Picking Up

What a glorious spring day! In the middle of a pasture reseeding project, I took a long break with the goats. We watched Farmer Fin tinker with some fencing while we lounged around in the sun. Jolene and I spent some quality time. She is one of the two-year-olds, born in the Sundgau year (Sundgau is the name for her color way, the mostly black goats in our Alpine herd), when nearly all of the kids looked just like her. They were indistinguishable. We kept Jolene and Angie.

Normally, we'd be caring for a bunch of babies by mid-April, but we bred the goats really late in the fall and winter. It was pretty much absent-mindedness, and it means we are cutting it really close for our first market, in a month. C'est la vie; what's done is done. The opportunity in this screw-up is that since we don't have to deliver babies and feed them and milk goats and all that - basically, run our business - for a few extra weeks this year, we have time to enjoy these first days of spring sunshine and hang with the herd.

"We" includes Tali, our 18-month-old Anatolian Shepherd. We found a new home for her brother last week. Now we are focusing on training her, patiently, strictly, and mindfully, to be a good working dog. Tali had an excellent day today. She came when I called, sat on command, and kept her movements slow and steady around the goats. She's a teenager, and I know she will challenge us, but she is capable of being this good. We miss her brother a lot. 

The goats probably don't miss him though. They were fat and happy today. Coffee did some intense stretching this afternoon. Also she is very round.

I'm disappointed at our lousily timed kidding season this year - one week earlier and we could have started during my school break - but we definitely have enough projects to keep us busy through April. Spring days just beg to be filled. For today, though, I'm satisfied and sleepy.


Waning Summer

The last days of August are bittersweet for us humans (particularly schoolteacher humans). Nights have grown cool here on the hill, a welcome change from the heat earlier in the month, and early mornings are dark once again. There's still plenty of green to eat, and the flies are not as annoying as in midsummer. Folks are telling me we will have a tough winter, but the critters don't know that yet.

Some, like Bluebell here, are relishing the last of the lazy days of summer.

Others, feeling the hint of fall in the air, feel frisky!

The end of each day brings the promise of rest. We hope your holiday weekend is summery-sweet.


Summer Faces

Do you miss us? Here are some faces around the farm.

The Three Sisters, Waiting for Whey 
Jade Wants a Kiss
Talu in the Pasture
Pansy in the Garden
Same to You, Tali

Chicken Scare Crow

I guess Farmer Fin is camera shy. 


Spring Again!

If you have been checking the blog for dramatic pictures of our snow-covered hill, I am sorry for the disappointment. Winter never fully committed to upstate NY this year, making life much easier, but also raising some concerns over water levels in our aquifers. I guess we will see. In lieu of watching the snow fall, we spent the last few months watching the livestock guardian dogs, Talu and Tali, grow. We got them around Thanksgiving, when they were eight weeks old, from our friends at Two Rock Ranch, a nearby sheep farm. They were about the size of loaves of bread.
Tali, left, Tennis Ball for Scale, and Talu, right

They have been growing like crazy, and now they are bigger than the house dog. Here's Talu playing with Cooper in the front yard a month or so ago. 

All winter, they followed me around the hill doing our minimal winter chores. Their bark is impressive, and I do not think the coyotes will come anywhere near with these two around.

After the snowless winter, spring is still magnificent, with buds on the lilacs and apple trees, and of course, baby goats! We kicked off the season with Pansy's triplets, two does and a buck, not that it matters really, since we are keeping no babies this year (ask me in May if I was able to stick to that - baby goats are really cute).
Pansy's Triplets on Their First Day
 Then Jasmine had two bucks, adorable and chamois-colored, and Juno had two black ones.

We had a population explosion this week, including some first timers, like Raindrops, who had one single doe. She is a style icon, with her white belt and one white boot.

Yesterday, we had three does kidding at the same time, right when I got home from school. It was an intense experience that I hope to avoid next year. Jade had her twins in the field.
The dogs are generally amazing with kidding moms. They maintain a respectful distance, mostly, but they are still puppies and need occasional reminders to stop licking the new kids. Their breed has been developed for thousands of years, and their intuition is astounding to me. 

We are almost halfway through this year's kidding, and will be making our first cheese of 2016 this week. Here we go!


Animal Personnel

At the beginning of November, we did some goat shuffling, moving the yearling does back home, and this spring's doelings down to the neighbors' place. The yearlings grew a lot over the summer, and they are ready to be bred.
Victory and Bergamot


In previous years, breeding season involved a lot of driving back and forth, with a goat in the back of the pickup, to a farm with a buck in a neighboring town twenty minutes away. This year, we are saving time and gas by borrowing a buck. He is staying in his own shed in the pasture so he can interact with the other goats, but we won't have any surprise babies in the spring. It's the Love Shack. His name is Emeril, but we call him Disco Hair, because of the fancy puff at the top of his head.
Emeril Surveys the Scene
I was apprehensive at first, expecting him to barrel through the newly-reinforced door of his shed to get some lovin', but he's actually pretty easygoing, albeit smelly. Male goats, in case you didn't know, smell awful during breeding season. There is a little spot on the top of his head where I can pet him without regretting it. He's very friendly to us humans, and very very friendly to the lady goats.
Flirting with Juniper
We also have a new farm dog, a happy goofy boy with limitless energy who loves every creature he meets and is becoming an excellent fetch player. I expect there will be a few more interesting personnel updates over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!


Autumn in (Upstate) New York

Our 2015 season is winding down. Again this year, we learned a lot about farming, business, people, goats, our land, and ourselves. I am looking forward to a winter of rest and reflection. In the meantime though, we are all embracing autumn. The leaves are at peak color this week.
Apple trees are laden with fruit, which is the goats' favorite thing about autumn. Juniper has the best nom-nom face:
The Apple-y and the Ecstasy

They could have their own apples, but Junie's looks so good
Apple Diva
Days are getting shorter, and we are down to once-a-day milkings, which means a little more sleep. The sun does not rise until after 7:00 now, but the sunrises have been magnificent on our east-facing hill.
The sunsets are quite lovely too. There's still some autumn to enjoy, and we are, well, we're milking it!


Memorial to An Unlikely Farm Dog

In October 2008, a compassionate vet tech named Bobbi discovered an emaciated pit bull tied up outside of a smoldering trailer in a junkyard near the clinic where she worked in Newburgh, NY. She knew she had to rescue him, so she racked her brain for someone who might take him. She remembered a former co-worker who liked pit bulls, so she called him first. As it happened, he had just bought a house in the country and was looking for a dog. 

The next day, she approached the abandoned dog, tossing cans of cat food his way until she was close enough to touch him. He let her untie him and take him to her office, where he was neutered and vaccinated in preparation for his new life. He was severely underweight, dirty, and spotted with burn marks from the fire, but he wagged his tail whenever he saw his rescuer.

The man Bobbi called was Farmer Fin, and the dog, whom we named Bird, became our companion for almost seven years. I want to tell you all about him while I can still remember all the details: the way his paws smelled, the feel of the fur on his face, the sound of his dream barking, his patience and sense of humor. He was so sweet and beautiful and funny, and I will never forget him. 
Garden Guard, 2009