The (tired) lucky ones

Spring has sprung at The Farmstead. 10399563_1062666173790960_7153408191624757568_n

We have babies coming out of our eyeballs (and I'm not even talking about the baby in my belly).

7 of our 24 does have kidded so far this year, gracing us with 15 bouncing bundles of goat.

We've hatched out about 30 chicks, not sure when we're stopping, but probably when we hit 50.

But what does all that really mean?

Kidding season means three times nightly barn checks. Once around 9 pm, once around 1 am, and once around 4 am. If there are babies we are on hand to towel off, help get warm, and make sure they latch. If they don't latch or the mom has issues with rejection, they come inside. This means we wake up every two hours and jam a bottle in it's mouth. (My mom visited this weekend and two of our does dropped triplets. That's Harry Connick Jr Jr, one of our bucks, giving her moral support).

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Simultaneously we have baby chicks hatching. We live in a studio style layout so there are no walls. Giz has a tiny closet with a window that we call her room but other than that our bed is right next to our kitchen table which is caddy corner to our kitchen. Our incubator sits right across the room from the foot of our bed. Multiple times during the night a chick hatches. If you have never heard a chick hatch, imagine this. Piercing, shrieking, peeping. When they enter into this world they are loud, loud enough to jar you out of your hard earned sleep. We pop them out of the incubator and take them into the garage where our mobile chicken coop is parked, collecting babies. Once we're done hatching we'll wheel the coop out into the pasture but for now it's nice to have it so close. Last night three chicks hatched. Three more trips away from our bed.

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Oh yeah, and we have a two year old. Two nights ago she woke up at 3 am screaming, "I threw up! Vomit! I have vomit!" So I stumbled into her room, cleaned her up and brought her into bed with us. She fell back asleep but, unfortunately, threw up again. As Matthew was pulling off the comforter she leaned over my chest and kept vomitting. I didn't even move. I couldn't. My body was too tired. I just rubbed her back and told her it was okay, asked her if she needed anything (she didn't), took my shirt off, threw it on the floor, and snuggled back into bed with her.

On the nights when Matthew is home we divvy up our duties, and it's really nice. In the morning we'll have a progress report of who did what, a daily board meeting of nightly occurrences. Three nights a week he works the night shift in the ER, though. And then this pregnant lady waddles her way to the barn in a bathrobe that is much too dirty for inside use but is perfect for barn checks. Although I'm not due until the end of April, Baby #2 has somehow managed to pinch a nerve that causes searing pain in my left leg every time I lift it, so my waddle is pretty bad in an effort to alleviate some of the pressure.

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In addition, our two sows should give birth soon. Luckily I've been pig farming long enough to know the nest I provide for them is just a suggestion. If they want to go farrow in the forest I wish them luck...I will not be waddling all over Pig Forest with a flashlight looking for babies. I will trust in my Mamas. If, at morning chores, a piglet looks weak or needs care we'll take it in for love. But one of the reasons I chose Old Spots is due to their ability to raise large litters, on their own, in the forest. They all proved themselves last year so I'm going to ride on the coattails of that success and hope for the best.

Did I mention we were tired? On top of babypalooza we're also wrapping up the dairy construction. We're close. So close. But we're pushing. It's one of the reasons my mom came from Oregon this past weekend to help. She had a vision for dealing with our mud in front of the parlor that was equal parts beautiful and functional (I can't wait to show you!)

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But, here's the thing.

We're the luckiest people in the world. Even in the cold sleepy hours, in the middle of the night, when your tired body reaaaallly wants to be sleeping, it's easy to remember how lucky you are.

To get to hold a newborn baby goat against your body, feeling it nuzzle your neck, mouthing for milk; to get to watch as a newborn chick makes it's final push out of an egg; to get to share all of these moments and more with a tiny little human...

We're tired yes. But dammit. We're happy.

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Recently my girlfriends and I went to coffee (hot chocolate for me). I was nursing a baby goat so naturally, she came inside the shoppe with us. That dang baby goat spread so much joy just by being alive, it was palpable. While we were in there a woman approached us and asked if her friend could hold the baby. Of course I said yes.

We put that baby goat in her arms and she immediately nuzzled her face against the goat's soft, velvet ears. She didn't say a word but the look on her face was so serene and so pure my heart swelled. And then she told us she was blind.

I burst into tears.

This little tiny baby goat brought a new experience to a woman she had never seen before, because she had never seen. But instead of someone telling her what that goat looked like she felt it, with her hands and with her face. This farm allowed her to experience a baby goat for the first time in her 75 plus years of life and it was absolute bliss.

I have never been more proud to be a farmer and I have never been more motivated to make this farm a success so that we can continue to share the exhaustion and the beauty of this life with as many people as possible.

And then we will start taking signups for midnight barn checks and bottle feedings.

Milking a First Freshener

Milking-a-First-Freshener Getting your first goat is THE BEST feeling. As soon as your goat comes into milk you start scheming and dreaming about all the things you’ll do with that rich, creamy goodness. Cheese, Soap, Ice Cream, Butter…you’re going to be unstoppable!

And then you try milking for the first time.

And suddenly you decide that store bought milk is probably better for you anyway.

First fresheners can be THE MOST frustrating thing on the planet. As most of our goats have been rescued from the slaughterhouse, and most likely came from dairys, they all had incredible manners. But then we got Mahidabelle. Not only was she a first freshener, she was WILD. Never been touched before, didn't care about people, not interested in you, wild!

But I’ll be damned if we didn’t train her to be a good milker. Here’s how we did it:

You need three things when training a first freshener. A sense of humor, patience, and waterproof clothing.

Getting your girl up on the stand is the first battle. We would lure Mahidabelle over to the stand with grain and then have to physically pick up her legs, front first, then back, in order to lock her in securely. (You’ll notice I said “we”. Training a wild goat to milk is AT LEAST a two man job). Once she was in the stand we let her get familiar with her surroundings.

Jenna from Bee Tree Farm puts it best, “I try to spoil the FFs on the stand and then slowly just put my hand on her udder while talking to her, giving her a cookie, whatever - just so they know they have to deal with the hand in order to get the treat. It can take a while but they always come around in the end.”

Once your girl has become accustomed to the stand, that’s half the battle. Now the milking. If this is your first milker than the chances are good you’re about as experienced at taking milk as your doe is at giving it. This is where the patience comes in. She’s frustrated with you, I PROMISE. Be kind to her, but firm. We didn’t use hobbles, mainly because I was scared to death Mahidabelle was going to take a flying leap off the stand and break both her legs. I don’t even know if this can happen but I’ve learned over the years, if you’re not comfortable with a tool maybe you shouldn’t be using it. That’s how people (and animals) get injured.

Another quote from Jenna, “If she's getting on the stand by herself - that's almost half the battle - seriously. Deep breaths, concentrate on learning to work fast and gently, and she will definitely get better on the stand and start producing more. I think at least 50% of farming is patience.”

Nick would stand behind Mahidabelle almost draping his chest against her back, and hold her back legs. He spoke very softly to her this whole time. I was positioned under her and would start milking as fast as I could (in our case we’d already had experience milking so Mahidabelle got lucky there).

We did this for a month. 30 DAYS. Mahidabelle was definitely on the extreme end of milking, but, that’s probably because she wasn’t a tame goat to begin with. In that 30 days I got almost no milk. Well, let me rephrase. I got almost no useable milk. Mahidabelle either kicked the pail over or dropped a foot in. This is where she earned her nickname Mashitabelle (remember, sense of humor is key when dealing with goats!) Also, goat milk splashing all over your lap…not awesome. Try to shower as soon as you can afterwards…people will start to talk about your “odor.”

Every time you milk, try to end on a good note. If your goat is fussy and you quit, then suddenly she learns that by being fussy she gets to leave. Goats are smart (like velociraptor smart) and will continually test you if you give them the space to. Try to end on a good note so that you’re both pleased with the experience.

And then one day I went out by myself to milk and Mahidabelle came running when I called her, jumped up on the stand and waited to be milked. It was only as I was wrapping up that I realized I never even bothered to lock her head in. That milk later became ice cream and, I can assure you, it was the best tasting ice cream I’ve ever had.

Speaking of First Fresheners...

Jenna is currently selling some incredible dairy stock. If you're in or near the Austin, Texas area you should definitely check them out. Jenna has impeccable taste when it comes to goats and has skillfully chosen her herd genetics with an eye for temperament and production. Unfortunately, as with all animal breeders, diversification of herd genetics is important. In order to keep producing top of the line stock we have to continually add new blood. Her loss could be your gain! Below you'll find copies of her craigslist ad.

Nubian Goats for Sale

2 Nubian Bucklings, 1 Nubian Doeling Three beautiful Nubian babies for sale as bottle babies or will be weaned and ready to go in one month. Born 3/8/14, two bucklings ($100) and one doeling ($150) available. Mother is from a local dairy/cheese maker and peaked at 10 lbs/day during her first freshening. Father is registered Nubian and mother is 75% Nubian/25% Alpine. Spotted baby is a buckling, all black baby is a buckling, and baby with white patch on side is doeling. All are disbudded and will make wonderful additions to a dairy herd. Both parents on site.

2 Nubian Doelings - $150 We are accepting deposits on two beautiful Nubian doelings, born 3/29/14.  They are being dam raised and will be weaned in two months or may go now as bottle babies.  Mother is a first freshener and comes from strong dairy lines out of a local dairy/cheese maker.

Please email: jkellylandes@gmail.com  or call/text Jenna: 512-470-8824

A Fiber Goat for The Farmstead

_MG_3590 When we told my mother, an avid knitter, we would keep a fiber animal for her at The Farmstead her eyes lit up. She loves animals, but she also loves her grandbabies who live very far away. In order to stay free enough to travel to see them, and us! (she lives 6 hours south in Oregon) farm animals aren't in her future.

That's where we come in. We asked the wonderful people at  Puget Sound Goat Rescue to watch for a fiber goat to come through the slaughterhouse. Thankfully for us they have an incredible team of volunteers always on the lookout. Even though we live in Washington, this sweet girl came from Oregon. I'm not sure why, but I do know the slaughterhouse also takes animals from Idaho. As a side note, let's take a minute and say "thank you" to the Goat Rescue volunteers who brave the misery of that terrible place to help rescue the pet quality animals that have been owner surrendered or breeder culled. They have brought us Bjorn, Toto, Mrs. Robinson, Sugaree, and now Lulu!

My mother's name is Linnea and in high school her nickname was Lulu. Plus, this girl has sass and prance...we can already tell she's going to be one of the "stars of the pasture". Lulu just seems to fit.

Lucky us, we have another goat at The Farmstead. Even more lucky, Mom paid for the adoption fee and will pay her monthly feed bill. It's a win-win! One more furry face to smooch is a blessing.

For now she's on quarantine, for at least 60 days. We'll use this time to make sure she's healthy before she touches noses with anyone else. She has an infection where the slaughterhouse put the ear tag in and her feet are kind of a mess, but none of that seems unfixable. She's home now, which is all that matters.

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GoatPro

We've been talking about getting a GoPro for our farm. In case you haven't heard of them, GoPro's are awesome little video cameras that really talented people like snowboarders and surfers strap to themselves in order to get super interesting footage of their adventures. Naturally, I wanted to strap one to a goat. But, we also want fruit trees, a tiny house and more fencing. Suddenly a GoPro doesn't look so great.

So...we created the GoatPro! Mr. Nick took our old digital camera, some duct tape and a dog collar. Voila! Doesn't Bjorn look cute with his furry winter coat?

_MG_2660 Here is our first rudimentary video...the placement of it being on his chest makes for pretty bumpy video when he's running.

And here's another video...I"ll share the photo I was taking tomorrow on our facebook page! And yes, we have a random row boat in our pasture...we also want to dig a pond. Phew, good thing we saved money by not buying a GoPro :)

Mostly Awkward: The 48 Hour Buck

Amazing

• This weekend Donna of Edelweiss Acres brought us two goats. We have been planning this drop off for a month around work schedules. Jesse, is a pregnant Nubian-Oberhalsi doe. (In case you forgot why we want all these goats, check out, I promise we're not hoarding goats.) We're very excited to welcome Jesse to our permanent Farmstead flock. The second goat, Dante, is a purebred Oberhalsi buck. He was supposed to come stay for a month to breed Nana and Sugaree. Because we both work full time jobs this just seemed easier than having to catch their heat cycles just so. Of course, as rotten luck would have it, both girls came out of heat a few days ago. If we put them together now he would run them around to no avail. Poor Dante was on a kind of glass wall, prison-style quarantine. The others could come visit, but no contact.

A few words about Dante. HE IS ALL MALE. So majestic. So strong. So...horny. (And I don't mean the ones on his head).

Awkward

• Do you know how bucks make themselves attractive to the opposite sex? To put it simply, they pee on their faces and beards during breeding season. It's called being "in rut". Their big beautiful beards get covered in the essence of pee and who knows what else (okay, okay, I know, I'm just not going to say it). Dante comes with a definite odor...it's not necessarily bad, it's just new...okay, it may be a little bad.

• On his first morning here, Dante managed to bust through the incredibly sturdy walls of our shelter in a very "Heeeere's Johnny" ala The Shining moment. This led to a frantic scramble on my part to screw the boards back on (what could be salvaged) before rigging a brace across the sides to keep him in. I then ran a string of hotwire inside to let him know walls were for looking, not touching. Dante was thrilled to have company so he spent the moment whispering sweet nothings in my ear while his beard smooshed against my face. Did you read the first bullet? Yeah, that same beard.

• This evening while out with the handsome man on our nightly walk we stopped to say hello to ol' stink face. And then we noticed it. Our shelter was most precariously leaning to one side. And my hotwire solution, yeah, he made easy work of dismantling that. Very quickly we made the decision. Dante had to go home. Our shelter would be beyond easy repair in the morning. And so, just 48 hours after coming to our farm, Dante took the walk of shame (well not really, he rode in the back of the truck with Mr. Nick, usually we put them in the actual cab but, as I mentioned before...the smell).

Of course, we'll see him again...just not like this. Lesson learned: People who keep bucks should be given medals.

Winter Hiking in Washington

Those of you who are from here know, we get a fair amount of rain in the winter. And while it's not a problem, the rain does alter our outdoor activities.

Which is why we were thrilled to discover the Sequalitchew Creek Trail in Dupont, Washington. The trailhead is right behind Dupont City Hall but quickly winds into a very nice forest. The entire trail is graveled, which is nice when you're hiking in the winter. The best part? It shoots you out right into the Puget Sound. Just under 3 miles, this trail is a nice fall back when you're feeling a little housebound but not up for a humongous and muddy hike in the woods.

Bjorn and Toto liked it too, even got a few compliments on the way. One nice woman said they were the prettiest dogs she'd ever seen. I couldn't agree more :)

What about you? Do you have a favorite outdoor winter activity? We'd love to hear about it!

I promise we're not hoarding goats...

In the past week we've added two new goats.

One of them was planned. Mr. Nick used his birthday money from my parents to get a dairy goat from Puget Sound Goat Rescue. (That's her with Mr. Nick, enjoying an apple from our neighbor's tree). We've named her Sugaree after the Grateful Dead song but we will most likely end up calling her Shoog for short. She is a Saanen, we think about two years old, and she is very very sweet. Shoog came to us in milk but not very much because the Rescue isn't equipped with the staff to milk goats twice a day. We're working on bringing her back.

The second goat was not planned. But, when you get a call offering you a free dairy goat, 15 months old, bottle-raised, it's hard to say no. Mahidabelle was born in the Hoh Rainforest but her mother didn't make it. So, she was bottle-raised. Which makes her extra nice. She is not in milk but we plan to breed her this season along with Nana. And yes, we're keeping her name.

Which means we have Bjorn and Toto (the lemon goats), Mrs. Robinson (our herd queen), Nana, Sugaree and Mahidabelle. (Spoiler Alert: There's another goat coming, but she's getting bred as we speak).

Now to answer, why all the dairy goats?

Well first, we love goat's milk. I can't tolerate the protein in cow's milk so before Nana we suffered a huge void in our diet. But now, we put goat's milk in everything! Pancakes, cheese, bread, butter, you name it. We also make some really wonderful soap. And, truth be told, one goat was enough for us to do all of these things.

But, we're also raising pigs. And if you've seen the news lately then you've seen what the drought has done to feed prices and consequently, the commercial pork industry. We've always been on the path to grow our own food (both for us and our animals) but since we're trying to farm responsibly in the forest, on land that has never been farmland, it's slow going. Which brings us to milk.

Pork raised on milk are healthy and delicious. And, we can control where our milk comes from. Win Win!

We promise everyone is being well cared for, no one is missing out on any smooches, and we're not collecting kitten skeletons in our closet. So, no judgment :)

 

Amateur farmer seeks goat's milk

One of my favorite parts of writing a blog is looking over search terms for how people found our page. This week one person googled "amateurland" and ended up at The Farmstead's blog.

The irony is not lost on me.

You see, about a month ago we were convinced Mrs. Robinson was going to have a baby (if you need to catch up check out our post, "165 Day Gestation Period for Goats?"). We worked ourselves into a huge frenzy waiting for her to kid. A lot of people were involved, both in person and through the power of the Internet,  medical experts and goat experts. Speculation and guessing gave way to multiple diagnoses and even more treatment paths, all in the name of giving birth.

But she never did. Not to a baby goat, not to a sack of fluid, not at all.

We were sad, not because we wanted a baby goat, but because we really really wanted some milk.

Well lucky us, Donna of Edelweiss Acres had an Oberhasli doe, in milk, she was willing to sell.

Woo Hoo! Now we have milk. And, double lucky, it comes in this adorable little package with quite possibly the sweetest disposition we've seen yet in a goat.

Mia named her Coach because she is pretty vocal and apparently Mia's gymnastic coach is also quite vocal. Mr. Nick tagged Daphne onto the end because she really does look like a Daphne. Coach Daphne.

Right now she's still acclimating to the rest of the flock (she's considerably smaller than everyone else and so nice she doesn't defend herself yet, plus she's never met sheep or pigs before). In the mean time Turkish and Cleo have accepted her into their little pack with open paws which is a double bonus because Cleo is learning her goat manners on a smaller scale before running with the whole flock. They adore her...probably because they too have discovered the beauty of fresh goat's milk.

So we may be amateurs, figuring this out as we go, making mistakes along the way...but at least now we are amateurs with our very own goat's milk. Booya!

And just to reassure everyone out there who was rooting for Mrs. Robinson, she's fine! She's back to her old grouchy self, bossing the pigs around the field, pulling on Cincy's big long ears, and making everyone wait while she gets her fill from the feed stand. Yep, she has resumed her position back on the throne as Herd Queen...welcome back Mrs. R, and welcome to the fold Coach Daphne.

165 day gestation period for goats?

  Yesterday we asked Donna of Edelweiss Acres to come by and look at Mrs. Robinson. Donna is not only incredibly knowledgeable about goats she owns the buck Mrs. Robinson was bred to.

We are currently on Day 157. The normal gestation for a goat is 150. Some goats, like those at Fias Co Farm (my go-to Internet source for goat information), kid at 145.

But apparently, it's not uncommon for a goat to go until 165. Just like with humans the sperm can live in the doe for a few days waiting for an egg to drop.

The main issue with us is, we don't know Mrs. Robinson's history. We know that she was culled from a dairy and sent to the slaughterhouse (which is where Barbara from The Goat Rescue of Puget Sound rescued her from).

There's many reason why a dairy would cull a goat and we always thought it was probably for her personality. Mrs. Robinson wouldn't win any awards from her peers for kindness, that's for sure. She is absolutely wonderful with people but really quite mean to other animals. This makes flock management a bit, shall we say, challenging at times but its just something we've learned to work around. We tell ourselves she's like this because she is our herd queen but it's also because she's just a bit bitchy :)

In talking to Donna, she may have been culled for her kidding behavior. Maybe Mrs. Robinson wasn't a predictable kidder. Or maybe she consistently threw small kids which needed help to get up and moving. I understand this, they too are running a business and so this would have been a legitimate reason to get rid of her.

We're also big fans of this theory since Donna couldn't feel a baby in there. But, you can see "something" moving. Because she is a big doe it's highly possible the tiny kid is behind her organs. No biggie, just how it is.

And so there's also the option that it's a false pregnancy, where the doe exhibits all the signs of being pregnant but all that's inside is a sack of fluid. She will actually pass this sack of fluid just like passing a kid.

We're remaining optimistic that she is pregnant. She has been nesting, yawning and grinding her teeth. She is starting to look more sunken along her spine, as if the baby has dropped, but she doesn't have her milk yet. And maybe she won't get it, which isn't a problem either, we have all the supplements necessary to fill in for her.

So we"ll continue to wait and monitor her. Its important for us to be there, not just because it's our first Farmstead birth but because we want to be there for her and any potential babies (reference, we don't know what kind of kidder she is).

If she's not pregnant we will probably try again as most does who have false pregnancies spring back to have successful kidding pregnancies. But either way, if in the end she never gets to be a mom with us that's okay too.

She's Mrs. Robinson-A one of a kind, diamond in the rough, wouldn't trade her for the world, kind of goat. No other explanation needed.

It takes a village to birth a kid

Did I mention how fabulous our neighbors are? One day we came home from work and found a kidding kit sitting at the base of the tree stump for us. I mean come on, isn't that the nicest thing ever? pssst. If you're looking for a list of what should be in your kidding kit check Fias Co Farm's website, she is a wealth of knowledge (and she raises Lamanchas!)
And then yesterday we came home and saw this:


Doesn't that just make you happy?

I think it's a perfect reminder, that sometimes the things that seem so little to you may seem so big to someone else. We're both far away from our families (my parents live in Coos Bay, Oregon and the handsome man's live in Cincinnati, Ohio) and although we've been able to communicate via skype, the phone and facebook it's still really nice to have someone, right across the way, that you know is rooting for you and cheering you on too.

Speaking of Skype. We've been skyping with Mrs. Robinson for the past few days in order to keep track of her while we're at work and, if need be, rush home. Mr. Nick set up the webcam peaking just over the edge with the laptop sitting on a chair outside the stall. He set it to automatically pick up if we are calling (my mom is also an approved watcher, she is no stranger to skype since all her grandbabies live in Houston). I  muted it so she can't hear the ringing or talking on the other end. We would have loved to do a live feed in order to share this experience with everyone, but we have a very interesting internet situation in that, we have a very crappy internet situation. Even though we are just 8 minutes from downtown Olympia we can't get high speed internet. Our only option is to use a mifi hotspot through our cell phone plan, which actually works really well, but also has data limits. I think we would have busted through our quota several times over if we had attempted a live feed. But oh I would have loved it...I think I blew a whole day once (in our pre-Farmstead days) watching baby eagles through a live feed :)

At night we've been setting up Mr. Nick's cell phone, plugged in, on speaker with  a call in to me. We put my phone on speaker and mute it as well. Then we sleep with it on our pillow so we can hear her in the middle of the night if something were to go wrong. Additionally, I set our alarm to go off every hour to listen and make sure all sounds point to normal. Thank goodness for free verizon to verizon :)

So still no baby, but man! We are ready!!

Here's a photo of me skyping with Mrs. R at work :)