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.
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.
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!
Happy New Year to one and all! I am an ornery sort and don’t make much of the January new year. Doesn’t make sense to me. I prefer the Jewish new year, or really what makes the most sense would be starting the new year on the winter Solstice. But that’s neither here nor there. I am just a new year humbug!
It’s taken me awhile to get back into the school routine after the break. Doing chores before daylight. Doing lots of driving (I admin 7 school libraries, in five rural towns. Big distances). At this point I am also rushing to get budget money spent before the central office freezes the funds, etc., etc. Same old story!
The plus of being in the car so much is, however, audiobooks :*) Right now I am getting to the end of listening to all 7 Harry Potter books right in a row. I have read all the books a number of times, and listened to them all as they were published, but doing it all in one go is awesome. I love Jim Dale the narrator, and could listen to him anytime. My listening list is long and not just full of Harry Potters, and I know it will get me through the school year.
The goats are doing well and enjoying the discarded Christmas trees. We cut ours in two and gave one half to each group, and then our friends at Hatchtown Farm gave us their tree and we did the same. They make very short work of it! Nothing better than sweet goatie breath after they have been munching on a balsam. It’s the best breath mint ever!
Today we are weathering the wind storm of the year. 40 mph gusts and many inched of rain. It’s going to be icy for morning chores. We have had a number of brown-outs, but so far no power outage for us. Hope we can get through without one.
The week has been full of what they were calling a “polar vortex” last year. The term doesn’t seem to be as popular this winter, but it was a blast out of the arctic for sure.
Minus 18F on Wednesday morning was most unpleasant. I had a sinus-like headache all day (I don’t think I kept my nose under my turtleneck very successfully, the wind was howling so badly nothing seemed to stay in place). These are the days when I wish I had a “real” barn structure instead of livestock greenhouses that can be problematic in high winds, which is what we had for the last few days. I only had to re-tie down part of the tarp yesterday afternoon when I got home from work, so it wasn’t too bad.
My real happy dance came earlier in the week when we brought home a heated 16 gallon bucket for the boys and Jingle the donkey. I have a large livestock water tank in with the girls which has a removable tank heater in it, but 3 bucks and a donkey don’t drink enough water to warrant a 30 gallon stock tank. So I have been “making do” with two smaller buckets, and ice whacking twice a day, plus hauling two gallons of hot water out 2 or 3 times a day as well. I feel like I am getting a vacation now that there is no more need for the sledge hammer and digging at large chunks of ice.
It’s definitely the little things that can make life so much more pleasant!
Yesterday turned out to be as beautiful as predicted, warm and sunny. It’s about time! We got as much done as we could do in one day. I cleaned out the greenhouse where we lamb and kid, while John worked on moving a giant loam pile. In between his loads he took the stuff I was pitchforking out and added it to another compost pile. By the end of the afternoon I had managed to create a large, clean space that is penned off, in readiness for our mamas and babies. Well, the whole greenhouse is cleaned, and one area penned off. (Full disclosure: I pitchforked everything into a pile outside the greenhouse, but after loading a few bucketfulls into the tractor, I had to have John finish getting the pile into the bucket! That much strength I can’t summon up in one day. I sat in the tub for quite awhile last night).
And then the rain and the sleet began. The wind blew and it poured all night and into this afternoon. I think we got at least 2″ of rain. More coming after midnight and through the day tomorrow, but that sounds icier than what we got today. Yuck-o. I am obsessively watching the extended weather forecast. After tomorrow it looks like it’s going to be in the mid 40s and mostly sunny. I can hardly wait. I think we have probably seen our last overnight under 20F, and that alone makes me almost giddy :*)
Yesterday turned out to be a tantalizing oasis of warmth in between some days of bad weather. I am very definitely looking forward to the sun.
Well, we got back to work for a half day yesterday. The snow was coming hard and fast from before we even got to school, and we got a legal half day in! Today, thankfully, we had a snow day. I would not have been able to get out of the driveway even with a delay. It’s been quite the weather show.
The real problem comes with the temperatures. We never got above zero degrees today. It was -18 when I got up this morning, and by the time I did chores it was -14 with high, gusting winds. Always fun! I fed everyone inside as best as I could, but the ewes and the does need to have some space, or there is fighting over hay. Everyone is ok. They have water (thank goodness for the tank heater) and enough shelter to keep the wind away. The two boys are hunkered in with Zorro the fuzzy llama, and they seem to be fine. We are feeding out more hay than usual, in the hopes that they will keep their calorie intake up and make more body heat. This has been such an unusual winter so far, I do not even know what to say. Except that we are all still here and doing okay!
Is great. Time to put our feet up and do some more knitting as well as watching another snow begin, enjoying my oldest some who is here for a week from North Jersey. We have had some fun doing the rounds of the area, and even took some time to get down to Pemaquid Point Light this morning. The temperatures are in the upper 20s for a change today, but the wind down at the point took our breath away. The clouds were rolling in for the coming snow, but the sun was just peeking out from behind the light, and the view was spectacular! (That’s my older son and myself in the photo in front of the lighthouse).
I have been slacking in the blog post department and a lot has happened in the past week and a half. We had two snowstorms hard on one another, and then an ice storm this past weekend. Many in our neighborhoods are still waiting for power to get reconnected. We were lucky, have not seen a flicker. But the ice on top of packed snow has not been kind to us at chore time! Even with YakTrax on my boots it’s almost impossible to stride normally up the driveway. So feeding times are definitely an exciting adventure. The animals are all doing well, but with the extreme cold I separated the does from the two boys and Zorro the llama. They are back together with the ewes, where they have a much larger shelter and I know they are out of the wind on dry ground.
Solstice and Christmas have come and gone. After a lovely time with family and friends (and a lamb roast on Christmas Eve, Yum!), we are thankfully on the up slope of daylight minutes and hours. Every day means another minute or two! The winter obsession begins :*)
Things have calmed down a little bit in the last few days. None of the animals got hurt (that I am aware of) in the change over of groupings. I have to get used to the new feeding amounts, so my schedule has changed quite a bit at chore time as well. It’s an adjustment!
I am getting a little bit of a rest from cheese-making because I wormed SnowPea the other day. As the does may be pregnant I had to use Ivomec as a dewormer so we don’t have as long a waiting period as we would if we used a “white” wormer like Valbazen. I have not read any information coming out of the United States on these wormers used on goats (Ivomec was made for cows and pigs and is “off label” for goats and sheep). But the Brits have done a lot more research on wormers made for cattle and used in small ruminants, which is definitely helpful. So I usually only wait 5 days after giving Ivomec, which will take us to the weekend and then I will start collecting the milk again. Kind of nice not having the milk bucket and bottling cleanup chores for a few days! It’s a mini vacation :*)
Anyhow, the temperatures have dropped radically over the past 12 hours and the wind is blowing hard. Winter is probably on it’s way. The countdown is on in our house to the Solstice! Daylight, such a blessing!
I can’t believe it’s here already. Autumn and cooler weather, although this weekend is supposed to be in the 70s. We have had a very overcast week, but there were moments when the sun was out and smiling at us as well. Like today during the fire drill! I could have stood out in the parking lot with my face pointed at the sun for a lot longer than we were allowed.
Beginning of the school year is hard on the system, and even though I am into the schedule and wake up before the alarm goes off at 4:15, I am just tired. So I have not been blogging regularly as I am just trying to hold on long enough each day to stay awake until a decent bedtime hour. Aargh. This will get better, but my back is aching and my foot is still a swollen, black and blue mess. Although as soon as I began using Arnica gel it really started to heal faster. But all my limping has my hips out of whack, so that just makes it worse! Moan, moan, groan groan!
On a more positive note, I have taken back a few more of the morning and evening chores. Slowly but surely I am hoping to get back onto an even footing (no pun intended!). And even though work has been crazy, it’s good getting back into the routine and seeing all my colleagues. That’s not to say that I am not looking forward to the weekend! Tomorrow is Friday all day :*)
Went to bed last night watching the fluffy snow falling through the lights outside the window. We were only supposed to get a dusting to an inch, but when we got up this morning it was at least 3 inches. Fluffy and light is good, and I love having new, clean snow so that I can feed hay out onto clean spots, keeping the groups out of the same-old, same-old spots around the feeder.
My big heart-stopping moment this morning, however, was in the dark, of course… I was opening the gate to let the first goat back into the pen and make room for SnowPea to come out and get onto the milk stand. Their greenhouse shelter is on a little rise about 20 feet into the paddock. I pointed my headlamp up into the shelter just for a quick check to see if everyone was getting up, stretching, and doing all the usual things healthy animals do as they wake up. And what did I see as I looked (with a headlamp that needs new batteries, I suspect), were 4 little white legs standing in the darkness. As SnowPea was jumping onto the stand, I made a bee line into that greenhouse, to find that the 4 legs belonged to our black goat, Melanzane! I couldn’t see the rest of her body at all in the blackness of the shelter. Wow. All the thoughts that ran through my head in that moment were things like, who could have gotten bred that early? Oh no, it must have been one of the ram lambs that went to the butcher and now we have a wee lambie with no mother beside it claiming it as her own. Sheesh. If I wasn’t awake before then, I certainly was after that. SnowPea took it all in stride, waiting patiently for me on the milk stand to get over my early morning insanity.
I am thinking that we probably need to get a light hooked up in there soon!
It’s that time of year again… time to begin drying off the milking does. I have put it off a little bit because I felt bad cutting out their evening meal of grain on the milkstand when the temperatures and the wind have been this cold. Colder than cold. But we are due for a bit of a warm-up this week and everyone is getting some whole oats and a little coarse 14% feed in the evening when I think it will do them the most good (all of those carbs working for them overnight when the wind and the cold are at their worst).
Tonight was the first milking that I am skipping. I will only milk in the mornings for the next week and then I will go to every other day for a few, then every 3rd day for a few and then if their udders are behaving appropriately, we will try to finish up in the next few weeks. I will be cutting their grain ration during their a.m. milkings a little at a time as well. This is always difficult for me as milking is a very special endeavor that also gives us an amazing product. I guess I can call milking almost a “zen” experience, and while I don’t meditate, it is a very restful and thoughtful time during an otherwise hectic day. And now that will be over until the kids are on the ground, which *should* be at the beginning of June.
Hopefully we have enough chevre socked away in the freezer to get us through until then. And let’s hope that Pippi and SnowPea get used to the change. They were seriously peeved with me tonight!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!