The problem with bucks is that you can only use them for so long. That’s why most of us are always on the lookout for new genetics, and it seems as though we have found some!
Ephraim is the new boy on the farm. He is a big, beautiful Guernsey, with polled genes (born with no horns). He is quite a laid back fellow, although at this time of year it’s difficult for any buck to be mellow with all the possible love that’s in the air!
We went Wednesday to pick him up in Vermont. It was an uneventful travel day, but very long. 4.5 hours there, almost the same home. And on the way home we had a frightened and very stinky boy in the back of the Subaru… we took him away from a doe in heat on his home farm, threw him in the car and went! I can’t fault him his nervousness, and he does appear to be fine now. He has lots of ladies to cluck over and sniff at through the fence. They are making him a little nuts, honestly. He is sharing a paddock with Jingle the donkey, who is being very circumspect with this new guy. She is keeping her distance, for sure :*) (Not that he can do anything to her except spit a little and maybe get in her way at the hay feeders). Smart donkey anyhow. We like the ‘live and let live’ approach around here.
And so we will have him on the home farm for the action next year. I took Reddog out from the girls’ pen on Tuesday, so he is back with Hagrid and Fergus. Hopefully we have the roommates sorted out for the winter now. And new genes for the future!
Well, it looks like we have gotten through the storm of Halloween 2017 in one piece. We were in a little pocket of houses that did not initially lose power last week. They did shut us down for awhile while they were making repairs, but we got by without the problems most folks in Maine and NH were faced with. I am extremely grateful, as we are in an area that is almost always hard hit.
And so the breeding has proceeded apace, storm or no! Four of the girls have been bred by Mr. Stinky Reddog, but Edna has not shown any signs of being in heat yet. I have my fingers crossed that she will come into heat soon, as I would like to get everyone situated for their winter quarters asap. Unless I missed her heat and she and Reddog did their thing while I wasn’t looking (very possible), it would seem like she may be the last one to kid again! What’s up Edna??? I guess we will know in the spring :*)
The only other news is that we have officially decided to sell Reddog the buck. The friend of mine who owns him with me has not room for him and is concentrating more on her Angora goats now, and I have found a replacement buck with very nice genetics (and no horns!). I don’t have a big enough operation to keep numerous bucks around. If anyone is interested, I have a page for Reddog’s particulars.
When I pulled down the driveway Monday evening on my return from NY Sheep and Wool, I was greeted with the sound of Pippi absolutely bellowing her head off. My son said that she had been at it all day, and had not really eaten while on the milk stand that morning, just kept trying to go over as close to the boys’ pen as she could get, and mooning about, bellowing. As I don’t want kids too early in the season, I had been waiting until after the Rhinebeck trip to put the breeding group together. And so I took the opportunity to get Pippi bred on Tuesday when we moved Twig, Peanut and Betsy to a separate paddock, and moved Reddog in with the 5 moms-to-be. Jingle the donkey misbehaved badly with the non-breeding group, so we put her in with Hagrid and Fergus the wether. (Donkeys hate change of any kind, and I think those young girls freaked her out. She sees them through the fence every day, but she didn’t care for their company at all. Ah well, it’s a donkey thing).
And so Pippi was a happy camper all day Tuesday. As it happens, by Wednesday morning it was clear that Saffron was having a good time with Reddog as well! Now when I sit down at the milk stand in the morning I can have a full dose of buck stink up close and personal. (Bucks who are courting a doe rub their heads anywhere they can on their intended – and that head has been drenched with all kinds of stinky hormone-filled pee. Delightful to a doe, not so nice for humans!).
And so my new spreadsheet has been inaugurated. First babies due on Friday, March 23, 2018!
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!
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).
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.
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 :*)
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.
Even though we are having a pretty grey run of weather with never ending mud, the days are just flying by. I have been getting a backlog of spinning projects going, and over the weekend my grandson and I went up to Maple Lane Pottery to visit during the Maine Pottery tour. We had a lot of fun, and got to make some pinch pots in Robbi’s studio.
On the farm front, Peanut continues to grow like a weed, and she is now spending all day every day outside with her friends. She has really matured quite a bit in the last week, and can hold her own even with most of the mamas. When she came in last night for her last bottle and bed, she ran right over to the little container that I have had out for her and gobbled up all the sweet grain that was in it.
Peanut has nighttime “quarters” in the upstairs bathroom, where she can move around and she has her sleeping tub, but we also have a large dog crate in the living room (I know, the things you find in farmers’ homes) for her. She has her hay and grain in there, along with some salt and mineral mix. She is doing very well with the hay, for sure.
And so I think that when this run of nasty, drippy, damply cool weather is over, the middle of next week may be our target for getting Peanut outside for the overnights as well. She is still taking four 12 oz bottles a day, so we shall see if she cuts back on that to three or not. That makes it just a little bit easier on us! Every evening when she joins us back in the house she looks bigger to me, and doesn’t look for much cuddling any more. Wah, wah! Our little Peanut is growing up :*)
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!