Saturday, October 17, 2009

New home for goats

Today we moved the does from their stall and pen of three years to a new home. Their previous home was a good hundred yards or more up a pretty steep hill from the house. May not sound very far but trudging up the hill with a babe on the back and pulling one in a sled along with a milk pail and tote....or running up and down the hill mid winter when a doe is kidding, whew! Their new home is built onto the low side of our new addition. I've forgotten the exact measurements but it is ten feet wide and about twenty feet long. However, the main room is divided in half, each room about eight by ten, and then their is a roofed outer area with three walls, but it is not completely enclosed. The floor is dirt and the ceiling is only about six to seven feet tall. The area is designed very nicely. We can get a wheelbarrow/ cart into both areas easily. The covered area will have feeders on opposite walls. We can toss hay into the feeders from outside the gate. We've really been talking realistically about how many does we want to keep maximum as we already have six, three 3 yr olds, a dry yearling and two kids. The top number is probably ten to twelve max, but that is taking into account kids and dry yearlings. As far as a comfortable number of goats to milk, four to six is a nice number. If we started selling milk shares maybe I could milk eight does or so by hand. Really for our needs a few milkers is just fine. This new structure is over twice as big as their last home and can comfortably house at least a few more goats than we currently have.

The goats are a bit antsy/ anxious tonight. By now I'll bet they are all sleeping. The coolest thing is that every time I open my front door they are right there looking up at me. Our kitchen window looks up the hill towards the garden and former doe pen. But the goats have to be running around for me to be able to just barely see them. Having the does closer to the house makes chores significantly easier. We will be storing hay on the side of our driveway just above their pen. We can pump water into their waterer from the truck year round. There is plenty of room for covered grain storage nearby. We are planning on milking in the new addition for this winter. The area is still not completely enclosed but we do have a large wood-stove with the chimney just installed.

So our two bucklings moved into the does old stall and pen. Our Senior buck is to join them soon. He is in full rut at the moment so I'm hoping to do a bit of maintenance to the pen before moving him up. The bucklings have got to be quite impressed with their upward mobility in housing conditions and Xavier doesn't know it yet but he is about to be a very content buck as well once he has company again.

Tomorrow some folks are delivering a winter's supply of brome hay, about a hundred and twenty fifty pound bales. Currently we've got a couple large nine hundred and fity pound square bales and are on the list to pick up a couple twelve hundred pound bales as well. I'm slowly learning not to put all my eggs in one basket. Variety is key.

We have been so fortunate as far as the last couple weeks of weather is concerned. We had been getting cold temperatures and snow for several days. Then we had record breaking warm temperatures in the fifties, reaching low sixties over several days time. It was fabulous. We were so appreciative as Dustin was outside working whether at work or here working on the goat stall. We still have one batch of chickens waiting on Xavier for their winter home which will have a heat lamp and heated waterer. I was transplanting some perennial shrubs, rhubarb and chives as recently as yestereday. The ground is now frozen, I think for good, luckily the holes had been dug for months, just waiting for the right moment. Over the course of time several chickens had died and had all made it into the bottoms of the holes, I have a feeling those plants are just going to take off next summer.

In other news, we are up to eight to ten eggs a day. There are many pullets that are still not laying, just the new sexlinks are laying. Dustin just got the woodstove back in place a few days ago and we've been have wood fires from morning till night. I'm not sure how I ever go without, I enjoy them so. Wood fires bring such a warm feel to an otherwise cool dark time. It almost seems as though I can notice a difference in daylight from one day to the next. We have been losing close to seven minutes of daylight a day, which is huge! The sun isn't coming up until nine-ish and going down around six thirty or so. However, this is a hard time to be on the west side of the hill, as the sun doesn't actually hit our property until noonish. Ouch.

The dehydrator has been running for the last week non stop, drying tomatoes. I've got hot water jars in my outside fridge at the moment trying to keep our carrots and beets from freezing. We are about to move the fridge in, or can a bunch of veggies, hm... And tonight I pulled in a package of ribeyes for dinner two nights from now. We got the best deal on a local beef box. We've been buying or receiving all of our beef locally for the last few years. Dustin stopped by to buy a hundred dollar box from a new slaughterhouse that just opened up. He asked them about how much the box would weigh and they said about thirty pounds. Well he brought it home and weighed it and it is about forty-five pounds of mixed cuts and hamburger. At least three packages of ribeyes and a couple packages of tenderloin. Anyways that turns out to be barely over two dollars a pound which is a great deal. The beef is not organic, but it is local, raised on pasture in the summer months, and I believe hormone/ antibiotic free. To buy "natural"( which doesn't really mean anything) hamburger, it is about five dollars a pound.

I did take some pictures of the goats in their new home today, so I'll try and get those up for the next post. These final days before the imminent and lasting snow fall is so precious, we are scampering around in a frenzy. Our winter vacation is timed just about right. I think we will leave just as all our outside projects are completed and the snow is here to stay. We have a fabulous house-sitter who has gotten to know our house and animals over the last six years or so. Our biggest worry is exposing our kids to all the crazy illnesses while on vacation, not that I'm worried about colds or flus, but it would suck to get sick on vacation. Goodnight and happy fall days.

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