Milking 101 (and the benefits of raw milk)

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I had milked a goat when I was nineteen working at an animal shelter that happened to have taken in a goat.  Looking back it seemed very easy and I don’t remember any issues.  So when we got Katrina I thought it would come back to me.  Of course Katrina wouldn’t let her milk down and I had no idea where to squeeze on her giant Dwarf udder.  A friend came to our rescue and showed us how to milk her.  We were so thrilled with our half a cup of milk each day, that is if we could keep her from kicking the pail and making us lose all the precious coffee creamer.  She supposedly had perfect udders but it didn’t help me because I left the baby on and she really had no desire to share with me.  I sold her and her new mama milks her without a milk stanchion and gets a quart a day!  She just wasn’t meant to be mine.

Jill gave us Isabella Noni, our giant Saanen who gives a gallon a day of delicious, creamy milk.  Jill warned us that her udders were not great.  They seemed like heaven to us after trying to milk Katrina.  I did soon figure out why I couldn’t milk very well after watching another gal milk her Nubians.  She continued a conversation with us, not even looking at the bucket as she milked these goats so fast that I thought we were in a contest at the fair.  She has smaller hands than I do….and then it hit me.  Once Doug gets part of the milk out of the udder on Isabella it is then small enough for me to wrap my hand around.  So, Elsa may be even easier to milk next year!  I am glad we start out with the hardest animals and work our way to the easiest.  If we don’t give up, we are in for rewards!

I would have loved a tutorial before I started milking, so I am demonstrating one here just in case a homesteader out there gets a goat that needs to be milked and thinks they can just wing it like we did!

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First wash the udders lightly with a mixture of mild soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and water.  I use a slip of paper towel because that is what I saw another girl do.

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Oh, before that make sure she is locked into the stanchion happily munching away on sweet feed.  Sweet feed looks like it was dipped in molasses and smells great.  It provides mama with minerals and nutrients she needs while she is making all that milk.  We had asked the people we used to get feed from for sweet feed and brought home regular goat feed.  No wonder Katrina hated us.  Make sure you have sweet feed!

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The washing of her udders also gives her the hint that she needs to let the milk down.  Wrap your hand around the upper part of the udder.  Do not pull!  Squeeze your hand, letting your fingers come into a fist.  Your hand doesn’t move up or down.  Then keep squeezing all that good milk out until not much is coming out and she is looking pretty shriveled.  If she seems to be getting chapped, add a little skin salve or a touch of olive oil.  Give her a kiss and a good pat on the head and repeat the whole thing twelve hours later.

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Bring the milk in to the kitchen.  I like the two quart canning jars to put milk in because they are pretty but you could certainly refill old milk jugs, juice containers, or whatever.  Put a funnel on top of the jar, then a strainer, then a square of tightly woven cheese cloth and strain the milk through.  We were using coffee filters and they took the whole morning to strain through (I might be exaggerating but honestly, I haven’t the patience for it that early).  Then we tried just the sieve.  It let a bit of hay through.  Then the cheese cloth, and it works just right.

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Label the lid with the date because in the fridge they all look the same.  Goat’s milk stays good for about two weeks.  If it starts smelling sour use it to make soap, cheese, or take a bath in it.  Chickens love it too.  Goat’s milk is homogenized, meaning it doesn’t separate like cow’s milk.  This means it is a pain to make butter out of but a beauty to drink because it is super creamy and delicious.  We recommend chocolate syrup.  Cold chocolate milk is amazingly delicious.

A word on raw verses pasteurized.  Louis Pasteur at the end of his life even questioned his theory.  Once you pasteurize it, you kill it.  There are no enzymes left to digest it leaving many folks with lactose intolerance issues and many others with gas and mucous problems.  Raw milk has all the enzymes and nutrients in tact.  It helps the body to better absorb calcium, whereas pasteurized leaches calcium from the bones.  E coli worry?  Wash the udders.  Do you know what the goat is eating?  We use fresh hay and alfalfa, organic sweet feed.  Clean water, lots of fresh air, and places to play.  These are happy goats.  My goats don’t have parasites, your local farmer’s pry don’t either.  I am not sure why the news is jumping on all things natural lately, I guess the organic, natural, farm movement is taking money from the big corporations, but I will keep on drinking raw milk because I know how I feel when I drink it.  I know that it is good for Maryjane to supplement her breast milk.  Goat’s milk is what our grandmas fed to infants if they couldn’t breast feed.  Have you read the ingredients for baby formula?

For the love of goats!  I will get off my podium and encourage you to go get your milking goat.  There is chocolate milk and hilarious goat antics waiting for your enjoyment.

For the Love of Ducks!

Wouldn’t that be a fabulous exclamatory sentence?  “For the love of ducks, get in here!!”  I might start using that.

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I have been talking about getting ducks for years.  I have researched them and coveted them.  Nancy had some ducks this year that she inherited.  They were called Chocolate Runners.  They looked like Walt Disney himself designed them.  They looked like bowling pins, slightly slanted, running about in a pack.  They were so comical and so mesmerizing, Doug and I could not keep from giggling as we watched them.

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The things that have kept us from getting ducks are as follows:

1. They are supposedly noisy.  I have tested out my neighbors though and they seem to be immune to a barking dog, bleating goats, humming alpacas, clucking chickens, and an uproariously loud opera singer named Henry the Rooster.  I think they can take a few quacking ducks.

2. Do they need their own coop?  I only have one.  They get into water and may make a mess of the water bowl.  However, the chicken water bowl is my mixing bowl stolen from the kitchen.  (The dog has one, the cats have one, I really do need new mixing bowls!)  So, they can’t make that much of a mess!  I was told today at the feed store that they do eat pine shavings which is less than good for them and that I will need to use straw, which is more odorous, but I suppose I can change it more.

3. Where am I going to get a pond?  I live in town for duck’s sake.  We talked about getting the water feature in the yard fixed that has long been out of use.  It was rotted, holy, and non-working when we moved in.  A child’s swimming pool in that area though could work.  The gal at the feed store said my chickens will drown.  She underestimates the intelligence of my chickens.

4. What the heck do they eat?  I thought maybe layer feed was layer feed but water fowl have their own feed.  Keeping that separate could be an issue.

5. Are they going to catch sight of the fairgrounds and fly south?  Apparently Runner ducks like Nancy’s can only fly three feet up so they aren’t going very far.  Other breeds can have a few feathers clipped with sharp scissors on one side and that takes care of that.

6. How many eggs do they lay?  Cause I have enough free loaders around here.  Duck eggs fetch $8 a dozen at the nearby farmers markets.  Depending on the duck breed, they can lay anywhere from 50-330 eggs per year.  The meat breeds don’t lay as many.  Runner ducks range between 150-300 eggs per year.  More than some of the chickens I have.

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Feeling confident, I went to the feed store and pre-ordered my ducks.  Two blue Runners and two chocolate Runners.  Straight run.  Eek.  I asked what if they are all boys?  I can bring them to the animal swap if I don’t want to kill them myself, the clerk says.

Folks, I cannot even put my old, decrepit, eighteen year old dog to sleep for crying out ducks.  How am I going to butcher my ducks?  I will pray for all girls.

I have two choices now to think about.  I can leave them in the same coop as the chickens, keep both their bowls of food there and hope they opt for the correct one for their species.  I can put the swimming pool out by the old water feature and hope the chickens don’t drown.

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Or, I can put them in the goat yard with their own coop.  Maybe there is one on Craig’s List.  They can run around with the goats, have their swimming pool, and I can hope the goats don’t break into their food.  I can totally see Loretta chowing down on duck feed.

I have until April 11th to figure it out.  The ducks arrive then.  This is becoming more of a farm every year!