Projects for TEOTWAWKI Life

A homestead is never without a long list of projects. There are the ones that are in progress, the ones waiting their turn on the list, and the ones that fit better in the distant dream category. Nevertheless, if you homestead, or plan to homestead, don’t be discouraged that the list never gets completed, because if it did, you wouldn’t have anything to do, and you’d be bored. Boredom is not something that occurs here very often unless we’re expending our energy avoiding the things on the list that need to be done.

The installation of this lattice work has been planned for years.
We think it turned out great! I see green beans growing the length of the house next summer.

 
 

A friend of mine recently told me that she just couldn’t keep up with us and all of the things we’re doing. There are a lot of projects that are in progress right now, and when Frank and I stand back and take stock, sometimes it seems like a bit of a whirlwind. One thing that has allowed a lot of this to occur is being able to hire a man like Henry. With his help, Frank has accomplished a great deal in the past few months. The conditions of the world are the major driving force behind the pace of our work and the kinds of projects we are completing. The focus of our work is survival, plain and simple. The things we are doing will make the work required to live easier, we hope, so keep that in mind as you read here. All of our planning, work and goals are with an eye to survival.

Most of the projects we are currently working on have been on the drawing board for quite some time, and in some cases, as long as seven years. Over that time frame we have acquired supplies as our budget would allow. Now we are investing in the remainder of the needed supplies and the labor to accomplish some tasks. These investments will pay huge dividends for the rest of our lives.

Yesterday while I was attending a meeting, Frank and Henry built new steps with a handrail for the front and back door. They are simple, strong, sturdy and wonderful. You see, I like simple, I prefer simple. Anything else just wouldn’t do. We will find another place to use these concrete steps.

Today we planned some odds and ends. While it was cloudy and a cool 68* outside, the greenhouse stayed cool as well. Table tops were cut and barrels were arranged in a workable layout. Don’t they look great? I can’t wait to bring the tubs of plants and seeds in. 

It’s hard to see from the angle of the first picture, but when I take a picture from up here, you can also see the shelves they put along the outside walls. They will show up much better once they are filled with plants.

We had some great comments on the last article about the greenhouse. Several folks mentioned using fans to help with the temperatures. Frank had a fan to use in the building that will house the solar panels and batteries that we hadn’t installed yet. He pulled it out and mounted in over one of the vents in the greenhouse. 

 

He had already put a power pole connector on the wire to the fan, and had an transformer that would work. After mounting the fan over the vent and plugging it in, we were in business. After about 20 minutes the temperature had started to drop.

 

After an hour or so, the temperature had obviously been affected by the fan. Great! One step closer to putting the tubs of seedlings in the greenhouse.

Frank and Henry also utilized all of the sheets of plywood, along with some 1/2″ plywood to cut ten 24″ squares, to put under each water barrel as a barrier from the concrete.

Now we need to rinse out each barrel, place them in their permanent home on a square of plywood, fill them with water and treat them with bleach. Then we will be able to start bringing the seedling tubs and other plants in. That will be a red letter day!

While the men were working on the greenhouse, I was cleaning out the ‘weaning pen’ in the barn. Lady Bug, one of the does we are milking, is still letting her five month old doe, Easter, nurse. I was hoping she would go ahead and wean her, but stay in milk for our use. As I was milking her this morning, and getting very little, I began to wonder if she could be weaning Easter and drying up. This would defeat our purpose of keeping her in milk through at least mid January when One Stripe, Copper and Cricket are due to kid. After this thought hit me I knew I needed to start penning Easter up again at night so I can not only have more milk, but keep Lady Bug producing more, and hopefully longer. Thus, I needed to clean out the pen and get it set up for this evening for Easter. We’ll see how Lady Bug’s milk supply is in the morning. I’ve got my fingers crossed.


We still have some chickens that need to be put in the freezer, so after I finished cleaning the pen, I went down to the house to set up the butchering station. Very soon, this part of the task won’t be necessary. Frank, Henry and the tractor were wrestling with the stump in the outdoor kitchen area when I got back down to the house. Men and machine won out over the stump, although it did give them a run for their money. Now, in it’s place is a nice gravel chip pad and the beginnings of forms for concrete. When we butcher the chickens that grow from the eggs that are currently in the incubator, we may have this kitchen set up so we can dress the chickens here. I didn’t get any pictures of this process because I was butchering chickens down here at the end of the porch, but I was close by and got to watch.
 

My chicken butchering set up, washed and drying for next time.


You may wonder why we are building an outdoor kitchen. It’s not for fun, or looks, or to show my friends. I truly believe that it is something we will need to have in the coming years. It gets hot in Oklahoma in the summer time, and the propane tank that fuels our kitchen stove will run out one day if the trucks quit running. I need a place to cook, process the garden produce and meat from our animals, can food, wash clothes and provide for my husband. This will be where that happens. As we get everything set up and functional, we’ll give you another tour and more explanations. This project is still in the planning stages and has already undergone a number of changes. It will be interesting to see it all come together in a final product. Most of the things installed in this kitchen have been here for a while, some longer than others. A few things will need to be acquired for it’s completion.

Before the wrestling match with the stump commenced, the clothesline poles sprouted wings. We will let the posts continue to cure in the ground for a few more days before we hang the clothesline. I am really looking forward to hanging our clothes out on the line again. As you can see, the clothesline is close to the kitchen which will be very handy. 

After Frank and the tractor won the stump contest, he also ran the disc through the garden again. There are several places that the grass has really grown tall and it’s good he is working it and getting it ready for winter. We will soon be adding barnyard and wood ashes to rebuild what was lost in the early spring torrential rains that took much of our topsoil.
 

We still haven’t decided where to put the outhouse……


What projects do you have in mind for TEOTWAWKI? In the seven years we have lived on this homestead our purchasing has been with an eye to a future that will probably not resemble life as we know it now. Frank has seen the demise of our country and world coming for a long time. That is why we have purchased many supplies that have been waiting in the wings for quite a while. Now is the time for us to prepare these things, for soon the time of preparation will be past. Even if you are unable to complete a needed or wanted project now, obtain as many supplies as you are able. There will be a time when what you have is what you have, and that’s it. Think about that. What you have is what you have. No more stores or driving to town to get something. If you don’t have it, you can’t get it. What is it that you really need for TEOTWAWKI? Think hard, talk it over with your family. Make a list and acquire what you are able. Now. The time is now.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 11

Outside of butchering seven of our ‘teenage’ roosters a couple of days ago, there isn’t much new to report. We were glad to get five of these roosters in the freezer since our meat supply is literally down to nothing in there. We have quite a bit of meat walking around on the hoof or foot, but the freezer is looking very bare. It reminds me of stories about folks that went out and grabbed up a chicken when meat was needed for a meal. It was killed, dressed and cooked for that day’s food. Refrigeration has really changed the way we are able to live. I have given quite a bit of thought to what it will be like to live without refrigeration again. It sounds much more difficult and not near as convenient as we have it now. Something to ponder. How will you keep things cold or cool that need refrigeration to prevent spoilage and extend the life of your food?

We’ve had a nice little rain today which has helped cool things off. We had planned to butcher the last seven teenage roosters today, but it was 96* by 11:30 this morning. This evening we will have a cold front come through that will make the temperatures much more comfortable, thus it will be easier to work outside.

Our dear friend Faith, that bought some of our goats, took a very bad fall last week. She will be undergoing some reconstructive surgery to her face this week and we would appreciate it if you would keep her and her family in your prayers.

Frank and I have had many conversations about how to set up the greenhouse and all of the possibles that go with that process. As the temperatures start to cool down, it will be easier to work in there. It’s very interesting to see how quickly the temperature rises once the sun reaches over the tree tops and touches the walls. Very interesting. 

We have had a question or two about the exterior sheathing on the greenhouse. When Grace came to visit after we had the sheathing up she looked at it, looked at me and said, “What are you going to put over it?” She explained that she wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but it was something more than what it is. The exterior of the greenhouse is a product called Tuftex. Frank did a lot of research on this product before we decided to use it. The type we chose is called Poly Carb which is described on their website like this: “TUFTEX PolyCarb corrugated panels are our toughest building panel. Made with a polycarbonate thermoplastic polymer in an octagonal-wave profile, TUFTEX PolyCarb corrugated panels are 20 times stronger than 5 oz. fiberglass corrugated panels and are designed to withstand a wide range of surface temperatures: 270° F to -40° F.” Lowe’s carried some Tuftex, but we had them order what we needed to have enough of the right type, colors and lengths. We used the translucent white on the roof and clear on the sides. Until we put the barrels in there, from some angles you couldn’t tell the walls were up. It will be very exciting to look at it and see plants inside, especially when we get it full of plants! I know I have said this before, but it will be a real treat to walk out there in the winter and pick something to eat. I think I will be worse than a kid in a candy shop.

It’s about time to make cheese since the frig is filling with milk. It will be mozzarella this time since the cheese frig is full of cheddar. We still haven’t tried to make cottage cheese again yet, but we will. It’s about time to make bread, too. I have set out the whole wheat sourdough starter to feed and lower the acidity level before I use it. Now days after I feed the starter for a few days, I pour half of it into the pig bucket instead of the chicken bucket. The chickens never did like it much, but you know what they say about pigs, they’ll eat just about anything. Except jalapenos. They don’t like them very much. Or really big, hard okra pods. Either they don’t like them, or they are just too hard to eat, I’m not sure which.

Since I tried our milking machine and didn’t like what it did to the goat’s teats, I haven’t tried it again. What I have done is really pay attention to my milking technique. Over the years I had developed a certain rhythm that was comfortable and seemed to be effective. Now I pay more attention to making sure I get as much milk out with each squeeze as I can. This is causing me to slow down some, but requires fewer squeezes per doe. I don’t know if this has made a difference with the arthritis in my hands or not, but I do know that I can straighten my bent finger out more than I could without working on it to do so. Interesting. I have also been told I have trigger finger on the same hand and same finger. Does anyone know of a natural way to deal with this? Grace told me her sister had it and wore a finger guard for a week and that fixed it. I haven’t tried that yet.

I have also started drinking apple cider vinegar with the mother in it, with local honey in warm water. This should help some of the sinus issues I have been having, as well as the arthritis. I hope. I used to do this everyday for years until it made my teeth hurt. The vinegar I used back then didn’t have the mother in it, though. This time I will make sure I rinse my mouth well with water after I drink it to protect my teeth. I’ve even thought about adding a bit of the canned garlic we have to the mix. Vinegar, honey and garlic are all very good for the body, so it couldn’t hurt any. I don’t mind the taste of vinegar and honey at all, I’m just not sure how the garlic would taste with it. Probably pretty good if you ask me.

We continue to eat our sauerkraut everyday. The portions are bigger than they used to be, and if there is a day we don’t have any, we miss it. When we first started eating it, there were several people that commented about how our taste preferences would change and that we would really enjoy fermented food. You know what? You were exactly right. We do really enjoy the sauerkraut and the health benefits it provides as part of our daily diet. 

We will be starting another project later on in the week that I will be showing you before long [it’s not the outhouse]. It is very exciting to have so many long term plans coming together. There is also a feeling that time is short to get some of these things completed. Frank and I talk about making plans as if there isn’t a collapse coming also, just in case. But at the same time we know it is coming, so we have to plan for that eventuality. Like I said last time, wishing won’t make it so. Just the other evening as we were getting ready for bed I asked Frank, “So where are we going to put the outhouse?” Another one of our recurring discussions. We still haven’t decided on a location.

Hello everybody, Frank here. The immigrant issues that are happening in Europe will soon be knocking on our doors here at home. There have been mass forced immigrant movements all through history. One of my grandfathers came to America around 1900 as a very young boy. His family was forced out of Russia. It has happened for centuries, and it could happen here just as easily as it has happened there. It’s easy to be cynical, but the fact is, people are being dislocated and they are willing to die or drown to escape wherever they are. It has to be horrible. Don’t kid yourself that it can’t happen right here. As we speak, there is a quiet exodus from the drought ridden areas of California. Towns there are shutting down. No joke. We are about to see many people, many more than are already coming here, from the areas affected by this forced relocation. It’s just one more thing that is happening. Is it a diversion? Could be. You decide. But you’d better get prepared. Frank

Now take Frank’s commentary and apply it to a collapse scenario where thousands of people are trying to escape the riots and starvation of our major cities. People that are desperate for water, food and shelter for themselves and their families. What happens when there are hundreds of them walking down the road where you live? I see the pictures of the Syrian people walking through Hungary, and that’s what I see. Hungry people, desperate to escape the carnage behind them, with hopes of assistance awaiting them at their destination. In a collapse situation there is no assistance awaiting them. I really think some people in smaller towns will actually go to the cities in search of government assistance. We’ve all heard the stories about FEMA camps and the rounding up of people to ‘keep them safe’. Don’t get on the bus. 

What I keep seeing when I look at the Syrian refugees are groups of people at the gate demanding water, food, shelter and assistance. There is no way we can feed them. We’re far enough off the beaten path that there probably won’t be many folks walking down this road, but I can see it happening all over the country. What are you going to do if a group of demanding people show up at your door or gate demanding the things you have prepared for your family? If you turn them away angry they will just come back with reinforcements. It is something Frank and I discuss regularly. If you feed one group they will tell the others and the next day there will be 10 groups, then 20, then 40, then 100. Before the last group arrives you will be out of food and desperate yourself. Then what? We can only pray we will never be faced with this situation. But part of being prepared, probably the most important part, is being mentally prepared. You need to have an answer to that question. What are you going to do?

Frank will be doing another article before long that will address some of this mental preparation. What he will discuss is a very difficult topic that will require very difficult decisions and actions from all of us, but one that should be discussed and thought about. Do all you can to have your family ready for what is about to befall us all. Remember, we would rather be prepared fools than unprepared fools. One minute too late, is just that. Too late.

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

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
 

The Ease of Training First Fresheners to Milk

I know the title of this article made some folks laugh. Especially those that have had the pleasure of training goats to milk. Sometimes it can be difficult at best, if not downright unbearable. I have a good friend that

milked a goat for several years and had to hobble her goat every time, even after a couple of years. That, I would find unbearable. We have always had Nubian milk goats, so I am not familiar with the personalities and idiosyncrasies of any other breed. We did raise a Boer goat once, and her baby, but they were a much more aggressive breed and did not fit in with our preferences in livestock. So we ate them. That is typically what happens to chickens and goats that don’t settle in and find their place in the scheme of things. Now we usually sell the does that just don’t work out, but we do it with full disclosure of why we are selling them to all potential buyers. The friend that had to hobble her goat bought Ivory, our screamer, back in the fall, knowing full well how loud her vocal cords could be. We had a laugh about it on the phone the other day. I guess she still hollers every time my friend goes outside, but is supposedly settling down some.

Back to training first fresheners. I commented to Frank the other day about how incredibly easy my three young does have been to milk this year. It has really surprised me. He told me it probably

Faith and one of Penny’s newborn babies

had something to do with my experience, and that after you do something for a long time you figure out how to work out the kinks. That was interesting, and got me to thinking. Why has it been so easy this year, and what can I pass along to others who are just getting started, or are having a hard time? I have also been giving our friend, Faith, milking lessons. You know, you’ve heard of piano lessons, painting lessons, driving lessons, and even cooking lessons, but it’s kind of weird to think of milking lessons. That has also made me stop and think about all of the little steps that have become an automatic part of my daily routine. I’ve been giving milking lessons because Penny, her two boys, and Copper’s girl, Buttons, who is Penny’s sister, will soon be going to Faith’s house.

This story starts back in 2010 when I first began milking here on this homestead. We had two does that I milked for a year or two back in the late 1990’s before we moved to Alaska, but I really don’t remember much about any techniques I used back then. When I started milking in 2010, we had 11 does. I know I didn’t train them all, because we sold some of them that spring after the babies were born. Some we sold with babies by their side and others individually. I think I trained five of them then, but I can’t be sure. I remember being so nervous, trying to make the goats happy and

The girls of 2010

stand still without putting their foot in the bucket and ruining the milk. I remember being frustrated and impatient with their noncompliant behavior. I remember trying to coax, then coerce, then force the behavior I was wanting and expecting. I remember some rather nervous does, because they weren’t real sure how I would be acting at a given time. I remember thinking I would never get a handle on how to get milk out of a teat without squirting it all over me, the doe, the milk stand, the ground, anywhere but inside the bucket. I remember fighting with Katy because she hated, really hated, having teat dip applied after I finished milking….for years. I finally started lifting her right hind leg way up by her hip so she couldn’t jump around while I applied the teat dip. It was much easier on me and quicker, too. I remember being on the last goat, almost finished, when she kicked the bucket over and spilled the milk from three goats, or stuck her foot in it and ruined the whole bucket full. I remember how good that first, fresh, raw milk tasted, too. It was wonderful!

I think the things I remember will bring a smile to your face if you’ve ever tried to train a goat to milk. If you are planning to train a milk goat, don’t be discouraged. It does get better. If you never have goats, I hope this is an interesting story.

The first challenge I had was how to get the goat on the milk stand. We have collars on all of the goats. If you take a goat by the collar and it tightens, even gently, under their chin on the neck, they will choke, very easily. At first, I worried about that, until I realized it doesn’t hurt them. I tried many, many things to get goats to

Copper, 2013

cooperate and willingly get on the milk stand….like they do now. I now start out bringing the young does in on the milk stand when they are young. I start around six months of age, usually not long after they have bred. It doesn’t happen everyday, but with gradual, occasional experience, the does begin to realize that coming into the barn and climbing on the milk stand will provide the rewards of a meal and a back scratch. Initially, I try coaxing the doe onto the stand voluntarily using a bowl of feed. I explained this technique when Copper was young, here. She has now had her second set of kids and gets on the stand with ease. She launches herself up from the side foregoing the steps everyone else uses. There have been a few times she slid when she landed on the stand, which caused her to fall. She was skittish for a few days, but then once again started launching herself on the stand.

With my first does, I didn’t start bringing them in to the milk stand until right after they had their first babies. This added one more thing to the list of new things these young mothers had to adjust to. They had just had

babies, they were sore, some of them were afraid of their babies and still didn’t have the nursing thing down, and now I’m taking them by the collar and bringing them to an unfamiliar place, trying to get them to step up on this platform thing while slightly choking from having their collar pulled on. Sound like fun? It didn’t work very well at all. This was the time of frustration for me and the goat. Now that I have started training the does to the stand well before they give birth, they are more than happy to come in and get on the stand for a meal. They already know what to expect, and I barely need to lead them at all. That takes care of the first hurdle. 

Next is the process of milking. Since I handled the does more and more as they come in on the stand, they didn’t even flinch when I started milking them the day after they gave birth. That was great! I could go into another one of those I remember stories, but I won’t. Lots of handling of the udder,

the belly area, scratching and patting, makes the goat more trusting of your care and handling. Use a firm, not timid hand, to maneuver a goat into the position you want them to be in. Penny tends to stand right on the outside edge of the stand. If she took one step to the right, she would fall right off. When you go to push her back towards the left side of the stand, which has a railing to keep her from falling off that side, she leans into your hand, making her even more off balance. At first I tried to slowly gently, get her to take a step to the left, only to have her really lean into me. That didn’t work, so now, I firmly and quickly push her, making her take a step or two to the left, and quickly remove my hands, causing her to regain her balance right where I want her. And since Penny is going to Faith’s house, she has practiced this as well.

Now that we have the goat on the milk stand happily eating, it’s time to wash the udder, squirt that first stream of milk into the strip cup and begin to milk. I’ve explained here the process we use along with our equipment, so I won’t go over that again. If you’ve never milked an animal, it can be difficult to ‘capture’ the milk in the teat so you can squirt it into the bucket instead of allowing it to escape back into the udder. There is a simple, yet

specific technique for this process that I cannot describe in words. You can get a standard, disposable medical glove, poke a tiny pin hole in the end of one finger, tie off the other fingers in a knot, fill it with water and practice ‘milking’. When I first started milking I was working so hard at it that I didn’t realize that the milk was squirting back into the udder instead of coming out into my bucket. Then I began to feel the milk going back up through my hand as I squeezed, kind of bubbly like. That’s when I realized that I had to have a good closure with my thumb and index finger to trap the milk in the teat before I squeezed with the rest of my hand. Even with a slow motion movie, this technique is hard to understand without trying it.

I remember trying to milk fast enough that I was finished before the doe finished her meal. That never happened in the beginning. Some of the

more docile does would turn around and look at me, and kind of nudge me on the arm with their head. Others would start kicking and dancing, even jumping both rear legs into the air as I continued to try to get that closure, squeeze and squirt technique perfected. Inevitably, some of those dancing feet ended up in the bucket, ruining the milk. Even now, when I have a definite rhythm to my milking, and am much faster, I don’t always finish before my first fresheners. We are now at one week since I started penning their babies up at night, so they have very full udders in the morning. 

I have found there is a honeymoon period when training all goats, with some it may last a few seconds and with others it may last a few weeks. But then, really, there are others that never give you a break from the first time you try to do anything with them. At first everything is kind of new and the goat seems a little oblivious to the whole milking process. Then after a few days, or even a few

They learn quickly where they are in the line up and when it is their turn.

weeks, they seem to wake up and think, “Hey, what are you doing?” and they begin to dance around or even kick a little. If the season has warmed enough for the flies to be out, that is a whole different issue. Goats hate flies on their legs anytime and will have to learn to raise their leg, stomp and knock off the flies, without hitting the bucket. Sound realistic? It does happen, but it takes a while. In time you will be able to read the body language of your goat. If they start to shift their weight on their back legs, it usually means they are getting ready to lift a leg or foot. I always milk with one hand and keep the other hand on the bucket just in case I need to move it quickly out of the way.

During Faith’s last milking lesson, I was talking a lot and not quite keeping up with my normal routine, so Cricket finished eating before I was finished milking. She decided since she was finished, I should be too. This is very typical. If you are a new milker, this is an area where you will have to establish who is boss. It doesn’t need to be in a mean way, but it does have to be in a very firm way. Most people use a head stanchion to hold their goats in place while they milk, so the goat can’t turn around or try to get off of the stand like mine do. If a goat gives me too much trouble, I will clip them to the fence with a leash. It works fine for me, but it’s different than most folks set up. I said this above, but I’ll say it again because I think it’s important to know. Most young does will go through an initial honeymoon period, but then almost always go through an onery or rebellious stage when they decide that it’s time for you to stop milking or else! They will kick at the bucket, try to bring all of their feet in close together to crowd you and the bucket out of the way, or even jump both back feet in the air at the same time, many times landing in the bucket if you’re not quick enough to pull it out of the way. Anytime they decide it is time to stop, even if I’m just about finished, I always continue to milking just a little bit longer to make them realize that I will stop when I am finished, not when they want me to. When I first started milking and this would happen, I would stop. I was unsure of myself and lacked the confidence I have now. These does would get worse and worse in their behavior, wanting me to quit earlier and earlier, or not milk all together. It’s kind of like a kid throwing a fit and getting their way. If it works once, it should work again. So I did myself a big favor, and learned to keep milking, even if all of the milk got spilled or kicked or both feet landed in it. I milked until I was finished. Period. Once I had retaught my does the correct behavior, instead of the behavior I had allowed to develop, things went much smoother. But it never went as smoothly with those goats that had to relearn correct behavior, as it has with those that never learned the wrong behavior to begin with.

And speaking of feet landing in the bucket. After ruining several almost full buckets of milk, I started bringing an extra bucket with me to the barn. I would milk one goat, pour her milk into the extra bucket, then milk the next goat. That way if a foot landed in the milk, it only ruined that one batch and not all of the milk. That saved a lot of milk as I was in the learning process. Any milk that was ruined by an errant foot was always set aside for the dog, cats and chickens.

While I was writing this article I called the friend that bought our screamer goat. I’m going to call her Hope. I told her I was writing about her and

the screamer, and we had a good laugh. Hope has milked both cows and goats for a number of years, so I asked her what she thought was the most important thing in training a first freshener. She has two of them that just had babies. Hope said that bringing the does in on the milk stand and handling them for several months before they kid is the most beneficial thing that you can do. She brings hers in and handles them all over, mimicking the act of milking each time. She has started milking her first young doe just a few days ago, and things are going very well. 

If you have any other techniques you use, or advice for the novice or veteran milker, please share them in the comment section. If you are new to milking or will be, and have questions, please share them as well. There are as many ways to milk as there are people, of that I am sure. I only milk with one hand at a time, due to my arthritis. I trade off hands and teats as each hand gets tired, so it probably takes me longer to milk than some. While I was in the barn this morning, milking our five does, I was trying

to estimate how many squeezes it took to milk them all. My first guess was about 300 to 500. Boy was I wrong! On the last doe I began to count how many times I squeezed each teat before I traded hands. That came to 50. Then I counted how many times I traded hands. The total came to just under 500 squeezes for the entire milking. 500! That really surprised me. And the last goat was a first freshener that isn’t up to full production, so I figure there are about 2500 to 3000 squeezes for a morning milking session for me. That doesn’t include milking the does again in the evening whose babies are being weaned. So, if you’re getting ready to start milking, you will be surprised at how much stronger your hands and forearms will get after a time.

Now that the screamer has gone to live with Hope, things are quieter, usually. Five goats are a few too many to milk each day, so before long Penny will be going to Faith’s house, and we will probably let One Stripe

dry up. She is seven years old now and still has strong healthy babies, but she isn’t producing as much milk this year as she has in the past. I plan to breed One Stripe and Cricket in July for December babies. This will give us a good milk supply through the winter. Then Copper, Lady Bug, Patch and Easter will be bred in November for April babies. Even with Penny gone and One Stripe not in milk, Copper, Lady Bug and Cricket will give us plenty of milk for drinking, making cheese, butter and feeding our kefir, dog, cats, chickens and pigs. We feed the whey from cheese making to the animals, and if there is too much of that, we use it to water the plants in the garden.

I really love my goats. I enjoy spending time milking them, training them and have really bonded with them, especially One Stripe, my old lady goat. Copper is her daughter, and she has a special place in my heart as well. We are also keeping One Stripe’s daughter Patch, who is already a very sweet, tame little doe. Not only do I simply get great pleasure from working with the goats, they perform their function very nicely by providing us with meat, milk, butter, whey and cheese. I hope this story has been entertaining, educational and useful. I will leave you with a rerun of a short video from The Sounds of a Peaceful Morning Milking.

Until next time – Fern

It Was a Very Good Day

I guess I could say our day started at 2:00am when I went to the barn to check on Lady Bug to see if she was in labor. She wasn’t. It always takes a little while to get back to sleep after a nighttime trek to the barn. I intended to get up at 6:00am to check on her again, but I just couldn’t talk myself into it. We’ve been at this middle of the night routine for three nights now with no end in sight. It does wear me down. Anyway, I rolled out at 7:00am, got the milk buckets ready, enjoyed a swift cup of coffee and headed out to the barn and the morning.

One Stripe and Copper enjoyed their typical morning routine. Penny now likes to stand around and talk very loudly to anyone that will listen. I hope she becomes more content soon because she has an irritating voice, and she needs to turn the volume down. Especially in the morning. But this morning was especially noisy because once I finished milking One Stripe and Copper, I did not let their babies out of the baby pen. They remained there awaiting their move to the weaning pen.

Penny was next up on the milk stand and so far has been very cooperative. She was followed by Cricket who is doing well at day two post delivery. I have some concerns about her boy I will share in a few days after I see how things work out. Lady Bug got to eat in her birthing pen, the lone pregnant doe now. She is pretty interested in the other babies. 

After the milk was strained and breakfast was cooked I debated about starting a batch of bread and a batch of cheese. I’ve been waiting for Lady Bug to deliver so I won’t have to worry about cheese sitting in the pot too long, or not being able to work or bake the bread when needed. Today we decided we had been waiting long enough. The sourdough starter has been out on the cabinet being fed for at least a week in preparation to make bread, and the frig was overflowing with over five gallons of milk.

So I ground some wheat and stirred up the sourdough bread and set it to proof on top of the frig where it’s warm. Then we started a double batch of cheddar cheese using up four gallons of milk. One thing about cheddar, is it needs attention in frequent intervals all day long. It’s now set to press for 24 hours and will be ready to remove from the presses tomorrow evening to dry for a few days before it is waxed. This is our first cheddar of the season. It won’t be ready to eat until about the middle of July at the earliest, for a very mild cheddar flavor. 

Making cheese means washing all of those jars the milk was in.

And washing up the cheese press that hasn’t been used in a while.

After the cheese reached the point that we had about a 30 minute window, we went up to the barn and moved the babies into the weaning pen. There was still some commotion, but not a whole lot. We have weaned babies before that screamed and hollered for their mommas until they were so hoarse they didn’t hardly have a voice left. These guys were running around playing some of the time and didn’t seem to be very stressed, which is great.
 

Frank drilled a couple of holes in each of these so the rain would drain out.


Frank had a great epiphany recently about the garden. We have kept enough room between the garden and the house to drive around the house if we needed or wanted to. He was standing outside looking at something the other day and thought, why don’t we forget about driving around the house and expand the garden into that area? It will make the garden a third again as big and allow us to grow a whole lot more food for us and the animals. Great idea! We have been thinking about how to incorporate an ‘animal garden’ into one of the pastures, but we use them pretty regularly. We have four pastures that connect to the corral at the barn and right now there are goats in three of them. When we add pigs to the mix, that will use them even more. Frank’s idea of increasing the garden size where it is will give us another way of increasing food production now.
 

This green grassy area is now becoming part of the garden. 2014 picture


So with that in mind, as we were leaving the barn, Frank brought the tractor down to start tilling up the ‘new’ garden spot. Right off the bat the shear pin broke on the tiller. So we replaced it. He went back around to start tilling one end of the garden which is very, very rocky, and immediately broke the shear pin. So we replaced it. This time he started at the other end of the garden down by the herb bed. He made it the whole length of the garden back into the rocky area just fine. Then he turned around to come back down the other way and immediately broke the shear pin. That’s when he announced that he was finished with the tiller for the day. We still have at least one, but now we need to get some more shear pins.

While Frank was busy breaking shear pins instead of the soil, I was trying to get some manure tea started. There is a new piece of garden we have already tilled up in front of the herb bed where I planted turnips, spinach, lettuce and swiss chard. This area has not had all of the great barnyard, ashes and such added to it, so it is not very rich in nutrients compared to the garden. Some of the spinach leaves are turning yellow. I wanted to give this bed a boost, so I took a couple of five gallon buckets to the chicken house, collected a deposit of manure and hay, filled the buckets with water, put on the lids and set them out in the herb bed where I will be using them. I’ll let them steep for a number of days before I begin side dressing the plants with tea. I won’t water them directly with this tea because I don’t want to burn the plants. I will also give them some wood ashes we have saved in the ash can from the woodstove, and some whey. 

After about 35 years of mowing our lawn with a push mower, we finally broke down and got a riding mower, which is a pretty green color and runs like a deere. It arrived yesterday but we were too busy to do anything with it then, and it was trying to rain. Today after Frank returned the tractor to the barn, he brought the mower down to try it out. In the meantime, I’m in the house working the cheese again. When I got to the point that I had a few minutes to go outside, I tried out the mower as well. It’s interesting, and since we have never had one before, it’s different. I do like it though. It will make it easier to keep some areas from becoming a jungle and needing to be brush hogged with the tractor in the summer. So I played on the mower for a while. Then I went back in and worked the cheese. Then I mowed a little more, returned it to the barn, checked on Lady Bug who refuses to have babies, and went back to the house to work the cheese.

Now one of my goals today was to get some more things planted. I didn’t. It’s all still sitting there waiting on me with rain coming tonight and tomorrow, and a chance of more every day this week until Friday. But maybe I can still get a few things planted over the next few days if it doesn’t get too wet.


Since we are weaning the older babies that means I will now be milking One Stripe and Copper twice a day and getting two gallons of milk a day instead of one. That means every two days I will have enough milk to make a double batch of cheese. But I still need to get things planted…… And then when Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug’s kids, if she ever has them, are two weeks old and I start penning them up at night, we will get more like three gallons of milk a day. Am I sure I need or want to milk five goats every day? Hmm……something to think about. But before long we hope to get those pigs and they will be happy to drink milk or whey everyday.

The old way to store whey.


And speaking of whey. Frank had a great idea. In the past when we made cheese, we put the whey in old peanut butter jars and sat them on the floor in the kitchen. There is way too much to fit in the frig with all the milk coming in. We feed one jar to the dog and cats each day, and two jars to the chickens morning and evening. Frank recommended we get out the water bath canner and just put all of the whey in it and dip it out into a jar as we need it. Great idea. Simplifies things. If we get overrun with whey, I will use it to water some of the garden plants. They love it, too.

So, now the animals are fed and tucked into bed, the cheese is doing it’s thing in the press, the bread is baked and sampled, and this blog post is now written. It has been a very good day. We enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, each other’s company, the quiet peace of a country life and the blessings that work brings. Peace, joy and contentment. We pray that the season of Easter, with the renewal of life, brings much joy and happiness to you and yours.

Until next time – Fern

The Saga of Penny’s Babies

The past few days have been very busy. You see, Penny, according to my obviously inaccurate estimations, was due to kid tomorrow, on Saturday. Instead, she and her kids decided this past Tuesday was to be the day. So we will start this saga that day and see if we can squeeze the events into one rather long post.

Tuesday morning when I went up to milk and feed the goats, I realized that Penny’s udder had really filled in the night. I had been checking to see how far her hips, or ligaments, had spread for a number of days. I told Frank the evening before that Penny really seemed to be almost wide open and I just didn’t see how she was keeping those babies in there. Well, it didn’t last much longer.


Tuesday was supposed to be a laid back day that allowed us to clean out the barn and get the birthing pens ready at a lolly gagger pace. Not to happen. I called Frank on the radio, remember we use them all the time. I told him that I didn’t think it would be long before Penny went into labor and that we needed to get the birthing pens set up. I asked him to scramble up some quick eggs for breakfast while I milked two does. His idea was better. Milk the goats, bring the milk down and start chilling it, then we would clean the barn and set up the pens before breakfast. Thus began the mad dash to prepare. Not our preferred mod of operation. We would have much preferred the lolly gagger pace. Anyway. I quickly completed the morning chores, took the milk to the house, filtered it and set it to chill in ice water, we woofed down a few bites of cottage cheese, and away we went. 

Frank fired up the tractor while I started in with the pitch fork. It was a surprisingly quick and thorough cleaning. Since Penny was not showing any signs of imminent birth, we went back to the house for a real meal and a cup of coffee. By this time we were hungry, I cooked up a big brunch of sausage and eggs hoping this would hold us for a while. We both knew this would turn out to be a long and busy day.

After we ate, I went back to check on Penny. She was out in the pasture grazing with the herd, showing no signs of labor, no discharge, nothing. She was talking a little which made me think she may be in the beginning stages, but that was all. So I left her grazing thinking this would be the last good exercise she had for a few days and that the new green growth would do her good.

We decided to go to the post office and buy gas. While we were at the gas station some folks from church called to let us know the bacon and sausage we ordered from the local ag class had come in and they were heading our way. So we waited at the little country convenience store, got our bacon and sausage, visited for a few minutes, then headed back home. The longest possible time we could have been gone was about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, but I don’t think so.


As we drove in past the pasture, I could see all of the goats except Penny. Uh-oh. I still had my radio with me, so as soon as we hit the house, I hoofed it up to the barn. As I topped the little hill where the barn sits, Penny saw me from the pasture and started hollering at me. Double uh-oh! I called Frank on the radio to let him know what I was seeing as I went through the barn and into the corral on my way out to the pasture. As I got closer I called him back and said, “We have babies! I need your help!” As I got even closer, I called back again and said, “We have twins!” 

Now, we have had does birth or begin birthing out in the pasture before. I usually pick up the baby or babies, hold them in front of the does nose, and she will follow them to the barn. Penny would have none of it. She paced and she hollered, and she paced and she hollered, but she was afraid of her babies and would have nothing to do with them. I know I called Frank on the radio again and reported the situation, but I have no idea what I said this time. He was busy trying to get the bacon and sausage in the freezer because he knew it would be a while before we would be back down to the house. He asked me to think of what we may need from the house for the birth. We had just about everything there except some towels, so he gathered them up and headed up to the barn.

In the meantime, I decided to take the babies to the barn, get them set up in the birthing pen, then go back for Penny. When I took the babies to the barn, the whole herd followed me there. That is, the whole herd except Penny. She stayed where she had given birth, hollering and pacing. She knew her scent and the scent of her babies was there and she wasn’t going to leave it. After I went back out to the pasture, it took me a while before I could catch her. One Stripe led the herd back out and helped me catch Penny by standing between us. Penny was comfortable enough with One Stripe, our old matriarch, that I could reach across and take Penny’s collar. It took some coaxing to get Penny to leave her birthing place, but when the herd came with us, she did much better.

Now I have her in the barn, in the pen with her babies. I quickly leave them alone hoping she would begin to lick and tend to them. She still frantically called and called, even though her babies were right there, she ignored them. Not a good sign. But she was quite agitated. So we put a brass double end clip on the side of the pen down low, clipped it to her collar, then placed her babies right under her nose, and left her alone. As she continued to fuss and call, her babies answered. She started to smell them, then after a few minutes started tentatively licking them. Thank you. I was relieved. After she showed serious interest in cleaning her babies, we unclipped her collar from the pen and let her finish the job. I’m sure you’re not surprised that there are no pictures of any of this process.

Now the next hurdle was for the babies to nurse, and to make sure Penny would let them nurse. I left them alone for quite some time since she was tending to them and I didn’t want to disturb that. Lucky for us the temperatures were right around 80* so I wasn’t too concerned about the kids getting chilled. Penny wasn’t real excited about letting the kids nurse, so we clipped her collar back to the side of the pen again. I put one kid under her nose, while I assisted the other one in getting that first meal. Once the first one was full, I traded them off and made sure the second one had a good meal. We also trimmed off the umbilical cords and sprayed them with 7% iodine somewhere around this time. Now, I could sit back and relax for a bit.

Faith came to see the babies. She plans to have her own goats soon.


Now for some reflection. What a surprise this birth was. Here is what we based our decisions on this day. Penny is a first freshener, meaning this is her first set of babies. Most, obviously not all, but most first timers take a while when they birth. Most pending births are indicated by the amniotic sack breaking and a long string of mucous type material hanging from the doe’s vulva. This is fairly standard. So, when I checked on Penny in the pasture before we went to the post office and she had no discharge, I figured it would still be at least a few hours before she gave birth. Now, we haven’t been able to see all of our goats birth over the years, but we have seen many. I don’t remember any of them having twins from start to finish in under an hour. Penny is definitely the exception when it comes to that observation. 

If I had known she would be giving birth in such a short period of time, I would have penned her up right after we finished cleaning the barn. No matter how much experience you have dealing with animals, there will always be an exception, or a difference that needs to be dealt with that you can learn from. Penny has been an interesting teacher for me this week.


After Penny calmed down and bonded with her sons, yes they were twin boys, she was very attentive, talked up a storm and just fussed over them for hours. She showed no signs of rejecting them, and they are healthy, vigorous and doing great. Since One Stripe and Copper have already provided us with boys named Breakfast and Lunch, we are calling Penny’s boys Dinner and Dessert. They will be banned and become wethers when they are about two weeks old.


We let Penny and the boys out with the herd this evening. First we penned up One Stripe and Copper’s babies in the baby pen for the night, so there weren’t any extra babies around to cause any confusion. And little do the older kids know, but they had their last drink of milk this evening. In the morning we will move them from the baby pen to the weaning pasture. They are now eight weeks old and their moms are ready for them to be weaned. So we will have new little babies in the barn with the herd, older babies in the weaning pasture, and the buck and older wethers in their pasture. We still have wethers that need to be butchered and had plans to put one in the freezer today, but there are only so many hours in the day, and there just weren’t enough of them today. 

Cricket had a son yesterday, but that story will have to wait for another time. I think I learned some important lessons from her as well, and I want to share them with you. Life is an interesting journey. There are many, many lessons to be learned. Some of them are even taught by a goat.

Until next time – Fern