Milking machine

Recently, I came close to buying a milking machine.  I am so glad I came to my senses and decided to continue to do it the old-fashioned way.  How stupid is that when I am more than capable of milking without electricity or a noisy machine.

Sometimes I wonder about myself …

This morning, I timed how long it takes me to milk out a goat from washing her udder to dumping the milk into a clean container.  Except for one goat that has a sore udder (more on that later), the longest one took me five minutes.  It would probably take me longer than that to hook a goat up to a milk machine, unhook her, disconnect the contraption and dump the milk.

Poor Heavenly (a new goat).  She has a large udder.  She gives a gallon a milking.  One of the first days I had her, I put her down with the other goats into the woods.  She cut up her udder and it’s sore.  She’s been very tolerant of a process that must be extremely painful for her.  While it seems like it takes me forever to milk her, it only took me 12 minutes to milk her out.

While her udder is larger than normal, some of my other goats have cut their udders in those woods.  I won’t put them down there any more, at least not while they are in milk.  There are plenty of other places to let them browse without putting them in danger.

They are not inclined to go out much at all these days.  It’s too bloody hot.

Wally and I spent the morning cleaning up and around the milking parlor.  It looks very nice.

Until later …

Homemade fly spray

I finally finished a batch of homemade fly spray.  I soaked calendula blossoms in apple cider vinegar for several weeks, drained the vinegar off and to that I added numerous insect-repellent essential oils such as cedar, lavender, lemon and rose geranium.  I’ll mix it with water in a spray bottle and hope that it works.  I also hung a lot of fly tape in the goat shelter, milk parlor and horse shelter.  It’s a bit aggravating to run into these sticky tapes, but they are quite effective.

This morning’s milking was very productive: three gallons!  Most of that went into my cheese pot.  It feels good to be back at cheese making.  I have another batch to drain and hang in an hour or so.

This morning, I’ve been working on cleaning out the goat shelter.  It is almost done.  I work for a half hour or so, then come in to cool off.  It’s incredibly hot and humid out there.

Wally’s truck didn’t start this morning.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  We just had to put new tires on it so that it would pass inspection.  It’s nice to not have car payments, but with older vehicles, things tend to go wrong.  Hopefully it’s just the battery.  He drove Yoda to work this morning so I’m stranded.  No big deal, I had no plans to go anywhere today.  I did enough traveling last week to last me for several weeks.

Until later …


One of these days, I’m going to remember to stick my camera in my pocket when I go outside to take care of the animals.  I miss wonderful shots.  For example, this morning I positioned Gel at the opening of the gate to the poultry pasture to keep the goat kids and calf from coming out while I let the chickens and ducks out.  Kishi came and lied down right next to him.  It was a beautiful picture.  The puppies’ interactions with Rose and the cats are wonderful as well.

It isn’t going to be too much longer before we are going to have to restrain the puppies when we are not right there to keep an eye on them.  The chickens and ducks are becoming quite the draw.  On the shopping list for this weekend are collars for the puppies and I’ll start to teach them to tie out.  All in all, they are very nice puppies.  Wally and I keep going back and forth as to which puppy to keep.  One day it’s Mica, the next it’s Kishi.

I won’t be riding today.  It’s too freaking hot.  After I got through with milking, I brought all of the goats and Spot down into the back pasture.  The horses are in their paddock, with access to the adjoining field if they feel the need to go out and graze.  They’ll pretty much stay up all day until it cools off.  After I had some breakfast, I went out and worked on cleaning out the kid pen.  I filled the wagon, which is now attached to the ATV, but I haven’t emptied it yet.  I’ll go back out in a bit and do that.  We are going to have some kick-ass compost next year.

That’s the beauty of having a somewhat-sustainable small farm.  Sure, I have to buy hay and grain for the critters, but they are providing well for us.  Milk and egg sales (lots of people like to feed raw milk to their dogs and cats) pretty much pay for their grain and hay.  We transported in composted manure this year, but if all goes well, next year we’ll be able to use what we have here.  The chickens turn the compost pile, especially when I put kitchen scraps in it.

I wish we could produce all that we eat and drink, but that is not feasible.  We are doing more than most people.  There is a great deal of satisfaction in that.

For the past couple of weeks, when I had enough milk to make it, my cheese wasn’t coming out.  I thought it was bacteria, but that wasn’t the case; it was the buttermilk.  I had read that you could freeze buttermilk in ice cube trays and use it that way, but it seems that is not the case.  I used store-bought buttermilk in my last batch and it came out fine.  I have a quarter of buttermilk setting now and I guess that’s what I’ll need to continue to do.  Not that I throw the milk away if the cheese doesn’t come out (the dogs and chickens eat it); but if I go through the effort of making cheese, I’d like it to come out, at least most of the time.

Until later …

If you can’t sell him, then ride him.

I got this month’s DVD from Clinton Anderson’s No Worries Club and because it featured a retired endurance Arabian, I figured I’d watch it.  As it turned out, the Arabian is a desert-bred or Al Khamsa Arabian, like Al Bin.

I watched a few minutes of the show then decided, screw the heat, my still sore knee and that PITA horse, I’m going to make an effort to make him a better horse.

I caught him easily enough and this time, the saddle only fell off his back once (compared to three times the last time I saddled him).  I love my saddle, I really do, but it’s heavy as hell.  Couple that with a horse that is spooky to saddle and you have a difficult situation.  Luckily this time I tied the rope halter correctly and when he reared back on the halter, the nose band slipped off, but it didn’t come untied so I didn’t loose him.  Yea!  Got the halter back on him, tighter this time, and threw the saddle up over him a second time and managed to get it in place.

Of course … if I had done some ground work with him before I started saddling him, I might not have had any trouble and the next time I ride him, I will do that because his rearing up right next to me got a bit hairy.

I’ve had the stirrups twisted using a piece of wood and it made a big difference.  I am going to keep the wood in them for a while longer as they are not quite perfect, but close.  My knee only twinged a bit.

When Merlin and I returned from our ride, we were both soaking wet with sweat, but I felt like I accomplished something, both for me and for him.  I removed his saddle and bridle and hosed him off then went down and caught Al Bin and brought him up and put a good dose of fly spray on him.  They hate it, but I feel sure they hate the flies biting them much, much more.

It’s too early to tell if the fly predators are working, but when I was cleaning out the goat shelter on Sunday, I saw swarms of them in there.  Removing the manure will make a bit difference in that building.

Over the weekend, I reduced Merlin’s price from $500 to $300 and only got a few responses, none of them favorable.  I plan to remove the advertisement and try to work towards making him a better horse.  If nothing else, I may sweat off a few pounds in the process.  Heck, it’s only 93 degrees with a heat index of 98, not too hot, huh?

Gel went with me and I know he’s tired.  He stopped in all the creeks and puddles we went by to cool off.

The puppies are rowdy.  They’ve been up most of the day in a crate and as I write this, they are trying to kill each other.  I guess it’s time to put them out for a few minutes and take a shower: I need one!

Until later …

Bloody, freaking hot …

Oh it’s bad here!  90 plus degrees with humidity.  Lovely, huh?  On Saturday we did our regular errands in the morning, then packed up the ATV, lawnmower, a cooler full of Jersey steaks, the puppies and Gel and headed to Wally’s sister’s house.  His sister’s husband agreed to show Wally how to do the bi-annual tune-ups on both the ATV and lawnmower.  We women stayed in the house where it was cool and prepared food and drank wine.  What fun, huh?  Unfortunately, we didn’t get home until after 9:00 and I milked really late, but all in all, it was a lovely visit.  I love Wally’s sister and her husband.

The puppies were very good during the trip and while at Wally’s sister’s house.  Pyro (Fern and Monty’s sister) was amazingly good with the puppies.  I think all the dogs had as much fun as we did.

Sunday was spent mowing (Wally) and hauling old bedding out of the goat shelter (me).  I about had heat stroke doing it.  I may go out for a little while this morning and haul more of it out.  We did have Marcus lined up to do this job with his Bobcat, but who knows when Marcus will ever show up and I got tired of how dirty the shelter was.  I am starting our own compost pile with this bedding and have a bucket full of kitchen scraps to add to it.  I also have several loads of laundry to hang out, a sink full of dirty dishes, milking equipment to wash, etc., etc. … and I’d rather just go back to bed.

You know it’s really hot when the air conditioning (which is set at 85 degrees, comes on at 9:00 AM.  I got up last night around 12:30 and tried to open up the doors to let fresh air in, but not long after I did that, the air came back on so I had to get back up and close them.  Yuck.

Best go and get something done.

Until later …

Puppies, puppies, puppies

They are all doing well and settling into their new homes. We’ve decided to keep Kishi and find Mica a home.  Bringing up two litter mates is never a good idea.  I would really have preferred to keep a male puppy, but none of the males appealed to us as much as Kishi has.  She’s a delightful little creature.

We’ve got two garden beds planted with hoops and screen to keep the chickens out.  Wild morning glories are trying their best to take over, but I’m winning the battle. I planted green beans, cucumbers, nasturtiums, Teddy Bear and Mexican Sunflowers, basil, oregano, melons, garlic chives and I can’t remember what else.  Most of what I planted was in seed.  Next year, I’ll start most of my vegetables, herbs and flowers in flats so I’ll have a better idea of placement within the beds.  If all goes well, we’ll finish the third bed this weekend.

I’ve decided to put Merlin up for sale; I may regret that decision, but he’s simply too much of a pain in the ass to deal with.  It simply isn’t worth wasting the ten acres that we are slowing fencing in on two horses.  I can’t put goats or the cows back there because he’ll chase them.  I need to make certain that Al Bin will ignore them before I finalize the decision to sell Merlin, but I’m pretty sure he’ll mingle with both the goats and the cows without harassing them.  Merlin is simply a shithead and life is too short to deal with shitheads.

It’s really too hot and humid to do much of anything outside these days.  I finished milking around 8 AM and was dripping wet with sweat.  My sweating didn’t have as much to do with milking as it did chicken wrangling.  We’ve got chickens and ducks sitting everywhere and they don’t stay put where they start out.  It’s a constant game of musical nest boxes and it’s hard to know what nest is occupied by a sitting hen or duck.  This morning I broke an egg into a frying pan and it contained a started chick.  Nasty!  I caught up all the sitting hens and their eggs and put them all into a spare dog run.  I set them up a covered nesting area.  That’s where they’ll have to stay if they are insisting on sitting.  The nesting boxes need to be kept free for egg laying.  Originally I thought letting the hens and ducks raise young was the way to go, but the mortality rate is high.  We recently discovered that the chickens are killing the ducklings!  Last week, a duck hatched out eight ducklings.  Today she’s down to three.

Snakes have become a bit of a problem as well.  Over the weekend, we discovered two black snakes raiding a nest that was originally occupied by a duck and a chicken.  The chicken hatched out one chick and who knows if any of the duck eggs would have hatched out or not.  I relocated both snakes, probably not far enough away.  Last night, Wally mowed the poultry pasture which had become out of hand.  Hopefully the mowed grass will deter snakes.  From what I’ve heard, other farms in the area are having problems with snakes eating eggs.

Gwen is officially dried off and seems to be doing well.  She spends most of her time out in the front or side pastures.  The grass is so tall out there, I often have to go “in search of” to find her.  Apparently the tall grass is the best thing she can be eating now in the last two months of her pregnancy.  The roots of tall grass go deeper where they’ll bring up more minerals.

Unfortunately, we are about to become bombarded with company and Gwen will temporarily loose access to the lush grass.  Not our company, but that of our landlord’s.  They have family coming from out of town and some of them will be staying down at the pond.  The pond will become the meeting/greeting place.  That means the four-legged animals, including Rose will have to be kept up.  We’ll buy a round bale of hay to install in the goat pasture to keep Gwen fed.  I can’t complain, we pretty much have the place to ourselves most of the time.

Can I tell you how much I hate feeding bottle babies?  It’s cute and fun at first, but now it’s nothing more than a pain in the ass.  Hopefully our next beef cow will be raised by Gwen … it will suck if she has a heifer.  We are raising this year’s breeding buck and a companion on the bottle.  I can’t very well wean them or Spot as they are just three months old.  Most people would have weaned them by now, but it is in their best interests, especially the breeding buck, to be fed milk for as long as I can stand it.  We originally were considering trying to find a way to keep this year’s buck into next year, but I don’t think we’ll be able to manage that.

I think next year I am going to buy an Oberhasli buck from a local breeder that leaves the kids on their dams until weaning age. The Oberhasli is a Swiss dairy goat and looks quite like an Alpine. I honestly don’t care about purebred animals and believe that mixing breeds, as long as they are from good dairy lines, is good for hybrid vigor.  Even though I’m feeding this year’s buck well, he’d be fed a whole lot better if he were still on his mother.  The one doe we are keeping back this year is still on her mother and she’s growing amazingly well.  Most dairies and goat breeders take the babies off their mothers as soon as they are born.  This is so that they can limit the amount of milk the babies consume (so there will be more milk for the dairy) and because the bottle fed babies are usually tamer than those that are dam-raised.  That may very well be true, but if the temperament of the dam is solid, then the babies’ should be as well.  We’ve found that to be true about the doe we are keeping.  Her mother has a lovely temperament and she’s passed that on to her baby.

Until later …

Digging Garden Beds

Yesterday Cheri and I worked on another bed and as you can see, we had lots of help:

It was great to see Fern again.  She looks wonderful and seems very happy.  It’s a blessing to get a dog into such a nice home.

So far, so good

I’ve checked in with the families that got the two families on Saturday and have received nothing but glowing reports.  Unfortunately, the family that took the female puppy whom they named Bella have already got the “why are you vaccinating, spaying, medicating, etc. your puppy?”  Their neighbor got a Golden Retriever cross puppy on Saturday from a Humane Society adoption event at a local mall.  At 10-12 weeks old, the puppy is already fully vaccinated, spayed and micro chipped.  I hope that I was able to communicate the rationale behind not vaccinating or spaying a dog so young and they’ll hang tight.

As I write this, my friend Cheri (who has Fern) is on her way here for a visit and to collaborate on a manual of sorts on natural puppy rearing.  Cheri has been doing some dog training on the side and thought that this manual would be useful for her clients.  I do not plan to breed another litter, but this sort of manual would be helpful for the family who have Bella.  In fact, they are the ones who asked for such a thing and I called Cheri to see if she’d be interested in working with me on it.

Wally and I finished one raised bed on Sunday and the other is almost done.  The weather today is lovely so Cheri and I may do a bit of digging ourselves.  While we could sit around and chat, why not get a bit of exercise.  I need to dig two more beds in the garden up near the house.

Until later …

And then there were two … again

The last two puppies went to their new homes yesterday … and awesome homes they are!  All four puppies are in the best possible homes.  I couldn’t have done any better in their placement.  That’s an incredible feeling.

Monty (Fern’s brother) came out yesterday and he looked fabulous; so much like Gel at his age and he acts very much like Gel.  Monty has remained on a raw meat diet and has been very minimally vaccinated.  It’s great to see the differences in his temperament compared to the other puppies who were vaccinated and kibble fed.  Of the five puppies from that litter, two have remained on raw and were minimally, or not, vaccinated.  I’m hoping of this current litter, all of them will stay that way and I think that they well might.

Until later …