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Showing posts with label goats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label goats. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2017

Country Weekends in the Summer

 This is what our weekends have been looking like so far this summer.  

 Our twelve year old son dug us a much bigger fire pit, so we've been having campfires galore.

 With so many flowers and shrubs blooming, the bumblebees are swarming around our farmhouse.

 And with so many summer birthdays around here, our resident cupcake baker has been quite busy.

This weekend she made chocolate cupcakes stuffed with her special peanut butter frosting, topped with chocolate shavings.  They were to die for and worth every gram of carbohydrates.

 Our grandson has been cruising and crawling around, and fortunately, we have many energetic bodies to keep up with him because he is busy!

All kinds of things are hatching out and metamorphosing. 

There have been some tricky puzzles that only a few family members could solve.  She, by the way, figured out to open this almost immediately.  It was putting it back together that made everyone a bit crazy.

We've had some adorable baby interactions going on between the species.

 It wouldn't be a summer weekend without plenty of front porch sitting.  But I'll have more on that in my next post.

 How did you spend your weekend?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Babies, Babies Everywhere!

I've been rather "blah" lately.  Maybe it's the spring teaser we got in February when it was over seventy degrees for a week, and this morning it was nine!  Maybe it's this long stretch between holidays with nothing very exciting to celebrate.  Maybe it's Lent.  Maybe it's middle age.  Or maybe it's just my funky mood.  Regardless, I don't have many creative juices flowing through my veins right now, and I don't feel especially witty or interesting or profound.  So instead of talking about nothing, I thought I'd show you what life is like around the barnyard these days.  We just had another set of twin goat kids born on Friday, and there are babies all over the place.

We have baby goats.

Black goats and brown goats.

Tan and creme colored goats.

And we have baby sheep.

White sheep and gray/tan sheep.


And we have goats who ride on sheep.

I would certainly be remiss if I didn't include my favorite baby around here who doesn't live in the barn.

From the dining room/multipurpose room of the Preppy Mountain Farmhouse, I'm wishing you all a week that's not "blah."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Little Things

This evening's post is a random list of little things going on here this week.

1. We got a surprise a few days ago when our goat Feta gave birth to twins: Fontina and Manchego.  After losing two of our older goats in the past month, these babies were such a pleasant surprise.

2. We've been picking up our grandson and hanging with him one day each week.  He is definitely a bright spot in our gray winter days.

3. We had more ice and snow here this week, which gave the kiddos another 2 hr. delay.  As you can see, the snow hit the upper mountain ridges while the valleys got the ice.

4. I realize I'm coming late to the game here, but my husband got a trial Amazon Prime membership, which means Downton Abbey is available to us for free.  Oh my gosh, I can't believe we went all these years without watching this.  It is now the favorite evening drama show of every big person in this house.

5. After coughs, fevers, and sore throats last week, we have now moved on to a stomach virus.  So far two of our little ones have been camped out on the loveseat next to "the Bucket."  Yuck.

6. This actually feels like a big thing because the carpenters finished our kitchen renovation yesterday!  I'll post no more pictures of this though until the new Amish-made corner hutch has been delivered, and I've put everything back together again.  But I am so happy with this fresh, bright room.

7. I'm sure you noticed that my blog has a slightly different look.  I wanted to make more room for the pictures, and there will be plenty more of those coming next week!  I hope this change is easier for you readers to view and not quite as "busy."  I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Those Unexpected Sad Days on a Farm

This was not the topic I planned to write about this weekend.  It certainly doesn't fit my cheerful Christmas theme I've got going on for the next few weeks.  But life has a way of taking turns that we don't plan on or control, doesn't it?  Today we lost one of our best nanny goats.  She was one of our original herd caprines that we purchased back in December 2010.  Her name was Cadbury, and she has been the best mother to her robust healthy babies and a fantastic milker.  Even though she spent her days out in the pasture and her nights in the barn, she felt like a member of our family.  Our goats have always been more like family pets than livestock, and we haven't lost an adult goat or sheep in a number of years, so it was especially hard and shocking to lose one this weekend.  

So instead of writing a post on Christmas decor, food, or traditions, I am tearfully composing a picture post in memory of this beloved member of our farm family.  She will be missed very much.

We are grateful to Cadbury for all the adorable babies she brought into the world, and the milk she gave us, and the blue ribbons she won for our children at the fair, and for the laughs.  No matter how many years we have this little hobby farm, the losses are always so incredibly sad.  We're grieving today, but I promise my next post will be a cheerful one. 

Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why You Never Sell a Goat to a Frat Boy

Two of our little bucklings left our farm this morning to move to another home.  That always makes us feel a bit sad, but we just can't keep them all.  My hope is that they go to good homes where they have lots of room outdoors to run, roam, and graze...and that there will be lots of female goats to keep them company.  Most of the time, we have been very pleased with the new owners of our livestock, but there was a time a few years ago when we sold a little buckling to a college boy, and that is the story I'm telling today.

In the spring a few years past, we had a surplus of goat kids, so I posted an ad on Craigslist.  Our Nigerian Dwarf goats are small and so cute, especially when they're little.  Sometimes people buy them for pets.  A few days after I posted Romano (all our goat kids are named after cheeses) on the web, I got a call from a nearby college student who wanted to stop by that evening to buy him.  I asked if he'd like some more information or would like to take a look at him and then think about it first.  He said he was sure he wanted to make the purchase and would pick him up before dinner.  By the way, this was a Friday.  Because we are fairly secluded out here, and I had a house full of little ones, I made sure I set the pickup time for after my husband returned from work.  No sooner did my husband come home when a car pulled up, and three college students hopped out.  The one who had made the call was very friendly and eager to put Romano in the back seat of his car and head out.  We tried explaining to him how this buckling should be cared for.  We asked him where he would be staying.  He said he'd be at the "house" for the night, and then he'd go home to a farm the next morning with one of the "little sisters."  We asked him if he had food for him, and he said no.  So we stocked him with some hay and goat feed for the night.  The other two young people seemed bored and disinterested, and said nothing, and made no eye contact with us.  We had serious misgivings about this sale, but we did eventually take the money and say goodbye to Romano and pray for the best.

My husband was very concerned about this little goat, and I felt rather sick about the transaction myself.  We had only been selling goats for a couple of years, and this was the first time red flags went off when we met with prospective buyers.  I told myself that we can't control what happens to our livestock after we sell them, and this was still probably preferable to taking them to an auction.  We went about our evening routine and said a bedtime prayer with our children for the goat that night.  And we went to bed.

Around 2 AM, someone was ringing our doorbell and pounding on our door.  My husband threw on some clothes, found a hunting rifle, and flew down the stairs to the front door.  I hid out on the stairs in my nightgown to listen.  At the door stood the frightened and nervous college fraternity brother who had come to our house earlier.  In his arms was Romano.  The young man apologized profusely, and asked if we would take our goat back; we could even keep the money.  It turned out that Romano was purchased to be the entertainment at a frat party that Friday night.  Someone reported the college students to campus police because farm animals are not allowed in the borough.  When the police showed up at the Greek house, they were told to return the goat to his rightful home immediately.  And that is why they were on our front porch at 2 in the morning.  We kept Romano in our house for awhile to make sure no harm had come to him.  He seemed perfectly fine as he trotted around the living areas and then tried to come hopping up the stairs.  We finally took him back out to the barn to join the rest of his goat family.

Romano continued to live with us for another month or two until a lovely family with a small farm bought him to breed with their Nigerian Dwarf does that would be shown in 4H in the future.  This woman was sympathetic and said she had been in a sorority in college and knew what some of the Greek parties had been like that she attended.  We were all grateful that our goat was OK and appeared to have had nothing more than a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that night.  My husband and I vowed to never again go against our gut instincts when selling our animals and to be very wary of high interest from college-aged buyers.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

What Mother's Day is Like on a Mountain Farm

Before my husband took the kiddos to see the new Captain America movie, they asked me what I wanted to do on Mother's Day.  I told them I want to sit in my comfy chair, watch old episodes of Fixer Upper, and have the laptop to myself so I can blog.  Technology has not been cooperating with me, however.  The camera's battery was dead, so I had to charge it before I could load pictures.  Google Chrome is not working under my user account on the laptop, so I'm having to settle for Internet Explorer, which has none of my settings saved.  And Chromecast isn't working from my devices, so I'm watching Fixer Upper on my 7" tablet instead of the wide screen TV while I blog.  In addition to that, the laptop's battery is dying, and the charging cord (or whatever it's called) only works if the laptop is sitting on a flat surface and the cord is arranged just a certain way.  It doesn't work from atop my lap in my comfy chair.  So...I'll have to make this snappy.
This Mother's Day, I've received the kinds of gifts that only God can give, and I can't imagine having them anywhere but here on our preppy mountain farm.  Last night one of our mama goats had a single baby boy.  We named him Asiago, and he seems to be doing quite well in the barn up close to his mother.  He's the first kid in two years born on our farm, so I've been taking lots of photos.  All of our children went out to greet him first thing this morning---some of them were still in their pajamas.
He looked a little cold when I went out to see him even though it's about 65 degrees.  I think he'll be fine as long as he stays near his mother and burrows down in the hay.  We'll keep our fingers crossed.  The first few days after birth, I'm always nervous for mother and baby.
Speaking of the weather, we had 9 straight days of rain here.  Yesterday was the first day in a week and a half that the sun came out for awhile.  Last night it rained yet again.  But this was our view from the highway on our way home from Mass this morning.  Yet another wonderful Mother's Day gift that only the Divine could give.
Our chicks are now 3 1/2 weeks old and aren't so little, cute, or fuzzy anymore.  They were trying to fly out of the trough in our house, and we had to cover it with a screen.  They also eat way more now and make way more messes.  Which means they stink.  Yesterday they entered our chick relocation program and got a much bigger home in our garage where I don't have to be disgusted by the odor or the tremendous amount of dust they create by digging in their wood shavings.
When I went out to check on them, they were huddled under the heat lamp.  But as soon as they saw me, they went scurrying to the far corner away from me.  All 15 are doing great, but one looks a lot like a turkey.  Surely the hatchery wouldn't make a mistake?!
Lilacs are my absolute favorite flowering bush, and ours began blooming this weekend.  How awesome of a gift is that?  I'll have vases of them all over my house.  When I was a girl, I used to sit under a huge one while I read books in the summer.
Finally, we've been finding---and eating---lots and lots of Morel mushrooms.  We've been back up here in the Northeast for 10 years now, and this is by far the absolute best Morel season ever.  Dipped in egg and bread crumbs, then fried up with a little bit of garlic, Morels are the delicacy of the foraging world.  At least around here, they are.
My battery icon at the bottom of my laptop is looking very low, so I'd better close for now.  We've got another goat in a kidding stall in the barn looking like she might soon give birth, so I think I might take a peek.  Typically, I stay away until after she's finished because its' so hard to watch them be in discomfort during labor.  I used to play goat midwife and help pull babies out if the mother seemed to be in too much distress.  But now I just stay clear and let her do her thing.  I think it makes them more nervous to have us standing around while they're trying to focus on the task at hand, and their bawling makes me nervous too.
Wishing all of you readers who are mothers or mothers-to-be a very Happy Mother's Day.  I hope your day is filled with as many natural gifts of life as mine has been.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Meet Jarlsburg: Our New Big Man on Campus

I mentioned back in late September that we were contemplating purchasing a new buck for our small goat herd.  It has proven to be more challenging than I would have thought for there seems to be a shortage of registered, pedigreed, Nigerian Dwarf bucks that are reasonably priced right now.  After months of searching online and through word of mouth, my husband found this guy several states away.  His registered name is really El Diablo, but as a tradition, we name our goats after cheeses, so we have renamed him Jarlsburg.

Jarlsburg will be quite popular with our girls since we haven't had a buck here in over a year.  Right now, however, he is having to prove himself worthy of their attention, and he goes to great lengths to do so.  The more silly and foolish he appears to us humans, the more attractive and appealing he seems to be to the other goats.  He is disliked immensely, however, by our one ram who has enjoyed being the only male amongst our goats and sheep during that same time period.  We've had to separate the species so the two boys don't hurt each other in attempts to win over all the does and ewes here.  Anyone who thinks that all sheep are docile have not observed a ram who is unwilling to give up his position as the alpha male in a flock/herd.

Sometimes I question if it is really worth the hassle to bring in a male goat because there are definitely trials that come with doing so.  Billy goats can be very strong smelling, and if he so much as rubs against your clothing, you will smell like him all day.  They also seem to be masters at overcoming boundaries and find the most ingenious ways to leave their stalls and pastures.  They can be obnoxious and relentless in their pursuit of does during breeding season.  Finally, they can be quite aggressive toward other males (including humans at times) in order to establish and maintain their position as "top dog."  So why would we drive hours just to bring one of these guys home to our farm?

This is the main reason we bought goats five years ago.  Goat's milk is so creamy, rich, and nutritious, and if chilled immediately after milking, it has no goaty taste.  We have also successfully made yogurt, ice cream, whipped butter, and dabbled in farmer's cheese with our goats' milk.  There is satisfaction in being able to provide your own food for your family.  Knowing that these animals are raised out in the fields with fresh air, grass and hay not sprayed with any chemicals, and no antibiotics injected into them means that their milk is safe and healthy for our children.

We also cannot resist these adorable babies when they're born in the spring.  Our does give birth to one to four kids per year.  Twins seem to be the norm and are only two to four pounds at birth.  They are just so incredibly cute, frisky, and fun to watch and to hold.  This is definitely a high point at the end of winter here on our farm.  We have certainly missed having goat kids this year, and the sale of some of them once they're weaned is also an added perk.

Sometimes an especially small kid ends up in the house with us temporarily.  It is so hard to see a weak and tiny baby be left in the cold barn away from its mother, but it happens at times, usually if it is part of a large litter.  My husband and children take pity on it and bring it into the farmhouse.  We set it up in a bin next to the coalstove to keep warm and feed it milk with a bulb syringe.  I try not to do this because once a kid is inside, the rest of the herd tends to reject it, including the mother.  Then we're stuck with "bottle" feeding it until it's two or three months old.  Even then, when it is re-introduced to the other goats, it tends to be pushed around and not accepted its entire life.  Taking care of one around the clock is a learning experience for the children, however, and it can be fun to see it interact with other household pets.  Our cat Ollie actually used to sleep with this baby and kept it warm.

With any luck, we'll have new goat kids and fresh milk on our farm in May or June.  But first, Jarlsburg must establish his presence and impress the five does who reside here and convince them that he is worthy of their time.  I am fairly certain he'll win them over by Christmas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Butting Heads: The Joys and Frustrations of Owning Goats

     My husband wants to buy another billy goat.  I am reluctant to agree to this.  We have only had five female Nigerian Dwarf goats on our farm for the past year, and there have definitely been fewer hassles.  Once we bring in another buck, I know my frustrations with the goats (and my husband) will greatly increase.  When it is breeding season (which it is right now,) we have never been successful at keeping these goats under control.  All bets are off as the male does everything in his power to get to the does, and sometimes the girls do the same.  Then there are these extremely cute babies born in late winter when we have freezing temperatures, and my entire family wants to bring them inside and raise them like house cats.  It does not make me happy.  But I have to admit that I do love seeing little goat kids jump and twist and play in the pasture, and I miss the fresh goat's milk that I turn into pudding, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.  So today I sort through the positive and negative aspects of raising goats, and maybe by the end of this post, I'll come to a decision to either concede or remain stubbornly opposed to a new addition to our farm.

     Goats have personality---way more so than our sheep.  Some are shy and stand back to watch what you and the rest of the herd will do before they come near.  Some are bullies as they are always trying to keep someone else below them in the pecking order.  There is always a Queen Bee who gets to be first at everything, even if it's something she won't enjoy, such as vaccinations or hoof trimming. Some are more athletic than others and go to great lengths to get out of the luscious green pasture you have put them in to get to the other side of the fence just to eat the same grass that they were already eating.  Some are the most wonderful, attentive mothers to their kids and never let them out of their sight.  Others want nothing to do with them and we have to hold them still just to let their babies nurse from them.  Most of our goats are extremely friendly and absolutely love to be scratched and talked to.  The queen of our herd is especially fond of my husband and acts like he belongs to her. Once we got goats, they quickly became my favorite animal to own.  They feel more like our pets than our livestock, which makes it hard to sell the surplus to others, but once they start having babies, there are just too many goats to keep.

     I forgot to mention that there is a clown of the herd too with lots of quirky habits, such as jumping into open vehicles and hoping for a ride.  This leads me to my biggest frustration with owning miniature goats: their ability to escape and their total lack of respect for boundaries.  We thought we were being so smart to use metal stock panels for fencing.  My husband moves them around our land to practice rotational grazing.  They are supposed to be escape-proof, but obviously, the designers never owned this breed of goat.  Not only can the kids squeeze right through the openings when they're little, but the adults find all kinds of ingenious ways to get out.  Sometimes they put all their weight against the middle of a panel until it bows out enough and sags down, and they either jump over it or push their way under it.  Even though we disbud our goats as kids, the bucks sometimes keep a remnant of a horn, and we have witnessed them use that horn to pull a fence panel hard enough to pop the staples right out of the wooden fence posts.  Several of our goats have been able to jump straight up and over six feet high fences.  Sometimes the younger ones get on the backs of our larger sheep and jump over the fence that way.  One of our goats can actually climb the stock panels like a ladder, as could her twin brother, who was the infamous billy goat who could always find a way to get to the girls when it was time for breeding.

     In addition to the escape methods I already mentioned, we have a few very agile goats who can climb trees.  Okay, they can't actually climb straight up a tree (at least, I don't think so) but if a tree is growing at an angle or has partially fallen, they climb it and walk on it like a tightrope until they are on the other side of the fence, and then they leap down.  When the wind uprooted this willow tree, it was like a jungle gym for some of our goats.  My husband didn't think they would do this because it was quite high off the ground, but they did.  Of course, our garden was directly underneath the end of this tree.  When one goat would do this, the rest would watch, and then one by one, they would all give it a try.  The heavier ones weren't successful, fortunately, but the ones who were did it over and over again until our son cut the tree into pieces.

     One of the best things about having goats is that they do help with keeping a couple of acres "mowed" for us, and they also eat up all of the fruit and vegetable scraps and peels that we have.  This comes in especially handy now when we are saucing and drying apples and have the cores and peels remaining.  They gobble this kind of stuff up like candy.  They are our living garbage disposals.  The flip side of this is that they also eat things you don't want them to have.  Since they are escape artists, they run to berry bushes, grape vines, strawberry patches, and young fruit and nut trees.  In the four years we have had goats, they have destroyed a rare chestnut tree, all of our newly planted pear trees and blueberry bushes, our entire strawberry patch, numerous wild raspberry bushes, and the entire row of grape vines.  Not to mention crop after crop of just about everything in our gardens.  I told my husband that he can either have goats or he can have produce, but he can't have both at the same time.  He, however, believes he will outsmart them and will successfully keep them contained.  We shall see.

     Last Halloween is a perfect example of how their culinary tastes can be a good thing and a bad thing.  While we were carving our jack-o-lanterns, the herd escaped and came straight to where we were on the front porch.  While it was great that they wanted to eat the pumpkin pulp and some of the seeds, it was not good that they also tried to eat our pumpkins.  It was impossible to get any carving done with them loose because we couldn't keep their heads out of the insides of our jack-o-lanterns. There were also no seeds left for roasting.  This is also a huge problem in the winter time when we keep 50 pound bags of sweet feed stored in the garage.  Every time we would bring in a goat to milk, the whole herd would ambush us and devour the bag of feed in minutes.  Moderation is not their strong point.

     What is one of their strong points is winning blue ribbons for our children at the local county fair.  This summer was the first one in five years that none of our children showed goats, and it was rather sad.  Because we sold our last remaining buck last fall, we had no breedings, and therefore, no kids this year at all.  Since Nigerian Dwarfs are considered dairy goats, they don't place well in a show without an udder full of milk.  With none of the nannies in milk and no kids to show, there was no goat show for us this year.  The miniature goats steal the hearts of people walking through, especially the children.

     If we purchase a new billy goat now, we will probably have kids in March or April.  Our goats typically have twins, but singletons and triplets are not uncommon, and we have even had quadruplets once, so it is possible to have as many as twenty goat kids here next summer.  That would be a lot of fun for the children, as well as give them a chance to be in the 4-H Youth Fair again.  It will mean I'll have to find homes for most, if not all, of the kids after the fair, but that's also extra income, and our children get to keep some of that.  It will mean lots of milk for us, but also the extra work of milking that someone has to do every day.  It means no vacation because it's so difficult to find someone to come and not only feed and water all of our animals, but also milk five of them daily. Even though goats are small and easier to handle than cows, if they don't want to be milked, they do everything in their power to make the task nearly impossible for you.  They chew on your hair or your collar, kick the milking pail, step in the milking pail, and even collapse their entire bodies on the milking stand so you can't even get your hand underneath them.  We had one goat that someone had to hold upright while the other person milked as fast as they could.  These are some of the frustrations I'm referring to.  Do I really want to deal with all that again?

     Yes, I think I am willing.  In an unexplainable way, these goats bring us together as a family. When our son comes running up from the barn to announce that babies are being born, we all throw on our coats and boots and go running down, ready to assist if necessary in eager anticipation of witnessing the miracle of new life.  When a smaller one looks too weak or cold to make it through the night, we take turns wrapping it up and holding it and giving it all our warmth and love and positive energy.   From youngest to oldest, we all go out to the pasture to watch the kids frolic and play with one another.  We can't resist holding and brushing them and taking lots of photographs.  As a family, we decide what to name each one because it's our tradition to name all kids born on our farm the name of a different cheese. When we expect new births, we peruse the gourmet cheese sections of the upscale supermarkets because we've used up all the common cheese names.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, when a goat gets sick, we all help take care of it, and we are praying for it as a family at the end of the day. So, for reasons that are more emotional than sensible, I think I'll suggest to my husband that we do some goat shopping this weekend.