Category Archives: Milking

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!

Keeping busy

First walk through the herd for the new babies
First walk through the herd for the new babies

Not difficult on a farm in the spring.  Pippi’s babies are doing very well, and they are growing like weeds.  We let them out of the jug on Monday morning, and it’s one of my favorite things to watch as the mama and babies get introduced back into the herd.  Always entertaining!  Pippi takes her job very seriously, and she warned everyone off of her babies.  She can be a bit of a barnyard bully, but in this case, it’s definitely a necessity!

Half gallon of Pippi milk!
Half gallon of Pippi milk!

Because the new babies are still smallish, they are not emptying Pippi’s udder very efficiently, and of course they always have a favorite side!  So the left side of Pippi’s bag was staying much larger than the right.  I took advantage of that, and got her on the milking stand yesterday afternoon.  She is a trooper, and gave me a lovely half gallon of milk.  I won’t be able to depend on this amount, because as the kids grow, they nurse much more efficiently.  But it’s a start.

Fencing and the old livestock greenhouse
Fencing and the old livestock greenhouse

Over the weekend we also got some fencing done.  One of our greenhouses has to come down, but I had based some paddock perimeters on the greenhouse and had fencing attached (never a good idea, but it worked at the time).  I had not been allowing any one in there as I have no cover for that greenhouse, and it’s really kind of in an awkward spot.  So we got our alternate fencing up, which always takes longer than I think.  But it’s a big job and I am kind of past wielding a sledge hammer and pounding 7′ T-posts in to the ground, so I was happy to have my son’s help.  (I used to stand on the step ladder and pound away.  Not in my plans anymore).

Pippi's kids are so tall!
Pippi’s kids are so tall!

And so it goes.  We are waiting on Pickles to have her kids.  She is due on Saturday.  She didn’t look quite ready yet this morning, although she is getting there.  First-timers can really surprise you.

Looking forward to a mostly beautiful weekend.  Full of goat babies, I hope!

Milking time, finally

This spring has been totally upside down and crazy.  I have not gotten going with milking even though I meant to do so, weeks ago.  For the moment I am milking in the afternoons.  A few days ago I began separating SnowPea and Pippi from their babies right after breakfast, and after milking in the afternoon they are reunited with their brood.

View from the milkstand
View from the milkstand

I had moved the milkstand into our hay greenhouse for the winter, where we do things like hoof trimming.  My old situation for milking has changed in the past year, and I wasn’t sure that this would work out.  But the weather has been quite dry, so I am just pulling the milkstand out of the greenhouse and milking in the open air.  Awesomely wonderful!  The sky and the trees are as lovely as the milking is soothing, and it’s all coming together.

No curds in sight.
No curds in sight.

I have been doling out the frozen chevre in the past month or two, as I am down to just a few left from this past milking season.  So I was very excited yesterday to get out all my cheese equipment and sanitize it up and get it ready for the first batch.  I had 3 gallons of milk ready to go, so I set it up yesterday and warmed the milk, added the culture, and popped that pot under 3 towels to rest.  This morning as I opened up the pot, it was a giant fail.  No curds in sight.  Mama mia!  I was counting on this batch as the first one of the year (some of which I was intending to take on our yearly outing to Vinalhaven island, next Thursday).  OMG.  Phage or what?  Culture that was too old, or did I not drain the milk pot enough after sanitizing?  I left that pot on the counter for at least 2 hours, and I stirred it and pondered it for that whole time, in between other activities.

This has bothered me all day, and as I was playing it through in my head yet again late this afternoon, I finally knew what the problem was.  What a bird brain I am.  I forgot the rennet!!!   I guess it’s the curse of the first batch of the year.  Just not into the routine, still.  Sigh.  I hope to do better.

Milking train partly de-railed

SnowPea looks so innocent!
SnowPea looks so innocent!

In the last 14 years I cannot remember any time that my husband and I have been away together, except when my mother died in 2003, and he was only in NJ for 24 hours before heading back. Having farm animals can be a little bit limiting in that way!

This past weekend, however, we really needed to be gone together, and our son offered to take care of the goats, and even to milk SnowPea. He came over for a walk-through the night before, and I thought all would be well (he has done a lot of farm chores with us through the years and has milked in the past). The morning after we got to NJ, I got a text that said he could not catch her. Even using all his sneaky approaches, she remained elusive. In the past we have had people around that are used to doing a lot of milking, and this time, it just didn’t happen. SnowPea is older and has more tricks up her sleeve than she did even a few years ago.

Needless to say, she remained elusive for most of the weekend. Since she had had a spotty milking 3 days, I decided it was a sign that I should cut back to once a day milking. She was already on a crazy schedule, so I made the call on Sunday night when we got home, to just milk in the afternoons. I have a lot of work to do with the winter shelters for the goats, so this may be a blessing in disguise. All of our friends that love to share in the cheese bounty are not so happy, but these are the fortunes of farming. Sigh. I was hoping to get quite a few more batches of cheese into the freezer for the winter and the spring, but that’s the way it goes. I will still get some, just not as much. And so the autumn is upon us in more ways than one.

Cheese train is back on the tracks

Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.
Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.

Finally. It’s been about a month of one thing or another not working around here, and the refrigerator has been the biggest challenge, by far, much worse than no hot water for two days and the washing machine on the fritz. Two weeks. The freezer part of it worked, thank goodness, although we have 4 other freezers, but the fridge is such a huge part of everyday functioning, it’s easy to forget it.

Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom.  Essentials are all that are left!
Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom. Essentials are all that are left!

Today the repairman was able to come, and it wasn’t even a huge amount of money. The fan motor, or something like that. Which meant that tonight I was able to keep SnowPea’s milk for cheese making!  What a day. So her half gallon evening milking is all alone on its shelf. Not for long, however, so I am ready to go. Phew!

And so it goes with the stuff that we absolutely couldn’t divest ourselves of in the refrigerator. Most of it gone now, and a clean start with our old standbys: Tonic, pickled jalapenos, eggs, jam and milk! It’s all good!!!

The flaw in the change

A big fly in the ointment. My big changes in the paddocks have created a situation whereby I have to take SnowPea out of her paddock and walk her all the way around the greenhouse to the milking stand. Not a really huge issue, but sometimes the others in the pen are very interested in where she is going. So I have to very surreptitiously open the gate and let her bolt out and around. She knows exactly where to head and has no problem getting there and onto the milk stand. On the trip back, however, I have been putting her on a lead. After eating her grain she has the potential to be less motivated to go back around, although I haven’t found her to wander at all. She is a good goatie girl.

I think it takes them a lot less time to make these changes than it takes me! But they do seem to be getting along fairly well so far. And no one has come back into heat yet!

Where is the ark when you need it?

I think that we have had more rain in the past 24 hours than we have had all summer. Sleeping was not even an option during the night as the rain not only poured buckets, but the lightning strikes sounded waaay too close for comfort!

I must have tossed and turned for 2-3 hours and finally fell back to sleep around dawn, and then of course overslept. When I went out to do chores, SnowPea was not convinced to get onto the milking stand, as it was wettish and a little slippery. (I really have to put a new tarp on that greenhouse before the wet weather of the autumn…). She would not budge, so back I headed to the house and grabbed some old towels and put one on the milk stand, and one on the plywood floor in front of that. She actually got onto the milk stand and turned and kissed me! (Well, it's more of a lick, but she was pretty happy). And so it goes

I had all kinds of plans for the last day before school begins in earnest, and of course I ended up doing something totally different! I went upstairs with my iPad into the fiber loft and tried to listen to a podcast while I continued to organize fleeces, roving, sewing paraphernalia, etc. We have a metal roof, and being upstairs means you are up close and personal to it as it's a timberframe construction, and I had to turn off the podcast. All I could hear was the rain on the roof, and the rain pouring off the dormer across the back. I can't complain, it had its own relaxing charm :*) I actually got a lot more accomplished up there than I thought I would, so I can't say that I am unhappy with my progress. There were a few lulls in the action and I managed to catch at least half of one of my favorite podcasts, Knit Knit Cafe.

And so it goes. We had a tiny lull in the rain, but chores were extremely messy. It's thundering and lightning again. Oh well! Here's hoping for a good night's sleep before the alarm at 4:20!


Road trip!

Yesterday two of us went on a little toot.  Christine of Maine Fiberarts and I headed north to Bangor, Maine early in the day.  We decided to avoid the northbound Route 1 Saturday traffic and take some backroads, which was a great choice.  It was infinitely more interesting to drive off the beaten path and go through some towns that I rarely visit, even though we do not live that far from them.  We did miss one turn and ended up in downtown Camden, but we soon located Route 52 and continued on our way.

Our first goal was to visit with Jody Clayton of One Lupine Fiber Arts at her gallery/workshop right in Bangor.  We did get sidetracked in Searsport for a wee visit to a newly opened used book shop, which specializes in used fiber-related books.  The owner is lovely and is also a spinner, so she had her wheel right there and an amazing nook full of wonderful knitting books.(I scored a hardcover that I do not own by Clara Parkes, The Knitter’s Guide to Yarn). Unfortunately, I did not note the name of the bookstore, and it is so new I am not finding it on the town’s Chamber of Commerce site.  It’s tiny, but definitely worth a visit!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After that stop we did not get sidetracked and found Jody’s gallery in Bangor, which is a city I am totally unfamiliar with.  As with many other large Maine cites, it straddles a beautiful stretch of the Penobscot River.  We found the gallery easily and spent quite a bit of time there. Upstairs is the gallery, and downstairs we found a combination yarn/fiber shop, with a felting class carrying on in the work area.  Christine and I had a wonderful time there, and of course came back with a few treasures of the fibery sort.  I found some lovely fiber batts that Jody had dyed and carded up (a Merino/Romney/Bamboo blend) and I also bought some beautifully dyed bundles of bamboo fiber.  I have never spun with bamboo, but it is very lustrous and looks a lot like silk.  So I have plenty of interesting stuff to play with for the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year!

After our visit there, we found an Indian restaurant where we had an amazing lunch.  Then we headed east for a tour of a sheep dairy farm.  Northern Exposure Farm is a relatively new dairy farm and it’s set in an amazingly beautiful spot.  We spent the afternoon there and learned a lot about their operation, and also got to meet their beautiful sheep, East Friesians (one of the few sheep breeds that are specifically used for their milk production).  We got a milking demo as well!  Heaven! I know that we will never have such a large-scale dairy setup with our goatie girls, but it’s sure nice to dream a little :*)


Note:  I don’t know if anyone will notice, but one of the lambs in the front of the lamb photo is having a lovely pee! How rude that we immortalized the moment!

Soapy weekend

Curing goat's milk soap

Our friend Chris came over on Saturday and we had some soapy fun!  I have definitely not been keeping up with my soap-making and my inventory is seriously depleted.  I am freezing some goat’s milk in exact amounts for the recipe I use on a regular basis, so I am prepared in case I really do dry off the two does.

It was a fun day, and we enjoyed a nice lunch and some soapy goodness.  I cut them on Monday morning before I went to work and they are now to the curing stage.  The spearminty aroma when we come into the house is amazing!

3 Day weekend and the deep freeze

Winter dusk

The snow did some melting on Friday, conveniently creating a sea of ice wherever it melted.  Now we are in the deep freeze.  It was -8 this morning when I went out to do chores, and I put that off until a little after 7 so that I would have daylight.  Brrr.  This is when carrying a stainless steel bucket out to milk loses its appeal very quickly!  But as soon as I get going, the goatie furry bodies warm my hands up nicely, and if it’s not windy it’s ok.  I have cut back to milking only in the morning in readiness for drying off the does.  I hate to do it as it will be a long haul until we have milk again.  IF any of the girls are bred, they won’t be having their kids until early June.  Usually they are having their kids in April and I begin milking sometime in May.  Oh dear.  I have a ton of chevre in the freezer, so we shouldn’t go hungry for goat cheese, but I hate giving up the supply!

Anyhow, I have not pushed myself this weekend, that’s for sure.  Yesterday we went on a road trip out to western Maine.  My father in law collects old Bolens tractors, and my husband found one for him that is a 1966.  It even had a working snowblower on it.  It was a very pretty ride.  You can’t get there from here in a straight line, so we had to drive almost to Portland, and then we went the rest of the way on Route 25 which meanders northwest out of the Portland area.  On the way home we did some errands and didn’t get home until almost 3.  It was a long day in the Bone Shaker and my back is achy today!  My poor husband hurt his back a little as they had to lift this little monster into the back of the F350, which as I have mentioned before, sits very high off the ground!  There ended up being 6 guys doing the lifting, but it was still a heavy one.  We have not gotten it out of the truck yet.  That’s for another day, and the John Deere tractor will have to do most of the heavy lifting, thank goodness.

As for today, I spent the morning doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen a bit, and then I did some knitting and movie watching (The Freshman, one of my favorite movies).  I will have to take a photo of the never-ending knitting project for another time!