It’s that time of year when I just want to eat warm stew, drink hot tea, and read a novel by the fire. Things are slowing down here not only because there’s less daylight, but I’m also more sluggish. I have less energy to start new projects and stay up late with friends. Today I went back to eat lunch after packing cheese even though it was only 11 a.m. because I was cold and hungry. A little beef stew, green tea, and chocolate did me good so I headed back to work on building nest boxes for the hens we’re getting in the spring.
I warmed up and was down to a long-sleeve shirt after raking leaves this afternoon. As soon as the sun hid behind the tall pine trees, on went the jacket, hat, and gloves. Sadly, it was only 3p.m. The darkness creeps up on us. Last night we worked with flashlights for a bit, then used our car’s high beams to let the goats back to the other barn. I think tonight is their last to sleep in the ‘summer barn.’ From now on, they will be in the milking barn where it is more shielded from the wind, rain, and snow.
I look forward to returning to the cabin with the wood stove keeping it at a comfortable 68 degrees. Time to snuggle up with Oliver under a wool blanket and jump into the Jodi Picoult novel I started last night. I hear they are addictive and I’ll end up reading the whole series this winter if I don’t pace myself. So what if I’ve replaced gardening and preserving food with books and knitting? It is practically winter.
Yesterday Susan and I put bigger collars around the young goat’s necks, which are yellow and white, signifying a yearling. Soon they will be bred and move into the herd where they will have to learn to associate with the big goats. I imagine it is like starting a new school where you don’t know a lot of people. At least the ten have one another for moral support.
We also de-wormed the young goats before they go into the herd so they don’t transfer any parasites to the adult goats. And when we dry off the herd we will de-worm all of the goats to make sure they are worm-free for the winter.
All of the adult goats have been breed successfully! Only two out of 40 came into heat again, which means they weren’t bred the first time, so we serviced them again. Come March, there will be a few days of lots of births because we bred 22 goats in 2 days. It was like they all came into heat at the same time.
Now, their milk production is decreasing and we have less milk than during the summer. We have gone to a regular cheese-making schedule and there is a little less cheese. However, the milk has a higher butterfat content this time of year when it is colder, so it takes less milk per pound of cheese than in the summer when the milk was leaner. The cheese is quite rich! Just in time to put on my winter weight.
Other awesome happenings are the field trips we’ve been taking to nearby dairy farms. We’ve been to Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in N.Y. where they milk 500 out of 800 sheep; Coach Farm in N.Y. which produces goat cheeses (hard and soft) from their 600 alpines; Blue Hills Farm down the road from us in Monterey, a cow dairy that sells raw milk, provides eggs, and raises chickens, pigs, and goats for meat to a restaurant in N.Y.; and Ronnybrook Farm in Ancramdale, N.Y. which makes yogurt, ice cream, butter, flavored milks, egg nog, and cheese from cow’s milk.
Standing in the large refrigerator at Ronnybrook last week was like a kindergartener’s dream come true when we were offered to try whatever products we wanted…chocolate milk and blackberry yogurt! I was in heaven…until the dairy wary and sugar rush set in on the ride home. Visiting these farms has been educational and lots of fun, especially tasting all the quality products. I also feel very grateful for the size of Susan’s dairy operation with only 50 goats. Working at a small dairy operation allows me to know each goat individually. It feels more humane giving each animal individual attention and getting to know their unique personalities. It is another reason to support small scale farming operations and ensure their economic vitality.