I was planning on writing something like four blog posts in a row and then thought, "Why not just conglomerate it all into one post?" Yeah, that's me; I'm a bit slow sometimes on thinking up simple things. So this post is just a general newsy update for y'all!
Staring me right in the face today is HEAT! It is hot, hot, HOT! Okay, all of you who are anywhere other than the Willamette Valley may laugh at me, since we don't even have humidity to contend with here. But one weather station says it's 98 degrees, and a second one says it's 100 degrees. Either way, both are a bit hotter than I like. I know friends and family down South who have been having days well over 100 degrees (I heard one report of 116!?) and they have humidity. I really shouldn't complain over here... But I am. ;) The animals seem to be taking it moderately well, although you know it's hot when even the barn swallows are panting, like mine are. I'm ready for Autumn! Wool sweaters, crunchy leaves, cool western winds, and the chance to start wearing my Carhartt coat again!
Heidi's kids are doing really well so far and were finally named yesterday evening. The blonde female is 'Minuet' as a slight offshoot of my musical theme I have going with the goats, and the brown male is Pippin. :) I've had two Frodo's, a Samwise, and a Merry, so I figured it was high time to bring the last Hobbit in. Hehe. I did decide to pull both kids off of Heidi this morning, as she is just too... Hmm, motherly? Whenever a kid stood up to try and nurse, she would just knock it back down with her vigorous licking; the result was a pair of starving and weak kids (better now that they're on the bottle!) and Heidi's udder was becoming engorged. Thankfully none of them are complaining about the separation (although Heidi is still able to lick and nuzzle the kids through the fence) and it has been one of the easiest transitions yet. This afternoon, I realized that I would have to milk Heidi ASAP in order to release the pressure on her udder. One side wasn't so bad since the kids were able to steal a couple of snacks, but the left side was completely untouched since Thursday. Heidi has always been a nightmare to hand milk as she has tiny teats, tiny orifices, and she kicks like a bucking bronco when on the stand. I prepared for war and got my goat. As expected, Heidi blew up. Kicking, heaving, bucking, I could see that this might get old fast if I now had to milk her 2x's a day. Then a thought popped into my head... What would happen if I put the milking machine on her? Her teats were the same size as Mattie's, and maybe I could get her milked out fast enough with that thing? It was worth a try.
The milking machine was set up and I tentatively flipped it on. It's rumbling hum filled the parlor and Heidi looked at it with curiosity. Now, how on earth would my karate champion of a caprine take this? I put an inflation on her left teat (the really engorged side) and watched...
Holy kohlrabi! This was a completely different goat! I held the machine at her level and watched in amazement as she totally relaxed. I didn't have her tied, and was not touching her at all. That ol' girl didn't move a single muscle. It made sense though, as I thought about it. Heidi's previous owners had bought her from a commercial dairy, so Heidi was probably used to being machine milked. You could just see the thought on her face, "Finally! It's about time you started doing this thing the right way!" Well, if it makes her happy and it saves my hands, then it looks like I now have a machine milked goat! I went inside to pour the milk into a jar and wash the milk bucket again. Heidi gave a half gallon just out of one side. Whew, no wonder she was looking uncomfy!
Along the subject of goats, Sombrita left today... :( She has always been hard for me to milk since her teats are so big and my hands are so small. I was able to put up with it for a little over two months, but I just couldn't do it anymore... There comes a time when you have to ask yourself if something is really worth it. Yes, Sombrita was a lovely goat, but was it worth it to keep milking her when it caused so much pain? I really don't need carpal tunnel this early in life, and I think I probably would have gotten a case of it had I kept going with her. As it was, my left arm, from elbow to finger tips, was going numb more and more frequently throughout the week from milking her. Was the numbness worth it to keep her? I had to choose: Either keep Sombrita and give up other things such as knitting, spinning, and writing/typing, or find a new home for her. I agonized over this dilemma for a week. I didn't want to sell her and lose those genetics. If nothing else, I at least wanted one more daughter out of her before completely losing her. I love her conformation, her bloodlines, and her ability to outproduce herself (meaning daughters are always better than her). I thought about drying her up and just keeping her around, but what about when she kids next year? Dry her up immediately after kidding? I didn't feel that was a wise choice. Grrr! What to do, what to do!? Finally, the answer came upon me in one swift moment. I was reading a book, and I thought I was pretty engrossed in it, when the idea of giving her to a friend popped into my mind. Bingo! I dropped the book and rushed to the computer, writing a quick, three sentence email. Would my friend like a free goat? I figured by giving her to this friend, I would get to see her pretty often, keep tabs on her, and I told my friend that my only condition was that I would love to have a doeling from Sombrita someday. Friend agreed and came by to pick her up today. It was hard watching her go, still... Her pretty face and that gorgeous black coat of hers has always tickled my fancy. But I think this agreement will work well and everyone (including goat) will be happy.
Mattie the cow is doing super well over here and we have become quite comfortable with each other. Although, she has taken to wrecking my chicken tractor lately and I fear it may not live long enough for the turkeys to stay in there until September! Having an adult, lactating cow has been a huge learning curve for me in the grass management department. In short, I've botched the job this summer. Who knew that a single cow could eat SO much??? Now half of my pasture is overgrazed and has been scorched in this heat wave. [sad, sad face] Lesson learned, and learned well! She's still giving her usual 2 to 2.5 gallons per day and that's working well. I must admit that I've been resorting to weekly milk dumps just so I would have room in the fridge and jars to use! So now I'm scurrying to get the rest of the cow shares sold so I won't have to keep dumping unwanted milk. A herdshare member did ask to donate a fridge for my raw milk and I was tickled at the thought! I'd like to take her up on the offer, but we'll see what happens...
Back in the beginning of June, I was having a rodent problem. There's no way to put that discreetly, I was battling mice. By July though, I noticed something: There had not been a single trace of a mouse in quite a while. They were gone. POOF! What on earth happened? I didn't mind of course, but I wondered if they had momentarily disappeared only to rally forces before they stormed my doors and ran me out of town. It was quiet... A little too quiet. I found the answer to the riddle today. Walking out of the barn this afternoon, I just barely missed stepping on a whopping, three foot long snake! It was a female, Pacific Gopher snake whom I had seen back in June, but at that time she was only 12" long. After two months, and who knows how many mice, she had tripled in size and heft. She was a monster and she was beautiful. Gopher snakes are often mistaken for Rattle snakes since they will drum their tail on the ground which makes a rattling sound if they are in the wild, among dead grasses and leaves. Since she was on hard dirt floor in my barn, there was no noise from her fast beating tip. Gopher snakes also have a bandit's mask over their eyes which is a nice visual, and they're head is a different shape from their poisonous cousins whom they try to impersonate. I quickly and smoothly scooped her up and watched in amazement as she wrapped herself around my arm and tightened her iron coils as much as possible. Yowch! I got the message: Please look but don't touch. I worried that she might go after our layer chicks which are only 3 weeks old, but the brooder seems to be pretty snake proof as far as I can tell, so I'm going to wait a bit before I relocate her. I do enjoy having her as rodent control in the barn.
Hmmm... What else... I still have a handful of rabbits here, but I think I am going to butcher them all and put them in the freezer. What with the herdshares and the dairy animals, I don't have the time to really work with the rabbits and expand on that venue like I should. When I start back up, I want to do it right, and I want to start with stock from Polyface. Their rabbits are amazing and I would rather have stock that I know will do well on a forage based diet, over local rabbits that will take a few generations to do well. The turkeys are also doing really good and are growing insanely fast! I've been meaning to do a separate post about them... You can't watch them without thinking of the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park. If you gave them little claws instead of wings, it's be just like having your own dinosaur. ;) LOL.
So there you go! Life is busy, busy, busy now that kidding season is over and we've hit the height of summer!