The subtitle of this post could be My Dairy Year. (Say that fast and laugh to yourself.)
Today marks my first year as a milkmaid.
Mama T-Bell, lucky thing, gets a year off of breeding this year. I believe she’s had three sets of kids (twins, twins then triplets with us); she will be six years old in April. I will continue to milk her as long as I want to: I should be able to “milk through” as she’s an awesome milk goat. I feel so fortunate to have had her as a first goat, first milker. Why? Because she’s a bitch, that’s why!
Yes, in my first doe, I seem to have selected a definite herd queen. She’s not really a bitch, you see. She’s more, well, strong-willed, more particular. She’s very friendly (a great thing) especially to little people. The dog is her mortal enemy, although they do love to play. But other goats? She lets them know where they stand. And they stand below her, way below, so…watch out. And: she HATES being outside.
But it’s nicer in here! Bell, eating her bon-bons and watching the world go by
Learning to milk a goat and then learning to milk THIS goat was a bit of a challenge. She’s smart, see. If she’s not in the mood, you better guard that bucket. If her feed bowl (the bribe which ensures her getting onto, and staying on, the milk stand) is less than filled, you’ll hear about it. Milking is an intimate relationship forged between she with the milk and you with the desire for it: really, it must be so, or the let-down (milk release) won’t happen. And indeed learning to milk with those three rambunctious kids just inches away was terribly stressful at first, especially since one of the babies was expecting the milk himself (he was a bottle baby). But we forded that whirling river. She’s quite happy now, our routine is well set. And starting the thirteenth month of her lactation, I am still getting nearly three quarts of milk from her a day.
On the Sunday after Christmas Tom and I coaxed our little Alpine doeling into the back of my small hatchback. She was off, you see, to visit her new boyfriend, a handsome, smelly fellow named Moses.
Cricket is an adorable creature. Curious, hippity-skippity, not super friendly but not skittish, the one thing she is is LOUD. I made sure I brought earplugs (seriously) for the 60-mile round trip to the goat farm east of us where she was be bred. It does seem strange, and kind of bad-mother-ish*, but yes, you can breed goats when they’re less than a year old. She’ll continue to grow, and I only need to watch her feed to ensure she’s eating enough for two or three or (eeps!) four. And let’s state the obvious here: you want milk, you need babies.
So, yes. Cricket will have her kids at the end of May, with luck. It’s a different kind of calendar, the dairy one. Bell will still be milking when Cricket throws her babies. There will be two goats using the milk stand in the morning: whee! Say cheese!
*Indeed, though, it’s like I am condoning teenage motherhood; I guess I should state that she’ll technically be a yearling when she delivers. Not a teenager, then, but definitely a young mom…!