The Shy Milking Goat

In all its farm life irony her milk is the tastiest we have ever had.  So creamy, the two tablespoons we manage to get back into the house, that is.

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When we brought her home last year at two days old she healed the wound that occurred when our beloved goat died while giving birth.  Her long legs and big eyes melted our hearts and those around the city as we brought her everywhere with us in the truck.  She went to schools that we spoke at, Walmart, Panera, even the bar (though she was clearly under age) and she brought light to our farm.

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Friday evening my friend, Jill, who gave us Elsa and Isabelle, came over to give Elsa “an attitude adjustment” and showed us how to halter her, let up when she calms down, reward her, milk her out, even if that means a gallon of milk across the stanchion and a very tired human and goat.  It took a long time but she got her milked out.  We are forever in debt to Jill for leading us into the life of goats and for going out of her way to always help us.

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But Elsa soon did not care about the uncomfortable harness.  Her new goal was to train to be a bucking bronco.  My, she would shine in the arena.

Yesterday my friend and current student came to school us.  She has a small dairy down the road.  She and her girls came over to milk Elsa and to show us some tricks.  Elsa won.

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My goals (and budget) did not count on our sweet goat to be a pet.  She does not respect us because we spoil her and do not have an upper hand.  Perhaps she would be like the goat we gave to Lauren last year.  That goat wouldn’t have anything to do with us, would sit in the bucket, and try to run off.  She went to her new home and lets Lauren milk her without a stanchion even!  Maybe Elsa just isn’t our goat.

What to do with Elsa Maria?

A Pioneer’s Life For Me

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I was dreading going into the goat pen.  Elsa has mastitis and we have been diligently treating it but that along with her spoiled little girl self makes it incredibly difficult to milk her.  It takes all of my strength to hold her as Doug milks her out.  All of our muscles are shaking by the end and she has kicked the milk bucket a few times.  Our clothes are covered in milk and goat hair and I am often near tears.  Last night as I looked up before going in the pen a beautiful sight transpired.  The same one that made us feel we made the right choice moving out here.  The brightest rainbow arched across the sky, seemingly right above us, from horizon to horizon it promised peace.  Its colors sparkled in the rain that fell in straight glistening showers downward watering the gardens.  The sun shone through it and all was bright.  Today we will tie her back legs.

I love the peacefulness of home.  Now that Emily has moved back in, we drive considerably less.  We feel better in our bustling schedule around this homestead.  I love the heaviness of the cast iron skillet as I prepare eggs fresh from the coop and slice warm bread that I baked.  Dandelions, or other produce later, are mixed into the eggs throughout the season along with homemade cheese.  I hope fresh fruit will join these.  We look across our table and see how much of it we produced.  We are aptly satisfied and proud yet strive to produce nearly everything we consume.  Of course we shall rely on the humble farmer that provides the grains for our table.  The coffee from far away.  The teas exotic.  But our year long sustenance grows each season on this homestead as we produce more and more.

The milk hits the bucket in a sing-song tune as Isabelle stands sweetly on the stand.  She occasionally turns to kiss Doug’s ear.  She loves him and seems to want to impress him.  This year she is giving over a gallon a day of fresh milk.  I pour the warm milk into his coffee once inside.  The creamy morning treat warms the farmer.  These simple pleasures transcend the ordinary ones we knew growing up.  Last night after Doug had fallen asleep I sat in the rocking chair my father gave my mother upon learning that she was with child over forty-one years ago.  I sat in front of the wood stove and let it warm me as I relaxed into my book, the oil lamp highlighting the page, a cup of hot tea by my side.  The house and land is quiet.  My muscles are tired but my mind is joyous.  There is cheese pressing, bread dough rising, and at least the dishes are done.  I am reading an Amish book.

I have sat in an Amish home and read accounts.  They are not unlike mine.  Keeping the world out is something I strive for.  The news stays in its dramatic studios of fear.  Anger, stress, and sadness dissipate quicker here.  We are not immune to financial wonderings and relationship woes but here in this setting they work themselves out and the spirit is restored quickly.  We pray openly here and are thankful for our blessings.  We call on the Lord for signs, for help, and for comfort and receive them as we listen softly in the night by oil lamp and quiet.

The aprons hang on the wall and tell stories, I decide which one I wish to don this day.  I have long skirts, and long slips, and layers to make them stand out because they are comfortable, and feminine, and fine.  The apron pocket holds what I need as I bustle from clothes line to barn yard to kitchen.  Three meals a day grace the table and the children always know they can come home to a hot meal, peace and quiet, and an escape from the world beyond.

The counties out here argue over fracking, over wind mills, over water.  Not here! they say.  Yet folks will not give up their luxuries and want these means of fancies and want destruction to get them so long as they cannot see them.  We work on our own solution, to use less.  To find alternative ways.  And the classical music plays softly in the kitchen and the electric kettle often gets turned on but bird song could fill the musical need and a kettle whistling from wood stove could suffice.  And the world could howl outside our door but our respite remains here in our pioneer ways.  I put on my sun bonnet and head outdoors to plant.

The Screwy Sweet Weekend

"Why can't I come in?" Elsa wondered.

Today the weather breaks.  I believe that was our last freeze and cold spell until next autumn.  I hope so.  I plan to get all the summer crops in in the next few days.  We don’t have a long growing season here and we have to hustle once it’s time to plant.  I will go access the damage from the hail, the freeze, the ice storm, and the flooding of the past few days.  Seedlings were ripped out of the smaller beds, the basil is dead, as our some of the tomato starts but I haven’t looked in the greenhouse or the main garden yet.  The other night we actually had a severe thunderstorm with hail warning, a flash flood warning, and a winter storm warning all at the same time.  That is farming in Colorado, folks.  The High Plains is one of the most difficult to farm.  I always joke that if we moved closer to sea level I would be brilliant at farming and baking because I am so used to making it hard on myself by doing it all in Colorado!  But this is home.

The other screwy incident this weekend was our baby goat.  There were no responses from anyone to buy him.  No one wants a boy.  Now that it is so popular to have goats here I thought they would all sell quickly but it turns out everyone else is breeding and selling them too!  I was starting to believe we would have a new wether when I decided on a whim to see if he had had a sex change.  And sure enough, as I squealed and ran her around to show Doug and Shyanne, he was a she.  In the dark, rainy, muddy stall I must have gotten confused.  Glad I checked.  She will sell now.  She is a beautiful red Saanen.

We are having trouble milking Elsa.  She is engorged and chapped and it takes two of us to milk her and we only get two cups.  Yesterday I put my pain salve on her and pinned her against the gate so that I could get as much milk out to relieve the pressure.  I was in tears.  She wasn’t happy.  I get to go do it again this morning.  This cold has not helped her utters.  I hope the pain salve did its job last night and healed the skin.  Doug is the milker, but with two does freshening I am to milk Elsa.  A new milking farmgirl and a new mama who just wants sweet feed and not to be touched do not make a good combination.  It will get easier with time, I am sure.

Mother’s Day was sweet.  Andy was snowed into Denver.  He wants me to move closer.  He sent me a sweet message.  I received a homemade sign from Shyanne that reads, “Home is Where Mama is” and Emily got me a kettle to put on the wood stove top.  Doug found me a baking oven that fits on top of a wood or propane stove.  Doug is building me an outdoor kitchen soon and it will make a great addition.  A peek at a well outfitted camping store can supply many homesteader needs.

I have lost my old, cracked IPOD with the camera so I haven’t been able take any pictures for you.  I hope it comes out of hiding soon!

I have a guitar lesson today.  It makes me happy.  I think I will make cheese today as well.  May you all have a brilliantly happy day and all warm weather and sunshine ahead!

Drying Off Isabelle (no more milk till spring and chica has a new boyfriend)

I am a tad envious of those raised on a farm.  They don’t have to text random people that have goats to ask stupid questions.  Like, how the heck do we stop her milk?  I know this should seem like an obvious one but there is an art to all this dairy farming.  Goodness, we don’t want to send our goat into pain, discomfort, mastitis, and who knows what else!  Our dear Isabelle trusts us.

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I first started by looking up on the internet how to dry off a goat.  Easy.  Just start milking once a day, then every other day, then every third day, et cetera.  We easily got her down to once a day.  That was great for weeks but we don’t have any CSA’s anymore and I stopped making cheese for the season so five cups of milk a day is a little overkill.  It certainly fills the fridge up quickly.  I have been avidly making eggnog, but even then, I still have a lot of milk in there.  The freezer is full of milk and neither of us want to go out in the freezing cold to milk so even though we could wait until her third month of pregnancy to dry her off, we have opted to give us all a much needed respite.

We then waited a day before milking her.  Her udder was hard as a rock and Doug’s hands were getting tired getting all the milk out.  You think I am sappy and sensitive?  My husband is worse.  He loves these creatures and wants them to experience zero discomfort.  So we were back to once a day again.

I finally asked a random goat person how to dry off a goat.  She told me the same thing we had already learned so we just went for it.  Every other day.  Check, less milk.  Every third day.  The next time we milk will be Friday which is the fourth day.  She has not been engorged since that first time.  All it took was that first bit of pressure to send the message to her body to ease up on the milk production.

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On Sunday, Isabelle has a hot date.  We ought to put a nice red flower in her hair or something.  You know, distract from the beard.  She is going to his house because we are having trouble figuring out when she is in heat and the hour and a half drive the second we find out she is in heat would be difficult.  So instead she is having a slumber party until she gets pregnant.  Don’t judge.  She makes really cute babies.  Her own baby, Elsa, could be bred this year but we have heard enough folks recommend that we wait a year to give her a chance to fully grow.  Since goats are pack animals, Elsa will chaperone her mother.  A few weeks without goats, that will be strange!  We’ll miss them.

Lots of exciting gossip over here in the goat sector.  We’ll keep you posted!

Goats 101 (becoming a goat herder)

Our alpaca venture failed miserably, with a great financial loss, and two stubborn alpacas now working as lawn mowers somewhere in Limon.  I had to give them away.  I do love our chickens.  I adore the ducks.  I love goats.  I am smitten.

Our adventure started badly enough, a doe that wouldn’t come near us, would sit in the milk bucket, and give us dirty looks.  Katrina is so happy in her new home though, surrounded by baby goats, chickens, little kids, and even lets her new mom milk her without a stanchion!

Our other doe loved us tremendously, following us like a lost puppy, always wanting to help and snuggle.  She died in March giving birth.  Yet, our hearts were still in the game.  We were ready to be goat herders.

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Elsa was a gift from my goat guru, Jill, after Loretta’s death.  Jill had to move shortly after and also offered me Elsa’s mom, who is our milker around here.  Gentle and sweet, she is the perfect goat.  Amy and Rob adopted Katrina’s doeling that was born on the farm and adopted three others from Jill and have been boarding them here.  Six caprine comedians taking up residence.  They are a delight.  I highly recommend getting goats.

Here are some things you may want to know when contemplating becoming a goat herder.

1.  What kind of goat?

Fainting goats and pigmy goats are very good companions for horses and other pack animals that may get lonely in a large pasture.  They are fun to watch and are incredibly, ridiculously cute.  However, they are not really great as milkers and pigmies have issues giving birth.  They are more pet status then anything else.

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Nigerian Dwarves make really great goats in the city.  Denver and Colorado Springs now allow small goats, which Dwarves qualify as.  They are a sturdy, fun-loving breed.  They can give a quart or two a day of fresh, raw goat’s milk, perfect for a family homestead.

Twila giving Isabelle ideas of things they probably oughtn't be doing.

Alpines, Saanens, Oberhasli, and Nubians are great milkers.  Large in stature (Isabelle is bigger than our greyhound), they have large udders and drop twins and triplets often.  Nubians have higher milk fat in their milk which makes very creamy cheese.  Turns out Dwarves have the highest milk fat but you would need four days of milk to get enough to make a good block of cheddar!

We started with Dwarves because they were easier to handle in my mind.  We ended up with a purebred Saanen and her daughter who is half Saanen and half Alpine.  They are very easy to handle.  I am coveting Amy and Rob’s Alpine that lives here.  She looks like a Siberian Husky and is gorgeous and adorably sweet.  I may be adopting one of my friend, Nancy’s goats.  When she passed away her goats were quickly dispersed but one has come around to needing a new home again.  She is an older girl but still a great milker and now that I am obsessed with making hard cheeses, I would like a Nubian.

Expect to pay anywhere from free (if someone is desperate because they are moving) to $200 for a non-registered goat and between $200 to upwards of $800 for papered, purebred kids.

Always get two.  They are pack animals and cannot live in singles.

2. What About Disbudding? 

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Remember my story about the bad goats at our friends’ house that were babysitting?  Made me not want large goats at all.  Or goats with horns.  One thing that Jill and Nancy did the same in their goat raisings was disbudding.  Seems mean, hold down a two week old goat kid while they scream bloody murder and set a hot curling iron looking thing to their horn nubs and burn it off!  But, on closer inspection, it is actually not what it seems.  Jill’s goat guru (do you think I will ever be called that?), Brittney, disbuds all of ours.  She showed us how they are screaming because they are prey animals and being held down means they are about to be eaten.  You’d be screaming bloody murder too.  The burning is only on the hard, nerveless horn endings and takes about ten seconds.  Done.  It doesn’t touch the skin and two seconds later the goat kids are running around playing again.  I appreciate not having horns stabbed into my hip if someone wants to play, or having them stuck in the fence.

3. What Do They Eat?

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Goats like a diet of pure alfalfa flakes supplemented with pastures of weeds.  Actually their favorite is trees.  They love giant, green, taunting limbs of leaves.  And tree bark.  After the trees are gone, they will reluctantly munch on weeds.  It is a fallacy that goats eat everything.  One would be surprised to know that they are rather finicky eaters actually.  They will eat about three quarters of the hay you set before them, sigh, and wander off to find a nice bush sticking through the fence from the neighbors yard.  They do not eat tin cans, or odds and ends.

They should also be supplemented (this can be set out in small bowls to free feed) minerals and baking soda.  Minerals they are missing and baking soda to get rid of bloat.  They will help themselves as needed.

Lots of fresh water is imperative, of course.

4. Playtime

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Goats love a good time.  We have several discarded tires that are stacked up along with an old, rusty keg.  Doug calls it Mount Kegel.  It is a playground of fun (and used to reach the higher branches of trees).  Goats are really fun to watch play.  They head-butt (good thing they are disbudded) and jump 360’s off of wood piles and feeding troughs.  One night Doug was in the pasture with them at dusk.  Goats are particularly silly at dusk.  He would run across the yard then stop and turn to look at them.  All at once they would all rear up and start hopping on all fours like giant bunny rabbits….sideways towards him!  It was the funniest thing I have seen in a good minute.

5. Pasture Rotation

We are in a fine, old fashioned back yard so how we do pasture rotation is by fencing off half the yard.  They stay on one side for three weeks, then move to the other.  This allows them the grass to start growing back.

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6. Housing

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I bought a simple igloo for the goats as their house on one side of the yard.  The old alpaca shelter consists of a covering between the chicken coop and the garage.  It keeps the rain out and there is a gate on one side.  Goats do not need an entire barn.  The igloo is weather proof and kept rather warm even on our below zero days and nights last winter.  They enjoy sleeping outdoors when the weather is nice.

7. Breeding

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This one I have not experienced yet.  This is what I know.  Boys are smelly when they get older.  When they want to get it on they pee on their faces and let loose an oily substance on their skin that makes them irresistible to the opposite sex (of goat).  Lord, they are maniacs.  So, we will rent a man.  Jill knows of the perfect date for Elsa and Isabelle come late fall and either they will visit him or he shall come here and we will have a rendezvous and come spring will hopefully have adorable new babies around.  Dwarves should not be bred their first year.  That is what happened with Loretta (on accident).  Only the large breeds can have sex as teenagers.  The Dwarves need to wait a year.

8. Births, Milking, and Bottle Feeding.

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I have only had one birth here at the farm and it was while I was at the coffee shop so I missed it.  I did a post on milking. Click on any of the highlighted words in this post to read the relating post.  I highly recommend bottle feeding.

9. Fencing and Keeping Them In.

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Remember last year’s babies were out running down the street, eating the neighbor’s grass, and running through the fairgrounds during a rodeo?  We had the fence reinforced with smaller field fencing before this new bunch arrived.  Twila was being terrible to the little ones, as she usually is, so we put her in the other yard.  A split second later she cleared a four foot fence and was back with the little ones.

“How do you keep a goat in?” I asked Jill before this whole goat herding thing started.  She replied that if a goat wants out, there is no stopping it.  If they are happy, they will stay put.  I have friends that use six foot fences, some electrified, watch for holes, and things that they can use as spring boards.  We have a three and a half, some places four foot, fence of field fencing.  The kids stay put.  There was a new hole in one though the other day and Doug asked real casual like, “Why is Tank in your potatoes?”  He didn’t wait around to see if anyone was coming to fix the fence, he just wanted those potatoes!  Be vigilant but also know that they will and can outsmart you if they wish.  Just give them more tires and a lot of hugs.

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I am by no means an expert yet.  I am learning by trial and error, from my goat gurus, and from lots of books.  The goats teach me most of all.  Goats, as with every other creature on earth, are all very different.  Each one has a unique personality.  We have found a whole new layer of joy by becoming goat folks.

 

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.

Goats: Leave on Mom or Bottle Feed?

Starting out I watch my friends, read books, ask questions, then try to make my own way.  Whether to leave the baby on the mother or bottle feed was no exception.

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Friend #1 takes the baby from the mother immediately.  She gives the baby bottles of colostrum for a few days then off they go with their perspective owner or stay with her bottle feeding for ten or so weeks.  The mothers truly forget what they were doing.  They can be in the same pen with the infant and have no maternal urge to nurse or protect the youngster.  On the same note, the baby thinks that the bottle feeder is her mom and is happy as can be playing with the other goats and drinking bottles.  Her goats are super friendly (Loretta was a bottle baby, and so is Elsa) and excited to see people.  More like small dogs, they are playful and love attention.

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Friend #2 leaves the baby on the mom.  After three weeks she separates them at night, milks in the morning, then lets the baby stay with the mom all day.  She gets plenty of milk, and then doesn’t have to worry about bottle feeding, weaning, or anything but once a day milking.  The babies are nice enough, though they do prefer to stay with their mom, which seems quite natural.  Friend #2 slaughters some of them for meat.  She has a full circle farm.  Bottle babies become apart of the family, it would be difficult to eat a baby that you kept in the house and watched American Idol with.

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When Katrina had her baby, Buttercup, I opted for friend #2’s approach.  Wasn’t it mean to take away the baby from the mother?  Wouldn’t it be easier to milk in the mornings since we are just getting started?  Wouldn’t the baby be healthier if I left her on the mom?  Buttercup is adorable, and as she gets bigger, she gets faster.  The family that bought her come to visit often.  At the beginning, we could swoop the small infant up and snuggle her, but now we have to plan and coordinate her capture.  She is like a feral cat.  Her mother, who was already ornery, is now a beast with her infant by her side.  She charged Bumble, the greyhound, and pushed him into a fence.  He is a rather docile creature and easily injured.  He did not understand why he was being attacked.  He looked at me with big humane society eyes.  The second time she was charging full speed towards him, thankfully, Doug was there to grab her collar and curtail her attempts at maiming the dog.

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I discussed my issues about milking with Friend #1.  Because Katrina is nursing all day, she doesn’t let all her milk down for us.  She is also a Nigerian Dwarf so has less milk anyway.  Friend #2 has Nubians, so she gets plenty of milk.  With a baby by her side, Katrina is not friendly.  Milking time is no exception as she kicks, spills the milk bucket, and tries to get away.  She sits down and thrashes about.  She is a nightmare.  If she didn’t have a baby that would relieve her of her engorgement soon, she might be more apt to let us milk.  Maybe.

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Elsa is a bottle baby.  She doesn’t miss nor does she remember her mother who is happily getting milked twice a day.  Elsa is excited for bottles and is content playing in the yard or sitting on my lap.  She is growing steadily by the day and is more certain on her long legs.  She enjoys sleeping on my lap alongside my cat while we watch singing shows in the evening.  She doesn’t seem overly traumatized from the experience of bottle feeding and lack of caprine matriarchal care.  I seem to be a fine substitute.  Elsa went and visited 119 middle school children yesterday at the schools I was speaking at.  She was lovey and adorable, a great ambassador to the future farming world of some of these children, with any luck.  There is no way we could have taken Buttercup.

The notion of bottle feeding goat kids being a nuisance is no longer contemplative.  It is one of my greatest joys in farming.

With this small of a farm, I have to be choosy about what animals I have here.  I have to consider that I do not have a lot of animals.  I do not have a pack of goats or alpacas or sheep that sit out in a pasture all day.  We have a sixth of an acre in each pasture.  Our farm here was set up to be an example that one can farm anywhere, as a place where kids can come out and see vegetables growing, find eggs, and pet the goats.  A place that may inspire them to have farms of their own when they get older.  An aloof goat does nothing for atmosphere!  This is also a homestead, and a place where I spend much of my time.  I prefer very friendly animals.  Even my chickens enjoy being picked up!

I am sure there are many situations where leaving the baby on the mother is beneficial and necessary on many farms, but for our small piece of friendly farm, as I sit writing this with a baby goat on my lap, bottle babies will be in our future.

Who Knows How To Milk A Goat?!

Uh, I probably should have inquired about milking lessons prior to this.  I have read many homesteading books which outline how to milk a goat.  I milked a goat at the animal shelter I worked at.  A large goat.  Every morning.  Twenty years ago.

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Yesterday we moved the milking station into the goat yard.  We put sweet feed in the tray and enticed Katrina to get up on the wooden structure, stick her head through, and enjoy the treats.  We didn’t touch her,  just let her get used to the station.  It became a fabulous game and playground the remainder of the day with goats jumping in high twirls off of the platform.

We locked the baby goat into a kennel in the igloo late last night.  We cleaned a shiny metal bucket and the two quart canning jar we would use to store our delicious goat’s milk. Chocolate milk on my mind, I placed a funnel, topped with a sieve, topped with a coffee filter on top of the jar.  We were ready!

This morning we got up with the sun.  We distracted Loretta out of the goat yard.  Enticed with some help (me trying in vain to lift her back end onto the stanchion) and sweet feed we got Katrina into place, latched the short leash to her collar, and set the bucket beneath her.  It barely fit under her large belly.  I never thought to bring out the bucket and see if it was too big!  I could barely fit it under her, but I tried to grab a hold of her very swollen teats and milk.  I tried to close my fingers around her, but she was too swollen, and I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing, I realized.  She placed her foot in the bucket.  A few very cold, frustrated minutes later, we let the baby out of the kennel to nurse.

Emergency early morning texts were sent to our farming friends.  Today I need a milking lesson!

Learning Homesteading Skills (finding teachers)

Our grandparents knew how to do all these things.  Mine laughed when I wanted a farm and wondered why.  Growing up on farms and in the country, in hard times, with so much work, it baffled them that I would run off to the lifestyle that they left willingly.  The skills from that generation and beyond become more and more lost.  No one taught me how to milk a goat when I was a child (which would have been nice since I will be milking in a few short weeks!), no one taught me to garden, or to spin, or to can, or to take care of one day old chicks.  There was no reason to in the middle of Denver!  Over the past years I have tried to accumulate these skills.

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I started with books.  Lots of books.  We are avid readers over here anyway, so I may as well be learning while reading.  And indeed I have picked up many great tips and tried and true ways of doing things from these books.  Many specific skill books though go in one eye and out of my memory faster than a three day old goat can elude me. (Man, they are fast!)

Things like knitting, milking, spinning, I need to see it.  I need to have someone show me step by step then I have it.  Most of the time.

IMG_0526Spinning was not working out for me.  My yarn looked like dreadlocks or clumps of fur.  It did not resemble anything looking like yarn.  My machine would not work.  My friend told me to pour a glass of wine.  I did.  Then I poured three.  Still couldn’t spin.  The spinning wheel anyway.  The teacher I had just kept saying I needed practice.  I could tell there was no more she could teach me.  I called my wine recommending friend.  She came over a week later.

She first noted that my machine was put together backwards.  That the break was on the wrong side.  The tension was all wrong.  She showed me the technique of spinning, which I knew but had been trying without good result.  I sighed and tried the wheel.  And spun.  Yarn.  It looks like yarn!  All I needed was a new teacher.

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In your community you will find people that do what you wish you could do.  Make cheese, spin, can, garden, make herbal medicines, make wine, any number of fabulous homesteading skills.  And most of them are happy to teach you.  You may have to pay a small fee for the lesson.  Or barter.  That is okay because the money you save and the joy you feel while mastering these skills outweighs forty bucks.

I teach canning, crocheting, high altitude baking, gardening, soap making, candle making, soft cheese making, herbal classes, and herbal body product classes.

I need to find a class on how to make hard cheese.  I suppose if I read the cheese making book I bought I can figure it out since I already know how to make soft cheeses.

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I need to learn to milk.  I milked a goat when I worked at an animal shelter some twenty years ago.  I wonder if I will remember.

I want to learn how to knit.  Books and teachers thus far have not been able to help.  Surely there is a patient lady out there with the perfect knitting needles to get me on my way to making socks and sweaters.

We signed up for a bee keeping class.

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I cannot wait to experiment with dying fiber.  I have many plans this year and I hope to teach all of them.  Of course, I could keep all these skills to myself and make money off of the canned goods, the yarn, the farming, the herbal medicines. And I will, because there are folks who would rather I do it.  But for those that want to learn, we must teach what we know.  We must share our knowledge.

And our lessons for the day summed up:

If first you don’t succeed, get another teacher.

Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.