Wednesday, May 27, 2009


So here are two udders that are about to explode. I finally started putting the kids in pens at night so I can milk the does in the morning. I had been leaving the kids in full time with their moms and that way didn't have to get up to milk them as early. I'd been milking them around noon and getting a gallon or so but the last couple days hardly got any. So I felt triumphant as I walked down to the house with almost two gallons of milk. I still didn't even milk them out completely, partly because I couldn't get all the milk out by the time they'd finished their grain, didn't feel like struggling with them, and some of the kids are just a few weeks old and nursing a lot still. Even if I'd milked them out all the way the does still hold some back for their kids. Plus their kids are with their dams all day and have plenty of opportunities to get their share. Once we dry the kids off we will have to milk the does out completely or risk infections like mastitis. You can see in the above photo that Rose's two kids prefer her left side and she is often lopsided as a result.
So I'm no expert but I have seen some goat udders and I believe that Maggie (black and tan) and Rose (white doe) have lovely udders. They are high and round with nice teat placement. Maggie's teats are on the small side and her orifices are also smaller than the other does, but not extremely so. I brought up a scale recently and hung it near my milking area and just need to keep a notebook and pen handy as I'd like to start weighing their milk daily. I milked both of these does until February (OUTSIDE!) and they both did really well. I can't even say who is the better milker as far as quantity, they both seem to have their days. We wethered Zen, Xoe's son and our first buck kid of the year. Maggie's son (below) and Rose's son are both for sale as bucks at the moment. However, if I have no serious interest in them within the next few weeks I will probably wether them both. As nice as they are we have no need for any more bucks, especially ones related to half our herd.

I just started the first batch of chevre of the season. I cultured a gallon of fresh warm raw milk after today's milking and it is sitting in a gallon jar. In the morning I will pour it into two cheesecloths and hang it for the day before taking it down and adding a little salt. Over the last couple years I've made a few batches of cheddar and gouda (without much success), mozzarella, ricotta, ricotta salatta, cottage cheese, cultured buttermilk, yogurt, kefir and panir but mostly fromage blanc and some molded moldy chevre. Last summer I turned one to two gallons of milk into a couple pounds of chevre or rather fromage blanc daily. Fromage blanc is what we know as chevre. It is fresh soft goat cheese that is poured into cheese cloth and then scooped into containers whereas chevre is poured into molds and drained in individual containers. Most people only know of chevre and think that it is the name for all or the only type of goat cheese but I think that most of the little logs of goat cheese labeled as chevre are really fromage blanc. It is versatile and mild. I don't pasteurize any of our milk or dairy products so mine doesn't keep as long as the supermarket product.

This summer I plan on making chevre a few times a week but not as often or as much as last year...I still have a bunch in the freezer! That is why I am so glad to have a cream separator. Once or twice a week I am going to separate cream from ideally six to eight gallons of milk and then turn it into cultured sour cream, cultured cream cheese and ice cream. I have been drinking my tea and coffee with the most luscious scoopable cream for the last couple weeks. I gave my dad all my cream to make ice-cream with this weekend and then didn't get any milk for a few days so I have sorely missed my cream the last few mornings. The ice-cream was good, but it will be much improved the next time we make it. I couldn't quite provide my dad with the four cups of cream he needed as I haven't been milking enough nor have I fine tuned the separator yet. My cream is extra thick so I was hoping that less cream with higher fat content would work, but it was lacking in creaminess.

I must disclose that fortunately I grew up in a home where real dairy products and butter were appreciated and imitations were disdained. There was only ever real butter in our fridge and never, god forbid any dairy products that were fat free unless by accident. I thank my father for this and perhaps his mother (rebels in their time) as well for my love- (without a drop of guilt or remorse) for pure dairy products, no fat removed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

And the winner is...

Northe! Doesn't look like much but these are the first garlic shoots of the spring. This is my third season attempting to grow garlic, but only my second spring of seeing garlic shoots as the first year none of the garlic I planted wintered over. Last year I harvested about thirty some nice size garlic bulbs in September. I almost didn't get any garlic in the ground last fall as planting time coincided with the birth of my daughter. We had harvested most of the garden and I'd been eyeing where I was going to plant the garlic. One morning I woke up to snow and realized it might actually stay. Amid flurries of big flakes and advice by all that we might as well eat the garlic rather than waste it by sticking it in the ground to rot, I rushed up the hill with my brown paper bags of garlic. I was determined. I went to stick the shovel in and the ground was completely frozen! The only workable ground in the garden was part of the potato patch and that was only because Dustin had dug the last of the potatoes earlier that same day! So without adding amendments or hardly working the ground at all I barely managed to stick in one thirty foot double row of garlic. I almost just mixed all the garlic I had together but I am so glad that I did not, as now the rows are still clearly marked and Northe is successfully up. I also planted Siberia and a mix of what I'd harvested last fall.

I don't know a lot about growing garlic, but I know that most of what farmers are growing up here is hard necked garlic that is planted in the fall and wintered over. I add a lot of bone meal and composted manure to the soil and I mulch heavily with a mixture of year old goat stall compost. Last year we had too much rain and some of my garlic started rotting in the ground. I had ordered a lot of garlic that didn't get planted and it lasted until January or so and then started to dry and shrivel up. I talked to one friend/farmer who said that they blend their garlic with olive oil and freeze it, and I will certainly be doing some of that next fall.In other news here is Honey in her new home with her chicks. She is in a small movable chicken tractor that Dustin built last summer. It is perfect for a hen and small chicks. Honey really wants to get out and take the chicks to where the grass is green. She is on gravel right now because the pasture needs a head start. The Welsummer and Sexlink chicks have moved into her old section in the chicken coop. I'd like to see them getting outside here soon as well. We had moved an extra Brahma rooster and a Standard Cornish hen up to live with the goats and clean up all the wasted grain on the ground. The first night they went into the stall with the goats and I thought they'd be all right. But the second night the Standard Cornish was killed by something, we are guessing a weasel. Whatever it was took only the head and the guts, all that nice chicken meat just wasted! And she was going to be dinner too, but we thought the rooster would like some company and we were hoping she'd start laying. Well, now we are concerned that whatever killed her is going to back waiting for us to make another mistake. I'm hesitant to leave anyone out in their pens because if an animal was determined enough he could dig under the walls or through our fencing.

The picture above was taken tonight at about ten p.m. In the last couple days the trees have really leafed out and gone from a light spring green ( photo below) to a lovely true green. The ground is still overwhelmingly brown but the trees and the hills echo "summer". Both of these photos are just about the same view, same time of night, just a week apart. Our sun is setting later and later, it is midnight now and I feel like I should be out planting beets.

Above is rhubarb coming up and below is a birch bud leafing out. I took these pictures about a week ago meaning to write about them then, and now there is so much more to discuss... garden is mostly planted, Noah has been playing in the mud every day and is going to plant his own little garden, Avery is back to her jolly self with two teeth to show for her temporary grumpiness, we are about to start milking the does daily - mostly just waiting for a fridge to get fixed so we have a place to store all the milk and Dustin is starting a new job on Tuesday doing environmenal sampling on Fort Wainright. He is going to be working six days a week, ten hour days, for the next five weeks. Then taking other jobs with the same company as they come. So we are in for a real change of pace around here, at least I am in for a reality shock. Luckily we have farm and kid help scheduled to come up a few hours a day throughout the week!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The race is on

Rose's kids playing in the feeder at about two weeks old. Buck left and doeling right - yet to be named.
Maggie's doeling above at a week old. She is sooo pretty and looks so like her mom. Both sister and brother below.

Plants lined up in the hallway waiting for a ride up to the greenhouse. On the left are our two tubs of chicks. One tub has ten week old Americanas and the other has seven Welsummers and four Sexlinks. Honey is taking care of eleven chicks on her own up in the chicken house. They will be on pasture here in the next week.
Above are various starts growing under lights. We have three shelves including this one set up, each holds four flats, and I've got a few extra flats that go back and forth between outside and various windows. Most of the flats are comprised of six packs, but there are also three and four inch pots holding tomatoes, squash, eggplants and herbs. Today I'm moving the most established, root bound and hardiest up to the greenhouse to make way for peas, nasturtiums, sunflowers and beans. A lot of vegetable and flower seed that is generally direct seeded benefits from being started indoors here. I find that even peas and beans, corn and squash all produce earlier if started in warm soil indoors and then moved outside. The trick is to get them sprouted and growing before transplanting, but you don't want them outgrowing their pots or they may not recover or take off once transplanted.
Yesterday we had twelve cubic yards of garden soil delivered. We weren't sure if the dump truck was going to be able to put the soil where we wanted it, but he got pretty close. He was also able to drive around our upper loop, which was quite a feat, as it is steep with tight corners. The race is on. Today we will be shoveling and hauling dirt. I'm hoping to get the potatoes and carrot seed in today. Followed by onions and peas. Maybe get tomatoes into the greenhouse by tomorrow.
It is a race here (as it probably is everywhere) to get everything planted and growing. Early planting is a gamble and caution is advised. The planting out date is June first and Fairbanks is often hit by late frosts, which we mostly avoid due to our higher elevation. I hope to have everything planted by the first of June with the exception of some succession planting. I'll be saving beans and squash for last. I've hardly begun thinking of how to arrange flower starts. Once everything is in it will be time to start thinking about planting perennial strawberries, raspberries and a couple apple trees. What an enticing and overwhelmingly delightful time of year!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last kidding of the spring

Maggie kidded to two healthy kids in the wee hours of Friday morning. She gave us a beautiful black and brown doeling with white frosting on her nose and ears, and a nice looking black and brown buckling. We started watching her closely Wednesday evening and we were pretty sure she was going to kid on Thursday. About eight p.m on Thursday she was in labor. I think she would have kidded earlier but each time I left her side she would get up and start calling to me. She would watch me walk down to the house and stand on a rock staring at the house until I would return. I had a friend up helping watch the kids as Dustin was away at work but he had to leave about nine p.m.. I called my friend, April, and she came right up hoping to witness a goat kidding and to help with Noah and Avery. Once Dustin got home April came up and sat with Maggie and I. Again Maggie's labor seemed to stall. She wasn't happy that we were sitting inside (where the other does and their kids were penned up), and she wouldn't come inside with us. By midnight it was becoming aparent that it was going to be a long night. April went home and Dustin took over sitting with Maggie while I got some rest. I was hoping that he would crawl into bed and say, "two healthy kids, born without problems, nursed already and now everyone is resting". I was so exhausted and at the same time I couldn't believe I was going to bed at such an exciting and crucial time. I was so glad that I got some rest because Dustin woke me up at three a.m. telling me we needed to "GO IN".

As I trudged up the hill in the darkness I thought of all our goat labor emergencies that we've had in our short time of raising goats and wondering if I was cut out for animal husbandry after all. We watched Maggie for a few minutes and her situation did not seem desperate but we figured she had been in labor for so long we might as well go in (while we were both there) and see what was going on. Her cervix still wasn't dialated all the way and I carefully expanded it a bit and reached in further. Her water broke and amniotic fluid poured out down my arm in a brief flood. I felt two front hooves side by side facing the right way up (yeah!). So I backed out to see if she could finish on her own. It didn't take her more than ten minutes before she laid down and started pushing. Once we saw the hooves coming out I started helping by pulling the hooves first one and then the other at a downward angle. His head was pretty big and once his nose was sticking out I ran my finger around the opening helping it stretch a bit. Finally with a big push he shot out and I held him up by the back legs and worked to clear his nose and mouth of fluid.

We set the buck in front of his relieved mother, and she licked him while we dried him off. It was not long before the next kid came out and it was another large kid, just as big if not bigger than the first. Dustin and I were like "great two big bucks, just what we need". As he left to head down to the house I lifted her tail and was just thrilled to see that she was a girl. I yelled out to Dustin that it was a doeling, we were ecstatic to have a doeling out of Maggie.
So here they are, having not even nursed yet, barely dry. Doeling in front and buck behind attempting to stand.
Here is the doeling searching around for some nourishment. These kids were both healthy and vigorous from the get go. We hardly needed to guide them to their mom's teats, let alone hold them up for their first sucks.
Maggie is a protective and caring mother. She has been content to stay with her kids in a small pen, bonding and resting. We check on the does and kids at least three times a day, often more, and at each visit we let Maggie and her kids out into the larger stall. The kids jump and hop around and Maggie stands over them giving the other does and older kids the evil eye if they come near. She stands still while her kids nurse, she cleans their bottoms and she gives them lots of licks and nuzzles. Maggie is our largest strongest doe in the herd. Her son is a combination of our best genetics and would make a great buck. I was expecting him to look like her son from last year, as he had the same sire, but he doesn't look anything like him. We will have to watch the three boys over the next few weeks and decide if we will wether all three or not. We certainly do not need another buck for ourselves. For now we are thrilled to have two beautiful doelings, just need to come up with Z names, get the kids disbudded, wethered, tatooed, registered and weaned and then there will be no more goat kid related chores until next spring. Whew, glad kidding season is over for this's to no more late night kidding emergencies, cheers!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cream Separator

I've spent the last couple days experimenting with my new cream separator. It is somewhat complicated as it has a lot of components. I was feeling rather proud of myself for getting the whole thing assembled and working on my own. However, I wasn't getting cream just milk out the milk spout. According to the manual if I wasn't getting cream out, there was a screw that needed adjustment to make the cream thinner, so that it would come out. I readjusted the screw and took the whole machine apart, washed and reassembled it four different times and was still not getting cream out. Finally I asked Dustin to see if he could figure out what was wrong with it. Well after an hour or so we had cream. I hadn't been putting enough milk through! Why didn't I think of that? I took several pictures but my camera battery was dead this morning so I'll post photos later. I'm having cream in my breakfast tea as I write this, and I'll be having some in a cup of coffee in a while. We need to do some more adjustments so that the cream isn't quite so thick. After the cream was in the fridge all night it was too thick to pour, I had to scoop some out with a spoon.

We aren't even milking daily yet, but Rose has been extra full and needing relief. Two nights in a row I milked her until her udder wasn't painfully full, leaving a moderately full looking udder behind, and each night I got about six cups of milk. We will start milking both Rose and Xoe daily in another week. Once we are milking all three does once a day I'm guessing we will be getting about three gallons of milk a day which is way more than we can use or store. It is illegal in Alaska to sell milk, raw or pasteurized, goat or cow. It is illegal for milk to leave ones property unless it is dyed green, has charcoal in it and is labeled for animal consumption only. I would have to operate a grade A certified dairy and then I would be able to sell pasteurized milk, never raw milk, unless Alaskan laws change. (More on milk legislation in future posts) It takes about a gallon of milk to get a pint of cream. It makes sense that we have our own milk so why purchase pasteurized cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream and ice-cream at the store when we can make it ourselves. This is one way we will be able to convert our large quantities of milk into dairy products that take up less space and should be superior in quality and health benefits to anything we can purchase.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why Welsummers

The beautiful dark brown eggs in the photo above are all it took to convince me into raising Welsummer chickens. These eggs are from Whitmore farms Welsummer hens, the same farm we purchased our chicks from. These photos are right off their farm website. This is what I know about these chickens: they are a heritage breed originating from Welsummer England and they are a hardy active forager. They have been raised to be a dual purpose bird; bred to lay a good number of eggs as well as make a decent meal. When raised with other breeds of chickens they tend to be the more dominant birds. I find the roosters very attractive and I believe I've said this in a different post but I'll say it again, they look like the classic rooster. The hens are less showy, but I guess they put it all into their eggs.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Two more kids

Above is a picture of Honey's chicks. She is taking care of eleven of them, three of our own Brahma crosses, six black sexlinks that we picked up from the feed store and two Welsummer boys (we think). The Welsummers were just for variety. My friend and chicken expert recommended a variety of chicks so that she will be less particular about who she adopts. We put the Welsummers under her last and sure enough, she could tell they were different and was pecking at them but soon decided they were cute enough she'd keep them. As soon as Honey hears our footsteps on the stairs she starts clucking at the chicks and trying to round them up. They are becoming more adventurous and rebelious. She fluffs herself up and often places herself between us and her babies. She has been showing them how to scratch and find food. She will start scratching and gives a different cluck and they all come running and start scratching in the same spot and pecking for food. In other news, new baby goats!
Here is Rose cleaning off her brand new babies. On Friday night Rose kidded to a white buckling and black and tan doeling. They are both healthy and strong. They were trying to nurse and stand before I even had them dried off all the way. I have yet to weigh them but I'm guessing they are in the seven pound range. Both Noah and Avery have been sick the last few days with a gnarley cold. On Friday night they were just miserable, to ill to be attending a goat birth. My mom came out and cared for them for several hours while I sat with Rose and helped dry her kids off and get them to nurse. I panicked unnecessarily and lubed up and went in early because I was worried that her kids were breached. I thought I felt a head first and it was challenging trying to stay in there with my right hand while holding Rose's colar with my left hand. So I tried calling the vet. When I didn't get ahold of her I called Dustin to see if he could get off work an hour early. I took a break to make calls, nurse a very fussy Avery and think about my options. I was hoping that there would just be a baby on the ground when I returned and save me anymore worry and as I walked up the hill I saw Rose leaning over to look at something. As I reached the doe pen there she was outside licking her son. I started drying him off and within a couple minutes she pushed out her doeling. It was the first night of horrific mosquitos. Luckily I had just made up a spray bottle of essential oil repellent and rubbed it allover Rose, especially her udder which had twenty or more mosquitos on it. Dustin arrived in time to help get the kids to nurse.

Rose is an awesome mom. She has will not leave them for a minute. They have been staying in a small pen with water and fresh hay. Yestereday we made it up about four times to let them out and watch them. It is pretty crucial that we see the kids nursing well. They are still learning and it helps for us to angle the teats for them to get a good grip on. Rose is very patient with them. She stands still for them to nurse. Zen, our three week old buckling is very eager to play with the new kids but Rose won't let him near them, yet. I don't blame her, he is pretty rowdy.
We are so thankful that we have a doeling out of Rose. Rose has a lovely round wide udder. It has really matured over the last year and has the same shape but is larger, it is just huge. She doesn't have a name yet, but something with a Z (unfortunately). Zinnia, Zephyr, Zahara??? Maggie is due to kid in the next couple days so we will probably wait to see if there are any more doelings to name. I think the buckling would make a nice Buck if anyone was interested. We were talking about keeping one intact buck in case anyone calls midsummer wanting a buck. So we will see...

Friday, May 1, 2009

On top of it all

Avery is pretty proud of her new found skills. At seven months she is pulling herself to standing. At first she had no fear and would let go of whatever she was holding on to and would just try to walk away. When she falls she cries so hard, not because she is hurt but rather because she is mad. She is starting to walk around the chair or couch while holding on and has realized that she can't just let go like she wants to. As of last night Avery's first tooth broke through the surface. She has has a low fever and has been real fussy the last couple days. I haven't been sure if it is just from teething or if she has the same cold that is affecting Noah.
This is not what it looks like outside anymore. I took the following pictures about two weeks ago. In the winter our walks are confined to the driveway and along narrow trails leading from the house up to the bucks and chickens and further up to our does stall. Walking off trail is not something I do unless I'm rescuing a determined child or other animal escape, although the later tend to have more common sense and also stick to the paths. The goats and chickens do not like snowy feet. Imagine Noah's delight when one Spring day he realized that Chana was running across the surface of the snow without falling in. He ventured off the path and sure enough, he too could run around anywhere he wanted to go. The way the snow was melting the top had compacted and formed a firm crust. We larger beasts; Dustin, I and the goats were too heavy for this revelry but Noah and Chana enjoyed their freedom thoroughly. We had a great time watching them, and everyonce in a while Noah would fall in and call for help. He learned to roll out and away from the hole before standing up again.
"This is pretty cool mom. I'm on top of the snow. You can't stand on top of the snow!"

Runnin around and around
Oops. As the week progressed Noah fell in more and more. His boots were and still are constantly wet inside.