Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Worry, Bee Happy

So, I finally opened our single beehive today, since it was above 40 deg F.  We haven't heard them buzzing for the past month and observed no evidence of cleansing flights.  I didn't expect to miss all the yellow snow that usually arrives in late winter from the mass of bee poo, normally excreted by a very large and healthy hive.  This unending winter has been tough on everyone.  Despite still having about 30 lbs of honey, the bees starved to death.  It looked like the cluster broke up too early into several groups, spreading out through the honey supers and then freezing mid-meal.

It took two hours to go through the hive bodies and remove (most of) the carnage.  I rearranged the frames for a new nucleus colony and closed it back up.  Along with several deep frames, there is one completely full honey super that I can't harvest until I have the help of a clean-up crew.  I hope the new family is as productive as the last.  We had many great harvest seasons from that group.  No stings since their fumbled installation, they were a pleasure to have in the garden and will be missed.

honey harvest fall 2013

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bonding with my Caps

Goat lovin'
While Mistress Winter still has her long nails sunk, unrelenting, into our hopeful spring-loving hearts, my goats are on schedule with their deliveries and are proving to be the hardy, dependable creatures with which I've placed my faith.

My best girl was due today, but her behavior and physical changes indicated an early kidding.  In goat speak, she bagged-up Tuesday afternoon.  Last season, she delivered in the early hours of morning, alone, as a first-freshener with a huge buckling.  Spring was good to us last March and while her unattended birth was an accident, there was no threat of freezing to death for her kid.  This year's subzero March temperature has already presented new challenges to our predetermined kidding schedule.

We almost lost our first twins to the cold.  It only takes about 15 minutes for a new and very wet creature to perish at 2 degrees Farhenheit.  Birthing attendance in March is required for many reasons, the most fundamental of which is to dry off, warm and feed the new life before it expires.  I spontaneously woke in the middle of the night to check on a first-freshener who was behaving strangely during the daytime.  She wasn't due for almost two days, but that didn't stop her labor.  I arrived just in time to rush her two kids into the house, and revive them with a hairdryer followed immediately by tube-feeding each 1/2 once of their mother's colostrum.  The change that I witnessed within an hour of that effort was truly remarkable.  The experience reinforced my commitment to take responsibility for the kids I'd helped create and be there, at any inconvenience, to make sure they had the very best start to a promising long life.

Mucus plug - Wed afternoon

I've been looking forward to Titanium's offspring since her own birth in 2012.  I made a promise long ago to do my best for her at any time of need and dependence on her human friend.  I began checking her every 2 hours, Tues evening.  Wednesday at 11 am, I was so sure that she would deliver that I left my own mother waiting at the airport until my husband could collect her.  That afternoon, a fierce snowstorm descended upon our new barn and home.  Wednesday evening, after checking all day with a sick feeling that every time would be too late, I decided to sleep in the barn through the predicted 20 inches of 30 mile an hour blowing snow.  I snuggled into the hay under a few extra heat lamps at 9 pm, confident that I would hear her final labor screams since she was only a few feet away.  The wind tore at our new structure like the roof could fail at any moment, which would be the first test of my neophyte carpentry skills.  Snow swirled into the structure through EVERY little crack my inadequacy had left, belligerently, almost invitingly.  The labor stall was covered with a thin layer of snow, so I asked Titanium to join me in an area set aside for her new kids, shivering under the lamps in hushed silence for fear of rousing the week-old kids who vocally demand food at my presence.  She would venture in for a moment to make sure I was awake, nickering in acknowledgment, and then fade out when a contraction sent her into a more spacious area to lay down and gently push.  Her contractions would build and then she purposely stopped them by changing position, snoozing, or having a hay snack.  It was incredibly cold and frustrating to witness this process, but rewarding, none-the-less.  There was purpose with every movement and I was privy to them all.  I coached, encouraged her contractions and petted her face or scratched itchy spots, in the time we waited together.  Just before her final labor, she came up to lick me as this helped her to push.  It reminded me of how a doe's attitude towards a kid (older and not their own) changes in the last stages.  In early labor, they are fearful or even violent towards another doe's offspring, while just before delivery they will bestow an almost-mother's kiss on every kid nearby.  Each doe has a unique way of experiencing labor, that unless witnessed, will remain a mystery to the herdsman.  It was a privilege and a memory to be there, for both of us.
Nearly indistinguishable, brother and sister pair.

Titanium delivered VERY large twin siblings, a blue-eyed buckskin doeling and a blue-eyed buckskin buckling at 3 am Thursday morning.  All are well and I am headed for bed.     

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Projects in Progress

While the winter's cold usually sends me retreating indoors to read a favorite book by the warm woodstove, this season has been full of opportunity for more work.  I surmise that my happiness is dependent upon a certain level of physical activity and I am currently well satisfied.  This post highlights a few of our winter projects. 

Here is my 3 year-old daughter feeding our pregnant goats a banana peel treat.  I can't remember a winter as cold as this.  They've made adjustments very well and are all wearing impressive fur coats.  A little shivering fueled by extra food helps, too.  Their dirt floor has a deep layer of hay bedding with which to make goat nests overnight for a comfortable rest.  We are about four weeks away from maternity watch and our first kids of 2014.  I'm sure the time will fly by, but I really cannot wait to meet them all.

Rendering our own pork lard on the woodstove produced an essential ingredient for the traditional cold-process goat's milk soap that I plan to produce next season.  Salted pork cracklings were a delicious by-product.  This was a Christmas Day treat for everyone...but I horsed down most of it, while they weren't looking.

My first attempt at traditional cold-process soap making took several hours of hand-mixing and earned me a few neophyte blisters to show for the effort.  After 3 weeks of curing, I was pleasantly surprised by the soap's lather and gentle cleansing in my shower.  Even my husband was impressed with it, which is a great compliment and proved the experiment a success.  In April, I will begin reproducing this all-natural goat's milk soap recipe for sale in small batches that are lightly scented with essential oil of peppermint, lavender or orange.

What's a new year, without a new goat!  Sugar Moon Morgana, daughter of Willow Moon Farm Baba Yaga (my first goat), full sister to Capsand Creamery Trillium (my favorite goat), is now here with us.  She is a blue-eyed, buckskin beauty that I have coveted for too long.  Her personality is everything I expected, calm, sensitive, endearing, and uplifting to us poor pathetic humans.  She's eager to find her place in the herd and has already taken my heart.  She is also very skinny from nursing four kids born last April and will now, finally, stop lactating and hopefully put her weight back on for a late breeding and fall kidding.  She will give us milk next winter...a welcome gift from a nurturing soul. 

Aside from a new design on portable hay feeders, which will have to wait for me to use the camera (ugh), that's what we've been working on this month.  Obviously, I am excited for spring to usher in a new kidding season.  I expect a few more kids than we have already reserved.  While I do not intend to advertise unborn kids, you are welcome express an interest and visit our new farm in April to see what we have.  Please, send me an email to capsandcreamery@gmail.com and make an appointment

Cheers, for an early spring, easy kidding, and successful new year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Diminishing Returns to Empty

So, the girls are finally dried up after +9 months of twice-per-day milking.  It's always interesting to see who finishes last and with the most milk, because those are the keepers.  My favorite girl, Titanium, who is also a first-freshener proved her worth and outpaced the older goats at the end of the season.  I will be building my new herd from her foundation.            
Here's a photo of the final milking.  The top 60% is pure rich cream, while the smidge at the bottom is milk.  This is the raw product we've been drinking and making into candy.  It's decadent.  My oldest child is forever complaining that her drinking milk is too fatty.  Well, we are working on a solution to that "crisis".  Since goat's milk is naturally homogenized, it takes about one week for the cream to partition in the refrigerator, which is much too long for an impatient person like myself.  With a cream separator, I can have a goat's milk cream with which to use immediately and also convert into butter.  I hope to produce and "All Goat" caramel next summer made from our whole goat's milk, goat's cream and goat's butter to offer at our farmer's market and to local customers.  We will also have several kinds of goat's milk soap for sale!!  So, I have my winter work in order and look forward to having fresh milk again.  We'll be back in the candy business for Easter next April!!  I hope to see you then.                                                                               

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Just in Time...

Just in time for the holidays and only during the next few weeks before the girls are dried off for the winter, we are introducing Capsand Creamery Confections, including sea salt goat's milk caramels (plain or chocolate-dipped) and chocolate fudge.  Milk produced late in lactation is especially rich and creamy, which makes for exceptional desserts.  We use the finest quality ingredients and seek local sources when available.  

These treats make wonderful gifts at dinner parties and ship well to far-flung loved ones.  We debuted at the Champlain Islands Winter Farmer's Market in South Hero, VT with promising success and will also attend the December 7 event, as a season finale.  Serving our local community, I will hand deliver within a 15 mile radius of South Hero, VT.  We do not currently ship our products.

Fresh warm caramel is amazing!

Our new products in their packages.  I hand make the recyclable boxes from cardstock paper.

These are fantastic with your morning coffee.

Traditional chocolate goat's milk fudge is available in 1/4 lb chunks

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Free Will

With any luck and much relief, breeding season has ended here at Capsand Creamery.  For months, I look forward to its beginning as the days shorten and weather becomes crisp.  I record every girls' heat cycle and contemplate their pairing with the most suitable suitor.  However, once the girls start screaming and bucks begin their fierce charade, a quiet and quick finale is all I can hope for.

Breedings are concentrated into a small window for simplicities sake of breeding, kidding, disbudding, tattooing, vaccinating everyone as a group and then sending kids in pairs to new happy homes.  This all must occur before the major chores of gardening season begin in May, otherwise I am overloaded.

The seriousness with which the goats take their annual frolic is not to be understated.  It is rather common to see everyone harmonious one morning only to walk in the next day presented with a bloody face.  "Rocky" broke a very large scur trying to hold his own against the old man of the group, Bandito.  Blood Stop powder on his head every morning as they eat a hearty ration has been my routine.  Since then, my best, most favored and efficient man has been timid and ritually bullied.  While the girls are penned so close to the boys, I must weigh each day which group or both should be allowed to enjoy the outside.  If a doe is in heat, the boys will blubber, fuss and fight all day, which I am sure the neighbors must appreciate.  So on days when no one is in heat, we resume our normal gentility, everyone is happy and enjoys the waning sunlight of autumn.

The fastest way to make heat cycles disappear and calm the masses is to breed every doe within a short period of time.  There are two things that make this most difficult: an unsettled doe and an ongoing breeding service to others.  The stud service helps offset the cost of keeping bucks for me while providing other small homesteads with an easy cheap option to high quality dairy offspring.  Long after we are finished breeding in October, customers appear as late as January with their does in heat, which means an extended rut for my boys.

I tolerate this breeding service for financial reasons.  A particular unsettled doe is, however, most irritating.  For two years, I have attempted and failed at one specific pairing.  I own a doe, who will come into screaming heat and then demand her favorite man.  Despite her hormonal predicament she will not stand to breed anyone else.  I have failed on two rounds of heat to breed her to my choice buck.  While she flags and cries at her boyfriend, she scrambles into a corner with a tucked tail when I introduce the buck of my choosing.  I've read about free will in goat's breeding, but was still shocked (and in awe, of course) by her behavior.  Who am I to tell her how things will go down?  I firmly believe there is great intelligence behind the silly goat grin.  I am still listening and she had her pick, again.     


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall To-Do List in Pictures

1. Dry burdock peelings for winter tea.

                          2. Process acorns for flour.

3. Keep shelling acorns.

               4. Bottle hard cider for sanity.

5. Pressure can more bony pickerel and pike for winter fish sticks.

                          6. Plant garlic bed.

7. Process meat chickens.

                            8. Breed goats.

9. Finish trim on the new barn.

10. Replant sunchokes and try sprouting asparagus from seed.

 11. Encourage a Kindergartener.

12. Relax with a dew filled spider web.