Tag Archives: summer

Wherever you find yourself

Ephraim and Fergus earlier this week, sharing like nice children!

Wherever you find yourself, there you are.  And that is life, as usual.  Now that my son is not here to help with the chores, the first thing I really need to deal with is selling a few of the goats.  I have too many to handle by myself now that he has moved on.  Every day, twice a day at chore time, this truth reveals itself, whether I want to acknowledge it or not.

Tonight, it was just a mess at milking time.  I had the boys and Jingle in a neighboring paddock eating down some tasty weeds, and when I let the big boys back into their home paddock for dinner, the little buckling would not follow.  Well, I left him in the other paddock with Jingle the donkey while she ate her grain allotment for the day, and when I was getting her back into the home paddock, he slipped out behind her and got loose.  Wandering the work area and the places outside the paddocks.  He is a little bit shy of people, so I could not grab him right away.

Milking time

Well, I decided I could work around him for awhile, so I started to get everything ready for milking and the evening feed.  I got the first girl up onto the milk stand, and realized I had left my milk buckets up at the house.  I was sweaty and hot, it was raining, the milk stand was half in and half out of the greenhouse and the goat’s backside was getting wet, so I decided to just milk and toss it.  Awful, I know, but it was about all I could do.  (I was also trying not to get the halter heart monitor wet.   The doctor wants me to wear one for a few days to see if they need to tweak my beta blocker meds a little.  I could not have picked a more perfect week, hot humid and rainy.  Yuck!).  And so chores went the way that chores have so many times in the past, downhill very quickly.  After I milked her, the little buckling came wandering into the greenhouse where the feed is stored, and I was able to grab him and get him home.  Phew!

But, in the end it turned out to be a great chore evening.  When I finally got all the milking mamas back into their paddock, I had to go in to move some feeders around.  It really began to rain pretty hard then, and I just hung out with my girls and relaxed.  Pippi was rubbing her wet and itchy head on my hip, one of Edna’s girls was sniffing my arm and nibbling on my shirt, Peanut wanted some head rubs, and we all just stood there together and waited until the worst of the rain was over.  A little cluster of wet, itchy souls, waiting for the bus, or whatever.

And so it goes.  No milk for cheese tonight, but tomorrow it will be better.  I have not hit my routine stride yet, but it will happen, and it will be a lot easier if I can move a few of the herd on.  I don’t need to be milking 4 goats, it’s too much milk for me to deal with, and just that more to do on my own.  It will be difficult to let any of the girls go, but it’s what I need to do.  Life always seems to be a work in progress, doesn’t it?

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Is it almost August already?

Happy girls this afternoon

And boy does it sound like it out there!  The crickets and the grasshoppers are playing their music frantically.  I don’t know if it’s the drought, or just the usual.  Whatever the reason, I love sitting and listening to them, it’s a most comforting sound.  The rain is finally making a brief appearance every once in awhile, but the days are growing shorter again, which always surprises me for some reason.

Fergus the wether. Trying to look innocent!

We have had an insanely crazy summer so far.  My husband has been traveling back and forth to NJ.  His dad, 94, was getting feebler, and ended up in the hospital and passed away just before the 4th of July.  And so many trips up and down, alone, with me, with our son and grandson later, it’s been nuts.  Very sad to have lost my sweet father in law, but also nice to have had an opportunity to see much of the family again.

Sam and some of the girls last November. We all miss him!

In the middle of all this upheaval and emotional stuff, my older son, the one who has been with us for a little over 2 years and has been a huge part of the goat farm, had the opportunity to move back to NJ, which he did this past week.  And so it goes!  When it rains, it pours.  Change just is, and I am old enough to not be surprised by it.  But it does every time.

Today John came back from NJ once again, and I think he can stay for a week or two before heading back south.  The summer traffic is epic, and it took him almost 10 hours to get back today (it’s a 400 mile trip, should only be about 6-7 hours).  In the meantime, my schedule has changed drastically, as my son was doing a lot of the feed prep each day, and it will take me awhile to get into a different groove.  I know the goats are standing around scratching their heads wondering why everything is taking so darn long :*)  Ha!

3 cottolin hand towels, Summer & Winter weave

My weaving work has continued well, and we are exploring double weaves right now.  It’s so much fun!  I also finished a set of Summer and Winter weave hand towels a few days ago, which I just love.  I made them from cottolin, and the colors are lovely.  We only have about 2 months left tin the grant timeline, and I have a few projects I need to work on aside from what I am doing with Nancy.  I need to really get cracking on them.

Detail of the middle towel which I will probably use as a table runner (a small one)

The hot and humid weather can turn me into a very cranky soul, but so far we have had pretty small doses of it until this past week.  It’s been a tough one, and I know that the animals are feeling it as well.  I certainly am not very sprightly during this hazy, humid stuff, and living in Maine, we do not have air conditioning except in the bedrooms (although living only about a mile from Muscongus Bay definitely helps, particularly when we get breezes off the water).  The next 3 or four days are supposed to be better, and then the stickies make a return appearance.  Ah well, this is summer, and this too shall pass!  I am not wishing it away, the green and the warm don’t stick around for more than a blink.

 

 

 

Houdini Hagrid saves the day

Hagrid is still a sweetie! (And he is finally growing a beard!!!)

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!).

Hagrid on the other side of the fence, again!

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.

Fence mend

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.

Wheel barrow full of Nightshade. Yuck!

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!

August already!

Peanut, helping herself to the chair

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!

Poor Twig

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!

Lots and lots of beautiful milk

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!

 

Best laid plans and July catch-up

Peanut browsing while Battie finishes her meal on the milkstand

Things have kind of gotten away from me.  I have been so busy I don’t know if I am coming or going some days.  I do Monday/Wednesday/Friday cardiac rehab appointments in Brunswick, which is about 25 miles from here, and I need to factor in the summer traffic on Route 1, which makes for a day that is quite foreshortened.  It’s craziness, but necessary.  And so by the time I get home around 12:30, things get on a roll, and some days I don’t even get dinner organized until close to 8 PM.  Not the best laid plans, for sure.

Seriously cool climbing opportunities

But the farm has moved gently into the summer and things are going well on the whole.  Peanut came down with a case of coccidiosis, but the treatment took care of it and she is cruising along nicely.  We had to cut her milk consumption back quite a bit while she had it, and we have not returned the amounts to the previous, even though she has done some pretty loud complaining about that.  She is 13 weeks old, and it’s time to look at some weaning, so she is down to two 8 ounce bottles per day now.  Much easier, and as a result she is eating a little more grain which is important for her.  She is a just over 30 pounds, and loves to come out of the paddocks and race around with us while we are doing stuff.  She is good entertainment value and a real sweetheart!

Saffron’s girls ready to get into the car :*(

And today Saffron’s girls were picked up by their new owners and are on the road to their new home in Massachusetts.  They will be in good company with Nubian goats and some Icelandic sheep.  One of the girls was a little anxious, but I got a text from their new owner saying that they ware asleep in the back of the car and doing well.

Peanut is snacking on the dinner buckets!

And so it goes.  We now only have 3 little doelings for sale.  It’s going to be quiet around here pretty soon!  Twig got used to being sister-less pretty well, and none of the moms seem to mind having their babies weaned from them.  We are chugging along with the milking and the cheesemaking.  A few of the moms still have babies on them and I am getting more milk than I actually have room for in the refrigerator!  A nice problem to have, really.  I won’t complain, my milking and cheesemaking year is a short one.  :*)

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!

 

Regrouping

Pickles, one of our yearling does and first-time mother
Pickles, one of our yearling does and first-time mother

On a farm, it is always time for reorganization and re-evaluation of everything that’s happening.  It’s so easy to get into the groove of just feeding every animal that is here, whether they are “working” for the farm or not.

Keeping animals for sentimental reasons is very easy to do, and I fall into it just as much as the next person.  But I try to be aware of and on top of making the kinds of decisions that will help move us forward.  I am only milking two goats right now and I have 9 does (including baby Betsy).  I am never going to be a big enough operation to milk that many, but some of them are here for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons, truthfully, are emotional!

Does on both sides of the fence resting in the afternoon
Does on both sides of the fence resting in the afternoon

The middle of the summer is the time when I am getting prepared for the breeding season, and evaluating who should be here or not anyway, and this year I am trying to take a very hard look at what is happening and comparing that with my goals.  In the past I have kept certain does together, whether I intended to milk them or not, because in a small operation like mine, family units can be very supportive of animals that would otherwise be picked on pretty hard.  Zelda, for example, is a wonderful doe who milks well and is a great mother, but I only held onto her because she was the last doe I had from Elf, who is long gone (and I had kept both of them because they were a family unit).  I had wanted to keep some of her genetics around, but truthfully, she would be better off on another farm where her milk and her mothering skills would be of value.

Zelda the Beauty
Zelda the Beauty

And so it is crunch time, and I am making myself all kinds of notes, but the difficult part is here, and it’s time to decide who will stay and who will be sold.  Zelda and two white crossbred youngsters are definitely on the list to go, as is one of SnowPea’s yearlings, Sassafras.  We are definitely hanging onto Fergus and Betsy.

Instead of having to feed out to 3 groups of animals, I am hoping to just have one pen of boys/Jingle the Donkey, and one pen of girls going into the winter.  We shall see how successful I am at the reorganization!

August is amongst us

Part of the milky crew getting into her breakfast
Part of the milky crew getting into her breakfast

We have gone over to the dark side of the summer.  August.  It was a very cool day for the first of the month, but later on in the week we are promised more summery weather.

I am supported by the summer weather, and also wearied by it.  The humidity has gotten under my skin and into my lungs, so the first order of events is to lay low and do things in the house.  Not too much exertion.  It’s all good!  But when the humidity goes down, there are so many possibilities available, that I sometimes do not know where to start.

Oreo is undecided about whether he wants to come out and see me
Oreo is undecided about whether he wants to come out and see me

We had our grandson for 3 and a half days, and on Monday I was able to visit with some former co-workers at a retired friend’s house.  What a great time we had!  It was a very lovely day.  And I am not missing the pressure of going in to work to start getting things done before the kids arrive.  Bwa ha ha!!!

 

Projects

Compressed hay bales
Compressed hay bales

Went out to get some hay this morning.  We get some local hay but we also get some of the Canadian compressed bales, which are enormously heavy, but it’s a good bang for the buck, usually.  I was driving the 1997 Ford F-350 diesel pickup today and halfway up I noticed that the brake pedal was going awfully low.  But, I don’t drive The Beast very often, so I said nothing until all the brake warning lights came onto the dash.  My husband said we were probably low of brake fluid, and he would get some and put it in on the way.  Luckily, before the ton of hay went onto the truck, he realized we had a broken brake line in the back (as he was pouring in the brake fluid it was pouring out just as fast.  Grr.)  So moving on to plan #2, we just got a few bales, and turned around to limp home slowly.  Thank goodness John drove!  I would have been more than nervous, to say the least.  Big sigh.  Disaster averted, and another project for John.  I know what he will be doing this week!

Flannel wall of quilt squares. Figuring out the patterns of color
Flannel wall of quilt squares. Figuring out the patterns of color

On a more pleasant note, I have been working on a very big fiber project since last summer.  If you follow my Instagram feed, you may have seen  several photos of my quilt-in-progress.  Until last summer, I had not done any quilting for the better part of 30 years.  Before my youngest was born I always had a quilt or knitting or weaving project on the go.  I don’t know if it was the pins and needles that kind of stopped me with a toddler in tow, or if life just got in the way.    (Most likely it was a space issue; the 4 of us lived in a small ranch in NJ and my loom took up a good chunk of the living room, and the spinning wheels had another corner.  And then there were the toys and the books…  Not much surface left for doing quilts!)

In the past few years I have been following a number of quilting blogs, and have been searching around to find a pattern for our bed quilt.   I frequently have small sewing projects going, so I always have a stash of fabric, and that has been growing pretty consistently over the last couple of years.  I finally began playing with a pattern I purchased from CluckCluckSew‘s lovely blog, something called “Juice Boxes,” and began matching up some fabrics that I am particularly fond of.  I don’t feel that I had much summer last year for many reasons, but the little I did have on my own, I used to cut and sew about 220 quilt blocks.  I have never pieced a quilt on a machine before, so this was a new process for me, and one that I am enjoying.   (I also listened to about 10 audiobooks while I worked away on this lovely pattern.  My favorite thing!)

Quilt progress, I think!
Quilt progress, I think!

Now the time has come to get those blocks sewn together and it’s proving a challenge!  A queen-sized quilt is enormous, and a little cumbersome.  But I am happy with the way it looks so far, although the blocks are not all lining up perfectly.  It’s a very happy quilt, however, with lots of my favorite oranges, greens and yellows.  I am beginning to suspect that it might not be quite as large as I would like, but we shall see.  It’s keeping me out of trouble for the time being, at any rate :*)

It’s been awhile

November 1st.
November 1st.

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!

Woodtove is stoked and going
Woodtove is stoked and going

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.