Category Archives: Seasons

Celebrating Spring

Our bottle babies, Captain and Tenille

This morning was really special, and not just because it is the first day of Spring.  Our Betsy did not spend most of the night with her babies, they actually were camped in two different greenhouses, but when we fed the mamas their morning grain, Betsy ate her whole portion, like a champ!  I can’t believe it!  She has finally earned the step away from being drenched with that awful propylene glycol, thank goodness.  She is off her antibiotics, her banamine (analgesic), and now the drench.  We continue to give her vitamin B every day, though.  We just have our fingers crossed that she can keep eating well.

Betsy’s babies ate like like champs as well this morning, drinking a little over 12 ounces, each.  We are slowly beginning to make the transition from kid milk replacer to cow’s milk, but it’s going to take at least another couple of weeks for that.  Most folks who have been raising goats for years do not use replacer as there is a much higher incidence of diarrhea that comes with it.  Our little ones are doing well, and I would use goat’s milk, but all of my current mamas have regulated their supply to meet their babies’ demand, so they are not letting me have a dependable supply yet.  And the next best thing is cow’s milk.

Jingle, up close and personal

Jingle the donkey was happy today as her good friend Fred the Farrier came by.  I know a lot of farriers don’t like visiting with donkeys, but our Jingle has always been good about her feet, and she and Fred love each other.  It’s such a relief that it isn’t a big deal for her!  Very nice.  Great start to Spring, even if we still do have a lot of snow sticking around.

Last Sunday in November, 2016

Was a totally grey one.  November has been pretty true to form, and as the leaves have finally left the trees, we have seen almost no sunny days.  It’s ok, this is what November is all about.  Good knitting and cooking weather!

Guinea hen cup and new skin cream.
Guinea hen cup and new skin cream.

This morning I made my annual trek to Maple Lane Pottery‘s annual small business weekend sale.  I love Robbi, and she not only has a great lineup of pottery items, but she has a few other small business folk there as well.  Cari Balbo of Ridge Pond Herbals was there and I was able to get my new supply of winter face and skin creams in.  It’s always fun and I could not restrain myself when I saw that Robbi had a mug with Guinea Fowl painted on it.  How could I pass that up???

In the Ruit Farm goat world, we decided that today would be the day to take Reddog the Buck out of circulation.  We have had him in with the 4 girls since Wednesday, October 12th, which makes it a total of 46 days.  Goats have an estrus cycle of anywhere from 17-24 days, but the average is about 21 days.  So we are a little over two average cycles, and no one has really appeared to be in a second heat.  Reddog has spent most of his recent time at the fenceline, ogling the girls over there, hoping for some action.  Poor guy, he really didn’t have too much of a challenge with just 4 does to breed.

After we moved Reddog back into the buck paddock with Oreo and Jingle the donkey, we opened the gate between the two girl paddocks.  And there we had our afternoon entertainment!  It took a few minutes for one of them to find the door, but after that, it was a free-for-all of head butting and running around.  Beezus, who has been sharing a pen with Saffron and Battie, the Guernsey girls, turned around and pursued Saffron for at least a half hour.  They were nuts.  Fergus the buckling took the opportunity to try his moves on Pippi while she was busy fighting off all comers from the top of the big rock.  I have to give him lots of points, he really keeps trying!  Zelda the beautiful wandered into the opposite pen and found a new head-scratching post, and ignored the rest of the fray.  Always a work in progress.

Zelda checking out the other side of the fence
Zelda checking out the other side of the fence

And so it goes.  I am hoping that my friend Jane, who co-owns Reddog, can come by and pick him up soon so that he can do some work at her farm.   3 of the non-bred girls are currently for sale, and even though I thought they were spoken for, I think I may need to re-advertise them.  It’s all good.  I only want Zelda, Pickles and Sassafras to go to a good home with someone who will really appreciate all that they have to offer.

And, I can’t believe it’s almost December!

After all these years

Our beautiful new hydrant!
Our beautiful new hydrant!

I finally got my wish!  John had a hydrant put in up near the goat pens.  It’s the best 35th anniversary present I could get :*)

We have a dug well with a sump pump in it and hoses at least 100′ long that we use in the warmer weather to get water to the animals.  Hauling water out from the tub in the house (those 6 gallon cans are killers) in the winter is a royal pain.

But not anymore!

 

Breeding 2016 commences and continues

My last post was actually written about a week ago, and it got put on the back burner accidentally, so when I published, it was a little misleading.  I am definitely using Reddog for our herd sire, keeping our fingers and toes crossed, of course.  We are putting our faith in him!  He smells like a randy buck and is certainly acting like one, which I am counting on to mean that he is all there and able to do the job.

Reddog coming in for his grain, with his girls
Reddog coming in for his grain, with his girls

The 4 does and Reddog have been penned together since October 12th.  So far I have pretty good proof that he is doing his job.  If he is not shooting blanks, Beezus is due on March 27, and Pippi is due on March 30.  I had initially thought that Saffron was in heat around 10/18, but I did not see the courtship dance and snuffle at that point, and I am thinking she is coming into heat today or possibly tomorrow.  And then it’s just down to our Battie.

All of this is well and good, but the proof will obviously be in a few weeks.  If the girls come into heat again, one by one, then we will have a clue about Reddog’s worthiness as a buck.  Only time will tell!  The suspense is on :*)

 

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.

A good sign?

Reddog the Guernsey buck
Reddog the Guernsey buck

We are into the second half of September and the cooler nights are definitely working their magic on the goats.  Particularly the bucks!

After the saga and struggle of last year’s breeding attempts, I am hoping that the going will be a little easier this year.  I believe that our Guernsey buck, Reddog, was too young and a wee bit undernourished when we bought him, and being a smaller guy, the girls picked on him mercilessly.  He did breed one of my Lamancha girls.  However, we witnessed him breeding two others, and they did not conceive.  There is no one around here that does testing on the viability of sperm in farm animals, which would really be the right way to make decisions about the bucks.

Oreo the  buck
Oreo the buck

But, I am going to have to go with the try-it-and-see-how-it-works method.  If Reddog goes in with the girls in mid to late October and they come back into heat, I will have to use my backup buck, Lamancha Oreo.  (But his mother is in the breeding group, so that won’t work for her).

Most of us complain year after year about the musky buck smell, but every morning that I step out the back door and get that odeur, I smile and cross my fingers that it is a good sign of fertility and the hormones doing their stuff!  We shall see.

August endings

Rest time
Rest time

This month feels like it has just flown by.  Busy days, and for the most part, beautiful ones.  We have had our share of the hot-and-humids, however, and I think this may have been part of the catalyst for the Coccidiosis outbreak in two of the baby goats.

I am always on the watch for things like this, but we have not had any cocci episodes here since we had lambs, a few years ago now.  It also usually hits us when we are having a very wet spring and summer.  As we are in a pretty extreme drought, it kind of surprised me.

But the really humid and hot weather is very stressful on the goats, particularly the young ones.  Our Fergus was the first to turn into Mr. PoopyPants, and then within a day or two the white buckling started.  We got the sulpha powder mixed up and going pretty quickly, but it’s a rough ride, even when the diarrhea stops within a day.   Sulpha drugs are hard on anyone, and when you are only 20 or 25 lbs., it’s not so nice.  We are doing vitamins as well, and they seem to be responding.

The last load. Not even a big one!
The last load. Not even a big one!

And as it is August, it is haytime.  We have a very lovely hay dealer who keeps our hay and we can go and get it when we need it, but that is for the first cutting bales.  A good friend of ours recently decided to cut his really nice hay field for a second cutting.  His neighbor does a first cut, but for some reason isn’t interested in doing a second.  I was definitely interested, and today was the day we had to pick it up in the field.  It was great to see Matt, and he even played farm boy for the day and helped us transport the goods.  Nice to see our second greenhouse having such a nice collection of bales going into the winter.

The crickets seem to agree.  I love going to sleep by their singing.  Reminds me of childhood vacations on Cape Cod with my cousins!

 

Cheese train is definitely running again

Marinated chevre!
Marinated chevre!

The Train is on a full schedule these days.  I am only milking two of the goats, Pippi and Battie, but each milking is getting me 3/4 of a gallon.  This means that every 48 hours I have enough milk to begin a new 3-gallon batch of chevre (with leftover milkiness for my grandson and for anyone who wants it in coffee).  It’s lovely!  As the lactation season goes through its cycle, I get more and firmer curd structure, so I actually can get more cheese per gallon than I do early in the lactation cycle.  Yesterday I got 15 chevre forms out of the 3 gallons, and earlier in the season I was lucky if I got 8 or 9.

Draining the chevre
Draining the chevre

Most of my days are spent on the chores surrounding handling milk and cheese.  Sanitizing!  But it’s worth it.  I will end up with a good amount in the freezer to dole out during the long winter and the early spring.  If I can find a day when I am not running in 20 directions, I have to  try and make some more Haloumi and Mozzarella as well.

A peek at the draining cheeses
A peek at the draining cheeses

Maybe I will be able to dabble in some aged cheeses as well this fall.  If I can find a wine cooler, and then also dig out a place to put it.  Definitely a work in progress!

Spring fever in December

Spring fever!
Spring fever!

I know that it’s even warmer down in the mid-Atlantic states, but 53F on December 12th is pretty unheard of around these parts!  No complaining from me, however, as I know Winter will catch up with us soon enough.  I am pleased for the skiers that it has been cold enough for the resorts to make snow, and they have also had a few precipitation events that brought snow to the mountains, leaving rain for the coast.  That’s the way I like it!  (Don’t get me wrong, I love snow.  Just not as much as we had last winter, with negative temperatures to match.  And even though I love it, I think I am still reeling from last year ).

Hose is still running
Hose is still running

We have been trying to make the most out of this weather, and did quite a bit of outside work yesterday.  My biggest pleasure of all:  the hose that comes out of a dug-well that we use to water the animals, is still running!  Usually by this time we are wrestling gerry cans of water into the tractor and driving them up.  What a treat!  We did get enough cold weather in the past two weeks that I had set up the tank heater in the big trough, and plugged in the 16 gallon heated buckets in the other two pens.  Yesterday I scrubbed all the tanks, all the feeders, and Sam got the inside of the greenhouse cleaned out, on the large girl’s group side.  Lots of stuff got checked off of our list!

What a sky
What a sky

It still feels like an early spring morning out there today.  It even smells earthy and fresh.  The girls are being very frisky and flying around the paddock like they are kids, too.  The big rock is covered in flecks of mud, there has been so much frolicking going on.

lit treeToday I must do some baking and present-putting together.  Sam got the lights on the tree, and that is where we have stalled out.  Gotta get going on that as the grandboy is anxiously awaiting Grampy’s train set around the bottom.  I think we have our work cut out for us! Hope everyone out there is enjoying their Sunday as well!