Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

24 Karat Goat

I grew up in the 1980's.  It was a fashionably tenuous decade, filled with puff bangs, scrunchies, banana barrettes, and Ogilvie home perms.  And those were just a few interesting things one could choose to do with their hair.  Clothing was equally outrageous, with accessories like bangle bracelets and hoop earrings proving that bigger was much better.

In junior high, I remember being teased by my literature teacher for the puffy hairspray stiff hair and my personal attempt at setting new fashion standards by wearing mismatched earrings.  Oh, how I loved earrings.  They were big, flashy, statement making peace symbols, flamingos and autumn leaves.  They were also cheap and imported, full of nickle and other heavy metals that bind to your own proteins making the metal-protein complex very immunogenic or likely to cause hypersensitivity reactions.

I haven't been able to wear earrings, for the itching, burning, swelling they cause, as long as I can recall.  During my pregnancies, I slipped in a pair of gold hoops comfortably since my body's immune system was naturally suppressed, ever so slightly.  And then just recently, I realized that I could wear pure 24 karat gold hoops again.  These were a gift from my late father, who brought them home from Korea decades ago.  Because they were such excellent quality, they caused none of the problems that I was so accustomed to.  I never took them out and adjusted to sleeping in them since the gold was so soft, I feared bending the posts too frequently.

And then one day, my favorite goat, Titanium, reached up for a kiss, which I indulged because she is such a wonderful friend.  She nibbled a 24 karat gold hoop right out of my ear and either swallowed it or (more likely) spit it into the straw bedding.  I searched the floor on my hands and knees for many days/weeks afterwards and watched her droppings like a hawk for at least as long.

Fortunately, my sweet goat is alright.  She hasn't suffered any gastrointestinal distress.  I am holding out hope that someday I will find my lost earring, while digging in our well-fed garden.        

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Holy Goat's Milk Butter, Batman!!

My Nigerian Dwarf goats make the creamiest milk on the planet.  From one quart of milk, depending on their stage of lactation, I get 1/4 - 1/2 cup of cream or more.  Late into their lactation it is MUCH more, but I can find many things to do with what they give me now.  Lately, whenever I make a hard cheese, which uses 3-4 gallons of milk, I skim off some of the cream that has settled into the top of the jars.  I've been saving the cream for making caramels, but it's more than I need for the little candy business.  

So, I decided to finally make butter with a pint of cream!!!  Honestly, I don't know why I haven't done this before, since I've been milking Nigerians for the past 6 years.  Butter-making always seemed beyond reach for some reason, too much work or not enough equipment.  After watching a YouTube video about it [blush], I was confident enough to try.  In summary, I was blown away by how easy it was to make butter and how amazing the final product tasted.  

Before drinking your lovely goat's milk, be brave (like Batman) and scoop the cream off of the top.  Milk that has rested in the refrigerator for at least 6 days (up to 10 days) has the most cream.  Transfer 1 pt of cream into a clean quart jar with a tight lid.  Then, shake, shake, shake!!  In about 10 minutes you'll get to whipped cream, which is SO yummy.  Keep going, and viola you have a clump of early butter and some liquid whey.  Don't be confused, this is NOT buttermilk.  True buttermilk is a product of fermentation.


Once you have a nice clump of butterfat, pour off the liquid and rinse the butter in cold water several times.

Transfer the butter into a small covered dish, pressing out as much liquid as possible.  Then salt to taste and store in the refrigerator.

This will keep a surprisingly long time, but I expect you'll eat it before then.  Serve it on fresh bread, fry veggies in it, make cookies or candy.  It is delicious in every way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kid Pics

Stormcrow giving me the stare.

Fluffy ball of cream.  This is "brown ear"...the only recognizable difference from his 3 siblings.

Three amigos blancos.  Where's big sista white?

Vulcan on babe patrol, already?

It was cold this morning, so my colorful crew was happy to congregate.

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!