Category Archives: dairy goats

The pots are out! Is it canning season already?

Actually, no.  What’s begun?  Cheesemaking Season!

bubble hiss bubble hiss

But what Cheesemaking Season requires of me first is a whole bunch of culture-making.  Thus, Monday night saw many pots on the boil, some to make buttermilk, some to make fresh starter, some to make thermophilic starter*. Oh, and one held the milk for the week’s yogurt, too.  I wonder how I thought those two gallons of milk would be all for me?  They’re not!  It’s all for The Greater Cheesemaking Cause.

I am really glad the girl decided that tonight, of all nights, she’d go to bed early.  I love having her around but multitasking isn’t something I do well if I am attempting something new.  And new-to-me things like a whole mess of cheese prep means I am all tense between the shoulderblades, fussing around, clucking like a mother hen as to is this right?  did I do this right? when my normal modus operandi is a lot more…chill.  I hate that tight feeling!  Luckily, the gods of yeast clued our ancestors in to create a cure:  it’s called a glass of wine.  I honor their creation by taking a sip and I think, well, centuries of cheesemakers’ kitchens weren’t as clean as mine, what’s my worry?

With luck this process will go more smoothly than my fussing around tonight.

I do have a lot of dairy goodness ahead of me, though.  Getting used to the new routine will be interesting.  And then there’s goat’s milk soap, kefir, etc. etc. to make…

*why bother with all the starters?  Well, it bugs me to no end, the idea that I have to be beholden to some company or another to supply me the goods to actually make something.  Can’t I d.i.y.?  And what would Ma Ingalls do?  Indeed.  It just takes planning and prep work, like tonight.  And buying someone’s starters, then multiplying them for future use.  Considering this is all a grand experiment, I would rather go through the process and THEN tell you how successful it all is.  That’s only fair; no sense your repeating my mistakes, no?

On home-grown milk

Our first quart JUST FOR US

So, T-bell birthed three babies on 27 February.  I have consumed exactly two cups of the milk since then.

This is not unusual.  There are two big reasons for this:  one, triplets, and two, one rejected baby.  So I have been milking her since the 27th, two times a day…and saving all the milk to give to the little mostly white baby, Number Three.  The other two have all the milk they want from Mama.  Even though Alpines are the Holsteins of the goat world (super milkers in other words) she’s only recently been able to exceed demand.

Any mammal has what’s called a “lactation curve.”  If you plot the actual production on a chart, the top of the curve happens when the nursing babies are the biggest.  This top of the bell in goats should happen when the kids are about two months old.  Kids left with their mamas all the time will milk for many more months, beyond their “need” for the milk.  Their true “need” kind of ends when they’re able to tolerate eating what mama does (and thus get their caloric needs met):  browse (weeds, branches) and pasture-grazing, dried mixed hay, garden stuff, and grains in the form of goat chow.  As of the first week of life, they’re already experimenting with hay.  By week two, they were eating greenhouse goodies with T-bell.  Now, at nearly five weeks, they’re out on the pastures for most of the day with her, eating, playing, pooping and sleeping in the sun.

And Number Three rejected part of the bottle last night.  (Hooray!)

One should wean the babies by weight, not the calendar…especially with triplets.  However, these guys are getting quite big.  They should be able to move to their new home when they’re a little over two months old.  Then, ALL the milk is mine! (rubs hands together greedily).  There’s no telling how much it will be, but it should be somewhere around a gallon a day.  At this two month mark, I will be tricking her lactation hormones that there are two month old babies that still need to be fed, so…she should stay at that top of the bell for a while. Eventually, her production will wane, but by next 27 February, she’ll still be producing.

On spring busy-ness

Entirely too busy to post, so…thought I would show you the kids:  all four of them!

Are you kidding? or, The babies are coming!

The girl giving half-hour old #2 a bit of a hug.  That’s #3 to the left and #1 behind her.

Our goat girl’s due date was 26 Feb., but they can be born five days either side of that date.  I wouldn’t say I was a terribly nervous goat midwife*:  there are signs, I kept telling myself, and she’s done this before. So I knew we’d just have to watch and wait.

And wait.  After a while, I felt like a goat stalker!  Every two hours I would come through the door.  Every two hours she would just be as she always is, standing there looking out her window at the garden, chewing her cud, and looking quizzically at me:  “You, again?  What, is it snack time already?”

Her udder CAN’T get bigger, I said, when it hit bowling-ball size.  Then it got to be basketball-sized.  Then bigger.

Labor took about six hours.  Of course the first one was born when I had dashed into the house for yet another towel.  Our daughter was on duty, though: “Hi baby!  What a cute little thing!  Mama, I saw it come out!” and she had.

Birth is a messy business, but this was not nearly as messy as I had been led to believe.  And quick.  Exciting, and fun.   Miraculous, and so very mundane.

“Mama, I want to be a vet,” she said, as she gave #1 a bit of a bottle last night

*My duties were simply to wipe the babies off when they arrived, and get them pointed in the direction of dinner.  And call the vet if something went awry.

Happy Birthday!

Our goat girl had three healthy babies today, Sat., 27 Feb., at 8:30 p.m.

And they’re all break-your-heart cute!

On appropriate technology

New milk stand with recycled materials:  reused 1x4s, old metal base from the basement’s concrete washtubs, and our daughter’s old table’s top.  It is wider than it needs to be:  I intend to sit on it to milk her.  “Scootch over, sister!”

I got an interesting technology request the other day from a reader.

She’s trying to do more things herself, whether it’s growing or preserving or just looking at lifestyle choices.  Considering that many people reading this blog are on a similar path, I must mention that where she is making this quest is a little different:  it’s in a now-peaceful, war-ravaged country, and she’s not completely at home in the language.  She doesn’t have the liberty of being able to choose which big-box store to shop in for her greenhouse plastic or her canning jars or gardening equipment.  She can’t just go to the local library to read up on these things.  And simply ordering goods over the internet is not exactly something one can do in a not-fully-operational state.  Even considering her circumstances, though, there are many parallels we can draw to our own quests:  sometimes it’s money that’s the limit, sometimes it’s time, sometimes, it’s know-how.  But always, we should consider what’s appropriate.

The great equalizer, thankfully, is the internet!  So much information found “out there,” some of dubious value certainly, but if you have your own bullsh*t-o-meter pretty highly tuned, you can find some gems.  What I recommended to her is that she’s got the great good fortune to be living in an area that’s not as cold as Michigan (!) so there is a lot open to her, greenery-wise.  You don’t need a lot of technology to grow your own food:  a hoe, a shovel, maybe a garden fork and a decent hand tool can be found in any corner of the globe.  Seeds are cheap.  And compost happens everywhere….even north of the arctic circle.

So grow more of your own, and try to grow it year-round.  Build your own cold frame or greenhouse to extend the season.  Use scraps!  There’s no shame at all in recycling; you’re making a better environmental choice by reusing what you can find.  My first cold frame was a transparent plastic sweater box, frankly, the first winter I lived here:  that’s where I sprouted my first salads and hardened off my tomato plants.  And you don’t need to can things if you can try to figure out a way of growing year-round.  Swear off tomatoes for half a year if you have no way of preserving them, but…drying the small ones is something most people can do in their ovens or on the roofs of their buildings in the summer sun.  Pickling, lacto-fermenting, and salt-curing are other methods of preserving one’s harvest.  As is a root cellar:  that could simply be a box in your basement or garage, it doesn’t need to be a proper cellar.

I think so much of this…whatever it is I am doing (homesteading? DIY?) is simply a mindshift.  I could not duplicate what I was eating before, so I switched our diet.  (I can no longer walk to get sushi, for example, or a cappuccino, or that delivered-to-my-door CSA, or get Thai food delivered; but I can get fresh eggs and fruit and garden produce.)  It’s not the same; it’s different.  And it takes longer, and I have less time.  (I am a parent now too so I’m dividing that time pie into pretty thin slices, come to think of it.)  But I am far happier for learning these new skills, for choosing to live this life, financial challenges, failed harvests, blisters and all.

Here’s a few sources of decent information:

The only thing I had to buy was the hook and eye to keep the head gate locked.  This was her maiden voyage so I hadn’t set the eye yet.  Appropriate technology:  no milking machine, just me and a bucket and a milk stand.  Oh and a goat!

Goat coat!

Farmyard fashion.  Caprine couture.  Goat glam.  Dairy duds.  Ruminators’ raiment.  You get it.