Tag Archives: goats

goat yard morning

The goat babies went outside today for the first time. It was so funny when I opened up that stall door—they craned their necks out, raising and lowering their heads, looking and sniffing, refusing for several minutes to step hoof out of safety as they tried to comprehend this new, alien landscape. They got over it pretty quickly, though, and were soon running—bouncing—everywhere. Here are Cinnamon and Emma (named by Sophie) taking their first steps out of the stall.

Lucy has not been willing to nurse the babies much, not unless she is eating or I hold her collar. I think her difficult labor may have turned her off on this whole mothering business. She still might change her mind—I remain hopeful. She does sniff them and sometimes talks to them. She just doesn’t like nursing. Hey, I can sympathize. I wasn’t that thrilled about nursing either.

Here’s a close up of Emma—at first glance she looks black, but she’s really a patchwork of dark browns, blacks, and grays, with white ears and a white heart shape on her head. So cute. We’ll probably keep her, though we have to sell Cinnamon—we don’t have the facilities to keep a buck, which is also why we sold all the kids last year. It’s nice to let myself attach to a goat kid, for once.

The goat yard was looking extra spiffy today. Paul did a bunch of fence repairs and general sprucing up before letting the tiny babies out.

Ms. Sophie was out early with me, helping the babies nurse, holding them, letting them suck on her fingers. She is such a good goat keeper!

Emma and Mochi the Barn Cat have been playing in the barn stall—here they are surprising each other outside for the first time, coming around the corner of the goat house. The next second, they touched noses. Life long friends?

Here is back scratch run. The goats lean heavily on the fence and scrape their backs along the length of it. Thus the need for constant repairs.

All in all, goat life at Honeymilk Farm is burbling along nicely!

it’s a girl! and a boy!

Lucy had her babies! Oh so exciting!

She was acting weird all day, pawing the ground, getting up laying down getting up, not eating…so we knew it was soon. Finally, around 6pm, she started really pushing. Nothing to do but talk sweetly to her and comfort her as she did her work….

But it went on and on and she started to get tired, eyes and ears drooping—and nothing was coming out, no goop, no membrane bubble, and certainly no baby. I started to get scared for her. She was working so hard with so little to show for it, and for so long. I’ve been there—nearly three days of labor when I had Sophie, holy cow, I was ready to lie down and die. So—time for some intervention. I broke the membrane and tried to feel what was going on, but the baby I could feel was a tangled mess, presenting sideways. No wonder labor was going nowhere. I tried and tried and couldn’t get hold of anything to help straighten that baby out. Time to call the vet.

But before the vet could get here, she was just suffering so badly that I thought I would try one more time. And maybe the kids had shifted inside her, because this time I got hold of a rear leg and pulled. Poor Lucy hated this part, but she was hugely improved by that black baby goat slithering out of her. What a relief! The high that comes at a birth is just the best! And I was feeling pretty damn proud of myself—not a bad showing for a city girl!

Here is Sophie, tenderly drying off the new kid.

Just so you know, Sophie is not covered in goat goop—it’s tempera paint. Just when Lucy’s labor really got going, Sophie and Luc were in the middle of doing some body art. Luc was purple with blue spots, and Sophie was red with green spots. I think they were monsters. When I called her that things were going, she threw her overalls on over the paint. Time for bathing later.

Meanwhile, Lucy was pawing the ground and groaning—another kid on the way.

The vet arrived then—I was so relieved—and quickly delivered the second kid.

Lucy was like a new goat, she was so happy to be free of this confusing and painful problem! She finally started licking the second kid, and we got the first one on to nurse. Woo hoo!

A few pictures later, we head inside for baths and a nice big pomegranate martini for me, courtesy of Paul. Hallelujah, praise the Goat Goddess! Sophie fell asleep as her head hit the pillow.

This morning, mother and babies are well, if still quite confused about what their new roles are. The babies try to nurse from everything, Lucy’s knees, her fur, our clothes, and Lucy keeps sniffing them, puzzled, and then running away, as if to say, ‘You remind me of something…but what the hell do you want? Why do you keep bothering me?’ But she lets the nurse a little and I think they’ll figure it all out by the end of the day.

The thing that stands out the most in all of this is how amazing Sophie is. She stayed with me and Lucy through it all, brave and helpful, getting things, offering ideas, tirelessly rubbing down the new babies and helping them to nurse, unfailingly kind.

A totally valuable part of the team. She is so awesome.

It makes me think that five year old’s have a ton of ability and skills that they don’t usually get much credit for.

And look where Mochi the Barn Cat was sleeping when we went out this morning.

She’s been trying to play with the baby goats all morning. I wonder how that will turn out?

bad things come in threes. or fours. (or maybe fives?)

(1) Last week, when I was feeding our neighbor’s cats (they were out of town for a wedding—the neighbors, not the cats) some bozos broke into their house and stole their flatscreen. No shit! The weirdest part (besides feeling extremely vulnerable and freaked out) was that I heard the whole thing. I thought it was the landscapers and their leaf blowers (yes, my neighbor’s have landscapers—oh, what they must think of our junk piles). But then there was this crash and several “Woo Hoo!”s and I thought, that’s odd. I was just gearing up to go check it out when they left (you can hear, but not see, now that the summer foliage has filled in). The crash, I realized later when I went to feed the kitties, was the Kwan Yin statue from the porch being thrown through the glass front door. I am so glad I didn’t wander over there to see what was going on. Wouldn’t that have added a layer of complication to the story? Complication I don’t need.

But it just goes to show, when the Goddess of Compassion smashes through your life, it may not be in the form you expect.

(2) This weekend, my site got hacked (again). But it was fairly low key on the life-sucks-o-meter, more annoying and boring than anything. I’m not sure this one counts.

(3) Paul jumped into the pond with his glasses on, oops, and lost them. Poor guy is wearing mine (I have contacts I can use) while he waits for his replacements. But my prescription isn’t as strong so, you know, he mostly can’t see, and he’s got this low-grade headache, which makes him crabby as all hell. I can understand, but still. I hope those glasses come today.

And then, as if all that wasn’t enough,

(4) I sprained my freaking ankle! That would be yesterday morning when I was taking the compost out to the chickens. I stepped off the deck and whammo! I go down like a jellyfish. And stay down. After consulting my Google Health Plan (first you google the diagnosis, then you google the treatment)(I know, I’ve used that line before, but it’s just so true) I learned that I have a Level 3 Medial Ankle Ligament Spring. Translation? I am totally screwed for about a month.

I spent the day RICEing my ankle and watching Spongebob with the kids, who took this opportunity to do massive body paint, eat a box of bunny grahams, and just generally be little hellions because, hey, what am I going to do about it? I can’t blame them, it’s a drag to have a mom who can’t do shit. Even still, Sophie got me things all day, and Luc picked me a flower, and they both kissed me and did laying-on-of-hands. I’m certain it helped.

Then it was time to milk the goats. “You’ll have to do it,” I say to Paul.

“No way. I don’t know how,” he says. “I’ll help you hobble out there.”

“No way, it’s too far.”

“Okay then, I’ll carry you.”

“You can do that?”

“Harumph. Of course I can do that.”

Me, grumbling, “All right, but you’re going to have to help me do stuff. You’re going to have to do exactly what I say.”

“Fine [grumble grumble].”

Me: EVIL LAUGH.

You should have seen us, me slung onto his back and whimpering, punctuated by the occasional, “Don’t jostle my foot! Christ! &#$!@” And him, swearing because he can’t see anything, and he says, “Is this what it’s going to be like when we’re old?”   

We started laughing so hard. I could totally see it: him blind, me lame, crashing our way through the end of our days, swearing, and I thought, this is what marriage is. But then I was laughing so much that I could barely cling to his neck, (“You’re choking me—” “I can’t help it, I’m slipping!” “I’m not going to drop you—” “ARG my foot—!”) and he’s swinging around with that crutch sticking out, slamming into things (“Watch out, watch out, watch out—!” “I can’t watch out, I can’t see!” BAM! “Ouch!!” ) and tears were just streaming down my face from the overwhelming insanity of it all by the time we arrived.

The goats, on the other hand, were completely silent. Instead of hollering at me to come feed them, they were standing on top of their bed like they were under attack, eyes wide, wondering what monster was coming to eat them. When she saw me, Fancy gave me this questioning m-a-a in her throat, like “Is it re-e-e-eally you?” But Lucy tossed her head and snorted, and got down off the bed. “What is WR-R-R-RONG with you people?” she said, and demanded her dinner.

Freaking A—what will happen tomorrow?

kittenphobia

We got the kitten, which has been tentatively named Turtle, to the barn! She seems to be going through a total personality transformation, from semi-feral fear ball, to bouncy happy runs-up-to-meet-us fluffy cakes. She’s downright…kittenish! And she’s out of the junk heap and into the goat barn, where, as I predicted, she seems much happier.

But.

The goats are TERRIFIED of her! Fancy in particular. You haven’t lived until you have watched a fifty pound goat go totally apeshit trying to get away from five ounces of kitten. Fancy peeks her goaty head out of the stall, wide eyed, turning this way and that, her nostrils going crazy as she tries to track the little fluffy ball bouncing all around the place. Did I mention we made a kitten toy out of a clown nose, some string, and a stick? She loves it. But anyway, Fancy simply will not step one foot out of her side of the barn, even with me pulling on her collar as hard as I can, not for anything. Not even sunflower seeds, her favorite. NO WA-A-A-A, she insists. There is a mad BE-E-E-AST in there who wants to E-E-EAT me! And then the kitten bounces over and Fancy rears up, frantically trying to get her hooves away, flailing around like the insane-o goat she is. It would be hilarious if it didn’t mean I can’t get her on the milkstand without Paul picking her up and putting her there, which she hates.

It’s a work in progress.

And it isn’t like I don’t understand. I feel exactly the same way about cockroaches. But still.

I totally did not see this coming.

slow news is good news

Well, first, I wanted to thank everyone who wrote to me expressing get well wishes or offering suggestions about my pitiful ears! It’s one thing to see the page-hit numbers on the blog report, but quite another to attach names and personalities to some of said numbers! Y’all are terrific!

And in answer to your many questions, I’m caffeine free for a several days now and I haven’t been bothered by the ringing as much, but I’m not sure there is a correlation. I’ve also stopped sleeping with my earplugs, because the quiet (which used to be lovely quiet) only accentuates the alarm bell in my head. It could be I’m exactly the same, just not noticing the problem in the same way. It’s very much like those 3-D drawings they had everywhere in the late nineties where you look and look and can’t see a thing but then something shifts in your brain and whammo, there are a bunch of whales, or a race car, or a guy playing the saxophone. So I could be just getting better at not listening to it. The ringing. This is disturbing to me, actually, as I prefer an approach to life where I experience more not less. You know, mindfulness and all that. And, instead, here I am training myself NOT to notice something. But, I guess there are some parts of the human experience better left unmindful. We’ll see how it goes.

In other news, after the third time of needing the family camera (a workhorse Canon g3 that takes nice shots, but man, is it a brick) and finding it GONE, that is, gone with Paul, at his job, I decided I wanted my very own. So, after a day or two of poking around the internet—what is it about researching digital cameras that is so obsessive? Nothing is as great a time sink, I’m convinced—I got an itsy bitsy Fujifilm Finepix f100FD and it is on its way to me as we speak. I got an awesome deal what with a whopping $100 rebate and one of my lovely amazon gift certificates. Perhaps this will usher in a new level of photo fun for mayaland. Stay tuned.

And finally, our sweet black and white goat, Lucy, is expecting kids! At least, we’re pretty sure. It’s hard to tell with goats. But she did have a date with a buck named Curtis and, ahem, a good time was had by all. Several times. Stay tuned in July for incredibly cute baby goat photos, assuming all goes well.

And that’s the news from the yurt. A slow news day to be sure, but often, those are the best.

how to milk a goat (2 of 2)

As I was milking this morning, it occurred to me that I had left several things out of my previous milking post. I thought I would put them here. These are the things that become automatic and thus invisible, like trying to give directions to someone after you’ve lived somewhere so long you’ve forgotten all the street names. So here is How to Milk a Goat, Level 2–the details. Turns out I knew more than I thought I knew!

Stripping the Foremilk

Sounds nasty, doesn’t it? It’s really no big deal. In fact, it’s such a no-big-deal that I forgot to mention it in my first milking post. Foremilk is just the first milk, and stripping it means you squirt the first squirt or two onto the floor, or into a dark enamel strip cup, or onto a paper towel (what I do) to check the health of the milk and the goat. Just glance at it, then move on. It takes maybe two seconds. What you’re looking for is clots or flakes or, goddess forbid, blood. Yuck. Any of those things would indicate mastitis, which means treatment for the goat and you probably don’t want to be drinking that milk. We have never had a case of mastitis, not one. Having said that, I will probably go out there tomorrow and Fancy will—no, no, I’m not even finishing that thought. Cancel, Cancel that thought! (No, I’m not superstitious, why?) So, squirt squirt, milk looks good, on with the show.

Do the Udder Bump

This is a special dance move you have to do to call in the milk divas and honor the milk. No, no, that’s in some other alternate universe, silly! In this universe, bumping the udder is what you do to get the milk to let down into the udder. I had no clue what this was all about until I saw the kids, the goat kids that is, butting Fancy’s udder, and I mean RAMMING their little heads into her udder, five or six times, wham Wham WHAM. If my kids had done that to my udders—I mean breasts—when I was nursing, well, let’s just say our nursing relationship would have been very, very short. But having seen the goat kids whaling on poor Fancy, I don’t feel bad at all about knocking her udder around a bit. I’m a heck of a lot more gentle than her babies ever were, and it makes the milk whoosh out. I make a fist, which I figure it about the size of those vicious little kid heads, and knock into the sides of her udder. Knock, knock, is any milk home?

Teat Dip

I mentioned in my other post that you dip the teats to clean them before milking. Well, you also dip them after milking, to kill off any nasties that might give the girls problems—the germs can work their way up the now open teat, and it takes a little time for it to close back up again. Dip, dip, and you’re done.

Cooling the Milk

The grade you see on milk in the store is largely related to how fast the milk is cooled. Grade A milk is cooled to 40 degrees within 30 minutes. At home, this is pretty much impossible, unless you buy special equipment, which ain’t going to happen on a two goat mini-farm. Grade B means the milk is cooled to 40 degrees in 90 minutes. Grade C is cooled to 50 degrees in 90 minutes, and grade D is 40 degrees in 105 minutes. You can get grade C or D by putting your milk in a jar in the freezer (the difference depends on how much milk (it takes longer for the cold to penetrate larger volumes) and whether you remember to stir the milk). This is what we go for. Given our very small operation, I can give extra attention to the health and cleanliness of our goats, and the small amount of milk being processed means cooling happens more quickly as well. So I feel pretty good about our grade C milk. We have never had any off flavors or milky badness.

Cleaning the Milker

How could I have forgotten this? After putting the milk in the freezer to cool, I take the milker to the big sink to clean. First you run a couple of cups of cool water through. NOT hot water, or you’ll cook the milk into this incredibly hard stuff called, appropriately, milk stone. You don’t want milk stone in your milker. After the cool water has washed the milk away, I squirt a couple of cups of warm water with a bit of clorox added, to disinfect it. Finally, I squirt some HOT water through, to get the clorox out. Then I hand the deconstructed milker up to dry until next time. The cleaning process takes about five or ten minutes. Not long

So there you go.

how to milk a goat (1 of 2)

First off, I’m not documenting how to do that whole squeeze and roll thing you do when you hand milk a goat. There are two reasons.

(1) Fancy kicks! OMG! She gets annoyed, she demands more sunflower seeds, she says quit it already, and she says it all with her hoof. You have no idea how disheartening it is, and bad for the human/goat relationship, to eek out a little milk using this painfully slow method and then having your goat put her muddy hoof right in the bucket. AAARRRGG! Maybe a calmer goat would be more conducive to hand milking. Maybe if I sedated Fancy. But I don’t—she wouldn’t like it and besides, who would want to drink drugged goat milk?

(2) Fancy is a miniature goat. That means her teats are small. Instead of squeezing and rolling with my hand, I have to squeeze and roll with my thumb and index fingers. OMG again! Can we say arthritis? Forget it! It takes forever.

So I use a hand milker. This one, from Maggidans.com, is designed by Maggie, a cool lady in the next town over. She has pygmy goats (very small goat teats). It is a wonderful device. I doubt I’d be doing this milking thing without it.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I will now present How To Milk A Goat. Ta da!

Here’s what you need:

A milking stand. You’ve just got to have one of these. Paul made this one out of some scrap wood we had laying around, from plans we got off the internet. Gotta love the internet. Anyway, you also need a jar of teat dip—there are pre-made versions but I take well water and add some clorox and a dab of soap. Works great. Next you need dixie cup for the teat dip and a paper towel to wipe it off. The milker is that sci-fi looking laser gun thing attached to the squarish lidded container (kick-proof!).

You also need one of these:

An udder.

Okay, first you give the goat some goodies to eat. The milking stand is designed to let her busily snorfle her breakfast—thus distracting her from the business at hand.

Fancy knows the drill, too. I open the gate and she jumps up into the stand, ready to chow down.

Next, you pour some teat dip and give each teat a dunk. When it rains, particularly, Fancy’s belly gets muddy, yuck. You don’t want mud or traces of goat poop in your milk. So you wash it all off. Cleanliness all the way when it comes to fresh, raw milk. No picture of this because I needed both hands to do it. Oh well.

Next you pop the milker cup onto the teat and give a few squeezes on the hand pump to get the suction going. The cup hangs there (don’t trust the goat not to kick it off, though—I had to take my hand off to get the picture, but I usually hold it.

You can see the milk is starting to fill the bottom of the cup. It pours out like a rain storm, whoosh!

Next you slowly squeeze the milker and watch the milk flow through the tube and into the lidded container which you see for the MIRACLE that it is if you’ve ever had your goat kick the milk bucket over.

Here you an see the milk flowing into the pump and out the tube….

And into the container sitting at the end of the milking stand.

I’ve noticed that it takes about 50 squeezes to get a pint of milk. Fancy usually gives us a pint in the evening and a quart in the mornings. She is awesome.

Inevitably as I’m sitting beside her, the chickens wander in, hoping for some spilt goat feed. Here is Goldie saying good morning.

It is incredibly peaceful to milk goats. If you don’t keep bucks with the does, they smell wonderful and are so sweet and stubborn and funny. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I do.

“What the heck are you doing? Quit taking my picture and let me out of here!”

And here we go, one quart of fantastic, delicious, Fancy Milk. Thank you Fancy!

ETA: Part 2 is up here.

the amazing emu

The other day we went to visit Christiana, a friend of ours who has a bunch Toggenburg goats. She also has chickens, geese, a turkey, some pigs, horses, and—surprise!—emus. What the heck is an emu?

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Christiana makes the most wonderful goat’s milk soap. Although I have dabbled in making goat cheese and goat milk yogurt, I have no interest in trying to make goat milk soap because hers is so creamy and soft and delightful, it gives me a distinct case of the why-bothers. I’d rather just use hers. And, in fact, we’ve been using her soap for years.

There was one visit, when Luc a newborn, when Christiana’s turkey chased Sophie and scared the crap out of her. She still remembers it! Whenever she sees that turkey now, she yells, “Shoo Turkey!” and runs away. Smart girl! That turkey is terrifying with this long drippy nose-skin-wattle thing and a shrieking gobbly-gobbly and an aggressive stalking walk… Okay, Sophie wasn’t the only one scared of the turkey. I have found, however, that in other contexts, saying, “Shoo Turkey!” makes both Sophie and I giggle hysterically. Clearly a case of post traumatic stress disorder from a Mad Turkey Attack.

But we were talking about emus.

The coolest thing about emus is not their weirdly alien faces:

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Or their strangely dinosaur like feet:

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The coolest thing about emus is the sound they make. I kid you not, an emu sounds just exactly like giving a tabla drum a plunk. That’s right, thumping a drum. I have no idea how they do it–it seems to come from some place in their chest. I looked for a sound file to link to here, but couldn’t find one. However, I did learn, in my brief googling, that the sound can be heard, should the emu wish it, for MILES. And that it is called ’emu drumming.’ I’m telling you, it is so bizarre and compelling, this tribal and mysterious thump, thumbthump. THUMP.

The second coolest thing about emus is the color of their eggs. They come out this shockingly deep teal. Here is a picture of Sophie with the emu egg (hollow) that Christiana gave us on this visit:

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And here is a close-up of the egg color, which hopefully will come through on the monitor:

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Amazing. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this egg is the size of both my fists put together. My aunt Carroll once made an entire quiche with just ONE of these eggs. A BIG quiche. She said it tastes like chicken.