Sunday, April 25, 2010

Setting eggs, seed starting, kids nursing lopsided and first milking

Tulips from my son

Lilies from my husband

It is a sunny spring morning here in the Chena Ridge Hills. True blue skies and not a cloud in sight from where I'm sitting. My house is amazingly silent and I'm not sure what to do with myself. Noah is having a sleepover at my folks, for which I feel somewhat guilty as he has a bad cold, sorry Mom! Avery has a cold too though and she is teething on top of that, so just having one fussy babe is plenty. At the moment though, she is down for her nap already along with her dad. I am sipping tea and eating cantaloupe and doing a very good job of being silent. I could wash dishes, put dishes away or cook something, but that would make way too much noise, so alas I am forced to sit and have some computer time, not enjoying myself at all....

The does are outside together for the first time since having their kids. The kids are in a pen together. They've probably worn themselves out by now and are sleeping in a big pile. Rose's weak little boy is still catching up to the rest of the kids. I took him away from his mom for an afternoon to feed him mother's milk in a drenching syringe. At the time he wasn't standing, sucking or swallowing. Now he is doing all of those but still needs assistance finding the teat. So every few hours I help him nurse and watch the other kids to make sure they are nursing. 

One of the biggest issues we have is that the kids prefer to nurse on the easiest (least full) side and quickly begin to favor whichever side they've drained. Then even after I come along and try and empty some of the pressure from the huge side, they are still going for whichever side they've nursed on the last few times. So we attempt to combat this by milking some of the heavy side so that it is similar in size as the other, then directing them towards that side, covering up the teat on the side we don't want them to suck on etc. Fortunately, this means that we get some milk, earlier than we would otherwise. I milked Rose and Xoe yesterday just enough to even out their heavy side, (they still looked about half full when I was finished) and we got a half a gallon of milk. At two weeks old we will begin putting the kids into one stall and after we milk their moms we will let them out for the day. This way we all get milk, the kids grow well and get to spend the days with their mom and sleep with their siblings and friends in a safe place at night.

This is the third kidding year (second for Xan) that these does have had and each year their udders are larger, more developed and therefor hold more milk. Once we start milking all three does every morning, I'm guessing we will be getting around three gallons of milk a day. Once their kids are sold, we then have the option to milk at night as well if we chose, which would give us another three gallons. If you drop them down to one milking a day they won't produce twice as much, but rather about the same amount per milking. So it comes down to time and or demand for milk. Do we want three gallons or six gallons a day? You get more bang for your buck, but it takes another hour (scooping grain, getting goats, cleaning udders, weighing milk, straining and jarring milk, washing pails and totes...) more than an hour if the kids are in tow. We will just have to see how our summer develops.

Last year Dustin was working ten hour days six days a week for a majority of the summer. He would get home, shower, eat dinner, then play with the kids while I did evening chores. Then they would all go to bed and I would stay up till eleven or one in the morning watering and working in the garden. Avery wasn't sleeping well at the time though, and often I would get summoned down to the house by a half asleep husband holding a crying baby and facing up the hill towards myself who would be scurrying around trying to water another row quickly. The last two summers I wasn't up for a night time milking, but this may be the year. 

We have hired our first farm apprentice! Welcome Becca! I am so excited about our summer together! B is going to be coming up to help five days a week for four to five hours a day. She will be feeding and watering all of the chickens and ducks, tossing hay and graining the goats, filling waterers, milking goats, processing milk and starting some basic cheeses. She may also help with separating cream and making butter. Other various farm chores on her list will be cleaning out coops, sheds, building compost piles, digging holes for fruit trees and mini duck ponds (think mud puddle), and planting, watering and harvesting the garden. In return we will be sharing eggs, milk, cheese and any extra veggies or other farm products in addition to paying her a monthly stipend. This arrangement works well for both of us as she is interested in farm experience, appreciates fresh real food and also wants to keep her other jobs. And I sure can use the help from a responsible and eager adult.

I have fantasized about starting some seedlings in the greenhouse or hoophouse in the ground, covered with windows, or in flats with domed tops, especially cool weather plants, cabbage, kale or cold hardy greens. I might get there yet but so far have opted for my usual seed starting rack indoors where I can closely keep an eye on everything. So far I have around forty tomato plants in three to four inch pots, peppers, flowers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, a few greens and lots of culinary and medicinal herbs, some of which I've sowed multiple times to have it at different stages. I need to start squash and cucumbers next, followed by corn, sunflowers, nasturtiums and maybe beans. In most places you would direct seed these last things, but here our soil is so cold, they take a lot longer if ever to germinate. So if you can they will benefit from a couple weeks inside, before planting out. Noah wants to grow the corn in his garden as he did last year, however I hadn't taken his garden very seriously and had given him corn seed to push into the ground in mid- June. Well what do you know his corn ears got so close to ripening. So this year we will try a little harder.

We got an incubator in the mail this week and set some Amauracana eggs. We don't have any white eggs for me to put them up against. I did pull out our whitest looking eggs but this didn't end up being a very good photo to show off their lovely color. I'll try again sometime. When there is more light these eggs are much more colorful. We have purchased two batches of ten Amauracanas from two different small hatcheries over the past few springs. Unlike the equivalent that you would get from say Mcmurrays or Privett, these are show quality birds with excellent egg quality and color. We are down to our last two hens and a rooster so we are trying to keep things going. Both batches of chicks were heavy on the roosters. I had just started collecting eggs for hatching when our last hen (a blue hen) from the first chick batch died. I've got two of her eggs in here, I could tell them apart when they were fresh, but as they've sat a week I can't tell now. Our other hens are black and the rooster is blue so we should get a mix of black, splash and blue chicks, regardless of chick color, they should all lay lovely eggs, at least the hens will. We will set a couple batches of chicken eggs and if our sole Khaki Campbell duck starts laying again, I'll toss in some of those as well.

Speaking of ducks, we are expecting a shipment of sixty ducklings on Monday or Tuesday. Only twenty five are for us, but still, I will be picking them up and taking care of them for a day or so until the other ladies make it up to sort through them. I can feel mommy urges and baby lust flowing already at the thought of so many baby ducks to care for.

Xoe has turned out to be a great mom this time around. Can you imagine having three babies trying to nurse off you at the same time? Or three toddlers all running in different directions and trying to keep track of them all? Whew! Good job mama goats, I'm impressed.

1 comment:

Nikki Hunter said...

This was an enjoyable post to read. Thank you for sharing it and the photos!