Last season I didn’t arrive to the farm until mid May so I missed the start up period. So far, this season is all new to me. There are so many changes in such a short amount of time between March and April. We have had almost 100 baby goats born and we only keep 10, so the rest are either at another farm/homestead, Easter dinner, or someone’s pet. The does that are freshening currently get to be with their babies longer because we aren’t bottle-feeding anymore. It’s fun watching them nurse and romp around the barn with all the older goats. It’s like a big party uniting all generations: kids, yearlings, adults, elders.
We’re milking close to 40 and have enough milk to add a third vat to pasteurizing. The cheese is divine: rich, creamy, flavorful, the best of the season says Susan. After they freshen their milk is high in fat in order to ensure a healthy baby, therefore, our cheese is higher in fat to ensure a happy consumer. I have been eating a lot of chévre every day and I am convinced it only has positive benefits.
One morning I came down to the barn and noticed a cup of white mush on the counter. “What is this?” I asked Susan. Her answer enticed me to scoop up a bit on my finger and place it in my mouth. Whipped cream. “You know how foam often collects near waterfalls?” she calls from the other room. “It is the cream that gathered on top of the bulk tank from the paddle mixing the milk all night.” Naturally whipped cream from fresh goat milk before work reminds me how much I love working here.
As milk production increases, so does the goat’s feed. They devour 1 ½ bales of alfalfa each morning and night and almost have unlimited grain. Overall they are looking really good, but infrequent high temperatures and wet poops worries us. After all, what is farming without worry? I admire how Susan handles each goat’s medical needs. Some get penicillin, so we can’t use their milk for a few days. Others take a homeopathic remedy that we can even pop in our mouths for general health. Or, a shot of vitamin B or calcium does the trick. Generally, just time to recover is all they need.
It’s difficult figuring out animal health because they can’t talk to us like humans. We spend a lot of time guessing, running lengthy tests, or waiting to see if conditions improve. Last week was, “Audrey, tell us what’s wrong so we can make you better!” Then, “Yearlings, why aren’t you eating your grain?” Now it’s “Mistletoe, why aren’t you producing any milk?” Miraculously, most of the time they heal and are stronger than ever in a few days, with the help of Susan’s dedication and knowledge of course.
Clara, Kiki, Cardida, Jiggy, Clove, Edie, Myrtle, Daphne, and Ivy are the keepers names. Well, honestly, it’s hard to all agree on names so some aren’t set in stone and the white goat doesn’t have a name yet (I like Esperanza, but Glynis says it’s too long to write on a tag). Each name has been chosen from the mother’s line of names such as spices, constellations, vines, movie stars, etc. It’s very exciting getting to know each one and watch them grow so fast. Pretty soon we’ll move them to the big kid pen outside and take them for walks in the woods.
Spring is moving us along quickly. We take advantage of the long warm days to do yard-work and prepare the garden. Inside, we’ve started tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, bok choy, eggplant, and onions from seed.
Flora updates are daffodils, ramps, forsythia, and buds on trees. Fauna update is I had the honor of watching a wild turkey fight yesterday afternoon while working on the chicken coop. About 10 toms kicked and jumped on one another making such a racket I thought there was a pack of coyotes devouring a dead animal.
I am getting eight laying hens tomorrow so we will have our own eggs! I just got back from the Tractor Supply store with my materials and we’re about ready to pick up the birds and introduce them to their new home. I have never raised chickens before, so this is all very exciting.
Today I went for a walk in the woods behind the cabin in search of ramps (wild onions). “Look for the large oak tree and the valley below it you may find some down there,” suggests Susan. She was right! I was surprised by how many ramps spread across the small valley. The soil was moist and dark brown. It numbed my fingers after digging for a while since it has been so cold at night. I rinsed my hands in the brook and dried them on soft moss before heading back home. Sauteed in butter with mushrooms, ramps are a special early spring treat.