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!
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.
It’s been quite a month for fiber activities. It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual. Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!
I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years. Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!). And so I have begun to prioritize them. (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)
First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm. Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.
Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago. As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away. It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it. (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out. My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years. So that put me back a little on the project).
Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year. Yum! I can hardly wait. That is definitely #3 in line.
And number 4: the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck. Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project. Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!
I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show! Retirement has its benefits, for sure.
Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year. The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time. The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well! (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there). We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show. Sometimes this is the only visit we get.
This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual. Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well. You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice. With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too. Sunday was almost too hot!
Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew). But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep. This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.
There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding. I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep. And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl. This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands. Lovely, very clean fleece. This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat. And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!). So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!
I also found more little treasures at the show: some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn. I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest. The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’
And so it goes. Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark. I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl. It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!
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.
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.
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!
And so October is in and we finally got a little rain. I don’t even think it amounted to 0.5,” but at least it was something… we even have a few puddles in the driveway! That’s quite a novelty for us this summer.
Since I need to be finished with milking before I go away toward the end of this month, to that end I have been spacing out the milking schedule a little more and more. I know some folks go from twice a day, or every 12 hours, to an 18 hour divide (which means the middle of the night), but I back it off to once a day as I am lowering the feed ration a bit. The first few days are tough, lots of milk in that udder and almost tough to get it emptied before the girls rebel and want off the stand.
And so I am working on this right now. I don’t want to stop milking, I love the milk that we get in the autumn, the curds are larger and we get more cheese for our efforts out of each 3 gallon batch I make. But this year family obligations and another weekend (a fun weekend), have conspired against me! Two 4-day weekends in a row that I will be out of town. Neither my husband or my son milk. Even if one of them started, the girls wouldn’t be trusting them all that quickly. The milk and cheese thing really is my specialty, so I plan accordingly.
I have been milking just once a day for the past 5 days, and I did my first 36 hour separation today. I won’t milk again until Tuesday morning. On Wednesday the girls are going to be wormed in preparation for breeding, and that will effectively mean the end of the milk usage, even though I will continue milking farther and farther apart. We have a 7 to 9 day withdrawal on the wormers that we typically use, so by the time that is up, so will the milk!
Another year’s cycle is coming around, and as much as I love Joni Mitchell’s rendition of The Circle Game, I am kind of sad to see this part of the year go into dry dock. But, then we have the excitement of the Breeding Game to attend to! Farming is all about the yearly cycles, and each one is exciting in its own way. And this year I get to experience it all without the stress of the day job. Yay for retirement :*)
I really am having trouble believing it’s the 29th already. In a blink, it’s just about over. The autumn is upon us, and the nights are great for snuggling under the sheets and sleeping well.
The drought continues, however, and most of the trees are turning brown with curled up dry leaves. I don’t think that there will be much bright color. It’s a shame that so many others have been overwhelmed with rain this summer, but we can almost count on one hand how many raindrops we have had.
Things have settled down since SnowPea went to freezer camp. I still have 3 girls for sale, but the dynamics of the group are a little bit less frantic. We are working on putting up a greenhouse that we took down a few months ago, to give us some shelter, a little storage, and dedicated kidding pens away from the others when the time comes. (I want to have a “nursery” type set up which is less crazy after the kids are born. The singletons tend to pick on the new little ones, and I would like them in a slightly smaller, more controlled area). I also want an internal catch pen, one that is not outside the main fencing. We have got the bones of it in place, mostly, and now need to tackle some ends for that greenhouse (I would like to have a wooden end on the driveway side, if possible!).
And so autumn has arrived. My most favorite time of year. The days are definitely shorter, and knitting and fiber work have a much greater allure. Just wish we could get a little rain!
From all of us here at Ruit Farm North. I hope that everyone is having a peaceful and relaxing holiday with friends and family. I am very thankful that both our sons are in the area for now, and that we can be spending a lot of time together. And I am ever so thankful for all our friends, both human and 4-legged.
And thank you all for being a part of our farm family!
Not blogging has felt terrible, but the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year were overwhelming. Our coastal summers are usually humid and hot in July, and warm days/cool nights in August with almost no humidity. This summer was a true bummer. Hot and humid all the way through August and into September. Oy! My asthma was not happy, and I did not get many things accomplished that I had on my list.
I found it difficult to rebound after my mother in law’s death, even after our wonderful time in Vinalhaven. Work consumed me. I ended up prepping for the new shape of my school library day job (taking over the running of 5 more school libraries, adding it to the two I already supervise), and I am ashamed to say that I let it suck the life out of me. Then halfway through August I took a bad fall and concussed myself, which led to at least 2 weeks of total shut-down. And there we have the summer that wasn’t!
I won’t even look at the list that I had so optimistically created last spring. No reason to do that. The one thing that kept me going all summer was my quilt project. I have been planning a quilt for our queen-sized bed for many, many years (I used to quilt like a maniac back in the ’80s). My original plan was side-lined because I just feel like I have very different tastes now that we have lived in our open and extremely light timber frame house for almost 13 years. But once I stumbled upon a pattern that is fun and very logical, every day I tried to sew up a few squares, and as of a few weeks ago I have 216, 7″ squares. So that is my summer legacy: a bevy of audiobooks and my sewing machine upstairs. Awesome! It is the first time I have pieced quilt squares with a machine, and it was addicting. I love it!
And so it goes. November is upon us and as much as I dread the time change, I do welcome the quiet and the time for working on things inside the house. But until the cold and the snow really envelope us, we are rushing to get the goat paddocks up to snuff and set up for the winter.
It’s good to be back to the blog! I have missed it.
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!