Friday, March 28, 2014

Evening Sky


Last night on my way home from town, I paused to admire the 
evening painting in the sky and the beautiful silhouettes.

The recent mud slide in our county is about 45 minutes from us, Oso and the city of Arlington.  We are close enough that our schools compete in sports and other events together.  My children and their classmates have made posters and are doing fund drives to help in any way we can.  We have all been shaken by this sudden tragedy in our community and are praying for the families.  Hug those you love.

The following pictures I posted today are part of the 365 project I started back on March 5th. I've been posting a picture a day with a small caption on the 365 site.  My goal is to try and post the pictures here as well.  A big plan for this year is to learn to take better pictures. Just seeing all the great daily photo's on their site has been inspiring. 

Little Eli


Snowdrop's little buckling Eli has lot's of spunk,
 he likes to jump off the highest rocks and run the fastest.

Playing In The Spring Sun


Enjoying life with all the goat kids this Spring.  
This little Nigerian  Doeling is adorable and loves to crawl in my lap for pets.

Good Morning Alarm Clock


We  have 2 roosters born and raised here, they have 25 hens between them and each has their own faithful harem following.  They're the early morning alarm clock around here, and when I say early, I'm talking around 4:30, the first crows happen slowly, then increase as the sun rises.  Luckily we enjoy our roosters and their crowing.  It helps that they're not too close to the house, so the sound is nice and lets us know the sun will be up soon.

First Day Outside


Our beautiful Lamancha goat Zolena gave birth to triplets a few nights ago, 2 bucklings and a doeling. Our kidding season is now complete.  I've been having fun this March with 8 goat babies running around jumping, leaping and playing.  Spring smiles!

Early Spring Camellia


While working at a plant nursery a couple years ago, I photographed this Camellia.  
This time of year they're wonderful, I love the color of this fuchsia one.

The Redheads


Our family has beautiful redhead girls, daughter Tessa and our little girl dog Summer.

Kisses Say I Love You


Our little Golden Retriever puppy giving kisses to Dad.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This Morning


I took my camera out this morning to capture a little of my daily routine.  I am bottle feeding the 5 little doelings that are in the bottom right corner. They get fed first in the morning, I sit on a stool with them clamoring about with 2 bottles.  They have to take turns, and that's easier said than done.  As I'm feeding them, I watch the sun rise through the meadow.  It lights up the house, highlighting the smoke coming from the chimney, then it lands on the goat feeder, which is where Jersey and Dahlia are laying and waiting for breakfast and milking.  

I feed the babies first, then the goats and chickens, next I milk the three does.  After that I feed the rabbits, the feeding order goes by who is the loudest and the goats win.  Mornings are busy with roosters crowing, goats calling to be fed or milked, and kids jumping about playing all the while.  The rabbits are quiet and always fun to say "hi" to when I feed them in the morning. After I got back inside this morning, I decided to sit down and put together a photo collage for my 365 project that I'm working on.  I'll tell you more about that in another post.     

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Kalua



Our new cat Kalua came home from work with my husband as a kitten this last Fall.  He had watched the mom raise her litter of kittens, and as they got older, he decided this beautiful, and extra friendly one, would be just perfect to join our animal family here at Applegarth.  He was right, she purrs and hops up in our lap for pets, and she loves to hang out with me in the garden on sunny mornings, just like Dutchess used to do.  Our oldest cat Dutchess passed away last Summer, she was almost 20 years old and we found her under the comfrey plants looking peaceful and asleep, her spirit had passed away... being comforted I imagine under the comfrey.  I missed her so much, she was a daily part of my life since my oldest daughter was only four years old when we got her as a kitten.  Now, I have another cat to love, both her wonderful spirit and her captivating blue eyes. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Farm Fresh Eggs


The girls are really beginning to lay well again by this time of the year.  We're gathering around 18 eggs per day, now that we're in the middle of March.  The meadow grass is beginning to grow, along with the dandelions.  The chickens love to eat them, Spring eggs are extra special if the chickens can eat fresh greens.


Spring Goat Kids



Our little Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat Snowdrop had beautiful triplets one week ago.  The next day was sunny and 60 degrees, so in the afternoon I brought them all outside for about 15 minutes to enjoy the sun, meet the other goats and take a few pic's, then I hurried them all back into their cozy nest in the barn.  Snowdrop had twin doelings pictured above, and all three kids pictured below with the dark handsome buck on the left, we may keep him for the Fall breeding season.  I love all of the colors and markings each kid this year. 



Our Nubian Jersey and I were up all night this past Thursday night as she delivered twin doelings pictured below, they are melt your heart cute, and are miniature replica's of Jersey. She was bred to a Nigerian, so these are miniature Nubians.  We are lucky this year to have 4 doelings so far, now just our Lamancha Zolena is left and she's due this Friday, I hope she has at least one doeling too.


    We've been loving all the Spring babies and new life everywhere we look! 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

American Chinchilla and Cinnamon Rabbits


We added a beautiful breeding pair of Cinnamon rabbits to our herd over the winter, they are the "spice" of the rabbit world and we are excited to have them join our rabbit family. Cinnamon's are a true American Heritage breed of rabbit, created in Montana in 1972. They're a  larger breed and grow to between 9 and 11 pounds.  With their unique coloring and wonderful temperament these rabbits are very attractive and useful as meat, fur, show, and pet.  The Cinnamon coloring is a gorgeous dusty tan with a bright orange undercolor, dark shaded tips to the guard hair, with the shading gradually increasing down the sides and extremities of the rabbit until the belly of the rabbit is a stormy gray with pearl undercolor.

The mother of the doe in the bottom left picture is the National Champion Best of Breed Cinnamon Rabbit and the buck above and below on the right comes from the same breeder.  I like to start with the best genetics I can find locally, and in this case we have a top breeder in the next town East towards the mountains. By the end of Summer when these rabbits are around 8 months old, they'll be ready for breeding.


A little history about the Cinnamon Rabbit breed.
  
During the Easter season of 1962 2 kids by the name of Belle and Fred Houseman of Missoula, Montana were given a young Chinchilla doe. Later they received a New Zealand buck. They crossbred these two for babies that their father, Ellis, believed should be used for meat, but young Belle begged her father to let her keep one of the crossbred bucks as a family pet. The children joined the 4-h group and used their crossbred meat rabbits as their project. They were then given an unwanted Checkered Giant and a crossed Californian doe which they mated with Belle’s pet buck and in this litter was a russet shaded 
rabbit. 

They again bred the Checkered to the same buck and another rusty colored rabbit appeared, then one day their doe produced two russet colored rabbits. Ellis Houseman told his kids that they needed to be keeping only purebred rabbits to show, but this time Fred, with tears in his eyes, begged his father to let him keep the pair of brownish rabbits from the last litter. Ellis agreed.They mated the pair together and 70 percent of the litter was this russet shaded color, which they began calling Cinnamon.

Dad then began taking notice of these unusual shaded colored rabbits, and also noticed the sheen in the coats. Ellis showed these experimental rabbits to J. Cyril Lowett, Oregon Judge and ARBA board member. He felt they had possibilities and said there was not another breed like them in the U.S.  In 1972 the breed was approved.  Cinnamon's are on the rare breeds rabbit list for the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy).  

Pictured below is a portion of our rabbitry, with another 3 smaller hutches not visible, we have 8 holes currently and are adding another 7, we plan to stay at 15 holes.  Starting the season we have 5 American Chinchilla's for breeding, 3 does and 2 bucks, along with the Cinnamon breeding pair.  We have found that by having breeding stock of both bucks and does out of non related stock we can double our sales, and often sell 2 or 3 rabbits at a time, rather than just one at a time.



A young American Chinchilla doe I kept from a breeding last year out of Zelpha and Melvin, her name is Diamond and she was just bred to a young buck I kept from last year.  Serendipity below was my first American Chinchilla and is my foundation doe, she has been a wonderful rabbit, and her son Sterling is the mate for the doe Diamond above.

American Chinchilla's are an especially nice breed of rabbit to raise, they are one of the few breeds of rabbit that originated in the United States. Credit for developing this breed cannot be given to one breeder. Several American breeders wanted to produce a larger bodied rabbit than the Standard Chinchilla for larger pelts and more meat. Development began in the 1920’s and was originally known as the Heavyweight Chinchilla. In 1924 the breed was accepted by the ARBA and the name was changed to the American Chinchilla.

The American Chinchilla rabbits are large and hardy but  gentle. Mature bucks weigh 9 to 11 lbs and mature does weigh 10 to 12 lbs. the does are known for producing large litters, averaging 7 to 10 kits per litter. They are known for having good mothering instincts and the kits reach market weight quickly. When you first see this rabbit it appears salt and peppered colored, but when the fur is blown into 4 distinct bands of color appears. They attract a lot of attention at shows because of their large size and their fur is so soft and beautiful.
One reason I raise this breed, aside from the fact that they're beautiful and productive, is that by raising them we're helping bring back a heritage breed that is on the critical list with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and on the “Rare Breed Rabbits” list.  

 

A breeding trio I sold over the winter, 2 does and one buck, they're all so beautiful, aren't they?  Below is Zelpha and one of her albino daughters.  The first kindling Zelpha ever had last year I went out to peek in the nest box and was shocked to find an all pink kit, I was just thrilled, and ran inside to tell everyone what I found in the nest box! After researching it some more I realized that in the American Chinchilla breed if both the buck and doe that breed have the c- gene they will throw albino kits.  Now, this is not ideal for some, but for me I was excited to know we could consistently get some white rabbits for their fur. She had one albino kit her first litter, 3 the second, and 4 albino kits the 3rd kindling.  I have a buck now with the c+ gene and the two of them will not throw albino kits.  For Spring and Summer kits that I want to sell, I'll breed those two and for the Fall and Winter kits that we  mostly raise for meat and fur I'll breed her with Melvin for a few white ones.


American Chinchilla doe, Zelpha pictured above and below.



My husband is building a new set of hutches for me, now with the addition of the Cinnamon's we need more room.  We're doing an entirely different design, rather than wood that is difficult to clean and sanitize, we're building it out of galvanized metal and wire with a strong roof and removable wood panels for siding.  This is so we can pressure wash and clean thoroughly several times per year.  We're also planning to fence the entire rabbitry to keep the dogs out, and allow the rabbits a nice big exercise paddock. 


Melvin our senior buck above is a total sweetheart and loves attention, he will always give a good greeting and is a pleasure to tend to everyday, well, actually all of my rabbits bring me enjoyment, some are just more personable than others.  If you're wondering what happened to our Champagne d' Argent rabbits, I sold them all to one lady last Summer.  I decided I only needed one breed of silver and gray rabbit, rather than two breeds of the same color. The rabbits have truly been one of my favorite parts of homesteading, they're the perfect small scale permaculture farm animal.  They've provided our family with a fun hobby, along with delicious meat, luxurious furs to make things with, and the best compost for our garden.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Goat Herd

The grass  is beginning to grow again, the robins are singing, and Spring kids are just around the corner!  Jersey our Nubian, Zolena our Lamancha, and Snowdrop our little white Nigerian Dwarf are all pregnant and due to kid in 2-3 weeks.  I milked up until the first of January and since then the goats and I have taken a nice break.  We sure do miss the fresh milk though, and will be happy to start milking again in several weeks.  We have an all girl herd now since we sold our buck Cowboy back in January.  He went to be a herdsire at another farm with some nice Nigerian Dwarf does.  We also sold Joon last Summer to a nice family who were just getting into goats for their family milk supply.   The two young cute little Nigerian Dwarf does are from Snowdrop and Cowboy last year, their names are Destiny on the front right and Dahlia behind her.   

Making a Rabbit Fur Hat

My first attempt at making a rabbit fur hat turned out pretty good, but there was a lot of trial and error that went into making it.  We raise American Chinchilla rabbits and last year I was excited to learn how to tan the exquisite furs. I used two furs to make the hat above, and I learned a few things along the way that will help me revise the next hat and make it better.  Finding a good pattern online was difficult as there's not much out there with clear cut directions, patterns and pictures.  There are several different patterns that seem to work just fine depending on what kind of hat you want to make.  I wanted a Russian Ushanka type hat with ear flaps that could be pulled down when it's real cold and tied on top when not too cold.  I'm planning to test out a couple of different patterns to see what I like best.   This is the pattern I used below, I found it on a you tube video I watched and this is the basic design they used.  Taking head measurements of circumference and height is important to get the fit just right, along with seam allowance of a quarter inch.

You need to cut out two of the head pieces and four of the ear flap side pieces, 2 of each side, plus two of the front pieces.  On my next hat it will have longer ear flaps than this pattern.  My first attempt to make a hat was made out of an old wool sweater that was accidentally shrunk in the wash, after cutting out the pattern and sewing it all up, the pieces worked and the hat fit.  I also used the same wool sweater and cut a strip about the same size as the ear flap strip and sewed it inside the lining of the hat as a head band, it helps hold the shape of the hat and is comfortable on the head,  you can also use any kind of batting for the head band. 

When I'm working on a project it usually comes up in conversation with friends, one friend while talking with my husband heard I was working on rabbit fur hats and said he and his wife had bought an old Bonis fur machine several years back and had yet to use it.  We went and picked it up and luckily there was an owners manual to study.  After many hours of cleaning, oiling, reading instructions, and breaking several needles we mostly got it figured out.  It is amazing how it works and the furs are sewn together with a very small seam.  The hardest part of the machine was the thread that it requires to use kept breaking (it may be as old as the machine and is brittle) if we put in regular thread it bent the needle.  It works perfect for several minutes and then the thread breaks, we are in the process of ordering more thread and needles from the company.   I spent many hours working on piecing together the fur and figuring out my lining.  In the end I pulled out my good old Bernina sewing machine to stitch everything together, and am still in the process of the final hand stitching.  The front head piece had to be sewn on by hand, and I'm still looking for some nice dark thin leather strap material for my ear flap tie ups.  On my second hat I'm working on I sewed the leather strap right into the ear flap while assembling.
In the basic pattern for the head piece above I will shorten the height just a little for my next hat, there was a little extra head room, and the ear flaps below need to be longer for the next one. Make sure you give yourself a quarter inch seam allowance if using a sewing machine.  Fur is an amazing medium to work with, each piece you cut out needs to be looked at on the fur side to make sure it's running the right direction so it will look good. The middle of the fur is the most durable with the edges being more delicate which is problematic when sewing because it will tear easily.  The furs should be prime, meaning the rabbit was around 6 months old (I have found 4 1/2 -5 months old is still good), and then I like to harvest in cold weather so the fur is extra plush.  Raising kits to 6 months old is a real stretch for me and my hutch space, usually they go into a movable grow out rabbit tractor.

The lining is what finishes the inside of the hat and hides all the seams, it also makes wearing the hat comfortable.  The liner is made with the same pattern for the top head piece.  For the liner I used a piece of nice quality nylon that would last a long time and not absorb moisture.  I thought about the liner and different fabrics I could use, on another hat I'm making I plan to use a nice soft cotton corduroy, you'll want to think about matching the color to the hat, for mine I went with black.  Using pins to pin everything together before you sew is the best way to make sure it all works.  Although fur as a lining against the head would be comfortable it might be too bulky, you will feel the fur around the face and the warmth of the fur is still there. 


In the photo below you can see the muskrat fur I'm working on for my next hat, it's a gorgeous warm golden color which looks better on my husband than the cooler colors of silver in the American chinchilla fur. This leads me to my next post about the rabbits we raise in our rabbitry.  We are now also raising Cinnamon rabbits so we have some warm tones in our beautiful furs.    

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter Update ~ We're Still Here Farming and Gardening!


You have no idea how much I've missed writing here to all of you readers and friends, a big thank you to those of you who checked back in regularly and sent nice comments, that means a lot to me.  I did take time off writing, but all the same farming and gardening rhythms of each season have continued.  I have so many stories and pictures to share over the next few weeks as I bring this blog up to date.  I took pictures along the way as we went through a fruitful Summer, a harvesting Fall and now a mild Winter.  I'm ready to write and feel inspired, because... The biggest news lately is... We now have high speed Internet!!!  Yes, that's right after months of waiting the happy day arrived a couple weeks ago!

Throughout the Fall workers dug the ditch up our long hill, then layed the cable down and buried it, 2 months later and many phone calls we finally got it all set up.  A year ago we never thought we'd even get high speed Internet unless we had a satellite installed.  We just made do with dial up like so many others that live in the country.  Over the last 2 weeks I've spent time each day playing on the computer, catching up on blogs that I hadn't read in ages, discovering pod casts, you tube, and all the other things I can now do.  With dial up we could never watch a you tube video, much less upload one onto my blog.  So, get ready I now have all the technology to go forward with this blog, were planning to create some you tube video's to share right here.

I hope everyone of you is well and having fun this Winter, if you're like me you're ready for Spring. We have three goats that are pregnant, Zolena, Jersey, and Snowdrop, they're all growing by the day with kids due in mid March.  The rabbitry has been a big area of focus this winter with the addition of a new breed, new hutches are being built and a fenced area surrounding the hutches to run and play is in the planning stages. More to come with articles about the goats, rabbits, chickens, gardens, honeybees, the orchard, the Goldens and what's been happening around the Farm.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Rainy Day

I have to wait until my ricotta curd is done draining before I can go to bed, which is about 20 more minutes, so, I thought I'd jot down a few notes about my day.  I don't normally stay up past 10:30, but, for cheese making I will stay up late and have on many occasions. 

At this time I'm milking three does, and we're getting about 2 gallons per day of the most delicious milk, and that's with separating the older kids at night and turning them loose with their mom's after the morning milking.  Starting tomorrow Joon's kids along with Jersey's son Dublin are all getting weaned. You can imagine after two or three days when I have 5 or 6  gallons of milk, that I'm making dairy products, well, I surely am.  Tonight I made mozzarella, and the last two times I've been learning to make feta, then I rotate in cottage cheese.  I'm also making chevre, buttermilk, and yogurt regularly.   My feta is curing for several weeks in a salty brine, and I have been having fun learning to use chevre.  Soon I want to make my first chevre cheesecake.

We finally ordered the long awaited cream separator a couple days ago so we can make butter, ice cream, sour cream, whipped cream, triple cream, and whatever else we can think of to make with cream.  It's the Manual Milky Cream Separator from Hoegger goat supply.  I plan on doing a review of how it works and how I like it when it arrives.

Today it rained, then it misted, then it was simply overcast.  I had fun peaking in on the rabbits as they were kindling.  Serendipity had 8 kits this morning and Star (a new Champagne d' Argent doe) had 3kits.  I fostered two onto her from Serendipity's since that will even up the numbers a little more, with Star raising 5 rather than just three, and Serendipity raising 6.  The Champagnes are black at birth and the American Chinchilla's are silver, so I can tell the differnce in kits. We just separated the 8 week old kits into a large hutch, and now they're for sale.  I have someone coming tomorrow to pick up a doeling.  Our nest boxes are full, Zelpha kindled with 8 kits a couple weeks ago, and now we are rapidly trying to sell before the next batch needs to be put in the larger grow out hutch.  I've been making sure that all the rabbits have plenty of fresh greens twice a day, it doesn't take long to pick a big armful or dandelion, clover, and grass for them,  I also feed them rabbit pellets and grass hay.   I've also been picking huge armloads of salmonberry bush leaves to take to the goats, this is their favorite treat when they see me coming.

We've been cooking with rabbit meat regularly, mostly the same way I use chicken, this afternoon I made a rabbit salad, just like I make chicken salad.  I baked and cooled the rabbit meat, then deboned it, and diced the meat.  I used the bones to make a stock and added carrots, onions, and celery.  The rabbit salad is made with celery, onions, dill, parsley, and mayonnaise.  It's wonderfully simple and tasty to eat by itself or in a sandwich.

Out in the hen house the girls are laying and hatching out eggs.  Henrietta hatched out 3 hardy chicks that she's running around with, and another hen, a Black Alstrolorp has also hatched out 3 chicks.  Much to my amazement in the last two days I now have 3 more hens who have gone broody and want to be mother's.  I will let them, and this year we won't need to order any meat chickens.  In the Fall, we'll pick a dozen hens and one rooster that we'll keep, and then with the extras we'll fill our freezer.  I don't want to go through this winter with more than a dozen hens.  I learned my lesson last winter with 28,  I don't mind swelling in the Spring and Summer but come Fall I want to be down to the bare minimum to feed through the winter!

Normally, on dry or sunny days I'm outside working in the garden, and on these kind of rainy days I clean house, make yummy things in the kitchen, and enjoy creating things.  This afternoon I made a chocolate bundt cake to have after dinner for dessert, I also made a salad and boiled eggs for snacking on, and worked on the first stage of the soup we'll have tomorrow, by making the stock today.  I made lot's of dishes and washed lot's of dishes today. 

This evening I made mozzarella and now with the whey I'm making ricotta.  Lately on rainy days I've been studying cheese making through library books and on various web sites.  I've been looking at cheese cave ideas, and what I need to be able to age the cheeses properly.  I've been making my lists of what we need to do, and will be adding links to my favorite sites on the side bar soon.  We were going to buy a cheese press, but have now decided to make one and are we're reviewing various plans.   Once I can press and age cheeses, there will be lots of fun making the hard aged cheeses, along with the brie's and camembert's. 

With all the rain we've been having, I've been making sure the honeybees have sugar syrup to feed on, they ran out yesterday, so this morning I made them some more.  I peeked inside each hive and see I need to add a few more frames to fill the deep hive boxes.  I only have 7 frames, rather than the normal 9 or 10, that  I will have on. 

I also thought about my Grandpa throughout the day today.  My family had his funeral down in California this morning, and I couldn't make it due to all the animal commitments.  I have many good memories of him with our family when we were little.  I remember his wonderful garden as a child and him picking watermelon's and cantaloupes for us to eat. He used to play dominoes with me, and at times I'd watch him work on his old clocks in his clock shop.  He taught my Dad how to work on old clocks too.  Last week he passed away at 88 years old.  On my birthday this year he called to wish me a happy birthday and we chatted about his younger years when his family farmed and gardened.  He talked about his life and so many of the good memories, the call was a gift to me that I will cherish.  He is the last of my grandparents to go and the end of an era with both him and my Grandma now gone.  He will be missed by our whole family.

I've gone on much longer than I intended and now realize I haven't even talked about the garden yet.  I'll have to write about it another time.  In short, it's growing right along with the weeds.  The cold frame is full and waiting for the next nice day to plant out the warm season starts.  I think sun is in the forecast for this weekend.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Orchard and Honeybees in May



The bees arrived this year on May 1st, I went down to pick up the 2 packages I had ordered from Beez Neez Apiary the first thing in the morning, so I could install them by the early afternoon.  They arrived just as the cherry tree and plum trees started blooming, then over the next two weeks all of our fruit trees bloomed, the pear, apple, crab apple, asian pear, and quince.  The honeybees are the heartbeat of my vegetable garden and small orchard, we have about 30 adult fruit trees, 15 young fruit trees, and many small baby fruit trees.

 

My Spring walks about the orchard were filled with the delicious smell of fruit blossoms, it carried through the air for many glorious days.  The first couple weeks of May we had the most amazing weather, it was warm with temperatures more like the middle of summer, it was in the 70's and 80's with warm evenings.  My days were spent tending the animals, but the major focus was on amending the vegetable garden soil and planting seed.
Shiro plum tree in bloom, early May

 3lb package of bees

This is a picture right after I installed the 3lb. box of honeybees with a queen.  I waited until the next day to release the queen, and set them up initially with one deep hive box for 10 days, then when I checked them after 10 days it was time to install the second deep hive box.  Now that we're into the third week of May and it's cold and rainy, I'm making sure they have sugar syrup on at all times if it's not flying weather.  New hives without established food reserves can starve in the NW in late May and early June.  If you ever have any dead bees on the entrance you should suspect starvation and put sugar syrup on asap, or you could lose some or all of your new colony.  I know about this from first hand experience, so now I'm diligent about feeding them.  The other thing I made a commitment to do is to check the hives and frames once every week to ten days.  This is to catch them before they need more room, as well as to check for them making queen cells, which must be removed and more space given.  I also want to keep the frames clean, so I'm able to manipulate them.  I check for newly laid eggs to make sure the queen is still laying.  I look at the overall laying pattern and see the pollen reserves and honey reserves.  Being a successful beekeeper means you fuss over your bees faithfully, this will prevent swarms, and keep them alive so they can gather honey and pollen to feed and raise their young, that will in turn give you more workers who will gather more than enough honey for a bountiful harvest.

My first check of  the bees, they were doing a fantastic job on each frame, eggs, larvae, pollen and honey.  I didn't have to feed any sugar syrup the first couple of weeks because of the beautiful weather and abundance of blossoms. I could see them flying in with pollen sacs full and could tell there was a nectar flow going on just by watching the hives. 
 
During my first check I noticed they had formed some burr comb honey where they weren't suppose to, it was in a spot that I had to remove to be able to manipulate the frames properly.  I ran into the house and got a bowl to save it because they were capping  honey on the comb.  We have been enjoying a special early season honey treat made from dandelion, fruit, and maple blooms, the flavor is out of this world, and is one of the rich rewards of keeping honeybees.  Your own blossom and terroir in an edible form... honey!

Asian pear trees in bloom, early May

Snowdrop has Two Doelings

In a textbook delivery on Sunday, Snowdrop delivered two beautiful doelings.  I was able to be there with her through the whole thing and give her love and support.  It was warm and sunny outside and she had a fairly quick labor and delivery, which made it nice.  Snowdrop is a wonderful little mother, and her doelings are the most adorable tiny little girls.  That's Danny peeking in to greet them, he went to his new home yesterday.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Spring Goat Menagerie

Spring time goat kids are so much fun, I have a smile on my face everyday, whenever I'm out spending time with them during my three or four daily rounds, I always stop and take time to socialize with them.  This time of year we walk through the dandelions together, and I watch them all play just like little kids, they are sweet and funny, as they leap and twirl about, chasing each other and head butting their friends in mock fights, their all time favorite game to play is King of the mountain on the rocks or big stump. They will grow up unbelievable fast, all the more reason to take the time to simply enjoy being with them in the Spring.  I've been taking pictures and keeping daily records of what needs to be done on my schedule of disbudding, deworming, shots,  feet trimming, nutrition, and mineral needs. 

Zolena gave birth to twins, a doeling and a buckling on April 13th.  I was right in the middle of having family in town for a few days, and the time she chose to give birth was during a late afternoon when I was in the middle of  making dinner for 14 people.  My husband who was checking in on her told me she had just given birth to the second one when he peeked in on her.  I ran out along with everyone and we all got to greet our newest additions to the goat family.  We ate late, because I had to take the time to get my basket and tend to all of them and make sure Zolena delivered the placenta and both of them began nursing well.  She's a wonderful mother and our superstar milker is back to providing milk for our family, while at the same time producing plenty of milk for her kids.

We are keeping her! ... meet, Deegie
 Another "D" name, also from the Jean Auel Mother Earth Series,
 just like her mother's name Zolena is.

It's hard to believe that just 2 years ago we didn't have goats in our life.  They have become such an enjoyable hobby for us, and we have learned so much new information through studying books, magazines, websites and blogs.  Every trip to the library would bring home  new books on goats, and second hand bookstores are where I've bought most of my collection of books on goats.  Both my husband and myself have been captivated by their wonderful spirits, and now we can't imagine a life without them. 

It has taken us time to fence three areas, one is a paddock and stall for kidding, another is the main pasture and barn, and the third is a buck pasture.  These came in stages over the last couple of years, and we have continued to work on all the parts.  It simply takes time to get all the things you want for goats, the cream separator is still waiting, the milking supplies, disbudding iron, tattoo kit, fencing, gates, feed, dewormers, and minerals were at the highest priority.  The time, labor and money it takes to raise goats properly with good quality feed and attention to their needs must be taken into consideration. 

One thing I had been asking my husband for was a covered movable feeder.  We looked at several designs and then he combined some ideas and came up with his own design.  It was made with scrap materials we had on hand, some wood from salvaged pallets, some from trees we had milled, along with left over roofing, just enough to cover it.  I'm lucky to have a husband who is always gathering building materials, as well as one who knows how to build strong things that are able to with-stand goats climbing all over them.


Joon and her doeling named Darlington,
 the other doeling is Donegal, and the buckling is Dartmoor. 
All names from the Brittish Isles.

Several days ago I started separating Joon and Jersey's kids at night and milking them both in the morning along with Zolena.  Finally I have most of my does in milk, they are still milking kids as well.  Joon gives about a quart or a little less, Jersey a little less than half a gallon, and Zolena about three quarters of a gallon (she's not separated from her kids at night).  I tried separating Danny and Dublin, Jersey's kids at night when they were two weeks old, I did it for two days and felt they were too young, I then decided to wait until they were a month old.  I actually began when they were 5 weeks old and Joon's were 4 weeks old.  They have all adjusted and actually have fun playing together.  I give them their own alfalfa pellets and grain, and the big does don't gobble it all down,  they have a feeder filled with alfalfa and grass hay, and they can take their time to eat, play, and all go in to sleep together on their side of the barn.  The first night I separated them it was rather noisy until it got dark, then they all settled down and went in to sleep. 

 Now comes the fun part of having goats, I have milk to work with... finally!!  My plans are to make cheese every other day and I want to start by making chevre, mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, and yogurt. 
 

Hurray for Spring kids
and healthy milking does!