All posts by RuitFarmNorth

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.

Houdini Hagrid saves the day

Hagrid is still a sweetie! (And he is finally growing a beard!!!)

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!).

Hagrid on the other side of the fence, again!

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.

Fence mend

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.

Wheel barrow full of Nightshade. Yuck!

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!

August already!

Peanut, helping herself to the chair

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!

Poor Twig

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!

Lots and lots of beautiful milk

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!

 

Best laid plans and July catch-up

Peanut browsing while Battie finishes her meal on the milkstand

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.

Seriously cool climbing opportunities

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!

Saffron’s girls ready to get into the car :*(

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.

Peanut is snacking on the dinner buckets!

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.  :*)

So naughty

Naughty mamas

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.

Everyone is finished now

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.

Our Peanut. Still diminutive, but growing!

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!

Finally, two days of sun!

Saffron with her babies, moping about the grey and wet weather

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!

Batch #2
Hagrid in the foreground, Mayo is by the old feeder

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.

Peanut has gone from lounging in the recliner to napping next to the rock pile

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!

Greening

Woods behind the house, view from the upstairs

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.

Peanut removing herself from a hay feeder

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.

Peanut waiting for her bottle

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!

 

Slowly

Peanut lounging in one end of the old greenhouse this morning

But surely spring is showing itself to us.  The end of this past week was very warm, unnaturally so, but this weekend has been mostly sunny and breezy, with more normal temperatures in the 60s (F).

Battie’s beautiful girl watches from the back of the greenhouse

As the leaves are finally popping out, we have been moving toward making the new greenhouse more amenable in the warmer weather.  We already removed all the sectioning panels that we had up during the kidding months, and Sam cleaned out all the old straw, hay and debris.  The last of the ice that was lingering under all those layers of straw is finally gone!  It’s a big, wide open space now so the girls can find a spot with their babies without getting nudged by someone else.

Open greenhouse gable end, difficult to see properly

The only thing left to do, however, was to figure out when it would be advisable to take the plywood off the driveway gable end of the greenhouse.  That end was totally closed off, which is the north side, so it was a huge help during the winter.  But now it is becoming important to get some air moving through there, so Sam took it down on Friday.  It has made a big difference, and I am glad, it was time!  I am not a fan of really hot, humid weather, but when it does come, at least we will have about as much air circulation as possible.  The goats seem to appreciate it, and our Peanut has another vantage point from which to watch for our approach!  She is using it well :*)

Baby pile in the morning sun

I was able to sneak up on her this morning and get a photo after she had her bottle and was lounging next to another baby pile.  They were all happy and dozing in the sun.

Peanut’s new adventure

Peanut having breakfast (she is on the left)

The weather has finally cooperated and we finally made the move to having Peanut stay out with the other goats all night.  She is effectively a “real” goat now!

She remains the smallest of all the babies out there, even though she is 7 weeks old today, but she is doing very well with the others. She has not had any crying jags out there at all, either, except when it’s very close to bottle time.  We have not gotten her onto 3 bottles per day instead of 4, but we moved the last feeding of the day to 8 PM, instead of 9 (once it’s pretty dark outside the goats tend to be bedded down, and if we go up there, everyone gets all riled up).  It doesn’t seem to bother her!

One thing I can truthfully say, it’s quite a relief to have her out of the house… even though she was only inside for a little bit of the evening and about a half hour in the morning, she has grown so much and is so strong now that she can just about jump onto any table or pile of newspapers without giving it a thought.  Talk about chaos!  It was exhausting supervising her.  I have only tackled a little bit of the cleanup in the house that it’s going to take, but there is no rush.

And so our little House Goat is growing up, but her cuteness remains intact.  I don’t think that will ever change!

(It’s difficult to get photos of her because every time I go into the pen she runs up to climb on me.  The photo above is about the only one I have been able to successfully take in the last few days).

No sun yet

Bobbin full of single ply Romney/silk yarn

It feels like it’s been forever since we saw the sun.  For a moment or two this morning the sky brightened, but in the end it just led to more clouds.  The temperature feels like it is inching up, though, which is definitely a plus!

2-ply skeins of the Romney/silk

On these gloomy days I have been catching up on herd paperwork, and doing some plying.  I have spun up quite a bit of my backlog, but I hate to ply, so I frequently put that off until I can’t find another empty bobbin to put on the wheel.  I know, silly!

While spinning, I have been listening to Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence audiobooks, and am on the 2nd one, The Dark is Rising.  I read this and the prequel, Over Sea, Under Stone, many years ago, but am enjoying it again.  I had never read farther into the series, though, so I am looking forward to the others as well.  Susan Cooper is a wonderful author who has written more than just this series, one of my favorites being The Boggart.  I am not a serious fan of heavy duty fantasy, but the battle between The Dark and The Light in many of her books is a timeless theme, and she does it very well, with believable, complex characters.  It also helps that these books take place in some pretty dramatic places, like Cornwall!

Peanut with her morning bottle

Peanut is continuing to do well, staying outside all day with the others, and coming in about dark.  She hasn’t made the transition to a three bottle a day schedule yet, but I think she is close.  She knows where to go when she wants a nap, and plays hard with the others when she wants.  I don’t fear for her safety with the others, but we will wait until after the Mother’s Day rain deluge to leave her out at night.

Oh my, I can see a slice of blue sky in the distance!  Shocking!