Saturday, December 6, 2014

Farm animals

Not much to report from up on the farm. All the snow went away, then it came back but just a few inches, and now it's gone again—raining most of the night and morning, and in the 40s°.

Animals are all settling in for the winter. The Husband has stopped milking Lucille, no more goat cheese or yogurt until the spring. Charley may or may not have bred her. She was in heat and now she's not. Rose, her kid, should also be coming into heat soon, and should be bred as well, but since we have boys and girls all living together, there is no way to tell if Charley has succeeded in doing his studly duty.

The all-living-together part is working out well. The goat book, Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, says exactly what everyone else says about housing bucks and does separately, but I still have not discovered the reason why. As long as there is no fighting, I cannot figure out why we can't leave them in together. That, and we have no separate housing for the buck boy anyway.

The photo has Lucille, Rosie and Rico all in the crib, and Jack and Charley in the doorway looking on. One big happy family, don't you think?

I took some chicken photos as well before the really cold weather comes and the ones with big red combs get frostbite. We use the deep litter method, allowing the hay and poo to build up in a thick layer as insulation in the unheated coop. Their feathers do a pretty good job of keeping them warm, but the rooster especially is in danger with that big red comb on his pretty head. Most of the Easter Egger hens, and the 2 remaining Silver Laced Wyandottes have short combs that hold up well through the bitter cold.

Fiona and Richie, the piggies, are hell-bent on finding a way out of their muddy pen, but are otherwise well behaved and still more adorable than obnoxious (that comes later). They come to the fence to greet us and stand on each other's back trying to reach up first for a good head scratch. We haven't had any problems with frostbite on the pigs or goats, both seem able to snuggle up in their bedding and stay warm. Just like the rest of us...all snuggled up for winter...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and we're getting snowed in!

Our tradition of going to the Otesaga for a Thanksgiving feast with B&E has ended. Alas, B&E have turned into snowbirds and will be spending the next few months in sunny Florida. Just as well, since this Thanksgiving would have been a tough travel from NJ to NY—we are getting snowed in!

The prediction was for the snow to start around 7 am, and for us to get 4" to 6" by tomorrow at 7 am. The snow did not start falling until around 10 am, and this is what we have at 3 pm. I think we have already passed the 6" mark and it's still coming down fast and furious!

I already bought the fresh turkey and goodies for us to have here tomorrow, just the 2 of us, so no worries about having to go anywhere. Just saying a little prayer that The Husband gets home from work safely. They are pretty good about clearing the roads up here, but I don't think they have even started plowing yet.

Last photo is of the MonkeyCat growing up quickly, but not losing his monkey business. He has made it his mission to become one with the WoodMan, even though the WoodMan barks like a fool and chases him back up the stairs every time he sees him on the first floor. Monk is playing with the camera-shy Hub on the sofa in the pic...must have been while Woody was sleeping.

Wish I had one of those security cameras to capture the mayhem that goes on while the Hub and I are at work. And Sophie just sleeps through it all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Birthday uncles and suburban turkeys

I took a little trip back to NJ to visit with Little Sister this past weekend, and then we both took a trip to PA to visit with the birthday uncles.

Monsignor B recently turned 75, and Uncle Jack will be 80 in January. Uncle Bob, who lives in FL, celebrated his 75th on Sunday, but we only visited with him by phone. And, I came home to find out that The Husband's sister, who came to see us a week ago, also celebrated a birthday this week.

So Happy Birthday one and all! Hope you all are enjoying the (mostly) beautiful fall weather we've been having.

Also while in NJ, I stopped by to see Brian and Eve. When I pulled up in front of their house, I disturbed this huge turkey who was sunning himself in their driveway. Apparently there are a lot of homeless turkeys who have taken up residence in the local suburbs. Not enough of their original habitat remains, so they are moving into town where all those nice people are feeding them and taking lots of photographs. Don't tell them what holiday we are celebrating next month...

We have plenty of original habitat up here in NY, but the weeds are too tall this time of year for us to see turkeys or just about any other kind of critter roaming the property. But we know they're out there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For you, Kimberley

We had some family visitors over the weekend, causing me to give the house a quick makeover. Thankfully, I washed the kitchen floor, because I hear that The Husband's sister was sitting on the floor playing the role of Woody Whisperer. His behavior has greatly improved, but he still needs some work—especially when we have guests for dinner.

In the good weather, which is nearing an end, Woody spends a good part of the morning sunning himself in my chair on the back porch. I have seen him sitting up in that chair sound asleep, looking a lot like a human dozing off watching TV. Yes, he snores.

Monk is fitting in very well, other than waking us both up throughout the night being his monkey self. He was just down here a few minutes ago testing out the weather downstairs while Woody was sleeping in the other room. And Woody is getting better about not barking at the cats on the stairs, but Will has not been down lately to notice any improvement.

Goats and pigs are doing well. Chickens are either slowing down their egg production because of the cold, or we are going to find a cache of eggs when the weeds die down.

Good weather is supposed to return for next week (60°s and sunny) but for now it is chilly, rainy, and the woodstove is my friend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another goat boy joins us at Lester's Flat

We added Monk, the new kitten boy last week, and Charlie, the goat boy just today. He is an Oberhasli/Alpine cross, from 2 good dairy breeds. You can see the brown and black OB coloring like little Bart, but Charlie looks like he's going grey, with a lot of white hair mixed in. He is young though, born in April just like Rosie and Tony (who we traded him for).

We saw Tony today, all grown up. Almost didn't recognize him because of the black markings on his face. And I didn't notice until we got home that Rosie is getting some black on her face as well. (in the middle, top photo). Tony and Rose were our first kids born here, and Lucille, the all-black goat is their mom.

Charlie will be the sire of our herd...the only intact male. We had to get a buck who was no relation to the others. Usually people keep the bucks separate from the rest, and only put them together for breeding. We will learn as we go whether or not we can leave them all in our one little goat shed. This may be the reason why The Husband claims we need a new barn...

Poor little Rico (last photo) got banded today. You might be able to figure out what that means in this context... So he is not very interested in the new guy, just sunning himself in the grass. So far they are not picking on Charlie like they did with Bart, and the smart boy is hanging out with Lucille, the true leader of our gang.

If all goes well, Charlie will breed Lucille and Rosie in the next few months and we will have more kids next spring.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Monk has arrived!

Sophie made a trip to the vet's office for some recurring old age issues. There was a fairly long wait because there was a husky having a hard time delivering puppies in the back. You could hear Momma Husky moaning the whole time.

In the waiting area, there is often a large crate with kittens that have been picked up somewhere and need a home. This time there were 3 feral kittens who all were just barely recovered from a bout of conjunctivitis. One was missing an eye, all 3 had sort of weepy misshapen eyes. Two black females, one orange-and-white male.

I called The Husband to kill some time, and asked him to swing by on his way home from work...there was an orange kitty with an excess of personality that he might want to meet. Hub came by, hung out for a bit, and on his way out the door said bring home the orange one.

I did not, but when I did get home he told me he never got my message, he just stopped by because he knew I would be there with Sophie. He didn't even know that I was liking the orange kitty with the weepy eyes.

We talked about it and went back to get kitty the next day. Husband wanted to call him Daniel (as in Daniel and the lion's den). I voted for Monk, short for Monkey because he was such a little lunatic climbing all over the cage and his 2 sisters. Tough decision, we both liked both names, but I think we have settled on Monk.

Will says the jury is still out on whether we should send him back to where he came from. The little monkey is having a party up there chasing Will, and Will chasing him. There is some hissing and growling, but it's been less than 24 hours and I would say they are getting along pretty well, considering.

Jury is definitely still out on whether we will introduce the little monkey to Woody. For the moment, both cats seem happy to stay upstairs. Not sure what we'll do when we both go to work on Monday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More sad news

Having just lost Bart, our little buckling who just never got healthy, on Saturday we lost Helen, one of our first goats. She was the doeling, daughter of Lucille the black goat. She had her first kid this last May, little white Rico who is with her in the photo.

Bart had recurring health issues which caused us to send him back to his owner for a month. He returned to us for about a month and just never seemed to improve. And he never seemed to grow, at all. The Husband found him dead in the barn one morning. It looked like he was sleeping, all curled up.

Helen has been healthy girl all along. She had a difficult labor with Rico (who we were going to name Rita) but she was fine after that, and a good momma. Then, about a week ago, she started looking skinny, and losing some hair. Not too concerning because she was otherwise fine. Then, Saturday morning, The Husband found her on her side in the shed, unable to get up. She got worse within a few hours while we were trying to figure out what to do.

Because it was a weekend, we had to take her to a vet about 40 minutes away. She was thrashing about and moaning the whole way there in the car. The vet said it was probably either listeriosis or meningeal worm, neither of which is easily treated. He also said she was so far along, and so quickly, that the prognosis was not good, so we reluctantly decided to have her put to sleep.

So sad, and so difficult, but still the right thing to do. Poor girl! Little Rico misses his mom, and I think Lucille misses you most of all.

Rest in peace Helen and Bart.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ducks are much bigger, piggies still small

Nice sunny day for taking pics of the new kids: 8 baby ducks still well cared for by mom, and the 2 new piggies quickly destroying all the plants in the pig fence—which we left in there for them to destroy.

We sold the 7 full grown ducks (mom duck's siblings) to a local guy who told us several different stories as to what he was going to do with them. I choose to believe the story about his buying them to keep his lonely Pekin duck company. The other stories didn't have so happy an ending.

And now that the mean male ducks are gone, we have let mom and babies out for a wander. The males were beating up on momma and her babies before, so we locked the kids and momma all up in the pen where we previously had the baby chicks. The boys were also beating up on the 2 new duck girls who are both still hiding out in the chicken coop. We will try to lure them back here sometime soon.

Baby pigs have not grown a bit since yesterday. They are exploring the wild forest in their fenced area—quite different from sharing a mucky stall with their huge momma and 12 other siblings. They play and play and play, and then both pass out and take a nap. Enjoying summer while it's still hanging on! Just like us.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New pigs in town!

Our favorite pig breeder, Tammy in Smyrna, is no longer breeding pigs. This year we found a place in Fly Creek, the B&B Ranch. I did a search for heritage pig breeders, and found this huge ranch—several hundred acres—just a few miles from here. They have a B&B with fresh pork, goat and chicken/eggs raised right on the farm, and also an equestrian center.

The horse in the photo is for the inexperienced rider...

The piglets we got are a mix of Berkshire and not sure what the other breed is, but Berkshires are black and the momma is white/pink. Our little piglets are Fiona the black girl, and Richie the spotted boy. Berkshires are supposed to be the Angus of pork. Not sure if the meat will taste any different from our other cross-breed piggies, but either way, fresh always tastes good!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Goats and goat cheese

The Husband has been doing a wonderful job of milking Lucille twice a day. Helen is not the least bit cooperative, but then Lucille (her mother) wasn't last year either. Second time's a charm?

I am in the process of my fourth attempt at chevre, that soft goat cheese that tastes so much better than what you can buy in the store. For almost as long as we have been coming up here, we have been buying it from Alyssa, of Painted Goat Farm, at the Cooperstown Farmer's Market.

Maybe, just maybe, after years of practice with the chevre, I will be able to recreate the aged cheese that she calls a "Cinderella log" which has ash in the otherwise white rind, but we are a LONG way from that!

For now, I am reading 3 different books and whatever I can find online. My first try was edible, but did not set curds as well as it should have. I lost a lot of it in the whey. You are supposed to be able to use just vinegar or lemon juice (no rennet or starter) but that recipe involved heating the milk and I did not have a dairy thermometer, so possibly it was the wrong temperature. My second attempt (as described in Brad Kessler's book Goat Song) was perfect, but I used some of Painted Goat's goat yogurt as the starter, and have not gotten anymore since then. So the third attempt was not so starter, I used more rennet, and it came out kind of dry and rubbery. I started the fourth attempt today with a tiny bit of Chobani yogurt and less rennet.

When the proper starter (mesophilic) and dairy thermometer arrive in the mail next week, I think most of my problems will be solved. Chevre is supposed to be one of the easiest cheeses to make, but without the right ingredients, and trying to follow 3 (or more) completely different recipes, well I guess you learn as you go!

On a sad note: Our little goat boy, Bart, died kind of unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was never very healthy to start with, and just never seemed to grow from when we got him in mid-June. We sent him back to June's place, and she nursed him back to health as best she could, but even a month with her intensive care didn't make him that bouncy baby buckling that we thought he would be. We are not sure what happened, only that we miss him.

Rest in peace Little Bart.