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


Herd Hierarchy

Within a herd of goats, there is a fairly strict social order. Violet is the queen of our herd (see "Goats of Note: Violet"). From there, it pretty much goes in order of seniority, with extra status for social merits like intelligence, toughness, sweetness, gravitas, and hard-headedness (literally and figuratively). Sometimes, the pecking order is not entirely clear, and the goats resolve disputes through physical combat, mostly in the form of head butting.

For a new goat in our established herd, introductions can be overwhelming. Thus, when we recently acquired two new milking does, Coffee and Tea, we didn't just throw them in the goat pen and hope for the best. We gave them a few days to acclimate to our routines. During this time they slept in the nursery pen in the milking barn and grazed by day in a temporary pen that they did a marvelous job of clearing. They sniffed their new herdmates through the fence and enjoyed their pasture time.
By the time we officially introduced them to the herd, they already kind of knew each other. There was a lot of circling:
Coffee, meet Veronica
 And sniffing:
Coffee Sniffing Baby
Jasmine and Coffee
Jade and Tea
 Vernon, the wether, is captivated with Tea.
 And of course there was some head-butting:

The new girls are finding their place and enjoying the goaty life.


Sometimes Farming Is Just a Walk in the Woods

This time of year, I feel like I am treading water, just trying to keep the animals happy and the farm running. Both of my professions - farming and teaching - get pretty intense in June. Something's got to give: right now it's my garden, which is, so far, parsley, two basil plants, the garlic I planted in the fall, and a whole lot of zinnias I scored at my school's plant sale. And don't even ask me when I last cleaned the house.

Sometimes, though, a farm chore leads me into a moment of beauty and appreciation, like last week when we were moving the goats' pasture. My job is the better one: while Farmer Fin pulls the sheds with the truck, I lead the goats uphill so they don't get in the way. On this day, I led them into a corner of dappled shade, where a stand of trees survives. I bent down branches so the goats could eat the leaves and received much caprine affection in return. There were also wild strawberries. I had to try to capture the moment in this photo shoot.

Jasmine decided she wanted to be the star of this blog post. Check her out after the jump.


Early May Guest Blogger

This post is brought to you by the wonderful eye of Katrina Thies, who came up in early May to celebrate Farmer Feather's birthday, and ended up celebrating the birth of Violet's two kids. 

Naturally, we spent some time in the baby pen:
Hard Little Hooves, Sweet Little Kisses

Chores are part of any good birthday party, right?

 I hate to drag a guest out of bed, but it's not every morning one gets to witness the miracle of birth.

Some folks, however, are not impressed:


Kids These Days

Juniper kicked off the kidding season on April 9th with a doe and a buck. They were little, pink-nosed, and hungry, as Junie's kids tend to be. This is Jolene, just a few minutes old.
The next day, Petunia delivered two big, gorgeous bucklings by herself in between my hourly labor checks. She's independent like that. The four kids kept each other warm in the nursery pen.

For a week or so, they were fast and furious: female twins for Juno (the first on the farm since Jade and Jasmine were born three years ago), a giant single buck for Peony, a difficult birth resulting in two stillborn kids for Jasmine, and a tiny but spunky boy and girl for Jade. They are quite the kindergarten class, quickly picking up skills like drinking from the suck-it bucket (a huge time saver for us humans, the milk-givers) eating grass, head-butting, and jumping on things.

This week will be another busy one: Veronica had a boy and a girl on Saturday, and Violet and Vervain are both due any minute now. This is Roxanne, Veronica's daughter, who is indistinguishable from three of the other four doelings this year. I don't know how we will tell them apart once they are all the same size! They sure are cute though.


Goats of Note: Juniper

If Juniper knew I skipped her, she'd be indignant. It was an accident. Now, in honor of the Chinese New Year, here's Juniper.

Juniper was the first goat I ever milked, in the summer of 2010. Look at my crazy goat milking face!
When we got Junie, we already had Violet and Pansy (see Goats of Note posts 1 and 2). Juniper was the same age, yet she was sophisticated, mannered, lactating. I don't think I make that face when I milk goats anymore. At the time, though, it was quite a revelation.

Juniper came here with her sister Sassafras, who has since moved on from our farm. We used their milk to make cheese for the first time. The milk was amazingly sweet, and we learned to make chèvre, mozzarella, and feta; we experimented with aging cheddar, provolone, and gouda in the basement. We learned to trim hooves and give shots, drag sheds and move fences, and we learned that each of these creatures had distinct personalities, habits and senses of humor.
June and Pansy Ignoring Each Other in 2011
In 2012, Junie had two does, Jade and Jasmine. They were and are adorable and will have their own post shortly.
Big Momma
She's a pretty laid-back mom in general. Her main mothering technique involves head butting human children. Don't ask.
Newborn Jade

Generally, though, Junie is a charmer. She's a typical goat, inquisitive, crafty, and funny. She likes your sweatshirt string, belt end, and camera case. She enjoys picking locks, head-butting her friends, neck rubs, and eating things.
I Love her Eating Face

Mealtime with Clyde the Savage
Happy Year of the Goat. May your feed be sweet and your horizon clear. I promise many goat pictures in the year to come. 


Goats of Note: Buttons

Buttons, part snowy owl, part Alpine goat, came to us (with her name) in the summer of 2012. She's still kind of the new girl. 
Buttons, New to the Neighborhood, September 2012
Buttons has many amazing qualities. She is an excellent kisser. She is a contortionist who likes to look waaaay up, then turn her head all the way around. She has a sweet disposition and a wonderful sense of humor. She also has a talent for producing adorable white doelings: Bluebell in 2013 and Bergamot last year. 
Buttons and Bluebell Eating Apples, August 2013
Buttons is actually a pretty big girl, probably 150 pounds or more, possibly bigger than Violet the herd queen, but she's one of those folks who seems smaller. This is partly because she lacks seniority around here, and has developed a non-confrontational, goofy demeanor that keeps Violet, Pansy, Juniper, and Veronica from picking on her too much. Buttons has a quiet determination. She tries not to draw attention to herself, but she gets her due.
Vervain, Buttons, and Bluebell, July 2014
 Buttons loves cabbage and other treats. She would ask you to consider that if you come see her.