Real Farming

May 2007

Spring on the farm is beyond our expectations.  The kid goats are an unbelieveable delight, our pastures are greening up, Anabelle is giving us milk, and the garden is already yielding a few treats.  We are really having a blast.

Jasmine and Julia are 5 weeks old now, they are growing up so fast.  They are each around 15 lbs now, which is 3 times their weight at birth.  Julia is still slightly smaller than her sister.  They move freely around the barnyard, they are still small enough to get through the various gates and openings in the stalls.  But they never go too far from their mother, Anabelle.

Jasmine and Julia will climb onto anything.  They actually love to climb onto people, then they have a head butting match to see who is allowed to stay up there.  It's a wonder to experience. 

The chickens range freely around the farm, and even take trips to the neighbor's yard occasionally.  There are 10 hens and 2 roosters, egg production has been all over the map recently, from 5 to 10 per day.  We lock them up in the chicken coop at night and don't let them out until 8 or 9 in the morning, primarily to keep the noise down in the wee hours.  I feed them very little right now, they are getting most of their food from pecking at the ground and such.  When they are feeding on fresh grass, the egg yolks are unbelieveably bright in color.

       

We incubated our first batch of chicks from eggs made on the farm.  The first hatch was 16 chicks, most of them went to Sandy and David's CSA farm.  I have another batch due to hatch in a few days, these will also go to other farms.

 

Milking is kind of a trick to pull off.  Ana is very jumpy and will only let you milk her while she is eating grain.  (this is pretty normal for goats)  So we lock her in the stancion and she munches on grain while we milk her.  Trouble is, she eats incredibly fast and starts kicking as soon as the grain is gone.  I have been trying various systems to stretch out the grain as long as possible (she can't eat too much, it's bad for her stomachs and such), so far the only solution has been for one of us to stand in front of her and dribble it out in bits.  But it's essential, no amount of locking her down will keep her still once the grain is gone.

Maria has done most of the actual milking, I have only just gotten the trick of it.  You can't just squeeze the teat, nothing will happen.  You have to pinch off the top (to keep the milk from squirting back up into the udder), then aim the thing and squeeze the milk out of the teat.  Then repeat a thousand times, keeping your focus while Jasmine and Julia run about and even stand on your shoulders.  We are not keeping the kids away from her at all, so Ana does not have too much milk to share.  We have been miking for about a week and so far the best yield has been about 2 cups worth, milking once per day.  Peek milk production for a goat is supposed to be 2 months after birth, which is 3 weeks away.  Hopefully as her natural production increases and the kids are weaned, we will have enough to make goat cheese.  yeah!

 

We sheared Simon and Nigel a couple weeks ago.  This was a really strenuous job.  They were both very squirmy, and it's easy to cut them if the shears aren't held just right.  We saved all the wool, but it would not be useful for spinning due to the many double cuts while shearing.  But at least they are prepared for the warm weather ahead.

I am hard at work on fencing, we have only one secure mud lot right now, but I am close to completing a 1 acre grazing area that comes right up to the house.  We are already grazing them in this area (with supervision), they are getting probably 75% of their food intake from grazing now.  In a couple of weeks it will be 100%.  Already everyone is showing signs of putting on weight.  We think the natural diet contributes to Anabelle's milk quality, which is superb.  There is not a hint of "goatiness" or anything about the milk which is objectionable.  It is sweet and pleasant tasting, top-notch stuff.

I have planted 200 trees this spring on the property (oaks, maples, some pine, elderberry, serviceberry, and a small plum orchard), completed my Master Gardening training, planted 5000 square feet of prairie, cut down innumerable buckthorn, and pulled up every honeysuckle I come across.  Lots of progress, much more left to do!

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