Rabbits in the freezer and more compost to turn

It was a busy weekend. Wally and I took advantage of the warm weather and got some much needed work done. On Saturday – while I floated in and out of the regional wrestling tournament and went back to get pictures that I accidentally deleted for another story (dummy!) Wally made four more raised beds bringing the total to 20-4×8 raised beds. He also cut down the rest of the dead and dying peach and ornamental plum trees. They were beautiful in the spring but they were diseased so it was time to take them down. Ultimately they will be replaced with blueberries and grapes – probably not this year though. This year’s big project is the getting the barn closed in the way we want it.

On Sunday, I wrote two stories in the morning, edited the wrestling pictures then went out and processed seven rabbits. Either my knives are very dull or my hands are not as strong as they used to be because gone are the days of doing 15 rabbits in a day. I think it’s a combination of both factors. Before I process any more rabbits, my knives and scissors will get sharpened. While I did the rabbits, Wally hauled the limbs from the trees out into the brush pile and then when he was through, hauled several loads of rabbit bedding into the new beds where they’ll compost until late summer.

I have some seeds to start in the greenhouse in the next day or two – Tuesday is my day to work from home so hopefully I’ll be able to start them then. My stories for Wednesday are lining up pretty well so I should be able to get at least two of them wrote today which will free up my Tuesday.

I’m rambling and not saying anything of any great importance. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got into dairy animals and my consistent tie to them. Back in 2008, when I was working a high-paying job as a commercial real estate paralegal, somehow knew I needed to get a dairy goat – something was telling me I needed to milk. Dairy goats were expensive back then – good ones are expensive now. I didn’t realize then that you get what you pay for when it comes to some things – like dairy goats.

I finally found one I could afford – a LaMancha named Rain. LaManchas are those earless goats. From Rain I slowly grew my herd up to 13 really good animals – switching to the Swiss breeds – Alpine, Saanen and Oberhasli. When we were living on Herter Road we didn’t have good fencing but for most of the time I lived there, no one cared if the goats traveled around the acreage surrounding us happily eating browse. I miss the wildness of that place.

That all changed the then the bottom fell out for our happy seclusion when a lady bought property down below us and put in a high dollar horse breeding operation. She was friends with the couple that lived in front of us and the local vet. When she got there she complained about the goats and our chickens being lose. She got really ugly about it – in reality they were doing no damage except trespassing. The goats were so used to getting out of their pasture we couldn’t keep them in and couldn’t afford to do proper fencing – nor did we want to invest in the fencing since we didn’t own the property. In retrospect, it’s a good thing we didn’t invest in it because when we did move we were unable to take most of what fencing we had done with us which was a big loss.

Billie and Babies

Pictured above is one of the nicest two goats we had – Billy and her daughter, Socks.

I sold all of the goats and chickens for a way-too-cheap price but I wanted that lady off my back. I switched to cows and ducks which are easier to keep in – one line of electric fence, as long as it is hot, pretty much kept them in. A dairy bull is another matter.

When we bought the property in Vale where we are now we put up good fence. The cows and ducks came with us but the initial acreage we have fenced in was not really enough for cows and when we lost Penny (my favorite Jersey cow) we decided to switch back to goats. I bought some well-bred goats from up in the mountains but they were not thrifty and had ugly temperaments. We stumbled upon two really nice Saanens which we bought. When I got the full-time job at the newspaper in Newton we decided to sell all of the Alpines – again for a way-too-cheap price and kept the two Saanens. I was really glad to get those smashing, fighting and goat bellowing Alpines out of here but I should not have sold them as cheaply as I did.

We lost one of the Saanens last year after kidding which was a huge loss as she was a really good goat. We still have her daughter, Rose and Rose’s half Alpine daughter. They are both bred to a Saanen buck to kid in March. Wally picked up two very nice Oberhasli does at the sale in October. Normally we wouldn’t buy dairy goats at the sale but it was obvious these had been well cared for and handled. They are bred to the Saanen buck to kid in March as well.

When I first started milking in 2008, I did it in a covered, 10×10 chainlink dog run – I didn’t even had a milk stand or head lock at the time. I switched from there to a covered 10×10 structure that was originally built to house a stud cat (when I was breeding American Shorthairs). I slowly built my herd up to 13 goats when we were at Herter Road. When we switched to cows I started milking in a ShelterLogic building which was what I did here. Now I’ll have a barn and eventually a milk parlor with a cement floor. It’s been a long time coming.

I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by the dairy industry and dairy animals. I love milk – I love the routine and structure of milking. Given how sore my hands were while processing rabbits I know I need to get back into milking by hand. That’s one of the advantages of having goats over cows – they are a lot easier to milk by hand. I hope the two Oberhaslis that we got have good udders to milk. I’ll know in a month or so.

Until later …