Sunday, December 30, 2012


A little belligerent negativity goes a long, or shall I say deep, way towards a desired outcome.  We've had about 15 inches of snow in the last several days, which has exceeded all expectation for a white Christmas (see previous post).  As such, I am taking a physical holiday off tomorrow, before my body gives out completely from shoveling snow.

This occasion has also reminded me how very off-track my attempt at omnipotence can become.  I am not admitting to being wrong (no, never).  However, 8 out of 10 times I am nearly never right.  This is why I don't gamble and feel lucky to have not had the opportunity to make bad decisions, when it REALLY mattered.  Thus, my reluctance to be decisive at all.  My husband is similarly afflicted, which makes life most dull and cumbersome when trying to move forward on projects, including home renovation.  In the end, I wield the major cutting utensils and take "full" responsibility while we do a dance over which part of the "new house" needs to be cut out.  But, that's another story.

Looking back, I am old enough to remember the television advertisements for computers in the '80s.  As I recall, it was a public service announcement with cartoon characters promising an easier way to file important documents, for dad, and store recipes, for mom.  Let's not lament nor belabor the implied sexism.  At an especially dumb early age, I recall thinking, "What a waste of time, why would anyone bother to use a computer when they could just write it all down on paper and put it in a file cabinet?".  Let's just say, it was a good thing I didn't have an investment portfolio.

So in retrospect, I really wish it hadn't snowed so damn much and maybe if I hadn't said (posted) anything it wouldn't hurt so bad.  But I am in no way superstitious!  Fingers crossed Mother Nature will go easy on me from here on out.       

Friday, December 21, 2012

No SNOW for you-know-what

So, we are celebrating the Winter Solstice!  Yeah!! Whoo-hoo (insert backflips here, b/c 20+ years ago, I could do them)!!  Days are getting longer from now on, which means 3:30 pm sunsets will be in our past for another year.  However, we are only a few days from Christmas and still have no snow.  Oh, and we live in VERMONT!!  Officially, I am not complaining because at $45 per snow plow, who really does lament the lack of white stuff.  But, think of my children and their innate desire to eat fresh snow, sled in our driveway and skate on frozen ponds!!

We nearly reached 50 degrees Fahrenheit today, as well, which means the big storm blanketing the northeast is rain.  It is predicted to become cooler over the weekend, resulting in snow, but the forecasters are off by 5-10 negative degrees, on average and by my estimation.  More complaining, I know.

On the bright side, I have post holes to dig this season and another freezing day will mean breaking/thawing ice out of my animal's water buckets.  I'm sure this will come back to bite me, but as a not-so-wise man once said, "bring it on!"  Screw you Old Man Winter, I have other plans...that have been delayed or otherwise postponed under better judgement and following the principles of nature, which apparently do not apply in this age of Global Warming.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2013 Nigerian Dwarf Kidding

 We are making preparations for our 5th kidding season!  With seven expecting Nigerian Dwarf does, 2013 will be our largest and most diverse group of kid goats, with outstanding genetics including progenitors from Old Mountain Farm, Rosasharn, PromidedLand, Sugar Moon, Dragonfly, and Twin Creeks!  We will have a fairly even mixture of first, second and third fresheners.  Based on previous seasons and reasonable expectations, I expect to have 16 bundles of joy bouncing around in the barn. 

Milking time has been temporarily suspended for our girls as their bellies grow and bodies miraculously adjust to the gift that is pregnancy.  They will receive an extra copper bolus, shot of selenium/vit-E, and an annual booster vaccination for CD&T, within the next several months.

March will usher in another three weeks of lost sleep over nighttime pregnancy checks, birthing participation, and hand-scrubbing goo out of all my good linens.  It will be a great month of hard labor and much love.  May will bring a work reprieve and sadness as we see our babies to new homes.  Summer-time is filled with milking and cheesemaking, fall breeding and finally a winter rest.  Which is where we are now.  It's a wonderful cycle that I am eager to repeat.
Join me and many others in raising these curious, intelligent companions, who support your homestead dairy.  Our kids are weaned from unpasteurized Nigerian milk (CAE-free herd) at 8 weeks and eating hay/grain supplemented by kelp and minerals.  They are also disbudded (no horns), vaccinated against CD&T (Rabies is optional), and castrated (for wethers).  Does and bucklings are tattooed for registration purposes.  I demonstrate hoof trimming and vaccinations (subcutaneous injections) to new goat owners and offer full support after kids go home.    

photo courtesy M. Mesler
If you are interested in reserving a kid(s) in 2013, please send me an email  We accept verbal reservations until all of our kids are born.  After which, a deposit is required to hold a kid until weaning age.  We offer a breeding service, at reduced rates and optional boarding for doe kid customers!  I will also demonstrate milking and cheesemaking to customers, when the time comes.

For now, though, I will enjoy my break along with the hard cheeses and frozen chevre that I've been fortunate to set aside for our winter meals.  Happy Solstice!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New View

We are moving to a greener sun-filled small acreage with a view and better schools for our children.  I haven't bothered sharing pictures of the house because it's filled with mold, rotten foundation, windows and walls that need replacing.  It is also half our current living space.  Aside from that, we love it.  I've said it before and will repeat once more, I'd rather live in a shit-box with a view than be restricted by taxes, shade or soil.  We spend so much of our time out-of-doors that occupying and heating a large space becomes silly and ecologically ill-founded.  This property has excellent potential for gardening and solar power, meanwhile our savings will go to purchasing a boat for fishing Lake Champlain.  My winter down-time will be put to good use scrubbing mold, replacing wood, learning drywall basics, building a NEW goat house, and planning an orchard and garden.  I keep telling myself that I can do anything I put my mind to and this project home will be what we make of it for better or worse. 

Meanwhile, the view from a short bicycle ride to the local winery and town beach have me swimming in dreams of retirement.  If I can put homegrown food on the table each night, we could do this earlier than anticipated.

YOU can expect new posts addressing gardening in shade/sand compared to sun/clay, as well as keeping meat critters (rabbit vs chicken) and miniature dairy goats in small suburban locations.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pigs Over the Moon

So, our first two pigs went to the cold-room this morning.  It is, in a single word, relief.  They were good pigs, easy to care for, and an asset to the frugal kitchen gardener.  But, as anyone who keeps them knows, they outgrow their cuteness, eat tremendous amounts and get VERY big.  One of them nibbled at me the other day as I entered their pen at feeding time.  We've had a week or more of rain, which is welcomed considering the summer drought.  Except that it has made the pig pen a giant puddle, even in our well-drained sand soil, that I'm lucky not to have become stuck in a time or two.  Quick sand and nibbling boar pigs make for a very wary farmer, especially since they each outweigh me by +100 lbs.

Despite the lost sleep and worry, this morning was easy thanks to my on-farm slaughter hired help.  While taking on the entire task of shooting and dressing two +200 lb hogs by himself, he made casual conversation about being a chef in the Oval Office during the Bush Jr. years.  He had wound his way around the world during his career and somehow found his place here in Vermont, working from home and spending time with his young family.  I didn't need to ask why.  He beamed with self-satisfaction and pride.  On the other hand, despite our gruesome chore, I was at ease and frankly enjoying my time out of the house and AWAY from my children.

Raising a few weaned piglets to slaughter weight was an easy and fun farm project that made good use of all our kitchen and garden waste.  It may not be for everyone, but we thankfully made it through without issue.  With a rifle, some confidence and a stiff drink, I think I would even tackle the slaughter and cutup.  It won't be next year, though.  I'm guessing it will take us two years to consume our hog from the freezer.  Now, it will be just two weeks of waiting before the grand taste test.  Thank you Butterscotch!  We will always remember you. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Guest Blogger Postings

The newly established Vermont Farm and Garden Exchange has been a wonderful source of information and opportunities to barter farm items, but most of all it has introduced me to extremely generous folks with interests similar to my own.  Every locality should have such a dependable resource and connection to their community such as this, in my opinion.  Being graciously offered the opportunity to contribute to their blog forum, I have written two posts, which I will reference (and provide links) here instead of repeating the information.  The first was an introductory approach to making a soft cheese from fresh goat's milk entitled "Easy Home Cheesy" and the second, a cursory guide to processing acorns for human consumption named "Robbing Squirrels".  I hope you will enjoy them both.

I have many posts to contribute to my own blog.  At the moment, however, the time dedicated to actually tending a farm is keeping me off the computer, temporarily.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There's No Time Like the Present...Nah, there's just no time

If August hasn't kicked my butt, then September is definitely going to smack me around a bit.  Aside from harvesting every day, canning tomatoes and freezing veg like Armageddon is near, and on top of the usual milking/feeding chores, we were gifted with two more milking goats.  Thelma and Louise were sold as kids by our farm and cared for by a very sweet friend, who has more important duties now than to milk a couple of unruly first-freshening goats.  These girls have GREAT potential as second fresheners, with long easily-expressing teats, they could be better than our top producers, their half-sisters Cordial and Constance.  For now, though, they really just want to mule kick me in the face.  My milking helper actually brought her biking helmet out of storage to approach these girls for the morning chore.  Every first-freshener has a breaking period, but for it to be this late on a strong, heavy gal is wearing me out.

To make matters worse, my neighbor helper is taking a week off this month, just before my inlaws AND great-inlaws arrive for a visit.  We have three family birthdays to celebrate in September, meaning gifts and homemade cake, at a minimum.  The meat birds are going to ice camp, etc.  AND for some reason, we now have a newly hatched chick ( friends) chirping in my ear at the moment for my 5 yr-old to scratch her (fingers crossed that it's not a damn rooster) head.  Oh...and my newly 2 yr-old daughter needs weaning and shots.  Insert curse words and beer here!!   Come on winter, I really can't wait to sit down!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Guineas' Farewell Extravaganza

Our first attempt at raising French Guineas was a mild success.  It was not warm and fuzzy, but cool and easy for me to manipulate a sharp blade across their necks.  On one hand these semi-wild birds were quite excellent in that they require very little feed input, but their management, for me, has had severe drawbacks.  I've read that they obtain 90% of their diet from forage, which I believe considering how little commercial turkey food they consumed.  We started them to control the tick population on our wooded property.  They have a wide range, eating greenery and bugs along the way.  Their antics are endearing as they are curious creatures of habit.  I never minded having them in the yard.  Even the noise was tolerable.  They are hardy and have out-flown a neighbor fox on several occasions.

Putting them away for the night was where our story becomes ridiculous.  I discovered that they wouldn't return to their coop in the evenings to roost.  In the beginning, I tried chasing them in, which was fairly useless and frustrating.  Then I would entice them with dinner, shaking a coffee can of pellets and rounding them up from the neighbor's yard.  They liked to be together, follow the leader and do whatever the hell they pleased.  If lead bird wasn't ready, then they would all walk up to the door, check out the situation and then turn away, one at a time.  All I could do was wait, coerce and curse.  If I left the door open with food in the coop, then they would go in to eat and be back outside before I could close the door.  Leaving it up to them was not an option, because they would choose to roost in the trees and be taken in the night, by predators, one at a time.  Every day has been a struggle for me.  I let them out in the morning with full knowledge that it might take me 2 hours to get them back in at night.  I've chased and caught the noncommittal stragglers in a fishing net for the past week.  This exhaustion weighs on my energy to do other chores, like milk and feed our 12 goats, 2 pigs, 10 layer chickens, 26 meat chickens, cat, two children, and a hungry full-time working husband.   

So on the hottest day of the year, I am more than happy to put an end to our Guinea adventure by killing, scalding, plucking, gutting, and freezing them all.  All except for the one bird that flew over my head and scratched my back on her way to freedom.  If she returns to live with the chickens, we will extend a rare pardon and try Guinea eggs.  I think she's seen enough and will take her chances in the wild.  Good luck and good riddance!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bats and Beaks

As the evenings became crisp last fall, we removed the air conditioning unit from our bedroom window in preparation for a long winter.  Looking back now, I remember finding what appeared to be extra large mouse poops on the underside of the exterior portion.  It seemed odd, but I wasn't going to rule out giant mice on our rooftop.  Two years ago, there was one mouse in particular who used to roll acorns across our bedroom ceiling and then down the gutter drain spout.  I was very pregnant at the time and not sleeping well, so the sound was deafening to tired ears and completely inexplicable.

The air conditioner usually sees a few weeks of use every year.  Last night we decided the uncomfortable warmth was enough reason to pop out the screen and hoist the heavy machine halfway through the window opening to find some relief in a cool sleep.  We stuffed some old shirts into the spaces on either side of the unit to keep the bugs out of our bedroom.  Everyone slept well and would have woken feeling rested, except....I heard some flapping at about 3am.  Now, if this had been a rhythmic noise I would not have heard it.  Random flapping, on the other hand, is reason for alarm.  About an hour later my husband woke me up to say a bat had just brushed by his sleeping face.  We both army-rolled out of bed and spent the next half-hour catching and later safely releasing a very large brown bat.  What is it about bats that is so creepy?  I've been face-to-face with bear and moose, but this little flapping bat had me ducking with closed eyes.  I wish they would go live in the bat box we built instead of roosting on the air conditioner.  There must be something attractive about its vibration, like hundreds of friends flapping their wings as if to say, "come join the party!"

After the bat episode, I was too awake to go back to bed.  So, I began contemplating our bird issue.  We have too many foul spread around in separate housing and I need to consolidate before winter.  There are old layers (3) and a rooster living in the coop who are on yard duty, the younger layers (2) and pullets (4) are occupying a goat stall that I need available for breeding season, the Guineas (12) have a shed of their own, we have a batch of meat chickens (25) in a garage brooder, and finally there are two newly hatched chicks from our incubator project.  We'll see who makes the cut.

RI Red and Copper Maran cross

   These two are adorable already.  I've never watched an egg hatch and shared my daughter's amazement in the process.  There's nothing quite like reality to stave off kids' boredom. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ramblings from the Farm

These are baby Oyster mushrooms in the early fruiting stage.  In the past few days, since taking this picture, they have changed yet again.  I'm so curious to watch these phases take place and will be guessing at when to harvest them, especially considering how we have neither grown nor eaten this type of mushroom EVER!  My husband has refused to eat mushrooms of any kind, for as long as I've known him.  I'm hoping to convert him with these tasty homegrown delights.

 We took another gamble this week by installing new bees (a 5-frame nuc) in our hive, which saw only two months of occupancy nearly two years ago.  I was sad and tired of seeing if sit empty in the garage.  The Italian package originally installed were mostly drowned by my inept attempt at feeding and then finished off by our voracious dragonflies.  The nuc I placed a week ago seems healthy and vigorous.  As I was opening the cardboard package, several frames tipped over onto the ground.  A simple adjustment from vertical to horizontal positioning was enough to warrant an attack directed at me.  Several made their way under my shirt, which I had neglected to tuck in, stinging me on the belly.  So as my visiting mother and children watched from a window of our house, I high-stepped and cursed my way across the yard in a sprint, covered in angry bees.  Lesson learned.

Remarkably, all of our tomatoes have begun to set fruit.  These are Sungold cherry tomatoes.

And blueberries are coming along ahead of schedule.

We also added a Copper Maran rooster to our older laying crew.  "Harold" is quite handsome and friendly.  He took his male duties very seriously and we collected six fertilized eggs from our Rhode Island Red hen, immediately.  My nearly-five-year-old was too excited about the prospect of hatching chicks to let this project slide.  So, we a built a cardboard box incubator using an old desk lamp, a wire rack from the toaster oven, and a recycled refrigerator shelf. 

Poor Harold lost his gorgeous tail to a fox the same day I took this photo.  Since then, he has been severely depressed and failed to crow at dawn.  I'm actually looking forward to his recovery.  I miss all the racket and farmyard reminder to get moving out of bed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fruit Wine-not?

Last autumn, during apple season, we frequented a family-owned orchard located about 5 miles up the road in the Lake Champlain Islands.  We've gone there since before our 5 yr-old daughter was born and returned every summer for weekly indulgences of cider donuts, utility apples, kiddie playground, and cider by the 5 gallon carboy.  It's run by an lovely older couple, who are always working the register, cider press or tractor and are in such amazing shape that I'm convinced an apple a day may just keep the doctor away for good.  They are also the most friendly and genuine people I've ever met.   I'd like to be them one day.  Not now, since I'm only half their age, but if I could live the remainder of my days the way they do, I would not complain.  I've certainly never heard them complain for the amount of tedious, yet enjoyable, work that must possess their livelihood.

Last fall I would swing by with the girls for 10 gallons of fresh cider, which required a minimal amount of time to convert into hard cider.  Recipe: take 5 gal cider, remove <1 gal to dissolve 2+ lbs of brown sugar, return to carboy and pitch in champagne yeast.  Bottle when airlock is quiet ~2 weeks.  One tip...check the sweetness before bottling.  If it is dry, add some bottling sugar (1/2 c to 5 gal).  But if your brew is still sweet, reconsider bottling it or don't add any sugar.  We've had exploding bottles that had to be uncapped (for safety) and consumed immediately due to incomplete fermentation. 

After our success with hard cider, I began experimenting with other wines.  Dandelion wine was alright, but I figured any good flavor (dandelion isn't so good to me) plus sugar and champagne yeast could result in a nice brew.  Wild grapes grow in the ditches along the road I used to walk with my daughters.  A few cups of grapes, heated and smashed to release the juice plus sugar and yeast, with time under an airlock, resulted in a decent wine last fall.  Transpose this process to spring when we have rhubarb and last season's frozen strawberries.  SUCCESS!!!  I took two cups of fresh chopped rhubarb, about 2 cups of frozen strawberries and added 1 gallon of boiling water.  In a large glass jar (reused from pickles), this sat for 3-5 days undisturbed aside from a bit of initial stirring and smashing.  Then it was filtered into a pot and set to boil for 20 minutes with 2 lbs of sugar.  After cooling to room temperature, I pitched in 1 Tbs of champagne yeast, poured it into a clean container set with an airlock and waited.  When the bubbling subsided about 2 weeks later, our first pour tasted like an excellent dry wine, which went too quickly.  We'll see if I can recreate this pleasant surprise.  I will continue our seasonal approach, anticipating blueberries, raspberries, and apples.  Fruit wines may seem hobo-ish to you, but if you appreciate local eating you may also find local malt grains and hops in short supply and more expensive.  Think outside of this narrow box to find your favorite flavor + sugar + yeast wine to cheers our new summer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gambling Garden

Kale, cabbage and broccoli under cover
 Never in my adult life have I gambled with money.  No lottery tickets, casinos or memories left in Las Vegas.  Blame it on my perpetual negativity regarding personal luck or simple appreciation for statistical probability.  Never-the-less, I play my cards every gardening season when I plant 2 months before our last frost date in an effort to get fresh food in our kitchen as soon as possible.

We had no snow pack this winter and temperatures near the 90s in mid-March, which ruined our maple syrup crop.  That was just too much of a teaser not to move things up even further, raising the stakes.  To give you an idea, it's tradition in our region of the country to wait until Memorial Day before stepping foot in the garden.  I sowed our root veggies like carrots, radish, parsnip, rutabaga, and beets directly and transplanted brassica starts during this unusually warm late winter.

I've been very wrong before, like last season when a mid-May frost killed all of our tender tomato seedlings.  Or when I put bean seeds in too early and they don't germinate.  But this year, our gamble has paid a handsome return already.  We've harvested all of the main heads from the broccoli crop and the garlic scapes.  The kale is coming in from the garden in quantities sufficient to justify blanching and freezing for winter.  We've even had some beets.
Parsnip up-front, carrots at the back

The carrot bed is full and tall enough that I won't need to weed it again until harvest.  Parsnip are coming on strong since clearing away the companion radishes.

I've a new appreciation for the humble radish.  There is nothing more reliable, care-free or faster growing than a spicy radish.  My previous efforts to slice them for salads did not go over well at dinner until I discovered how delicious they are grated (cheese grater) in a slaw.  We eat slaw in lieu of a lettuce salad, which my infant would choke on and is dependent on finicky lettuce plants that need to be continually reseeded since they bolt if you stare too hard at them.  Carrot, parsnip, beets, radish, and I'm sure any dry crunchy edible (kolrhabi but not cucumber) will make a wonderful salad after grating and adding a dressing like seasoned mayonnaise.  If available, we throw in some chopped napa cabbage for bulk, fresh broccoli and a few garlic scapes.  My 18 month old ate this.

Slaw fixings
 I'm sure there will be disappointment and total failures this season for one crop or another, but for now I'm smiling at our good fortune.  Diversification is not just for retirement portfolios and it certainly takes some risk out of gambling, that is.
3 ft tall garlic


Monday, May 28, 2012

More testosterone

Our new weaned piglets are growing fast!  This is a shared project with the neighbors.  So their pig is named Anthony (black spots) and ours is Butterscotch for his brown shoulders.  They are eating apple pumice, commercial pig food softened with whey, brewers grain, and whatever vegetable scraps I can produce from the garden.  My daughters are urged not to clean their plates, since any leftovers go to you-know-who.  They are very friendly, personable and smart.  No escapes to report, but I'm sure one is imminent.

These two little boars, in addition to our three buck goats are helping to even out the hormonal imbalance of the farm.  My husband was feeling severely outnumbered by our lactating goats and laying chickens. 

Our 15 Guineas are beginning to free-range on tick patrol.  It's difficult not to worry constantly about their well-being and commitment to return to the coop in the evening.  These birds are definitely not like chickens.  When they are old enough, I will attempt to sex them and report back on the fluctuating ratio of testosterone to estrogen.       

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Busy Days

May is turning into a blur.  We have been that busy.  I admit there is something addictive to accomplishing an overfull workload in a short amount of time.  I can only conclude that there is some evolutionary advantage to multitasking the day away that fuels our innate urge to do more.  It may be best described as squirrel-like behavior, darting frantically across an expanse furrowing nuts so quickly away that one has little chance to eat.  I am certain that it is genetic, if not contagious.  My sister exhibits this phenotype, working full time at a high-stress job with three young kids in sports while running marathons on the weekend.  I spin my wheels in other ways, but come nowhere close to her beloved insanity.

This month began with sending the goat kids to new happy homes, which meant weaning, deworming, hoof trimming, shots and demonstrations to new owners.  Last week we added two new goats to the herd, a yearling doe from remarkable milk lines and a week-old buckling with even better potential.  It's good to add some genetic diversity every year.  I have no interest nor enough knowledge to begin line-breeding (inbreeding) our animals.  We want to improve our foundation herd by breeding to the best dairy quality animals that we can afford.  Of course that sounds like an advertising line, but I want to be a responsible breeder with an eye on conformation and dairy potential.  I want our girls to have what it takes to win in the show ring, if my daughters ever chose to exhibit with 4-H.

We will pick up our piglets this week.  Of course, there's much work that still needs to be done before then.  I converted our old milking stand (formerly a failed garden cart) into a crate to transport the piggies.  Today, I will finish installing their electric fence and get the food/water stations ready.  The orchards in our area have apple pumice for the taking, so I'll plan a dumpster dive adventure for the two little boars.  As a heritage cross of Tamworth/Berkshire/Old Spot, they will grow until slaughter in November.  I have 4 gallons of whey waiting for their arrival and at least three households worth of compostables.  Any volunteer pumpkin or mystery squash plants get transplanted in the piggie patch for fall eating.  Having the pigs will also push me to set aside time for more homebrewing, since any spent grain will find its way into their slop trough.  

Every two or three days, we spend the morning hours making a hard cheese.  My goal is to put up 24 2.5 kilo rounds of Gouda for our annual consumption.  We really cannot eat any more than this without damaging arteries.  We've been dairying for two months and with seven 3 lb wheels of cheese, I'm already a third of the way to this goal.  Any excess cheese will be used to barter for other edibles we've either run out of or would like to have.  We have exchanged cheese for perennial starts of sunchokes, horseradish, rhubarb, pickles, garlic, and a half pint of cassis, which went entirely too fast. 

In the meantime, we have also achieved two long-term goals by starting an outdoor mushroom patch and fishing Lake Champlain from a boat.  I'll post some other time about the mushrooms, if any chance to grow.  Taking the girls (4.5 and 1.5 yrs old) fishing in a canoe was a better adventure and provided a solid dinner of yellow perch.  It would have made my father smile, I think.    

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Honorable Mention

Our neighbor was interviewed by the local paper about home cheese making using our own goat's milk!  Read the article here...
image owned by The Burlington Free Press

image owned by The Burlington Free Press

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You Grow Girls

Our keepers from this season, tail-to-tail, Xenon and Titanium.  Xenon (left) is out of our most productive milker, Constance.  She's only 5 weeks old but I can already tell she has a nice wide stance in the back, which is an improvement on her dam.  We are hoping sire Bandito also gives her tighter udder attachment.  She's an absolute doll, with flashy markings and a quiet but affectionate personality.

Titanium (right) is a huge long-legged blue-eyed doe who is putting on weight very quickly and looks most like her granddam, Willow Moon Farm Baba Yaga.  Her dam's udder is lovely in my opinion, so we are hoping her sire's genetics adds greater milk capacity from the prolific ARMCH Twin Creeks MB Stellaluna.  Titanium is extremely vigorous when it comes to eating and subdued and sweet in her personality.  I cannot wait to see who she grows up to be.

I'm also wishing we had retained Cadmium (center).  Her dam, Cordial, has a gorgeous udder with great attachments AND capacity.  Cad' is shaping up into a very nice little doe, who will be going home to her new owner soon.  We will be keeping a doe from Cordial next season, if she is so inclined to bestow us with one.  I'm already looking forward to our next kidding!  Holy cr*p!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Coolin' It

Here we are pushing close to 90 deg F again and it is only the second week of April.  There are no leaves on the trees to lend shade for the animals.  My cold weather loving cabbages are dry and sunburned from the total lack of rain.  I don't need much more of an excuse to indulge in a raw goat milk and homegrown frozen strawberry milkshake.
2011 strawberries

Friday, April 13, 2012

Feeding Kids with Kids

Weaning always brings some sadness as it ends a period of bonding with our little ones.  Time passes too quickly and our babies leave us for new homes in eight short weeks.

My 18 month old daughter, in her comfort zone, giving the camera a steady glare.

And the 4.5 yr old wearing her most innocent "who me?".

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


A few weeks back, we had at least five days in a row when the temperature (in the shade) was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  While this early March spring was great for getting out to the garden to plant carrots and other assorted root vegetables, it was not great for our baby goats.  After that unusual warmth, the temperature suddenly dropped back down to our normal overnight 20's.  Our 3 week old kids were just beginning to become ruminants by eating hay and exercising their extra stomachs, which is a big and very important developmental transition from a milk-drinking single stomached animal.  Adding to that stress we made the mistake of offering them some too rich 2nd cut hay.  By the time we noticed several kids bloating from their slowed gut and began to treat them, they were also becoming hypothermic overnight with the sub-freezing temperatures.  Walking out to the barn in the morning to find a dying kid after tucking them in the night before is not a welcome experience.  We have since added a new space heater and extra red heat lamp to warm their straw bale nest in an effort to keep even the younger kids, who were unaffected by bloat, from getting chilled at night.  This was a real eye-opener for me considering how they were fine with single digit temperatures their first few weeks after birth and now at one month old they need to huddle by an electric heater if it's less than 40 deg F.  I suspect this was a terrible coincidence of indigestion and weird weather, but it has made me question everything we have (or haven't) done for them since birth.  Too much milk or not enough?, at the wrong temperature?, too many visitors?, lack of sanitation or bleach residue in the bottles?, prenatal mineral deficiency or too many supplements?,  natural selection?.  After beating up myself (and others) for what has transpired, I am letting go and apologizing to those I've let down.  Every season brings a new hard lesson in livestock husbandry.         

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Playing with the past

Digging through old photos, I found one of myself with some close childhood friends...our baby goats.  This picture was taken in 1983 by my neighbor, Eddie, an older fellow with a very warm heart who I thought of as a grandfather.  Many years later, when I could appreciate such things, he gave me this photo and it is still one of my favorites.  My daughter is only slightly younger than I was in the picture, so seeing her interact with our baby goats and generous neighbors is very much like stepping into the past to relive my childhood.
Until recently, I hadn't noticed the detailed shadow cast onto the wall behind me.  We don't own any good picture editing programs, but I fiddled with it enough in Paint to produce a draft logo for our little farm.
I have one more (completely different) idea for a logo, but it's going to take more playtime.  What do you think?  My husband says it's weird.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MORE kids!!

Cordial kidded very easily in the early afternoon on Friday with two bucks and a doe.  Hours old, the boys were pawing and blubbering like their daddy during breeding season and already had little horns.  We are calling them Cobalt and Carbon.  Their little sis', Cadmium, has the potential to be a great milker, but we've decided to make her available. 
Cordial's triplets

Constance's triplets
Constance gave us three large and flashy doelings yesterday, finishing up our Nigerian kidding season.  They are Neon, Argon, and Xenon.  Everyone is healthy and taking their bottle-feeds with enthusiasm.  Our doe goats really did a wonderful job this year.  With the wait and worry behind us, I'm excited for these little ones to meet the world.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baby goat pictures

UPDATE - We have added a new page entitled 2012 Nigerian Dwarf Kids (see right) that has better pictures and is more organized.  That page will be frequently updated as we have new kids born. 

We have four kids that are just around 48 hrs old.  Ostara gave us these two beautiful does (pictured below) who take after their sire Bandito in the looks department.

doeling - Onyx

doeling - Olivia

Then Trillium delivered a tan buck and flashy b&w doe the very same day.  Both are blue-eyed and completely adorable.  Even when the kids are this young, it's hard to catch them standing still for the camera. 
doeling - Titanium

Trillium and buckling - Tungsten

Back to pregnant goat watch!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Brief Kidding Update

Ostara gave us two doelings yesterday morning right after her breakfast.  One is all black and the other is black with a white star, frosted ears and a few moon spots.  We kept vigil in the barn all day, with Cordial overdue and Trillium in early labor.  Just before bedtime with my human kids, Trillium gave us a doe and buck without any assistance.  The buck is all tan with blue eyes and her doe is black and white spotted with a white star, frosted ears and blue eyes.  They are all nursing, vigorous and completely adorable.  It was 8 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, but everyone was snuggled down and safe in our neighbor's cozy barn.

Now we are watching Cordial, who is quite late and Constance, who may be early.  "We" being mostly my dedicated, compassionate and intuitive goat farm co-owner and dear friend, EM.

We will continue to update as kids are born and be posting pictures SOON.  Thanks for checking in!  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Last fall, we found a homemade hobby maple syrup evaporator for sale just down the street from us.  It was a great craigslist find and the seller even delivered it for us.  Excitement aside, there are a few issues with this setup.  First, the built in thermometer is at an improper height to be functional, which is not a big deal except that we don't have another that is long enough to reach into the sap with the dial out of the steam.  The steam that comes off a good boil is impossible to see through, so a temperature reading is very important to make sure the sap is not about to burn.  Then the welded baffles that serve to increase heating surface area do not meet up well with the curved pan, creating a space that is impossible to clean (old toothbrush and much cussing).  Finally, the flue pipe could use some added length.  I managed to melt the edge of my polycarbonate roofing on our first boil...whoops.

However, it is just the right size for 20-30 taps and was a very modest investment.  We don't have enough trees to justify several thousand dollars of start-up cost, especially if we decide that it's no longer enjoyable.  So far, it has been a big treat from the open-fire boil we employed last year with one of my cooking pots that is still blackened.

We had five gallons of sap to try out this evaporator on the second weekend of February.  Last year, we hadn't placed any taps until the end of the month.  The weather has been unpredictable to say the least.  Recently, the temps have either been too cold during the daytime or above freezing overnight.  Sap won't run without a good freeze a night and near 40 degrees during the day.  Collecting sap is a breeze without the usual three feet of snow, so we have placed more taps than we originally planned.   It's great exercise with a toddler on my back.  Maybe that will burn off the calories consumed in maple syrup covered pancakes every Saturday from now on.  
Milking room converted to sugar shed.