Progress! Progress! Progress!

So much has happened over the past week.  All of it equals progress on so many levels.  I only have a few minutes to write though.  I need to get out and milk, get the sheep down back, haul water for them and then get back and clean up to head for a hair appointment.

Wally and I spent most of the weekend outside doing yard work and generally cleaning up around the house.  We also spent more time working on the blue building which is now my milking parlor.  When we lifted the building up onto cinder blocks, that provided space for the chickens and ducks to get in there, which of course they did and made a mess.  We jury-rigged some fence around it to prevent most of the access, but occasionally they’d still get in.  We bought some two-foot-high lattice and Wally installed that along the bottom of the building all around it and then put the excess along the front and the door.  I had a bunch of lattice gates that I made when I was doing obedience that had been just sitting around and they got taken apart and put on the building.  It looks really nice.  Unfortunately, the goats are not too happy with the new look and have been giving me a hard time milking.  Monday was the worst.  I was about ready to kill the whole lot of them.  They have been getting progressively better each day.  Hopefully today they’ll be almost normal.

The goats: Dawn and her kid went to a dairy in Polkville.  She won’t be any problem to milk using a milking machine.  Wally and I were going to go to a dairy Saturday morning to look at the goats she had for sale, but she called and canceled at the last minute.  I think that may have been a good thing.  We spent a good part of Saturday running around and doing errands.  One of the things we did was to go to Hickory for the farmers’ market.  I love farmers’ markets!  There is a dairy in Lenoir that I have been very curious about.  I talked to the owner back when I first lost my job about getting a dairy goat from her.  She didn’t have any available at the time.  Laura, the vet whom we got Penny and Luna from got a doeling from her this year and has been raving about the breed: Saanens.  The Saanen is referred to as the Cadillac of dairy goats.  They are the largest of the dairy breeds and up until recently when the sable was introduced, they only come in white.  The owner of the dairy (Ripshin) was there.  Oh, she is a lovely person!  I could have spent the whole day there talking to her.  I learned a lot.  She highly recommended a different type of grain from a millery in Statesville as well as the minerals that they sell.  I picked some of it up on Monday and I can see why she raves about it.  It is a power-packed food and I feel sure now that I haven’t been feeding my goats as well as I should be.  I’ve also been negligent about giving both the goats and sheep access to mineral.  This has since been rectified.

My goats had been looking poor, but I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was not just the normal process of spring shed and heavy milking.  Laura came out on Friday to pick up the two lambs she bought for her children as 4-H projects and told me that they were not looking well.  I had wormed them about a month ago, but apparently it wasn’t enough.  I went ahead and wormed them again on Saturday with Ivermectin (the only wormer where there isn’t any milk withdrawal) and they do look better.  I am going to make it a point to start using herbal dewormer on a regular basis and see if I can’t get by with that most of the year.  The game plan now is to worm the does right after they have their babies (I won’t milk them then) and hopefully that coupled with herbal deworming will be enough.  I am loath to use chemical wormers in both the sheep and the goats, but they did need it.  When we went through the sheep, I think less than half the ewes needed worming.  All of the goats needed it.  Not having ready access to goat-specific minerals didn’t help their condition.

The owner of the dairy, Liza, is a wealth of knowledge.  All of her milking does may be spoken for at this time, but I’m hoping she’ll find one for me.  I went back to the farmers’ market yesterday and spent several hours talking to her.  There was less traffic yesterday than there was on Saturday so she had more time.  I asked if she’d be willing to be my mentor as far as goats and cheese making was concerned and she agreed.  I think what might work out is that she’ll let me have a young doe and her kids which will be perfect.  Then the doe won’t be coming to a new place by herself and depending on the sex of the kids, either I’ll have a future milker or meat.  Liza sells her weaned, castrated buck kids for $30 which is an incredible bargain given their size at weaning (about 60 pounds).  We will be getting some of those for food for the dogs.  The temperament of the Saanen goat is supposed to be very even and calm.  Down the road I might just switch breeds.

I tasted her cheese and mine is every bit as good as hers.  I just need to get the texture of mine smoother as it is on the rubbery side, which for some purposes is better than the ultra-smooth texture, but I would like it a bit smoother.  We talked about cheese making and she gave me some things to try to improve the texture.

Marcus delivered another load of dirt early this week.  Now all he needs to do is to spread it.  Yea!  I haven’t been able to go to agility for the last two weeks though.  Hopefully we’ll get back to it next Monday.

We had lamb steaks on the grill on Sunday and they were nothing short of phenomenal.  They melt in your mouth!  They have more flavor than beef steaks, but not at all gamey.  If I didn’t know what the meat was, I would have said it was very good beef.  We had ground lamb on the grill last night and it was just as good.  I mixed in ground garlic and rosemary and then put them in a burger basket and grilled them over a hot fire.  I bought some focaccia bread at the farmers’ market and I toasted that, added some goat cheese and then put the hot burgers on the bread.  Oh, it was good!

The lettuce in my cold frame is doing better than the seedlings which I planted in the back garden.  The peas are not doing so hot there either.  I think it’s because it got really hot too fast and they were unable to acclimate.  The lettuce that was in the cold frame has been out there for months and is probably hardier.  I ordered some 37% shade cloth and as soon as it arrives, I’ll put it over the peas and lettuce to see if that helps.  We installed hoops completely across the garden which will stay in place all season.  I’ll use them to support shade cloth in the summer and garden plastic in the winter.  I may have simply planted the peas and lettuce too late.  I talked to a farmer at the market yesterday and he said early March is really the time to plant peas here.  He said for a fall crop to put them in the end of September, beginning of October.  While we may not harvest anything from the peas this time around, I learned from the experience.  The garden will be ready for the fall.

I talked to Liza about the possibility of selling grass-fed lamb at the farmers’ market next year.  You can get a meat processing license in North Carolina relatively easily.  You just need to have a separate freezer set aside for the meat you sell.  She said there was a woman at the Boone farmers’ market who was making a killing on grass-fed lamb and there’s no one at the Hickory farmers’ market selling lamb.  We likely won’t be able to do anything this year, but it’s a goal for next year.  We did sell two ram lambs to a local couple which we’ll take to the processor the middle of May.  Some of the ram lambs are of size now, but most need a bit more time to grow up.  When we take those two, we’ll take another one for ourselves.  Liza brings her goat kids to a processor in Mooresville which is about 25 minutes from us.  He charges half the price the one that is close to us charges so we may switch processors.

The dogs are all doing good.  Fern is out of heat and I know she didn’t get bred this time around.  Gel tried like heck to get to her, but he wasn’t successful.  Now everything is back to normal for another six to eight months.  Rose recovered from her spay and is doing fine.  Coyotes have been active the past few nights and she’s been doing her job.  The chicks are in one of the old hay feeders and are doing okay.  We’ve lost a few of them to the cats, but what’s left in there might just have the chance of growing up.  It will be interesting to see how many will be roosters.

Until later …