Goats, Milk & Cheese

We have written many articles about our goat adventures. You will find them in the archives under The Goats That Feed Us & The Things You Can Do With Milk. Just a reminder – most of our archives go to the old blog over in Blogger. If you want to leave a comment, make sure you do it here, they have been turned off at the old site since we don’t check things over there anymore.

We have continued to downsize our herd. We currently have four adult does, three of which are in milk. Kids were born to them in January and are being weaned and sold now. The cycle continues. One of the does I am milking is a first freshener, what I call a first timer. She has been very easy to train to the milk stand and to hand milk, which is great. Some in the past have not been near this easy. I’m not sure if it’s the temperament of the animal or the years of experience training a goat to be milked. Maybe both.

My favorite milker before she had her triplets in January.

We have one more first timer to birth in May. I don’t really like this goat, and have thought about selling her pregnant, but want to see if she will hold us in milk through the winter until the others have babies again next January. We haven’t been successful in having year round milk because most goats won’t breed in the off season. This doe didn’t breed at all until we got a shot from the vet to force her into heat. We were told if she was pregnant and very far along, the shot would make her abort, but we had never seen any signs of heat or breeding and she had been with the buck for months. The shot worked and now we await her first kids.

This year we are keeping two adult does in milk, the third will be sold after we have our cheese supply stocked for the year. We will keep two young does for replacements, just in case. In years past we have tried to keep does from separate blood lines within our closed herd, but not this year. There has been one ‘family’ of does that consistently out performs the others with temperament, udder size and production, and ease of milking. That’s who we are keeping.

The buck we had, on the other hand, after breeding all of the does including the late one, started losing hair until he was practically bald. It happened over a number of months. We treated him a number of times according to the vet’s directions to no avail. He still ran around when he wasn’t freezing in the cold weather, ate well, hollered like the rest, but looked horrible. He is no longer with us. This was the goat with the strange story of purchase we wrote about on the other blog in this article – Goat Tales & the Stench.

Young buck

This leaves us without a buck, or billy goat, except for the three that were born here in January. We’re on the look out for a new unrelated buck, but if necessity mandates, we will use one of these young ones for future breeding. We will ban two of them for wethers for meat, but keep one for a buck.

We have started making cheese for the season, two batches of mozzarella so far. We ran out of our cheddar a while back and bought some in several different stores. It all tastes the same, kind of like what we remember Velveeta would have tasted like. It’s the first cheese we have bought in years, we don’t remember the last time we bought any. The plan is to make a dozen wheels of cheddar and set them to age while eating fresh mozzarella for now and freezing a whole bunch. We are spoiled to our own cheese, to me, it is so much better.

Mozzarella

You can find the beginning and progression of our cheese making experiences in many of the archive articles. I still make & drink kefir everyday. Frank has always been a milk drinker and prefers goat milk to any other he has had. We did appreciate Braum’s (a regional ice cream store that also has burgers and now some fresh market foods) going to A2 milk. When our does were dry, we bought milk there, usually six to eight gallons at a time since the store is 25 miles away and we don’t like to go to town very often. If you’re not familiar with A1 & A2 milk, look back in the archives. We were very glad we discovered the difference years ago and have tried to share the information far and wide. Our vet can’t drink cows milk without ending up on the floor with cramps. He can drink the A2 milk from Braum’s with no issues. If you don’t know the difference, check it out, it’s interesting information.

Now is the milking, cheese making season along with putting in the garden. As Bear Claw, from the movie Jeremiah Johnson would say, March is a green, muddy month down below, fit for farmers and such (or something like that – we have watched that movie many times, just not in the last decade or so). He’s right. It’s a busy time of year. A good busy. We planted blueberries and strawberries yesterday. Today we made bread and planted a few more things before a rainy spell comes upon us. We do the normal chores, milking the goats, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs, preparing for the rainy weather, planting more seedlings in the greenhouse. The things that make up our daily life.

It’s a busy time and that’s great. I’m glad we have this time to continue our chosen way of life. The choices appear to become more narrow with each passing day, with each new executive order, and attempted legislation. I have no way of predicting how the next few months or years will turn out, but the folks out there saying local, local, local are correct. Frank has made more contact with neighbors in the last few months than we have in years. It’s a good thing. We’ll give you an update on the garden soon with thoughts about planting every square inch with way more than we need.

Always do what you can for yourself, your family and any you deem worthy of your efforts. Work is not a dirty, four letter word. It is what feeds the body and soul. Literally.

We would love to hear what you think. Ideas that will help us all. How to raise animals, grow food, where to buy supplies. God knows we all need help at this point in time.

Until next time – Fern

Goat Tales & the Stench

We have reduced our goat herd quite a bit recently. It’s part of our downsizing to reasonable levels in the animal kingdom. We’re also downsizing in many other areas, too. This year we had five does give birth resulting in 14 kids, which was way too many. One, we don’t like keeping up with that many kids, and two, we don’t need to milk five does. That is way too much milk.
 

We always debate whether to keep any young does and if so, how many. This year we went from thinking about keeping one, then two, then three. In the end? We sold them all and are glad we did.

Patch


One tale for this year is that our four year old doe, Patch, had triplets. She is a good mom and everything was going great until her kids were about ten days old. She went off her feed in the morning and by evening wouldn’t get up. Turns out she had a retained placenta, which we had never had happen before. We thought she was going to die, called the vet, got antibiotics and anti-inflammatory shots, force fed electrolytes, vitamins and probiotics with a syringe and held the babies up to her teat to nurse as she lay there. She got up very weak after a few days, the babies were nursing, but not enough, so we enlisted the help of Patch’s older sister, Copper, who was also raising her own triplets.
 

Copper


At two weeks of age we started penning Copper’s babies at night to keep her milk. But instead of us getting the milk, I brought Patch’s two little does in on the milk stand and let them nurse from Copper each morning. Their brother was getting most of the milk from Patch because after her time down she ended up with mastitis on one side of her udder, another experience we have never had before. To make this long story shorter, we continued with this routine until all of the kids were either weaned or sold. We also sold Copper this year. She is six years old, born here, and a little hard to let go of, but she went to a couple that really appreciated the milk supply.

Copper had to have her ear fixed when she was born.


Now, I am still milking Patch on both sides of her udder, discarding the mastitis side and keeping the small amount from the good side. I have turned her in with the buck in hopes she would breed and give us winter milk, so far no luck. The vet thinks her udder will recover and be productive on both sides after she births again. We hope so, and will just have to wait and see. 

The boys – buck and wethers


We have one older wether and three younger wethers that need to be butchered and put in the freezer, along with four new young wethers that were born this year. When we were banning the young wethers, on one of them we missed one testicle, which is now up in the body cavity since the scrotum is gone. He will have to be butchered this year since he is still able to breed. Once we get these five animals in the freezer, that will be a good reduction in the male herd, as well as more meat to eat.

We have placed our current buck for sale since we recently bought a new one. That purchase is a tale all by itself. In some ways it seems like a tall tale, but happened this way, none the less.

We had been checking Craigslist every so often looking for a new buck. We didn’t keep any of our current buck’s daughters, so there was no big hurry getting a new one, we could use him for another year, he is only two years old. But as we checked Craigslist a few weeks ago, we saw a young buck we were interested in, made contact, arranged a day, and drove the two hours to look at him. We liked what we saw, bought him and brought him home.
 

Gerty


As per our usual routine when bringing a new animal onto our land, we isolated him right away, gave him worm medicine, a copper bolus and an antibiotic shot. The next morning we went to the vet and picked up a vaccine shot which we gave and will give another booster in a month. Over the next few days he got two more antibiotic shots and continued in isolation, with the company of one of the young wethers, to finish out his quarantine time.

Well, the day after we brought him home, we got a voice mail from a lady that said we were in possession of her property. That her husband sold us her young buck while she was out of town and that he shouldn’t have. She wanted her property back. What??? We were very surprised. I’ve never heard of such a thing, let alone experienced this. We didn’t call her back, and the next morning we received a text message from another phone number insisting return of the animal with the offer of reimbursement of the purchase price and gas money for the return. Our response? I’m sorry. The sale is final.

Not only was the whole situation strange, in some ways I felt like this was some kind of scam. I’m sorry the man sold his wife’s goat while she was out of town, but that is between the two of them, if that is actually what happened. I really have my doubts, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. This is just another example of you never know what may happen in any situation. Something that appeared to be a normal everyday transaction that occurs all over the country everyday, turned out to be very strange indeed. We’re still not quite sure what to make of it.

So, now we have two bucks, eight wethers, three does and one old lady goat, One Stripe. We get enough milk for our needs and to make some cheese every so often, and that is enough.

I think the lesson I have had reinforced from this tale is to beware the unexpected, whether it is a retained placenta and mastitis, or a shady deal from an unexpected source. Always remember, things are not always as they seem, from strangers, from people in positions of power, even from people you think you know. 

The wolves are howling all across the country, from every walk of life, position in society and cultural background. There are people now that will run you down with their car, punch you in the face, throw your food across the restaurant, or stage screaming mobs outside of your front door, not to mention shoot you while you worship. Things are not as they seem. The veneer is cracking and the seething, maggot ridden rot underneath is coming to the surface. It stinks. It’s spreading. Spraying foo-foo dust on it and covering it with a pretty shiny veneer will not deter it’s festering growth or dissipate the stench. This is now. What comes next?

Until next time – Fern
 

Life Cycles & Learning

The cycle of life continues, and so does the learning. The first baby goats of 2016 arrived right on time, 3:30 am, January 5th. It was a little chilly that night, and interrupted our sleep, but they arrived healthy and strong, well cared for by their mother, our ‘old lady’ goat, One Stripe.

One Stripe


One Stripe is seven years old this year. She arrived here in January, 2009, at the age of five months, with our first herd of goats at this homestead. Our first baby goats arrived in March, 2010. Since that time we have birthed, sold and butchered quite a number of goats. No two years are quite the same, they each bring their own learning experiences, some successes and some failures.

Copper with 2015 babies

In the past we followed the standard practice of selling our does as they got older. One Stripe has been the exception to that practice, and now we are rethinking the practice entirely. Keeping an older, highly productive doe has taught us that there is something to be said for proven performance compared to new, unknown performance. We now also have one of One Stripe’s daughters, Copper, that is a three year old, and expecting her third set of kids in a few days. She is also a proven performer and will be with us for the foreseeable future.



 

We had the barn built when we moved here. It has been a slow process of getting everything set up in a functional arrangement. We’ve had the birthing and weaning pens set up since we stated having babies, but just this year we now have electricity, lights instead of lanterns, and soon will have pressurized rural water and a rain catchment system, instead of running 400′ of hose from the house or using the hand pump on the well.


Many things on a homestead take long term planning, not to mention money. But even more than that, it takes knowledge, experience and time. Just this year, due to a very, very wet year, which still hasn’t let up, i.e. the recent 12″ rainfall we received, we have had a number of animal health issues we had never encountered before. The goats had a serious issue with barberpole worms and lice, so we learned about copper boluses and using diatomaceous earth. The young chickens have come down with coccidiosis, and aren’t growing well. We usually don’t have chicks growing out for meat this time of year, but we wanted more jars on the shelf, so we thought we’d try it.


Over the past seven years we’ve learned a lot about giving shots, banning young bucks and burning horns. There have been times we waited a little long too burn horns and ended up with scurs. We used to vaccinate all of our goats, but now only newcomers to the farm get vaccinated. We’ve learned about abscesses, and how to deal with them. At first they were pretty scary and worrisome, but since they haven’t proven to be contagious in nature, we just let them run their course until they break open on their own, just like this.

We have had a number of bucks over the years, some good, some too spotted, too hairy, too cantankerous, or too small. We find that if we keep or sale animals based on the attributes we desire, we are much happier with our animals. Since we tend to keep a young doe or two each year, our buck is the animal that turns over. If we had a group of does we planned on keeping for a number of years, we could also keep the buck. It is a common practice to breed father to daughter with goats, it’s called line breeding. Some people don’t mind it, while others wouldn’t hear of it. It’s a personal preference and decision.

There are many goals on a homestead that take long term planning. Some plans you can develop for a couple of days down the road. Some plans take weeks, months, years or decades to develop. It takes the same amount of time to develop competence, experience and knowledge. There are some things you just can’t wait for. Start now. After four years, I have finally figured out how to make a good wheel of cheddar cheese. Most things take time, effort, experience, failure and determination. Take gardening, for instance. I have read many blogs and comments recently indicating that folks are increasing the size of their gardens, most substantially, including us. This comes after a number of years of experience, with it’s trials, experiments, successes and failures. But like the challenges we have had with our animals this year, even the dog had an unusual infestation of worms, most gardeners will tell you that no two years are the same.


The time is fast approaching when failure may be devastating, and our opportunities may be greatly diminished. It is a time to learn as intensely and thoroughly as possible. For the cycle of life to continue to sustain us, whether with animals or plants, we must be able to use the knowledge and experience we have gained to our distinct advantage. I remember stories I’ve seen of crop failures and starvation, and can only pray those times will not come to pass again, but I fear they will, and all too soon. Be ready.

Until next time – Fern

A Simple Non-Electric Milking Machine

The time has arrived that I need to employ a milking machine instead of continuing to hand milk our goats. This time has arrived much sooner than I had hoped, but the arthritis in my hands have made that decision for me. I have a finger that will no longer straighten unless I work on it for a while. It is affecting my grip and I’m dropping a lot of things. Rats. One of the biggest draw backs for me is that I really enjoy milking my goats. I’m sure I still will, it will just be different. I can enjoy the still of the morning, watching the animals and listening to the birds, it will just be different. As the goats and I get used to this new routine, I’m sure there will be challenges and adjustments along the way, so later on, I’ll do an update on my new milking routine and tell you what I’ve learned. For now, here is my very first experience with this machine.

I can’t say our milking machine is new because I bought it several years ago. It’s been in a storage building awaiting the time that I needed it. This is an example of storing things that will become useful in the times to come. If you have a future project that will make life easier and more productive after the SHTF, and you can afford it now, acquire what you think you will need now and store it away. It will wait for you, just like this milker.

Back when I researched and looked for a simple milking machine the Henry Milker out of Alaska was the only one I found, so I got one. Now there are several companies that have similar products like the one Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution uses, the Udderly EZ Milker. Patrice did an article on how she uses one to milk her cow here.  If there is anyone out there that uses or has experience with a non-electric milking machine, please share with us. I would really appreciate anything you can share. I wrote this part of the article before we went to the barn and tried out the machine. You’ll realize why I said this later on.

The components of our milking kit included the vacuum pump, four tubes, two tube cleaning brushes, two wide mouth quart jars, two lids, a micro fiber cloth and a carrying case. The directions are simple and easy to follow.

Copper with her kids back in March

Copper, our three year old doe, was the victim for the first trial of milking with this machine. This is the second year we have milked Copper and she is very easy going and a good milker. She looked at me a few times as I fumbled around trying to get the bucket, which we brought to protect and support the jar, and the syringe that goes over the teat in place to begin this process.

At first I couldn’t get a good suction going so the pressure would build up a vacuum and begin withdrawing the milk. With Frank’s help, we finally got things going and the milk flowing.

Yes, we always have our radios, even when we’re together.

The pressure gauge has to be pumped much more often than I expected, and even though I had to squeeze it less often than if I had milked by hand, it really wasn’t that different than milking by hand except I didn’t have to squeeze as hard.

I had to restart the suction/vacuum process twice on each teat because the milk stopped flowing. The directions included this possibility, and directed to release the syringe from the teat and start over, which we did.

Even with restarting twice on each teat, we only withdrew about half of Copper’s milk. The rest I ended up milking out by hand into the bucket. I’m glad Frank recommended we bring it.

I’m sure with practice this machine would withdraw more of the milk, and I would be get much more adept. Even with all of the commotion of trying to figure out this machine, Copper was very cooperative through it all, and I was grateful. Frank did end up feeding her quite a bit more than usual just to keep her occupied while I tried the milker and he took the pictures. Even the flash on the camera didn’t bother her. She did a very good job.

The Henry Milker worked just as advertised. The instructions and videos found on their website were helpful since I did run into a few things that were mentioned. Because I had access to the information ahead of time, I knew what to do when these situations occurred.

No filtering necessary

Pros? The milk goes directly into the jar which prevents any hair or dust from getting into it like it does when you hand milk into a bucket. The milk doesn’t have to be filtered. Just change out the lid for a regular plastic one and put the jar in a bucket of water to chill, then into the refrigerator it goes. Even inexperienced people could milk an animal using this machine.

Cons? I have read in other places and heard from an acquaintance that you still need to finish the milking by hand if you want to

Copper’s udder

make sure you get all of the milk and keep production to a maximum. The thing I noticed as we were increasing the pressure to create the vacuum and get the milk to flow, was that Copper’s teat was pulled down and lengthened in the syringe. My first thought was that I didn’t like that. What will that do to the tissue of her teat if this process is repeated over and over twice a day? Will it cause the teats to lengthen and stay that way? Will it cause them to loosen and lose their natural elasticity and break down the structure of the orifice? Will it cause them to leak over time because the tissues have been stretched so often?

One Stripe’s udder

I don’t even know if these are questions that address a valid concern, but my first thought was I don’t want that to happen to my does’ udders. I have grown very particular about the udders my does have and we have bred them to have certain characteristics. Another thing that has caused this concern is a video about another company that makes non-electric goat milking machines that shows the process compared to an electric milking machine. Some of the does in this video have very large teats and the suctioning motion of the electric milking machine rhythmically pulls on the teats. I think this process over time has caused part of the shaping of the teats. I don’t see how it can keep from it. There are also some people that prefer a large bulbous type of teat, even for hand milking, because you get more milk per squeeze, therefore you don’t have to squeeze as many times to get the same amount of milk as a doe with smaller teats. Maybe I am just backward in my choice of goat teats, but I don’t think so. I think the straight, smaller structure of this type of teat is much closer to what is found in nature as opposed to what is found with structured breeding practices.

So, what about my arthritis? I don’t know. But for now I will continue milking by hand and doing the best I can. I may need to limit how many goats I have in milk at once, I don’t know. It is very interesting to finally get to a place where I thought I would have to give in and quit milking by hand even though I didn’t want to. Now that I have tried it, I really don’t want to use a machine, not unless I really, really, really have to, and for now I don’t have to, so I’m not. I thought about just deleting this article and not finishing it, but then again I thought maybe it would be of use to someone, so here it is. Food for thought.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 5

There are lots of different things going on around here, so I thought I would do another version of the news. In the news lately…….

 

Our latest batch of baby chicks have hatched and been moved to their new abode. Out of 54 eggs we had 47 hatch. Some of them have been fascinated with their older siblings next door. 

The momma hen and the first 36 chicks that hatched had to move next door so the new babies could have the pen with the heat lamp. The ‘teenage’ chicks are almost feathered out, but not quite. They are in the ugly stage.

After the crew finished up the lean-to for the pigs, they started on the other side of the barn. This lean-to is bigger and will have a concrete pad. They poured the first half of the pad today and will finish up the other side tomorrow. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it, so you will have to use your imagination until next time. It doesn’t look like this anymore.

Later on in the week, the same crew will begin construction of our long awaited greenhouse. When we moved here in 2008 we had new siding put on the house along with the porches that extend the full length of the house on the east and west sides. Frank had the foresight to have them pour a pad for the greenhouse when they poured the porches. So, this pad has been awaiting for us for seven years. It currently houses a few ladders and the sections of Frank’s new radio antenna towers. That is another project that is on the list in the near future. We bought the supplies for building the greenhouse a while back, but Frank’s back has prevented us from completing this task. We will write an article on the hows and whys of the greenhouse, including pictures of the construction when it is finished. 

We have a doe, Cricket, that has developed a bad case of scours (diarrhea) that is cause by the barber pole worm. We have never had a case like this and have been doctoring her for about five days. Today we took a stool sample to the vet and found out she has worms so bad, it’s like she’s never been wormed even though we have treated her twice in the last three weeks. The vet gave us a different type of wormer and information about using a copper bolus. I came home, researched copper boluses and ordered some. I am going to arrange for the vet to come out next week after the boluses arrive and teach me how to administer them properly to our entire herd. With all of the record breaking rain, the worm load is tremendous this year. I will take pictures and explain the bolus properties more when we administer them. It’s all new to us.
 

One Stripe


Since Cricket is sick with worms, and has gotten very thin, we won’t be breeding her in July along with One Stripe which was our original plan. That means one doe will breed in July for December babies and five will breed in November for April babies. We’ll see how that goes.
 

The new part of the garden I planted with cowpeas and sunflowers last Monday is growing very well.

I finally got the porches put back together. They sure look better. There are definitely not enough hours in the day to get half of the things done we would like to do.

We watch Greece, Puerto Rico and the financial conditions around the world with trepidation. This causes us to spend more time discussing and pondering what we might need to acquire or learn before we are no longer able. There are many folks talking about the devaluation of the dollar, bank holidays or a total financial collapse. We feel like this is the beginning of a scary roller coaster ride that will not end well. I suspect there will be ups and downs along the way, just like any roller coaster ride, but I really don’t think we will all arrive on the platform with smiling faces when this ride is over.

Frank’s radio class starts tomorrow night, and we are really looking forward to that. It will be very interesting to see how many folks show up and what type of community communications system comes out of this new group of people. We hope to do articles about each class to give you an idea of how it is going, what works and what doesn’t. This may give you some ideas about how to form a group in your area.


We hope everything is going well in your neck of the woods. Keep your ear to the ground, your powder dry and watch your back. Things are looking dicier everyday.

Until next time – Fern


Nary an Udder the Same & Goat Happenings

As I milk the does each morning, it is always interesting to note the differences in their udders. It’s something I have experienced for years, but I didn’t think about sharing it with you until recently. Goats, just like people, each have their own special peculiarities that make them unique. And since I milk my goats, one of the things I pay particular attention to is their udders. Many goats udders are very similar, but the group of does I have right now don’t share many characteristics, and because of that, I thought I would explain the differences and what I think about them.

I’ll start off with One Stripe, our old lady goat. She is now seven years old and has been with us since she was five months old. I think she is starting to slow down a little, but for an old lady, she is doing quite well. Her udder is getting longer as she ages. It also has more mammary tissue that the other does. The first year or two I milked One Stripe, her udder was much firmer and more congested than the other does. She didn’t have mastitis, but either she wouldn’t let me have her milk or the mammary tissue took up so much room, she didn’t have much. I have always wondered if that has affected the size of her udder. It still never completely empties when I milk her, but she is a breeze to milk. One Stripe’s teats are straight, easy to handle and allow a good amount of milk with each squeeze. She and I have been doing this together for so long that sometimes she will turn her head around and nudge my shoulder when she is ready to leave, but I’m not finished.

Copper is One Stripe’s two year old daughter. Copper’s udder is even, and holds a nice capacity. She does not have the longer, type of udder her mother has. The teats are even, a little longer than some, and also allow a good amount of milk with each squeeze. Copper is a taller, longer goat than the other does I have. I scoot my chair closer to the end of the milk stand to reach her udder comfortably. Copper was an accidental single kid in the middle of winter, so she didn’t have anyone to play with when she was born. Consequently, she came back to the milk stand with One Stripe while I was milking. She has always been very tame and easy to handle, if sometimes a little onery.

Cricket and Lady Bug are twin sisters that are one year old. They each had their first kids this spring. It is always interesting to see how a doe will turn out on the milk stand. Ivory, their mother, was a great milker so I had high hopes for these two.

Cricket started off with very small teats. She was hard to milk and not at all interested in letting her milk down. After a few days I remembered that Ivory started off the same way. That gave me hope that Cricket’s teats and udder would develop well during her first lactation. So far so good. She is definitely easier to milk, and she will let her milk down for me now. One of the challenges of increasing her milk production is having her son continue to nurse through the fence. With the work on the barn and the addition of pigs, available space for weaning is limited for now.

Lady Bug started off too wound up for my taste. She was not relaxed, but furtive and anxious. Now, after almost three months she has calmed down nicely, and is very easy to milk. Surprisingly, her teats are much larger than her sisters. They are not as long as One Stripe’s or Copper’s, but they hold a good volume of milk per squeeze, making her very easy to milk. For a first freshener, Lady Bug also has a very good quantity of milk, even though Easter is still nursing some through the fence.

We sold Penny, who is Copper’s daughter, to Faith back in April. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of her udder before she left. She is the first doe I have had that had two different size teats. Noticeably different. One side is much easier to milk than the other. At first I wondered if it was because her twin bucks were nursing more on one side than the other, but Faith tells me they have continued to remain different sizes. She doesn’t have any trouble milking Penny, and has adjusted to the different techniques needed to get milk from each side.

Every milker has a preference for the type of udder and teat they prefer to milk. I know I do. As time has passed and my experience as a milker has increased, I am now much more particular about the animals we add to our herd. If we are looking for a new buck, I ask to see the mother’s udder in milk or at least pictures of it. If it is pendulous, or the teats are large and bulbous, I pass. If the teats are small, or the udder is poorly attached, I pass. Since I plan to milk our does, I want animals that have the genetic propensity to produce healthy, well formed, udders and teats. I don’t have to have an animal that will produce a gallon a day, but I would like to have a decent amount per animals.

Speaking of bucks, when the vet was out recently working on our new pigs, we also had him work on Bill’s horn scurs. Bill’s horn burning didn’t go well before we bought him. We knew he had some scurs when we brought him home, but we have never had any that grew
out like this. Bill had rubbed or caught the sideways scur that had gotten pretty long, and ripped it away from his skull, which caused it to bleed a little. The vet takes care of these types of scurs with large landscaping loppers. Scurs on goats don’t generally bleed a lot because they don’t develop the same type of blood supply that a regular horn has. This was true for Bill this time. The vet applied some standard blood stopper powder for good measure. While we had Bill in hand, we also wormed him and trimmed his hooves. We hadn’t caught Bill in a while, but he is usually tame enough when we feed. You can reach over and pat and scratch him then. But when I poured out the feed and took him by the collar, he jumped up on his hind feet, hollered and fought valiantly to get loose until the vet could take over. I was very happy to turn him over to someone else. If you had been standing around, the dance Bill and I did would probably have been somewhat comical. Luckily, it worked out okay.

We plan to turn One Stripe and Cricket in with Bill on July 1st, to begin our first breeding cycle. We hope they breed sometime in July to give us December babies. This will allow us to have plenty of milk through the winter. We tried this last summer, but Bill wasn’t mature enough to handle this responsibility at the time. If our breeding plans are successful, Cricket will dry up around the end of August or early September. One Stripe has already been dried up. Since she is older, I wanted her body to have a break before she becomes pregnant again. I will continue milking Copper and Lady Bug until late December or early January when One Stripe and Cricket are in milk again.

We will breed Copper, Lady Bug, Patch and Easter in November. This will provide us with the larger supply of milk in the spring so we can begin making next year’s cheese supply. Well, that’s the plan anyway. We will see how it goes.

We still need to butcher our older wethers. We hope, cross your fingers, to get that done in the next week or so. It will be nice to have our own meat in the freezer again. I want to figure out how to make a very simple jerky from our ground chevron. Most of the recipes I have read have more ingredients than I want to use. If you know of a very simple recipe that does not use liquid smoke or any sweeteners, I would be interested in looking at it. I would like to use little more than salt and pepper, but I don’t know if that would work or not. I need to do some more research on simple jerky recipes.

The over abundance of rain this spring and early summer has also caused an over abundance of worms this year. I have had to worm the goats more than usual. Even Pearl, our Great Pyrenees, has had difficulty with worms which she has never had before. The vet said the weather this year has caused a tremendous flush of worms for all of the animals he sees. It’s something good to learn and be aware of as we continue to learn the nuances of our location. We have been here seven years and in that time we have had two years of serious heat and drought and two years of incredible rain and flooding.

We continue to see our goats as vital to our homestead. They provide us with milk which we make into kefir, butter and cheese. The by product of whey is then fed to the chickens and pigs. The dog and cats also benefit from the milk everyday. The goats provide us with meat and the other animals with nutrition through the organs, fat and scraps from our table. We enjoy our goats. They are a good farm animal. But more than that, every animal on our homestead is here for a reason. They all have jobs to perform, and if they don’t meet the expectation or need that we have, we don’t keep them. Regardless of how much we may like them or want them, if they don’t perform adequately, or exhibit an undesirable behavior that we are unable to alter, then we don’t keep them. Some we eat, some we sell, some we give away with full disclosure of why we are getting rid of them. 

Homesteading is our way of life. Soon we feel it will be our survival. We continue to increase our skills, so that hopefully, we can depend on what we know, what we have, and what we can do, to see us through the hard times that will soon be upon us all. We would encourage you to do the same.

Until next time – Fern
 

Homestead News, Volume 3

Even with historic rainfall, it seems we have managed to stay busy on our homestead. There are a number of projects that are either ongoing, getting started or waiting in the wings for next week to arrive. Here is a rundown of some of our recent events.

 

Frank has wanted to put another layer of gravel on the road going up to the barn. We had this road constructed when we bought our place, but it was time to increase the gravel depth and width. This should do for this road for years to come.

 

We also wanted a load of gravel placed in the backyard so Frank could spread it out in our parking areas and in a number of other places. Unfortunately, the dump truck got stuck before it could make it down the hill. This necessitated dumping the gravel by the chicken house, which means Frank will have to make many, many trips up and down this hill to place the gravel in the desired place.

The dewberries are ripening, so my friend Grace came over today and between rain showers, we picked a few berries. I hope to pick many more in the next few days. By the way, yesterday and last night we got another 1.4″ of rain, and then today we got another 0.4″. But! This is supposed to be the end of it. There is no rain in the near forecast. Hallelujah!

We have had some issues with the egg turner in our incubator this year and were afraid we would have a very poor hatch rate. Today, the day before our actual hatch date, we already have eleven, no make that sixteen, new baby chicks. We were surprised and pleased with this development. Frank will fill you in on the details in an upcoming chicken story.

Our house was built in 1983 on a stem wall with floor joists. Over time it has settled in the middle and needed to be jacked up and leveled. It was hard to find someone to do this kind of work, but today two of our friends arrived and began this project. After this job is completed, they will be helping us replace some of our 30 year old carpet with new flooring. We are really looking forward to that.

Next week the window company will be here to replace our windows. Many of them are clouded over on the inside, and one on the north side lets the cold air in if it is very windy. This is another project that has been on the drawing board for awhile.

The pigs are growing, and will be given more room sometime in the coming week when we let them out into the larger pig pen. First we need to add a few stock panels up against the barn. The last set of pigs really rooted out a lot of dirt under the edge of the slab the barn is sitting on. We don’t want to allow any more of this dirt to be removed. All of the pigs are becoming tame enough to pat and scratch while they are eating, and occasionally when they are not. They greet me each time they see me, especially if I have a bucket in my hand. 

Easter on top, Bo in the house

Tomorrow our last two kids will be separated from their mothers for weaning. Easter, our Easter Sunday doe, and Bo, our little bowlegged wether will be joining the adult wethers, the teenage wethers, and the billy goat. The teenage wethers and Patch, another young doe, have been separated from their mothers for eight weeks now. One Stripe is Patch’s mom, and she is no longer being milked, so Patch will be rejoining the doe herd tomorrow. I will be glad to have her back with the ‘girls’ so I can give her more attention. She is already a very sweet, tame doe and I look forward to adding her to the milking line up next year.
 

Patch


Tomorrow morning Faith, our friend that bought Penny to milk, is coming over for a cheese making lesson. We will be discussing how to make soft cheese and making a batch of mozzarella. Faith has been reading a lot, but learns best by watching and taking notes. She is just beginning to put together a list of needed equipment and ingredients. We will have a fun time talking goats, milk and cheese.

The garden is growing despite all of the rain. The zinnias we planted in and around some of the vegetables are starting to bloom. And they are beautiful. 

It seems we are busier than ever, with much to do on our plates. Once the few projects I mentioned are complete there are about a half dozen more waiting to be started right behind them. We’ll let you know what they are and how they go. Life on a homestead always gives you many things to do. Some planned. Some not. Either way, you learn, you work, you live. It’s a good life.

Until next time – Fern