Tag Archives: goats

Spring is for Babies!

It’s baby season here on the farm!!  The finally farm babies were finally born a few days ago, so the anxiety of the farmers has gone way down, and now we just get to enjoy adorable sleepy, bouncy babies.

Baby lambs…

…so many baby lambs….

baby goats!  Caitlyn finally had her twins, a boy and a girl.

And baby chicks! These guys are mostly meat birds, an experiment here on the farm.  Looking forward to seeing how pasturing works with these guys!

Cheesemaking

This year, Megan decided to get serious about turning our goat milk into cheese!  We’ve been experimenting all year, and we’ve had success with 4 different types of cheese so far, which has been so much fun.

The easiest type of cheese to make is Chevre.  Start with a gallon of milk, warm it up, add culture (we get ours from New England Cheese Supply), let sit for 8 hours then strain.

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Add a teaspoon of salt and there you go!

Feta and Mozzerella are alittle more involved, although they probably take about an hour to pull together – Feta still has a lot of sitting and then curing to do, since we press ours before putting in brine to age, but they’re pretty easy to do.

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Above left – mozzerella curds resting after being cut, and on the right, the finished product

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The most exciting cheese we tried this year was cheddar.  We eat a LOT of cheddar in this house!  Unfortunately we probably won’t be able to make it all from goat’s milk, because the process to make cheddar takes about 6 focused hours, which is a lot to devote for 2lb of cheese!  But, after a few months of aging, this wheel of cheddar really tasted just like our favorite aged goats cheese from the store — pretty great to be able to make that at home!

We tried several recipies but in the end really found that we liked the guidance in Gianaclis Caldwell’s book Mastering Basic Cheesemaking.

Barn Doors

When we first came to the farm, the barn stalls were all set up for horses – large stalls, sturdily built… but really not very convenient to muck out using anything but human power, since there was no way the tractor was going to make it through the 4′ stall doors.

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Add 25 goats and a long wet winter to the mix, and what you have is a rather overwhelming amount of bedding that needs to be removed from the stalls.  We were looking at either some construction, or a very unpopular work party event!

We’ve batted around several ways to reconfigure the barn and the stalls so that it works better for our needs (we don’t intend to keep horses anytime soon, as much as I would love to), and Thaddeus finally got the chance this week to get to work on making it a reality.

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The new 12′ stall fronts are entirely removable, being just two pinned gates supported by a removable 4×4 post in the center.  This allows us to use each stall as a large single stall OR to drop in a divider longways that would give us two narrow stalls at 6′ wide each – great for kidding season and the occasional solitary confinement.

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When the gates and post are removed, though, the entire stall is open to the aisle, allowing the tractor relatively easy access.

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Yes, this was a job that REALLY needed doing…

Farm Born

It’s spring officially now, and everything is giving birth all at once, in a mad, crazy onslaught of flowers and labor and tiny living things.

In the last 7 days we’ve had baby turkeys arrive, both in our incubator, and courtesy of our Royal Palm turkey hens, who decided to do the communal thing and have ALL been sitting for the last month on a huge batch of 20 or so eggs.

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Healthy chicks get moved to the brooder – the hens picked a terrible place to hatch babies, on the second floor loft of the barn, so they don’t get the option of raising them because we don’t want to find out how they try to get them down from there!

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Goat kids!  We’ve had three does kid so far:  Violet, Lady, and Badger, and have 5 doelings and 2 bucklings now, in addition to the older kids we brought home on Easter.  Two does left to kid, and they are taking their time getting around to it…

Kid Rescue

Tuesday night we were out late, and came home to do chores in the dark.  We’ve been waiting for the does to start kidding, and we noticed right away that one of the yearlings, Violet, looked like she was no longer pregnant…  but we didn’t see any kids!

Right away we started to worry that as an inexperienced mother, she may have had them in the pasture and then left them there when the rest of the herd headed in for the night.  We got headlamps and flashlights and took a walk, but the back pasture is almost 15 acres of thick forest,  and although we had an inkling of where they’ve been hanging out the most, we really had no idea where to look for two tiny cat-sized goat kids in the freezing dark.  After 30 minutes or so we realized the futility of the effort and reluctantly gave them up for dead, not knowing how long they’d already been left exposed and unfed.

Wednesday morning the sun came up on a frosty morning, and I decided to take another walk in the daylight, to see if I could at least recover the bodies.  Better than leaving them for predators to discover; the last thing we want to do is encourage our local predators to think of the goats as potential meals on legs.  I took the mother with me on a lead, since she was still wailing, thinking maybe she’d remember where she left them.

Violet was pretty useless as a guide; she would dash off into the blackberries and then… eat some leaves calmly.  Then she’d start crying again and run off, only to… stop for a snack.  But just when I was about to give up and go in to change for work, I heard an unusual cry.  At first I dismissed it because it seemed way too strong to even possibly be from a day old baby goat who’d been left outside all night, but when I heard it again, I hauled Violet from her latest pile of blackberries and took her toward the sound.

As we neared the general area, Violet took off running, and calling.  And then she… ran right back to the herd and went back to eating blackberries.  Sigh.  I went along the path she’d taken anyway, and as I went past yet another pile of blackberries I heard the cry again, looked to my right, and oh my lord, up on a tiny ledge on the hill above me was a little baby goat.

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As I crawled up the hill to rescue the doeling, who actually looked fantastic considering she’d spent all night shivering in the woods, my eye happened to catch a bit of white 5 feet below, under a thicket.  Another kid??  It was dirty and crumpled up, and I worried I was going to find it dead, or worse, partially eaten.  With the doeling in my jacket to warm her up, it took me several minutes to figure out how to get into the thicket to reach the other kid.  Once I grabbed it, I could tell it was freezing cold, but, still breathing.  Into the coat it went, too.

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With two trembling goat kids in my jacket, I hiked back to where Violet was calmly eating with the herd, and hauled her out of a blackberry bush down to some flat ground.  I put the stronger doeling up to her teats and she started to suckle right away – the little buckling was not strong enough to stand on his own, so he stayed warm in my jacket while I let his sister get some colostrum.  And then we took the long hike up to the barn again, dragging the reluctant teenage mother along behind me.

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Little buckling came into the house with me to warm up: he got warm milk, a hot pad, a warm bath, and repeat until the inside of his mouth was no longer an ice cube.  After a few hours he could sort of stand on his own, and I brought him back to the barn for some socializing with his mom and sister.

He spent the first night in the house with us, to make sure he stayed warm enough and fed, but when he woke us up the next morning crying for milk, we decided he was strong enough to be back on his own!

Not quite how we pictured our first kidding on the farm, but we’re so relieved it was successful, even though it appears we now have another bottle baby to feed for the next month.

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Our adorable little runt baby, in Talina’s arms, meeting Pippin for the first time — Pippins head is as big as the buckling!

Fence Party!

As fall has approached, two things became clear to us:

1) There was not enough available fodder in our current pastures to keep our 7 goats fed all winter, let alone keep the 15 goats we expected to be hosting when Thaddeus returned for the winter.

2) Due to a number of issues, there was not going to be any new major goat barn construction happening before the weather got very bad.

So, a mini epiphany came to visit us, and we decided to put in a new, temporary fence off the north side of our current barn, down into the forest, for the winter.  The goats will have plenty of blackberries and brush to eat, and would still have access to the barn when the weather is terrible.  It avoids the compromise of having to deal with a half-built shelter for the winter, and gives the goats access to way more food variety than they would have had.  Win-win!  But we still had to build the fence.

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We started with fiberglass posts and bags of insulators.  A few West Wing episodes, and our 100 posts were fabricated into equally spaced insulated posts for a five-strand electric twine fence.

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The best way to get anything big done on the farm (and in life) is with helping hands.  So we prepped some delicious food, and invited our community to come out and swing some mallets in the damp November weather.

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Two hours of putting up the posts, around what would be a 2-acre pasture.  We took a break for hot soup lunch, then went back out for 4 hours of putting up the electric twine, setting up the gates, and reinforcing the fiberglass posts with steel t-posts at the corners.

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Nearly finished on our way back to the barn – a little math, and we had a fully enclosed pasture in just about 6 hours!

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The goats (and the sheep) are in favor of these new developments…

We are so grateful to all our friends and family who drove out on a cold day to help us put the fence up so quickly!  Our community is amazing, and we feel so blessed.

Houdini


Frank discovered how to escape from the new pasture.. it didn’t take him very long to figure it out, either!  We discovered his new ability when we came home to find him hanging out by the garden (not in it, thank goodness) – but luckily, he was kind enough to show me exactly how he was doing it, which made it easy to plug the hole and stop the escapism.

Colin Comes Home

This morning, we got up early, picked up Mom in McMinnville, and headed down south to meet our future herdsire. We got so lucky to be offered a buckling from Two Track Farm down near Albany, and even though we’re still slowly working towards becoming a farm ourselves, it was too good an offer to pass up.

Meeting Tammi at Two Track Farm was wonderful, she was so helpful and nice, and her goat herd is just gorgeous.  We loved the look of Colin’s mom, Llyssa – their Sanaans are big and tall, strong animals that come up to our chests!  Since packing is a primary use of our herd, big tall goats are exactly what we want.

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Here’s the new little man himself: Colin!  He’s wearing a flower in his hair just for you.  This little guy is a total sweetheart – very friendly and sociable, and he made the ride home (in the back of my little VW Golf!) with hardly a peep.  He walks on a lead easily, too.

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Colin blends in with the flock

When we got home, Colin got to meet poultry for the first time in his life.  He handled it quite well.  The birds are used to goats, so they are pretty calm about it already.

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What Colin likes best is to just hang out with people – he follows us around in the morning while we do morning chores with the birds.

When Thaddeuss returns in the fall with his half of the herd, we’ll breed Colin to Lady, Z, and Calamity.  Badger is too young, she’ll wait til she’s a yearling next year to breed.  Since Lady and Z are registered, their children by Colin will also be registered Sanaans with the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association).

Free At Last (Within Limits)

What started a week ago with fence demolition took it’s second-to-last step this afternoon: The barn fence is done! Well, almost done… we still need to string some electric fencing to keep the goats from tearing up the field fencing too much. But for now, it’s secure enough that we can let them off their leads and let them run around for the first time since they arrived here last Friday.

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John, preparing to round the second to last corner by the barn.

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The new length of fence – it’s about 12′ offset from the original fenceline of the pasture, to try to keep the goats from tearing it down trying to get at the tree leaves. We’ll have to keep this mowed to keep it from becoming a forest in time.

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Free at last! The goats barely stopped eating to enjoy their new freedom… luckily the grass is goat-high right now, so they have plenty to keep them busy!

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But, it didn’t take them long to find the toys!  Lela brought these cable spools by for climbing on – Jesse figured it out right away.

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Calamity finds the spools to be great for scratching one’s head on.

Contained

We finished another task this afternoon:  installing deer fencing around the garden!   Once we put seeds in we were basically racing the clock to get this done before someone decided to go prancing around and destroy our beautiful beds or, worse, eat our seedlings!20120516-215428.jpg

First, we drove 8′ stakes around the outside of the garden area.

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Then, we stretched Deer-X brand plastic netting around the entire 1500 square feet.  We don’t expect this to be a permanent fencing solution – in fact, the garden plot where it is is only 1/2 the eventually planned garden area.   But, we’re hoping at least to protect our garden this year, and buy us time to expand the area and build a permanent fence around the entire yard in the next year or two.

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Finished product! Tomorrow, I’ll string some silver ribbon around to make sure the deer and birds can see and hopefully avoid the fence.

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Bonus goat photo – this is Beau, being adorable as is his nature.

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Talina took this gorgous shot of the goats working the blackberry row along the north ridge.  They’ve been so well behaved thus far, being staked out every day.  But, I’m sure they miss being free to run and go where they choose — the barn fence is almost done, but even that will only hold them a few more weeks before we need a real pasture.  We have work to do!