Sunday, February 14, 2016


Several years ago we acquired our initial herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats.  It was fun watching their behavior towards each other as well as their interactions with us and our four dogs that we had at the time.  Those observations inspired a little story about herd behavior.  

Welcome to SCODland (Small Country of Dwarf)
Once upon a time on a small farm in what used to be Roane County West Virginia, a small band of ruminants, tired of the tyrannical rule of the old herd queen Tenacious, began marching in the snow to call attention to her hoarding of food and shelter.   
Herd Queen Tenacious.
 As a result of the forcasted long winter ahead, they worried that there could be future shortages of hay and grain and were really concerned about the impending lack of fresh browse.  
In a capricious uprising, marred only by occasional head butting, the merry Nigerian herd seceded from Roane County, West Virginia  and formed SCODland otherwise known as Small Country of Dwarf.  They initially wanted to call their fledgling country Nigeria but it was gently pointed out that that name was already taken. 
Being of herd mentality, they decided they wanted to retain the Monarchy but in a bold move, appointed the two-legged creatures as supreme rulers, in effect deposing the tyrannical Queen Tenacious.   

The young females decided that the time was right since Queen Tenacious was becoming very rotund as a result of her impending delivery of the Prince or Princess (or both or several) of SCODland and would be unable to mount sufficient resistance.  

 It was agreed that the female two-legged creature (formerly known as Shelley) who was responsible for providing everything from shelter to food would henceforth be addressed as "Queen of the Small Country of Dwarf".   
Queen Shelley.
Also, the male two-legged creature (formerly Don) who is ancillary to the queen in terms of providing for the subjects would henceforth be addressed as "King of the Small Country of Dwarf".  
King Don.
Since a smooth transition of power was desired, the canine known as Ace, would remain as head of Security and would stay at his current duty station high on the hill overlooking SCODland, ever vigilant for intruders.  
Ace, always at the ready.
 Moose was appointed Chief Ambassador would formally announce all visitors to SCODland with a resounding (and never ending) WOO-WOO.   
Ambassador Moose with his entourage.
His deputy Ambassador, Tia, was charged with bestowing slimy toys upon any visitors.   
Moose!  Where are the visitors so that I can bestow my slimy toy?

Self-appointed dog mother Trixie will act as Nanny to the baby SCODlets who will be arriving next month.   

It is hoped that the current regime will result in greener pastures for everyone, say around April or so.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MIlk Your Goat All Winter

Everyone that knows me knows that I LOVE milk...and yogurt and cheese and well just about everything dairy.  I have to admit that I am still working to like kefir but my husband loves it.  Our love of dairy is the reason we started with dairy goats in the first place.  Now that we have enjoyed these fabulous, amusing creatures for several years, there are so many more reasons to love them, but I digress.

Generally, standard-size goats kid in the winter/spring, are bred in the fall while still in milk, and then dried up after about about 10 months of milking.  Kids arrive again in the winter/spring and the cycle is repeated.  Many homesteaders however, want and need year around production.  One way to do that is to have Nigerian Dwarf goats that breed year around.  We have those.  Another way is to use hormone implants with standard size goats to regulate their estrus cycles,  We don't do that.  What one can do though is milk those big (and little if you want to) goats through the winter and not breed them in the fall.  This is a pretty common practice but this is the first year I have tried doing so.

I have one standard goat, a LaMancha and now that she is mature I thought I would try "milking through" or do an "extended lactation" as the practice is often called.  I consulted with my friend Becky at 5 and 20 Alpines who has been using extended lactations for a while.  In general the idea is to have two (or more) goats and breed them every other year (or even every two years).  This way, when one is still milking, the other is dried off and pregnant.  Once the second doe kids, the milking doe is dried off to prepare for her pregnancy and so the cycle continues.  I really didn't want to buy any dairy products this winter (well except butter) so I thought I would try "milking through" to see what happens.   I am so happy to report that my beloved Starr (I have to put the beloved in there) has been in milk for 12 months and is milking the perfect amount for us.  Her spring/summer production is over a gallon a day which keeps me very busy in the cheese kitchen.  Her winter production is about half that (5 pounds now) or a little more than 1/2 gallon a day.  Generally production will increase as spring approaches but never reaches peak production levels.  I'm sure there are exceptions. And right on cue with the approaching longer days, my beloved Starr is slowly increasing production.  Also some does will do a very extended lactation and milk for years.  I believe Becky has an Alpine that she expects to milk for 27 months.  Fantastic!!  Becky mentioned that she feeds sweet potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, kale, and turnips in the winter months to help maintain production.  I think her goats eat better than we do!  Luckily we grow lots of sweet potatoes and also we grow butternut squash that I feed all winter.

Oh yeah I think we have squash covered!  They are ridiculously easy to grow, store well and the goats love them.  Of course I cut them up in to bite-sized pieces for my beloved Starr and I feed a quart container of them to her at milking time.  She gets her grain but she LOVES her sweet potatoes and squash.  If I am milking and forget to add them to her dish she ever so gently snorts at me until I give her squash.  I hope we don't have any squash crop failures in our future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Life is a Journey

It will soon be time to say goodbye to our 62 acre farm that has been our home for 15 years.  We started here with a 100 year old house in need of much repair, an old barn that deperately needed a new roof and a lot of optimism. Our love of the property with its 15 foot waterfall along the driveway blinded us to the reality of what might would be required to modernize the old house so it would be comfy and cozy.  In fact we had originally planned to build a new house in a different location but we loved the setting of the old house that overlooked the barn and large garden area.  Two massive trees provided shade from the summer sun and there always seemed to be a pleasant breeze on hot afternoons.  The decision to keep the existing house set in motion a 5 year journey of renovation, rebuilding and discovering talents and skills we didn't know we possessed.

Our new farm is 2 miles of bouncy, back road from our original home in the woods.  We commuted 30 minutes one-way, back and forth in our faithful Toyota truck.  In very rainy or snowy weather the commute was impossible since part of the road was creek bed.  It was either flooded or frozen making travel nearly impossible.  On those days we had no choice but to stay home.

Over time we reframed entire exterior jenny lind walls, replaced roofs, replaced floor joists and tore down assorted additions that did not work for us.  We replaced all the plumbing, all the wiring and built our kitchen and bath cabinets.  We installed a water system which automatically pumps water from our spring, to our cistern, and into our house.  Once we had hot water we moved in.  Inside finishing continued for another 2 years.  We slept in whatever area of the house that had a spare spot to fit a bed.  We had a "temporary" kitchen that lasted for a year and a half.  The upstairs bedrooms were the work area and housed lumber and tools.  There were no stairs.  Fortunately there was ground level access to the upper floor.  One summer Don built the stairway, using creek stone to make a unique access to the upper floor.

Once we decided to raise dairy goats and chickens, we began another contruction period, adding various sheds, coops, small barns, and fences.  Now that we have a functional homestead it is time to move.  Isn't that always the way it is.

Our move is local. We will just be a lot closer to town with easy access.  At this stage of our lives we decided it was time to simplify and downsize onto a property that would see us into our old age.  We will still have dairy goats, a garden and an orchard.  We are enjoying planning new facilities, a new garden,  and working on projects again.  In the near future we will have to sell the farm into which we have poured much blood and sweat.  It will be a sad day in some ways but change is a spring board to new experiences.  We are both looking forward to this next phase of life.