Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kids!

"Jen!  It's GO TIME!"  Brian said, as he came running into the bedroom one morning.  I immediately knew exactly what he meant.  I felt a surge of adrenaline pulse through my body and hopped out of bed, stumbling to put my warmest clothes on as quickly as possible.

When we arrived downstairs to the kidding area, we were greeted by a wonderful sight.


Wilma had given birth to two healthy kids while we were sleeping!  During his daily morning maternity check, Brian caught a glimpse of the second kid slipping into the hay.  We were lucky that we found the kids so soon after birth.  It is essential to ensure they are warm, not wet and shivering, and even more importantly, that they nurse within the first hour of life.  The colostrum produced by their mama is essential to survival.  We set to the task of food and warmth immediately.


Not much intervention was required, both kids got to nursing with minor prodding from us.  They also seemed to enjoy wearing Arthur's coats!  Now that we knew the kids were warm and well fed, time for the next most important thing.  Gender check!  When trying to start a goat dairy, you can imagine we hope for girls that will provide us lots of milk and more future kids.  I held my breath as I looked under their wiggling tails.  First kid, a boy.  Second one, a girl!  Brian and I thought about it for a minute and then came up with their names.  Welcome Poppy and Napoleon to our animal family!

In the few weeks since their birth, Poppy (or Pop-Star, as I like to call her) and Napoleon (Napster, for short) have been thriving.  They are running, jumping and playing, just like baby goats are supposed to do!  Wilma is an excellent mother and has also become our number one milker.  She has a sweet temperament and produces lots and lots of milk each day, enough for us and her babies.


When everything goes according to plan, kidding season is the best time of year!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cameron Paul


We have a new member of the family and this time it's not a critter!  Cameron Paul Moss was born January 23rd, 2012 and weighed 7lbs 10oz.  We brought him home to the farm a few days later and have had fun introducing him to all the animals (even though he has slept through most of their encounters...)  Gretel and Bea were extremely curious about him and the goats were hoping he had some grain stashed in his pockets.



Hard to believe that Cam will be six weeks old tomorrow.  Everybody has warned me how fast time flies as soon as you have children and I already understand what they mean.


In the near future, we will be welcoming another addition (or two!) to the family.  Wilma is pregnant and is due to deliver any day.  She and Wendy initially had some headbutting matches but have worked out a peaceful agreement and now spend their afternoons grazing in harmony.


Daffodil is no longer a baby and has finally been weaned off Wendy.  She hangs out with the dogs and little goats for now, but will spend more time with the other Saanens when she is older and either pregnant or being milked and needs extra nourishment with grain and alfalfa.   



Some of you may be wondering how Arthur has been dealing with having competition in the house.  We certainly had concerns about Arthur's behavior towards a baby considering his tendency to be affectionately overprotective but our worries have not yet come to fruition.  Arthur largely ignores Cam except for when he cries.  This video explains it all.

video


Hopefully our next blog will be to introduce our new healthy Saanen kids, but for now, we are keeping busy with baby Cam and the rest of our crew!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Long Overdue

When I first started my blogging endeavor, I promised myself that I would complete at least an entry a month.  Today I am embarrassed to say that I have largely failed at that attempt!  I cannot believe that my last blog was all the way back in August.  Time has flown by and a few things have happened in the meantime.


Yes, that is a baby bump in the photograph and not the result of too much cheese.  We are expecting a baby boy in January and I am using pregnancy symptoms (nausea, fatigue) as an excuse for my lackadaisical blogging behavior!

All of our animal family are doing well and have transitioned to the colder months without difficulty.  Happily for them, this has been a warm winter and although we have experienced a number of freezes, we have had very little precipitation to speak of.




Brian has been milking Wendy since Daffodil's birth in April.  Her production has slowed down with the winter season and it is a relief for Brian to only have to milk her once a day in the morning.  Daffodil is now nearly as big as her mom and is physically mature enough to become a mother herself.  We decided to hold off on breeding Daffodil for one more year as she is still a baby in our eyes (not to mention the additional work of each milking animal!).



In addition to his daily milking routine, and feeding and water the rest of the crew as I am not much help these days, Brian has been working at a local creamery in a production and sales environment.  He has gotten the invaluable experience of making cheddar and meeting hundreds of customers, both cheese connoisseurs and novices.  He is becoming a bit of an expert on cheese himself and his knowledge is reflected in his home cheese production.  We have had fun experimenting with lots of different flavor combinations, most of which have been a success!


And just to give ourselves a bit of an additional challenge in the coming months, we decided to get another adult Saanen doe.  Her name is Wilma and she is Wendy's half-sister.  She is, allegedly, pregnant and could produce some kids for us anytime between February and April.  Her former owner was quite confident that she had gotten pregnant by their buck but was very unsure of the date. 



Unexpectedly, she is still in milk.  Her former owner neglected to mention that she had been milking Wilma twice daily until the day Brian drove the hour and a half to her house to pick Wilma up.  Brian is slowly 'drying her off' as they say in the goat world and hopes to stop milking her by Christmas.  Until then, we are getting about a gallon and a half of milk daily from Wendy and Wilma and at this point have a wonderful surplus of both milk and cheese! 



2012 promises to be an eventful year at our little farm and we will keep everyone updated on the new additions!

Have a safe and Happy Holiday and a wonderful start to the New Year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Too Hot to Handle.

The last week has consisted mostly of 90F days.  While I have personally always enjoyed hot weather, the other members of our little farm do not share my feelings.  The animals spend their days lying around and Brian is forced to retreat indoors for the hottest hours of the afternoon.




So we find ourselves, once again, anticipating the change of the season and with it, cooler temperatures.  Only problem is, it usually stays pretty warm around here for another couple of months!

Last time I wrote a blog entry, I believe that I jinxed myself.  I wrote, in refence to Bea and Gretel, that  "their escaping and running about the neighborhood is becoming far less frequent".  Not thirty minutes after posting this blog entry did I see Gretel running across the front yard.  Since then, they have been found in a neighbor's barn, in a different neighbor's pasture, in the middle of the road, making their way to the pears and various other locations around our property.  They have learned how to go over the fence, whereas they previously dug their way under. 

Unfortunately for us, this wandering is a natural breed characteristic.  Great Pyrenees came from the mountains where they were able to go for long hikes with their herds.  I have heard stories of these dogs climbing five foot fences and being found ten miles from home.  We are obviously distressed by this phenomenon and are working on a way to keep them safe and to keep them around to guard the goats, as is their job!  The one thing we have to be thankful for is that they are always willing to hop in the car and come back home, with big smiles on their puppy faces.


Don't be fooled by her cute face - Gretel is actually
the leader of all escapes!

We remain on the same milking schedule, often getting a gallon of milk from Wendy on days when Daffodil isn't feeling especially greedy.  When she is less greedy with milk, however, she makes up for it with alfalfa.


In cleaning up the property a few weeks ago, Brian found something rather funny.  A birds nest that was made mostly of Bea and Gretel's hair!  Good to know that all their shedded fur this summer has been recycled.



With days full of our regular chores, our employment outside the home and wonderful visits from many friends and family, the summer has flown by.  Despite the hectic schedule that we keep we always try to take some time to enjoy the beauty of this crazy place we call home.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summertime!

Summer came a bit late this year but, with only the occasional interruption of rainfall, it is here nonetheless!  The hills are fading to yellow, pastures are getting hayed and baled and trees and plants are finally fruitful.  Growing conditions in the valley have presented a challenge this year because of the atypical precipitation.  We are happy to have had a little success at our place!

Grapes

Apples

We have now been dairying for just over three months.  Having a milking animal takes dedication.  Wendy is on a twice daily milking schedule and her diet is supplemented with special grains and hay.  I am proud to say that Brian and I can now both effectively milk a goat (which I originally had slight concern about, how can you start a dairy if you can't milk a goat??).  Brian is particularly skilled, having mastered the two-handed milking technique.  


Daffodil is now a little beast at 75 lbs.  She looks more like her mom every day.  She is drinking less milk and eating more hay and other vegetation.  She is still as cute as ever!


On some mornings and most afternoons, we bring Daffodil and Wendy into our back pasture for more nutritional variety and exercise.  They are most excited about the blackberry bushes.  It is quite possible that there will not be any blackberry jam this summer!


Bea and Gretel have now been with us for over a year.  It has been fun to watch their transformation from little furry polar bears to big, gentle beasts.  They have been wonderful dogs so far, keeping the coyotes at bay and living harmoniously with the goats.  And their escaping and running about the neighborhood is becoming far less frequent.


Bea and Gret at three months old

Much bigger now but they still like to get muddy.

The newest chaos in our lives came in the form of two kittens.  After Rambo died, we unexpectedly found in our possession two baby animals needing a home.  We initially balked at the idea of additional responsibility but their sweet affection soon won us over.  They are living inside until their medical needs are situated and then will join Betty White in rodent predation around the property.


Lion, stuck under the wine rack.

Wolf

The rest of the summer promises to be busy and full of friends, family and goat milking.  Our new pasteurizer and yogurt maker allow us to further enjoy and experiment with Wendy's milk.  As they say, practice makes perfect!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chaotic Little Farm

It's amazing that even the tiniest of farms can fill your life with chaos.  With our operation still in its infancy and our learning curve about raising livestock and dairying remaining steep, Brian and I acknowledge each day that this life takes dedication.  It is an investment.  An investment of time, money and emotion.  But every time we feel like throwing our hands in the air and saying "Enough!", we look into the faces of the creatures who depend on us for love and care and we remember what brought us here to begin with.


I will begin with our most recent loss.   A week ago, our poor Rambo died.  He had been sick for a few days and due to his skittish nature we were unable to capture him and bring him to the vet until it was too late.  He unfortunately had a very difficult end and although we were incredibly saddened to see him go, it gave us great relief to relieve his suffering.  We are happy to have given Rambo some great months outside of the shelter where he was able to run free, chase rodents and cuddle with Betty White.


The loss of Rambo was certainly an unexpected bump in the long road to starting our goat dairy.  But life on the farm, or anywhere for that matter, goes on and, happily, the rest of the animals are doing quite well.  Daffodil is now five weeks old and is gigantic.  She is a glutton for her mother's milk and some days we hardly get any milk from Wendy at all.  Thankfully Daffy is starting to eat alfalfa and grain.  We are hoping by three months of age that she has self-weaned. 


For the last few weeks, we have put Wendy and Daffodil in the enclosure with the dogs and the little goats for brief periods.  Our goal is to have all animals live together on a permanent basis.  Due to the nature of goats, an order of dominance within the herd must first be established.  Seems like it should be a no brainer with Wendy dwarfing the little goats by nearly 100 lbs.  Maia, being the feisty goat she is, insists on challenging Daffodil.  They knock their heads together until mama Wendy comes by and makes it clear who has dominance in the herd.


The most entertaining part of the dominance struggle is Weekend's lack of desire to participate.  While the does are duking it out, Weekend is hiding behind a tree, person or dog. 


Our cheesemaking adventures have continued and we have enjoyed experimenting with Wendy's abundant milk production to make Chevre.  Brian transformed the basement kitchen into our dairy, cleaning, painting and refinishing until it looked like new.  He even taught his first informal cheesemaking class a couple of weeks ago and it was a great success! 

Hanging the curds, allowing time for the
whey to drip out of the cheesecloth.
The sun has been shining the last few days and we have all enjoyed this change of weather (this year has logged the biggest rainfall in the Rogue Valley since 1890).  It finally feels as though summer will actually come this year and we anticipate a wonderful season of milking, cheesemaking and just generally enjoying life!

 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our First Batch

My clothes were filthy and my fingers were bloody. I pulled small tumbleweeds of white fur from my beard and let them go in the wind. The left side of my pants were wet from a misguided squirt of milk that had then been licked to death by several different animal species while I had been cleaning up after them. None of it mattered. We were finally making cheese.

Jen and I walked into the hills behind our house (it's almost in the exact middle of the photo) and I told her that I would do the next blog post.




Having never raised livestock or even milked an animal before, I was concerned that our milk quality could suffer. I've since learned that when an animal receives devoted care and a proper diet, nature will do the rest. Wendy is producing over a gallon of fresh, delicious milk a day.



It is essential to remove young goat's horns early in their life, as horns pose a serious health risk for every living being on the farm. While some farmers opt to forgo the brutal task of disbudding, the vast majority agree that far more traumatic experiences often result from keeping horned goats. Daffodil was just disbudded- probably more difficult for us than her. She is quite resilient and jumped out of her stall for the first time right after the vet visit.


Daffodil consumes most of the milk that Wendy produces, so we collect about 70 ounces a day for making cheese. Our first batch of cheese from Wendy's milk was a success.


Why are all of our animals black or white? Maybe we should make oreos instead of cheese...