Thursday, August 29, 2013

Less stressful Milking routine

I am a huge fan of our current milking routine and am trying to figure out how to replicate it in the future. There are a few different factors that have led to our more laid back routine. The one big change we made this year was to not separate the kids from their dams at night. As a result we get less milk, but we still got enough to meet our needs. We have one doe, Zuri who we milked through the year, so she has been in milk for a year and a half and has not had kids on her since last summer. She has been our steady producer, giving us about seven cups of milk in the morning while keeping in good condition herself. Her yield is nothing impressive, but it has held steady since mid winter, and I am content with the quality of her milk as well as her body condition. I have also been milking Zinnia who has had just one doeling nursing off one side of her udder all summer. So every morning I milk off her full side and get around six cups of milk from her. Xanadu also had one doeling nursing off her, and there was usually at least a few cups of milk in her udder if not more. Now, this wouldn't work obviously as well if the doe had multiple kids. There is a good chance you'd get out there and find your doe dry no matter how early you got out to milk. In some ways I just got lucky. However, a friend of mine discovered a medical tape that works to tape up a doe's teats and the kids don't usually succeed in getting it off. I tend to just refer to it as teat tape. The tape that seems to work the best is called Micropore 3M. They sell it in town at our medical supply store by the roll or by the case. I apply it to the doe's clean teat after milking, one three inch strip vertically covering the orifice and then a slightly longer strip starting just under the teat and spiraling upwards. The size up tape strip depends somewhat on the size of teats. In the morning before milking you can roll the tape down with a repetitive down motion with your hands, or a damp clean rag works as well. You will need to play around with the amount of time the tape is on the does teats ( twelve hours or less) -depending on the doe's production as the tape can get uncomfortably tight and the udder too full.

Taping teats allows for a few things, first and foremost; almost guaranteed milk in the morning. Occasionally an overzealous kid manages to get it off, mostly if it wasn't on properly. After you've got the hang of it though they usually don't get it off. Taping teats also allows the dame to continue to spend the night with her kid and you don't have to have a separate pen for kids. As a side consequence of this, sometime the kids are less skittish of us as they don't equate my presence in their pen at night as an ominous foreboding of a night in captivity without their dam; they don't run from me - and I don't have to ever chase or catch them.

Right now I can milk Xanadu in the morning, let her spend the day with her three month old doeling who can nurse as she pleases. Then if I want to I can put Xanadu on the stand in the evening, by then her udder is usually mostly empty, and I an put tape on her teats if I want more milk in the morning. Or I can just let things slide, just toss hay in the evening, leave them together and still get a few cups of milk in the morning.

Zinnia recently left for her new home so I'm down to milking Zuri and Xanadu. Ideally I'd start taping teats nightly now, but realistically I'll probably wait until after harvest when I have more time for cheese making. When I do start taping her teats I'll have to get down to the milk room earlier than I have been.

In the future my plan is to keep about four to five does but only breed two a year. I always want to milk one or two does through the year without re-breeding so that I have a couple does in milk without kids nursing off them. By fall when I have more time for cheese-making and when the kids are old enough, I can start taping the teats of the spring freshened does and get milk from them without having to separate or "wean" the kids. Eventually they just wean themselves if I'm consistent in applying teat tape both in the morning and evening.

This is our first summer not feeling rushed to get down to the barn. In the past there have been super full udders and a pen full of kids crying every morning. This is also my first year in a few years of not doing milk shares, not having to have a certain quantity of milk that I am committed to providing for other people. I am not trying to get maximum yields off my does. It would make sense in terms of money; I already own the doe, I'm feeding the doe, might as well milk her morning and night and get as much milk as possible. This is one way to look at it. However, I feel good knowing that the kids are getting all the milk they want, which should help them grow bigger faster. And I currently don't have the time and energy for milking twice a day, or even putting Xan on the stand at night to tape her teats even though it just takes a minute.

When I look back at the last five years and see everything I was doing while my kid's were infants. toddlers etc. I feel like a haze has lifted and I'm seeing more clearly. I can still have fresh milk to meet our needs without milking multiple goats, without milking twice a day and without separating kids. If I were recommending a plan to someone who is just getting into dairy goats for their own personal consumption. I'd recommend two well behaved milkers. Depending on how they produce you might milk them both through a year and re-breed one in the fall and milk the second one through another year. Or breed one in October and the other in January. You dry off your October doe in January a couple months before she kids. Then the January doe you milk until March. By then you have a doe about due or freshened already. And you can start sneaking a couple cups here and there to balance out her udder. After a few weeks you can put her one the stand and milk her out as chances are the kid's aren't draining her yet even though they are together constantly. When you need more milk than the kid's are leaving you, start taping her teats at night so you can have all her milk in the a.m. As the years go on you can just breed one doe each year and that way you always have milk. This will lower your overall feed bill as you won't be feeding and raising as many kids as if you re- breed both does every year, and you will have less kids to deal with and find homes for, because it is not always as easy as it should be to sell kids and it is a hassle. If you can keep yourself to two does in the winter, you will find that their milk pays for their feed bill - and that is what we want.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My August Garden

 I am thrilled with my life this time of year. I feel so accomplished and productive. Yesterday I harvested green tomatoes and zucchini followed by the produce in the above photo. The cabbages were starting to split, so I picked the large ones in the top garden. I still need to harvest about eighteen smaller heads in the lower garden. Last night it got down to 34 degrees and I believe it supposed to get almost that cold again tonight. Then we have a reprieve and at least according to the forecast we get another week of warmer highs and lows. Everything survived last night, although a couple squash branches that were sticking out under the plastic got nipped. But the plants that were not covered were fine - I'm guessing they have been hardened off more maybe?

Every year I am pleased with how some things do in the garden and disappointed with others. My motto this year is to be happy with what I have, and learn from my mistakes, but not to be to fazed or disappointed with what I don't have. I do have to remind myself that I am not in a survival situation. I can and will buy onions and garlic and whatever else I need at the store.

Yesterday I started a second gallon of dill pickles. Since I never have more than a handful of pickling cucumbers every couple days, I have an ongoing refrigerator gallon jar of pickles and brine that I add to over the course of a couple weeks. I make three quarts of brine and put in enough garlic, dill and mustard seeds for three quarts of pickles and then I just keep adding in cucumbers as I pick them. I've lacto fermented a gallon of dilly beans that are now in the refrigerator. Today I canned some green beans along with two batches of raspberry jam. I also started two gallons of sauerkraut, all from my biggest head of cabbage - a nine pounder; Golden Acre.

I've picked raspberries at a local U pick place three times in the last week. The picking has not been good compared to previous years, but I've managed to get about eighteen pounds. I won't have as much raspberries or jam as usual. We'll have to eat more blueberry jam and honey (oh darn). We do have our own raspberries but they are young canes. This week I've picked a cup of golden raspberries almost daily. It took me a while as I was often occupied with tending to the animals first, but I've learned to go right to the raspberries, before the kids pick them all.

I did take most the honey from my bees. I had lots of problems this summer with my queens getting killed off, so unfortunately I didn't have the population I needed during the honey flow. I do have two gallons of my own honey. Which considering how much I spent on bees, is pretty laughable... and yet I'm more than happy to have my two gallons of honey. I've been using it to make jam - on one hand it is hard to pour a cup of honey into each four cups of mashed raspberries, but considering that my kids eat most of the jam, I'll feel better feeding it to them, knowing that is several less teaspoons of refined sugar they'll be eating a serving. Next year I am planning on raising bees at a different location, hopefully in town where it is warmer and get's earlier sun.

 The lower garden was an experiment. I put a little bit of a lot of things down here just to see what would do well. I knew that it was cooler and shadier, but I had high hopes for the fertile soil. The cauliflower didn't do well, but the broccoli did alright. The cabbages are smaller, but then I started and planted them later than the ones in the top garden. The peas didn't do too well, but the beans are rockin right now. The beets look ok, but the carrots are puny. The greens and potatoes look great. So, what to make of it all. My guess is that the soil was higher in nitrogen and lower in phosphorous and trace minerals than I was hoping, which was why the peas and cauliflower didn't do well. The carrots don't like the soil type - it isn't very sandy and has too much compost.

Next year I am going to plant half of this garden in potatoes and the other half in greens. I'm going to plant the back rows in peas, where it is sunnier, but I'm going to mix in a significant amount of bone meal this fall to help with phosphorous. I think I could also get away with planting broccoli, beets and zucchini down here if I needed to. I am not planning on putting any greens, lettuces, kale, chard, spinach, etc. in the top garden next year. I do want to plant more grains in the top garden, and they need the heat and sun, and moving the greens out will give me more room.

 If only I had a couple of months to reap the benefits of those happy cucumbers. Ah, such is a Fairbanks Summer.

This is my first year growing carving pumpkins. We have yet to make carving pumpkins a tradition with the kids. In the past we've painted and colored on them, and kept them around for decoration, but this year I have one big one, above, and a couple smaller ones. The kids are already excited to carve them. Carving pumpkins are expensive up here, so as much as I lust after the pumpkins and squash - mostly the heirloom ones like the big pink Cinderella ones, I will refrain from paying big bucks to tote one home.

 Oh, how I adore Sweet Peas and foxglove!

 And I'm smitten with how pretty the grain crops are turning out. Hopefully we get some decent grain, although I'm not counting on more than a few loaves of bread. Anyone have an oat roller? How well does it work, and how do they compare to store bought rolled oats? I know I don't have enough oats to justify an oat roller, but maybe next year.

With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August Tidings and Rising Appalachia

This time of year every week has a theme and of course sometimes multiple themes. This week and next week we will be picking raspberries, freezing them and making jam. Last week was chicken butchering, the week before that blueberry picking and before that Salmon processing. This whole next month is slowly harvest and process the garden. I am vowing not to leave everything in the ground till the last minute as I have been known to do - well not everything, but too much. This year I am going to stagger the harvesting and hopefully get several beds amended with compost and turned before the ground freezes. I am finally experiencing the bounty of this time of year. There are several zucchini in my fridge and more on the counter. I have a crock of lacto fermented beans started and a gallon jar of dill pickles brining in the fridge. AND, so far I have a gallon and a half of frozen shelled peas in the fridge - no where near as much as I'd like, but it's a start. Some of the garden crops are enjoying this hot dry summer (the squash, grains and cukes) while others seem to be petering out early (peas and brassicas). This has been the summer to convince me that not another summer will go by without installing drip irrigation. I just don't have the time to water for a couple hours every day... and as a result some crops are a little droopy.

In other very exciting news, I recently purchased a new Deering Goodtime Banjo. This past year I have been getting together with a close friend and singing with her as she plays the guitar or banjo. And I have found myself wishing I could play the banjo myself and have a string instrument to play as I sing. I played the flute in highschool so I have some experience with music, but have never really thought of myself as a musician or with musical talent. String instruments have always seemed challenging and somewhat foreboding. For the past year I have found myself drawn to songs played with the banjo, and have become somewhat obsessed with the idea of being able to play my favorite songs.

I tend to rush around too much during my day. One of my challenges is to slow down and be in the present with my children. To stop and actually focus on them and what they are saying. To enjoy each moment of our day and not feel rushed to clean or cook or get out of the house. I have been thinking that having and instrument to play might help me settle down throughout the day and center myself in the universe. And it has been working. Taking a ten minute break from the day and playing just a few songs soothes my soul and puts things in perspective. I'm able to put the banjo away with a lighter heart and go back to the kitchen or the kids feeling satisfied and content with my world. I've been picking it up often at meal times when I am done eating and am trying to stay seated with the kids so that they will finish their meals. So I pick up the banjo and say "Here, let me serenade you while you eat."

I have to share my favorite band of the last year with you; Rising Appalachia. I love them so much. I want to be them when I grow up :) I have been listening to their music almost daily since last fall and somehow have yet to need a break from them. So I'm going to try something I've never done and share some You Tube video links and I'm hoping that some of you will enjoy their music as much as I do.

And the following is one of the songs I can't listen to without hoping that some day I can play it myself and for some reason I couldn't get the You Tube link to work so here I've just attempted to post the link myself. This following link is of the band playing, whereas the first was a song and the second a music video. I should have posted this one first in my order of which you should take the time to watch, if you are going to click on one. (Smile - hope you enjoy!)

I want to hear from everyone whom I've converted into a Rising Appalachia fan!

Posts to come: I've plans to share this summer's milking/farm chore routine which has been the least stressful making this our most laid back summer yet. I also want to share my home-school plans with you. Right now I am over-my-head deep in planning and am spending many of my waking moments, (when I'm not attempting to play the banjo, but while milking or harvesting) thinking about our school daily routine and how we are going to find the balance with a Kindergartner and a Second grader this year. And of course I'm going to share a garden post with you soon, along with pictures so you can see my bigger than a basketball pumpkin which I'm so proud of, as well as the rest of the garden. Wishing you all a great night.