk them well into November, or even into December, depending on the weather. We decided to put a second cut round bale in with the breeding girls today, so they have that extra nutrition without the extra grain. I am hoping that this will be a good plan.
And so it goes. I will get their Selenium shots to them before I leave for Rhinebeck (as well as their annual Rabies vaccines), and then we shall see what happens. We have chosen 5 girls to breed this year. Another full house can be expected in the spring!
The time has come. Our little girl is almost 6 months old, and she finally, finally, had her last bottle a day or two ago! Yay for our Peanut!
I know it seems like a long time, and under normal circumstances we would not have let a kid bottle feed for this long, but it just seemed to be doing her a lot of good. She didn’t take to grain very easily or quickly, and I think she needed it. Our Twig the Tank is still nursing on her poor mother Eleganza, and you can definitely tell :*)
In the morning we are still giving Peanut a grain share, but she eats it outside the paddock. No one else gets morning grain, but since Peanut is really a person and not a goat, she has to come out and help us with the chores anyhow (i.e., standing/jumping on the pile of hay that we carry in a canvas sling – this hurts -, racing back and forth from the driveway to the back of the paddocks, flying onto and off of the milking stand, and so on), so it just makes sense that she can have her feed in peace. But now instead of having a milk chaser after her grain, she must make do with water. She is still complaining, but not very hard… I think she was ready.
Peanut and Twig were not very impressed last week when it was hoof trimming day! Our friend Emily, a shearer, comes every few months to help out with the feet, which is very hard on the back for me these days. We didn’t put the littles on the milk stand like the mamas (their heads would just come back through the stanchion), so Emily had to sit them down on their butts. Goats have extremely pointy, bony behinds, unlike most sheep, so Peanut kept sliding over, where she just stayed in the end. Twig twisted around and landed on her back and just gave up, although I got the big stink eye from her.
And so it goes. The weather is gorgeous, cool nights and warmer days. The bucks are in bucky heaven, pissing copiously all over their faces, beards and legs. They are very impressed with themselves and are ready for action. (Too bad there won’t be any girly time until almost November! Poor things.) I am looking forward to a beautiful autumn season, and am trying to enjoy every moment of the crickets and the grasshoppers and the singing of the tree frogs while I can. I think I miss that most when the windows get closed and the frosts come. But we still have awhile yet. It’s all good.
This past week has been crazy as usual. Lots of goings and comings, but in between all of those, we kept noticing that our little buddy Hagrid (Pippi’s baby of this year), was always on the wrong side of the paddock enclosure where he is housed with Reddog. He and the big guy get along famously, they never fight, they eat in peace together and things have been going extremely well. So we have been scratching our heads and wondering where he could have been escaping from. We walked the fence lines multiple times, beefed up a few joins here and there, but we could see no way that he was getting out. (Luckily, when he gets onto the other side of the fence, that is a large fenced area at this time, because that is where we are letting our moms graze a few hours each day after milking. Needless to say, we have not been able to let our moms in there for the past week, because I definitely don’t want anyone bred this early!).
Sam has been out there diligently watching and waiting, but the minute we turn our backs, out the little guy is again, and we did not catch it. Sam puts him back in, we walk away, and 10 minutes later we see him on the wrong side. One night he must have gotten out there just at twilight, because after it got dark, Sam heard him wailing piteously from his hidey-hole under the tractor. So out he went to rescue the little guy.
We had come to the conclusion that he was scrambling over the cattle panel and dropping to the other side, although none of the panels over there are droopy or springy in any way. Finally, on Wednesday afternoon we were out at the usual chore time, and Hagrid was doing his Houdini impersonation for us, but this time Sam caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye, just in a flash. There Hagrid was, with his head and one leg and shoulder through the fence! What we did not realize is that there was a square of galvanized fence missing, it must have come away at some point, right behind where we always had a hay bag hanging. In all of our fence line searches, we never looked squarely at the fence itself, only at where each panel joined up to the next one. Who knew! He is still small enough to shimmy himself through, but he never could get back! There must be a sharp edge there on the opposite side. And so the mystery was solved.
But in the meantime, as I was standing there trying to figure out how he was getting over the fence, while he grazed very unconcernedly at my feet, I realized that along the fence right at that spot, was a whole viney patch of Nightshade! OMG! We usually have giant pumpkins growing in that swath of ground, but this year we do not. I wonder if it had been getting bold, growing under those enormous elephant ear pumpkin leaves, and taken hold. I could not believe it. If Hagrid had not been escaping, I don’t think I would have noticed the Nightshade until it was to epic proportions, or until one of our does got sick from it. Hagrid wasn’t munching on any of it, nor do I think he had, but it almost gave me another heart attack! Ah!
I wonder if Hagrid knew it was not a plant he wanted any part of, but whether or not it’s the case, I am extremely relieved that our attention was drawn to that area and the nasty plant has been removed. I am going to go over that whole paddock again before we let any of the girls back in there, and maybe after this lovely rain, it will be easier to pull out if I do find more. I hate that stuff! But in the end, what a relief. And so it goes :*) Hagrid definitely deserves some treats!
It’s so easy to say: the summer is just slipping and sliding by. But it is! Our crew is getting steadily smaller as the babies go off to their new homes, which is both happy and sad for us. It’s a lot quieter here, although the wild bird song in the early morning is a joyous racket these days. And as the peepers have slackened off their singing at night, I have been noticing that the grasshoppers and crickets are beginning to chime in to what I always think of as the end of summer music. For living out in the woods, we have plenty of nature’s sounds to enjoy!
Things are ticking along pretty well, with the usual monkey wrench thrown in here and there. Our pretty little girl Twig had been fighting an eye infection last week, and I thought it was gone, only to have it pop back up again a few days ago. I do think that Twig has taken the loss of her sister and her two good friends, Saffron’s girls, pretty hard, so it doesn’t totally surprise me that she is a little compromised, but she does still have her mama, so I am not going to actively wean her. I am getting about 1.5 quarts from Eleganza, her mother, at each milking, so I am not complaining about sharing!
As for the milk and the cheese making, it is going great guns here. Going so hard, I had to freeze some milk late last week so I could take a breather for a day or so! If my cardiac rehab schedule was not three days a week in Brunswick (which is a ride in the summer traffic), I could alternate days for making more than just chevre. I did carve out some time to make some Halloumi a week or two back, and it was awesomely good. We don’t seem to be able to get it around here, so it’s a fun cheese to make from time to time. And I keep wanting to get going on aging some cheese, but have not quite gotten it together to do so. I have some plans for that, however, hopefully soon!
Our summer weather has been amazing so far. Not too many hot and humid days, and lovely cool nights. Not great for the tomato and eggplant growth, but good for sleeping and enjoying the air. And so it goes. I hope everyone is finding something to enjoy this summer!
Things have kind of gotten away from me. I have been so busy I don’t know if I am coming or going some days. I do Monday/Wednesday/Friday cardiac rehab appointments in Brunswick, which is about 25 miles from here, and I need to factor in the summer traffic on Route 1, which makes for a day that is quite foreshortened. It’s craziness, but necessary. And so by the time I get home around 12:30, things get on a roll, and some days I don’t even get dinner organized until close to 8 PM. Not the best laid plans, for sure.
But the farm has moved gently into the summer and things are going well on the whole. Peanut came down with a case of coccidiosis, but the treatment took care of it and she is cruising along nicely. We had to cut her milk consumption back quite a bit while she had it, and we have not returned the amounts to the previous, even though she has done some pretty loud complaining about that. She is 13 weeks old, and it’s time to look at some weaning, so she is down to two 8 ounce bottles per day now. Much easier, and as a result she is eating a little more grain which is important for her. She is a just over 30 pounds, and loves to come out of the paddocks and race around with us while we are doing stuff. She is good entertainment value and a real sweetheart!
And today Saffron’s girls were picked up by their new owners and are on the road to their new home in Massachusetts. They will be in good company with Nubian goats and some Icelandic sheep. One of the girls was a little anxious, but I got a text from their new owner saying that they ware asleep in the back of the car and doing well.
And so it goes. We now only have 3 little doelings for sale. It’s going to be quiet around here pretty soon! Twig got used to being sister-less pretty well, and none of the moms seem to mind having their babies weaned from them. We are chugging along with the milking and the cheesemaking. A few of the moms still have babies on them and I am getting more milk than I actually have room for in the refrigerator! A nice problem to have, really. I won’t complain, my milking and cheesemaking year is a short one. :*)
I don’t know what has been going on for the last few days, but the milking moms have just been very, very naughty! I have a whole routine, of which they are very aware, for milking times. Every one has her turn in a specific order, and when they get off the milk stand, they are allowed to wander around the outer greenhouse areas and eat all the weedy stuff, until all the girls are finished. Then they go back into the paddock areas, where the other girls and babies have finished their grain.
Maybe it’s the weather, but in the past few days we have been forced to escort each doe back into the paddock and lock them into the middle section while the non-milkers get their meal. Pippi started it, I think! (Poor Pippi, she is getting all the blame). As the next doe was getting on the milk stand and I began milking, the does that had finished and should have been grazing, were coming back around and eating out of the milking mama’s bowl! Heresy! Which ended up with every one fighting to get their heads into the pan and hoover up as much grain as they could. Sigh.
And so it goes. As of this morning, things seem to have calmed down. Even though it was raining, the does grazed and let each successive mom have her breakfast. Maybe it was sunspots, or the phase of the moon. I am just glad not to have to jump up from the milkstand every 5 minutes and usher a naughty girl out of the area, dirtying my hands and messing up the usually Zen activity of milking!
Yes, this week we finally have had two consecutive days of sun. It must be a plot to make us think that spring and/or summer might just be here! We are supposed to have rain tomorrow, but they say the weekend will be gorgeous again. That’s more like it!
Well, we have been busy here on the farm. We moved Jingle the donkey back in with Reddog the buck, so Fergus the wether could babysit the two bucklings, Hagrid and Mayo. They really needed to be off their mamas… Hagrid is very mature for his age and he was seriously practicing his humping skills on anyone who stood still. At 8 or 9 weeks old, he shouldn’t be able to breed any of the girls, but you just never know! This is a much safer solution.
As a result, Hagrid’s mama, Pippi, is all mine to milk. That’s a celebration all by itself right there! It’s so wonderful to get a decent amount of milk to get going with cheese again. I started my 3rd chevre batch of the year yesterday, and so far things are going very well. It’s always so satisfying to get those little cheeses wrapped up and ready to go.
On the Peanut front, she is now 9 weeks old and she is beginning to slow down on her bottle feeding amounts. I am hoping that in another week or so we can bump her back from 3 to 2 per day. That middle of the day feeding can be a pain if we all are out and about during the day.
Five of our 8 babies that were for sale are spoken for, and so we really just have to find homes for Dorcas’ two doelings and Edna’s little girl. Not too bad!
The trees are finally really greening up here on the mid-Maine coast. I had an appointment the other day down past South Portland and I couldn’t believe how much farther along the leaves were there. But we are finally catching up, although I miss the different hues of the greens after the leaves are full sized and looking toward summer. But for now it’s just nice to glance out the windows and see an ocean of verdant colors.
As far as everything else goes it is pretty much status quo. I have not been as hands on in every day farm chores in the last two weeks as I am recuperating from an unexpected health challenge, which is what I need to do right now. Thank goodness for Sam! I am milking the 3 does in the morning, the ones that are keeping our Peanut afloat with her bottles (down to three a day now, phew!), and doing a few things around the house, but he is carrying on with all the rest, thank goodness.
One of my biggest joys at this time of year is not just watching the goat kids grow like gangbusters and seeing the leaves bust out, but also simply to stand on the back porch in the evening and listen to the peeping tree frogs that fill our woods. They are my beloved invisible chorus of the night, one of the greatest pleasures of spring. (Although it doesn’t feel much like spring right now, still, yet, again in the 50s and rainy!).
And so it goes. The holiday weekend is upon us and we hope to see the sun tomorrow!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!