Brooding On

Meet Molly

Saturday, Molly came home to live with us.  She is a 7-month-old Great Pyrenees pup.  Isn't she adorable?
Now, I know what some of you are thinking-- yes, we've had our troubles with dogs in the past.  But, there are a few reasons I think that Molly will work out for us (excuse me a moment while I go find some wood to knock on).
1.  Molly is a Livestock Guardian Dog (or an LGD).  Often, livestock guardians are confused with, say, the Border Collie, which is actually a herding dog.  Some guardians will herd, but their primary job is to protect the herd or flock.  Prior to coming to our home, Molly was living with the chickens and chicken wagon as well as a flock of sheep.  Here, we plan for her to serve primarily as guardian of our goat herd. 
2.  She lives with the herd.  Her dog pen is set up within the goat field.  Until she and the goats are comfortable with each other, she stays in her pen unless we are with her in the field.  Once the goats are more accustomed to her, we will open her pen and rig it in such a way that she has access to it for her food and time away from the goats, but the goats can't get in to her personal space.  She will mostly run with the herd.  For now, though, our skiddish goats are unsure about the new addition.  (Check out the video for evidence.)  I guess these things just take time.
3.  She rarely ever barks.  The barking in the video is a neighbor dog.  In fact, in her time here, I've only heard her bark once, and that was upon first sight of Milkshake, the backyard cat.  This is important because her bark is reserved to alarm us to potential predatory threats.  If she's barking, there's something we need to see about.  Also a plus:  her bark is low and gravelly and so not-at-all grating, like the high-pitched yips of some dogs.
4.  She's very well behaved for a puppy and has been trained to kennel, to come, and not to jump up on people. While decent on a leash, she could still use a little training.  She's excellent with the kids and has learned very quickly what people and animals are hers.  She has the personality of a Lab when she's around us but quickly goes on alert when she sees or hears something foreign.

5.  She's cute.  I mean, let's be honest, that counts for something. On the downside, that big, fluffy, soft coat will require some maintenance, especially once we move her over to the farm where she'll pick things up in it more often. 

She loves the farm.  I haven't tried letting her off her leash over there yet, though. 

One of the things we try to do with her a lot right now is walk the perimeter of the area she's to protect.  This allows her to become familiar with her territory.  Eventually, she should learn to take this walk on her own throughout the day.  When she's resting, she tries to position herself so that she can see or hear danger should it approach.  In the case of an intruder, attack is her last resort.  She will first try to position herself between the intruder and the herd.  If the intruder persists, she will begin to bark and charge.  Since her primary job is herd protection, she is more prone to stay with the herd once the attacker has left than to chase it down for a kill. 
We haven't had any major problems with intruders in the goat field, but I think we'll be very happy we have Molly to protect the herd once we move over to the farm.  :)
What do you think?  Have you ever seen a Livestock Guardian Dog in action?

New Pen-Mates Battle It Out

Today, we decided that if Oreo, our buck, was going to get the job done with the ladies this fall, he should've already done it.  That means it's time for him to leave the ladies' field and move in with Dallas, our other male, for the winter.

Of course, as new pen-mates they had to battle it out to determine who would be the dominant goat.  As you can see, Oreo (who starts out on the left), seems to have won out.

You'd think there's a good joke to make here about testosterone, but Dallas is a wether so it's tough to blame his need to defend the pen on hormones.  Also, the female goats are just as keen to prove their dominance.  When the whole herd runs together, it's Queen Razz who calls the shots.

Bringing 100 Babies Home

Bringing home 100 new chickens is a lot like bringing a new baby home.  Don't roll your eyes until you've heard me out.

The onesies have all been washed in Dreft and neatly folded.  The hospital bag (or suitcase) is waiting by the door.  The diapers are lined up neatly in a cute little pastel-colored basket.  You have a birthing plan.  You've read the full What to Expect series.  This baby will not dictate the schedule.  You will get her on a sleeping and eating schedule, nap when she naps, all will be well.  Why does everyone else seem to struggle so much with this baby stuff?  
Then, you actually go into labor (or get the call from the adoption agency), meet your beautiful baby, bring her home, and then ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE!  
A few months later you emerge from the haze and there are diapers everywhere, you can't remember the last time you had 3 hours of consecutive sleep, every last onesie is covered in spit-up, and it still seems that wee one is calling every last shot regarding when she (and by extension, you) will eat, sleep, and cry.  And, when you look into the mirror for the first time in three days, you notice a smear some unidentified dried substance on your cheek and would not be at all surprised if it's poo.
Or in the case of chickens . . . 
You clean out the mini-fridge, set it up all cute-like on the front porch, handpaint a sign to hang at the road, gather tons of egg cartons (thanks, FB friends!), stack up the bags of feed into a nice and neat pile, purchase your egg-gathering basket, erect temporary electric fencing to protect them, make a plan for when you will feed/gather eggs/water, etc.  Then you bring them home and ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE!

First, the chicken wagon nearly takes you all out (read yesterday's post, if this doesn't sound familiar).  Then, you realize they can probably fly over the fencing you've erected, so you start your Sunday morning by climbing into the chicken wagon with your husband and 100 confused chickens, catching each one, and clipping her left wing before tossing her out into the field.  100 chickens. Unfortunately, zero of them were down with this plan.  When I emerged from the wagon, I looked like I was giving some new chicken-poop-based all-natural skin and hair treatment a try.
After a quick shower and trip to church and back, you remove the poo-covered nesting boxes from inside the wagon, haul them to the house and give them a thorough cleaning, while once again getting covered in poo. 
Clean nesting boxes, reinstalled
Then, you decide to move the 7 old chickens from your backyard over to the farm with the other 100.  The only problem is at nightfall when everyone else is marching up the ladder and into the wagon for bedtime, the new gals can't figure out where the heck to go, so as a family, you have to corner and catch them and place them in the house. 
But, in the dark of the chicken wagon, it becomes obvious why the nesting boxes were so disgusting.  They chickens have been roosting/pooping in them all night.  So, in the dark, you have to relocate about 50 sleeping chickens to different perches for the night and seal off the boxes, so that they can't return to roost in the wrong spot.  If you happen to be a chicken farmer with a slight bit of chicken phobia, then reaching into a dark nesting box when you can't even tell which part of the chicken you're grabbing is not high on your list of most-fun-ways-to-spend-an-evening (I'm not naming names, but said chicken farmer is not me). 
Are they really out of feed already?  They need more water?  Why did we leave the chicken catching hook back at the house?  Has it really only been two days since we brought them home?  Why did I clip chickens wings all night in my dreams? 

The thing is, though, much like when you watch that new little one sleeping peacefully, when I just sit back and watch 100 chickens scratch and peck and take a dust bath and just enjoy being chickens on a warm, sunny day, I just get giddy. 
We're not yet in a routine.  We don't yet have the eggs in the front-porch fridge.  I may have been just a little late to pick the kids up from school today.  But we're all still loving it.  I know that because when I say, "who's ready to run over to the farm with me real quick?"  the kids still hoot and holler like we're headed to the county fair.  Or, when I pick Girl 1 up from dance and tell her a story that begins with, "You're not going to believe what happened at the farm while you were in practice,"  I end it with, "I bet you're glad you missed out on that one, huh?" And she replies, "I don't know, Mom.  It may have been kinda crazy, but it sounds like I missed out on an adventure."
And, like parenting in the earliest days (and, let's be honest, forever onward), this is an adventure . . . a beautiful, poop-smeared adventure.  And, so far, I wouldn't trade a single minute of it. 

Homemade Organic Chicken Feed

Our hens live a pretty cushy life.  They get lots of goodies, including garden goodies, kitchen veggie scraps, and fresh ground to forage.  And, though, we've always made an effort to use feed that is antibiotic free, we've never taken it the extra step and gone full-out organic for their feed.  This is for two main reasons, I guess:
1.  It's VERY expensive.  We're talking 3 to 4 times as expensive as the feed we use now.
2.  It's not readily available to us, so to add to the already high feed cost, we'd have to pay for shipping. 
I did, though, find a recipe for homemade organic chicken feed that I wanted to try out.  I was able to get all ingredients but two from my food coop (which means that this feed is actually human food!).  The last two ingredients came via Amazon.  You gottta love Prime!
The recipe is a mix of 10 different ingredients, so we had to use shovels and our hands to mix it all up in our giant feed bin.  I was a little bit afraid that Girl 2 might fall in, but she was a big help in getting it all mixed together.

The recipe calls for the following wholesome ingredients:
oat groats
sunflower seeds
hard red wheat berries
soft white wheat berries
hulled millet
sesame seed
flax seed
rye berries
brewer's yeast
kelp granules
And, of course, all ingredients are organic. 

It just looks like a bunch of seeds -- which, if you think about it, is what chicken feed ought to look like.  They are birds, after all. 
The gals are absolutely loving their new feed.  So far, I can't tell that they're picking around any of the ingredients, so I assume they like it all.  How it will affect their laying habits remains to be seen.
This particular mix cost us a pretty penny to put together and is just intended to be an experiment for now.  I would have to figure out a more economical way to source the ingredients before I could entertain continuing with this recipe in the long-term.

Deer Season Is Upon Us

It's getting to be that time of year again -- when early morning runs are accompanied by a soundtrack of leaves crunching underfoot and rifles firing in the distance. 
The new farm is home to a good-sized group of deer.  I've seen two separate bucks and several does.  I happen upon them nearly every time we drive the road, but I love to come up on them when I'm on foot, running the road.  That's when I'm able to hear them talking to each other, warning one another of the approaching danger.  Things about them remind me of my goats.  They're beautiful and strong. 
And, yet . . . I know that when we establish our orchard and gardens, they will become my enemy.  They'll become my new squash bugs.  So, I'm not completely against inviting hunters to the farm this fall.  If the menacing deer can be removed AND provide food for a table, I'll get on board.  But, I do still feel a twinge of sadness for the strength and beauty that is so easily and quickly snuffed out -- for all the Swirlers I've shared a moment with on our farm.
Thinking of Swirler: a poem by Mary Oliver
One day I went out
into a wonderful
ongoing afternoon,
it was fall,
the pine trees were brushing themselves
against the sky
as though they were painting it,
and Swirler,
who was alive then,
walking slowly
through the green bog,
his neck
as thick as an ox,
his antlers
brushing against the trees
his three good feet tapping
the softness beneath him
and the fourth, from an old wound,
I know he saw me
for he gave me a long look
which was as precious as a few
good words,
since his eyes
were without terror.
What do the creatures know?
What in this world can we be certain about?
How did he know I was nothing
but a harmless mumbler of words,
some of which would be about him
and this wind-whipped day?
In a week he would be dead,
arrowed down by a young man I like,
though with some difficulty.
In my house there are a hundred half-done poems.
Each of us leaves an unfinished life.

A Rest for Razz

So much of farm life is seasonal.  It is now solidly fall.  The tomato plants are on the compost pile, the cool-weather kale is thriving, and it's time to dry the milker. 
It's time to give Razz. our milking doe, a rest for the winter so that she can conserve her calories through the duration of her pregnancy.  We will get to milk her again when she gives birth in the spring.  In fact, we're hoping that Honey and Izzy will become Mommas/milkers this spring as well. 
Last winter, I was ready for the milking break when the time came, but this year,  I find myself wanting to delay it.  Knowing that this time would soon be here, I've been freezing milk in ice cube trays to have for soap production throughout the winter. 
To gradually dry Razz off, I've been milking her just once a day.  Gradually, I'll go even longer between milkings until she's dry for the winter.
Until spring, I'll miss my quiet mornings in the milk shed, but I'll bet these two will miss milking time even more than I will. 

Follow-up Friday: Goat Lovin'

It's breeding season around here.  Surprisingly, I caught these two in the act yesterday.  (I decided to spare you the breeding photo.  I did take one, though, to send to John who was still at work.  And, no, I don't think that's weird.  It's just farm stuff.  I was just so glad to see that Oreo knew how to make things happen.)  This photo was taken immediately afterward.  Oreo is giving his love a little kiss on the neck. 
Allow me to explain why I was surprised to see this yesterday.  Female goats have a 21-day cycle.  (If that last sentence doesn't hook you, then feel free to just check back in tomorrow.  Maybe the topic will interest you more.  For those who are interested in the female cycle of my goats, read on!)
The males will pretty much try to make things happen anytime there's a female nearby, but their efforts are usually thwarted because the female wants none of it . . . unless she's in heat, which only happens every 21 days.  Only then will she "stand for it."  I can't help it --the double entendre just cracks me up.  Literally, she will only stand still and allow things to happen when she is good and ready on that 21st day.  Any other day of the month, she's likely to jump away or even head-butt him in response.
Since we've had Oreo running with the ladies since the first of September, even though we hadn't seen him take care of business, we'd assumed it had just happened in the privacy of the goat shed or something sometime last month.  If that had been the case, Izzy wouldn't be in heat now, though, and willing to "stand for it."  Hmmmm. 
Maybe our young buckling just needed some time to work up the nerve.  ;)
At any rate, we probably need to revise our pregnancy test schedule.  We'd originally planned to preg test the first week of November.  For most accurate results, the blood should be drawn at least 30 days after breeding.  Looks like we'll need to move that date back a couple weeks!

Lazy Layers

Chickens naturally slow their egg production in the winter.  Many folks follow that up by mistakenly believing it has something to do with cold temperatures.   In reality, it's the shortened daylight that causes chickens to lay less frequently.  

Our weather right now is good proof of this.  Our mid-October days are shortening even though our temperatures have remained relatively warm.  Still our gals are pretending it's time to buckle down for winter and turn off their laying machines.  Egg production has dropped off tremendously.  I decided it was time to put a low-wattage bulb in the hen house.

This allows us to extend their light exposure, fooling them into believing the days are longer than they actually are.  When it actually gets cooler, I can switch the bulb out for a higher wattage to keep the gals warm throughout the winter.

Farm Find

Last night, as they were "exploring" at the farm, the kids found this guy.

Through the walkie talkie, I heard, "We found a BIG spider!"

"Is it a tarantula?"

"I guess.  It's brown and black and hairy."

Immediately, I remembered that Little Boy was caught playing with a dead mouse in the backyard earlier this week.  And, just in case you're not keeping up with us very well, Little Boy is my 4-year-old son, not the backyard cat.  When I expressed my disgust that he was touching it, he said, "What?  It's dead,  I guess I can get my gloves."

Anyway, as the girls were describing the spider's physical attributes into the walkie talkies, I could hear Little Boy's excited voice in the background and all I could picture was him swooping in and picking up the hairy fella.  Since I wasn't physically present to swat it away, I just blurted into the walkie talkie  "Stay back!  They can jump!"

You should've heard them all scream.  Apparently, the idea of a giant spider was great, but a potentially-jumping, giant spider is just plain SCARY!   These kids are so funny-- never a dull moment, I tell ya!

Owls, Beautyberry, and Scat -- Oh, My!

Yesterday, I accompanied Girl 2 and 2 school buses full of 2nd graders to Crowley's Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro.  Our favorite part was learning all about owls and even getting to pet one.

Did you know that owls' eyes are fixed in their skulls, so they can't move them around in their heads?  That's why they need such extraordinary range of motion in their necks.

Did you know that their eyes make up about 5% of their body weight?  That would be comparable to us walking around with eyes the size of softballs!

Did you know that they can hear a mouse scurrying from 75 yards away?

Anyway,  as I was walking into the building, I saw the most beautiful plant.  I snapped this pic and then, a little self-consciously, went inside to ask the ranger at the desk whether she knew what type of plant it was.  She smiled knowingly and directed me to the stack of flyers they'd printed out to offer the MANY visitors who inquire.  Wow!

It's an American Beautyberry but is also known as a French mulberry.  Here's some basic info I gleaned from the flyer . . . 

This 6 ft. tall shrub is a member of the verbena family and flowers in the midsummer.  In the fall, it develops bb-sized purple berries that drape in gorgeous clusters.  
It's berries are a favorite of songbirds and deer, and it's crushed leaves deter mosquitoes and ticks.  
It's a perennial shrub that fruits only on new growth, so it is best cut it back to the ground each winter.
It will flower and fruit in medium to heavy shade but will produce much more if it receives at least some direct sunlight each day.  

The ranger said that most of the Beautyberry shrubs she's seen other places pale in comparison to the ones located at the nature center.   She theorizes that this is because gardeners fail to cut them back each year and because the nature center is home to LOTS of pollinators.  

I'm hoping to be able to find a source for the Beautyberry so that I can put some in at our new place.  Anyone know where they are sold?

While Girl 2's favorite thing was petting the owl, a close second was the scat and print exhibit.  She's been hunting tracks out at the new farm, so John and I picked her up a field guide while we were in Minneapolis last week.  Since then, she's been using it and going around the backyard replicating the tracks from the guide by drawing in the dirt.  Then, she and Little Boy go exploring, field guide in tow, and she tries to get him to identify the various species we've got roaming around our backyard.  Elk?  Who knew?  ;)

A Productive "Boys' Night"

Last night, the girls and I headed to Little Rock to see the touring Broadway production of Wicked!  It was absolutely amazing!  Girl 1, my little dancer, was enthralled the entire time.  Girl 2 was less than thrilled by the mushy song but was otherwise on the edge of her seat and cackling so loudly during the funny bits that she had others around us laughing with her.  I love getting to experience things like this with my kiddos.  

While we were living it up, the boys were enjoying a much more productive boys' night.  John bought Little Boy dinner and few goodies as they shopped for lumber and then came home to construct this "together" in the backyard.

(Notice Milkshake in this photo.  We call her our "in" cat.  It doesn't matter what you're doing; she want to be "in"-- in your lap, in the milk pail, in the garden, in your way, in the new goat shelter, in the photo.)

When we move our animals over to the new farm, we plan to use a rotational grazing method (if you're unfamiliar with this concept, just Google it.  Joel Salatin's face may just pop up. :).  
And while goats are pretty hardy animals, they get all prissy when it starts to rain (snow, sleet, or whatever) and run for cover.  It's actually really funny to watch.  They'll spend all day slowly grazing and lolling about in the field then at the first detection of a raindrop they nearly barrel into each other as they madly scramble to shelter.  So, we need to create a couple portable animal shelters that can be easily moved around the farm to protect these drama queens from *gasp* getting wet.  

My ever-so-resourceful husband engineered this solution.  He used three welded-wire hog panels that we had lying around the backyard, zip-tied them together, and bowed them up covered-wagon-style to fit the wheeled frame he constructed.

All it lacks to be complete is a tarp-like covering, and we have Freckle Face Farms to thank for this ingenious idea:  we plan to use an old discarded billboard cover.  They are weather-proof, highly durable, large, and cheap. And, they're an environmentally-friendly option since they would otherwise just be waste.  Perhaps best of all, they're lightweight.  Our chicken tractors have metal roofs, which do a great job but add weight to the tractors.  This goat shelter is light enough that, using the hook John installed on one end, it can easily be moved about the yard/farm by one person.

Stay tuned for the pic of the finished product!  

So, the boys may have more to show for their night together, but we girls had a blast at our show and are well on our way to having the entire musical memorized, thanks to our souvenir CD purchase.  :)

Freckle Face Farm Tour

Sunday afternoon, we joined our friends the Insells for a tour of Freckle Face Farm outside Searcy.  While we knew all our kids would have a great time seeing the animals, climbing hay bales, and digging in the dirt, John and I also considered it research.  The family of nine at Freckle Face Farm is raising cows, pigs, and chickens all-naturally.  We couldn't wait to see their farm set-up and pick their brains regarding farming practices.  Luckily, Jami and Mitchell were willing to spend the afternoon answering our tons of questions as we walked the farm together.   

They really gave us a lot to think about as we prepare to set-up our own farm.

Chicks in the brooder

Checking out the plucking machine

These 100 turkeys will be ready in time for Thanksgiving!

Pigs!  This is the element Girl 1 can't wait to add to our farm.  The girl loves BACON!

Petting the piggies through the fence

Raw milk and various meats are for sale on site.  They also sell meat at the Searcy and Little Rock Farmers' Markets.

This new building houses their sales room and will eventually be the hub of the entire dairy operation.  They are currently milking ten beautiful Jerseys!

This family is really so sweet and seem to have found their way to farming much the same way we are -- one step at a time.  Thanks, Insell family, for the great afternoon!  We always love our time with you guys.  And, thanks to Jami, Mitchell, and the rest of the gang at Freckle Face Farm for taking time out of your Sunday to show us around!

God Loves Polka-Dots!

A quote with photos for you on this Monday  -- from G.K. Chesterton:

“The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grownup person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 

As I contemplated all the beautiful, spotted things in our backyard today, I was reminded of this quote.  God must take delight in spots!

Fall Chicks Move Outdoors!

Our chicks are now more than 2 weeks old and have enough of their big boy and girl feathers to move outdoors.  
They seemed to love exploring the grass.  They're in a super-cute phase right now!

This is the basic chicken tractor that we use for pullets/meat chickens.  Once the meat chickens have been "harvested," the new layers will be old enough to move into the laying tractor.  

Ever Heard of a Hoarse Goat?

Poor Star is still not very happy about being penned up with Dallas.  In fact, she's made herself hoarse in protest!

Naturally, I try to make things all better by offering her one of her favorite treats.  :)

Oreo Has Died and Gone to Heaven

No, he's not literally in heaven.  But, he's happier than he's ever been in his short life.  

He was born into a tiny birthing pen then immediately placed in a small pen with lots of other babies.  Once we bought him, we moved him into our buck pen.  While much larger than his previous home, the grass and space was limited.  And, he was just a fence away from our huge field and all the ladies.  But his time has now come!
It's breeding season!  So, he's been let out into the big field that has always been just beyond his reach -- with all the grass he could possibly eat . . . and all the ladies he could possibly, umm, well, you get the point.  We're hoping he will breed with Razz, Honey, and Izzy this fall.  

Star is the only girl not old enough to be in the field with the buck Oreo.  So, she's been relegated to the small pen and is NOT happy about it.  She's does have a companion with her, but she's finding him (Dallas, our fixed male) a bit lacking and has spent the ENTIRE day bawling.  

This particular pic makes me sad.  Poor Star is now just a fence away from her Momma Razz.  They've been apart for over a month now as Star is being weaned, but they've been further apart until today.  Now, with just a fence between the two of them, Star just followed her Momma around the perimeter of the fence, getting as close as she could get.

Fall Chickadees!

Several of our laying hens are past their prime, as they are usually only at peak egg production for a couple of years.  So, we decided to go ahead and add some more chicks to the farm now so that by spring they'll be old enough to lay.  
Our hatchery of choice, Murray McMurray, required a minimum order of 15 chicks, so we went ahead and ordered that many, even though we don't need that many layers.  We ordered 5 Araucanas (these are the ones that lay green/blue eggs and have proven to be very hardy), 5 Brown Leghorns (these are a very productive breed that will lay white eggs), and 5 Red Rangers (a meat breed, to round out the 15-chick minimum order).  They did include a free rare breed chick -- let's hope that turns out better than it did the last time (if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here for the tale of Chubby, the chicken).

It's always very exciting when the post office calls to tell us that our chirpy little package has arrived!  We are keeping them in the garage, which tends to get VERY warm in the summer time, so I'm having to keep a pretty close eye on the thermometer and turn off lights/raise the garage doors for ventilation as necessary.  We've actually already lost a Red Ranger, and we suspect that heat was the culprit.

Follow-up Friday: Star Loves Me!

My favorite little girl continues to get bigger all the time!  Star is handling being a part from her mother much better now and has quit bawling.  In fact, she seems to be enjoying her time in the big field.
Oh, and she likes my hair.

Despite the expression on her face, she really does love me. :)

DIY Organic Root Feed

In my research related to homemade organic animal feed, I came across a few references to root feed.  Apparently, this is actually a very old method that predates hay balers.  Before the technology existed to preserve grass in large quantities for winter feeding, farmers would sow a big plot of root vegetables that would basically remain preserved underground until the roots were needed.  Carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips were all favorites.  John tells me that turnips are also great for pig farmers, who can run other grazing animals on a field growing turnips and then turn pigs out to "root" up the roots once they're ripe for harvest.
We happened to have an excess of carrots and beets still in the refrigerator, so I decided to see whether our goats showed any interest in this fare.

Large scale operations would use a food grinder to make the feed more manageable.  I used my food processor.

Razz is a fan!

I'll make a note of this successful experiment and possibly plant a fall root bed with an eye toward winter harvest.  We couldn't grow enough to cover all our feed needs, but we could supplement the goats' diets and perhaps cut back on our conventional grain use.

Follow-up Friday: Please Excuse our Goats

My precious, precious Star.

Unlike most dairy operations I know of, we allow our doelings and bucklings to nurse on their mommas.  During the early months, I think this has a lot of benefits -- not the least of which is, of course, that it's what Nature intended.  This, however, allows the little ones to form strong attachments to their mothers and makes weaning time, when it comes, all the more difficult.

Star has been old enough for weaning for quite some time now, but we were waiting because we had a week-long vacation scheduled for the end of July and didn't want to have to ask anyone to milk for us in our absence.  (What?  You didn't notice that were were gone on vacation all last week?  Isn't technology amazing?  It allowed me to blog before I left and post a new blog entry each day, even while I was away!)
Once we got home, though, it became a priority to wean Star by separating her from Razz, her momma.  

Razz is telling me what she thinks about it. 

I have a theory that, when it comes to goats, weaning is more difficult when the mother is an especially good one.  That just seems to make sense.  For example, Honey had very little patience for her twins this spring.  She wouldn't tolerate them nursing for long and was off to hang out with her buddies.  When the time came to wean her twins, there really wasn't much fussing about it from either party.  Razz, though, is an excellent mother.  She's patient with her doelings (both this year and last) and even allows Star to play on her.  I've tried to get video of this but can't seem to catch it.  Star jumps across Razz's back, so that her front feet are in the air across Razz's back, and Razz moves around, kind of giving Star a goat version of a piggy-back ride. It's really funny. 

And, so, no surprise -- weaning has been tough so far.  It's worst in the morning, right after I milk Razz.  That's when I used to turn Razz out into the field to be with Star after their overnight separation.  Now, when Razz realizes she's not going to be sent out to the field with Star, she begins the "rounds."  Razz bellows, Star answers back.  Razz bellows, Star answers back.  And on and on it goes.  They start this up during random times of the day as well, especially when they catch sight of one another.  Last year, Razz's doeling Izzy went hoarse during weaning because she cried out so much for her Momma.  Star was so old, she wasn't really drinking much milk anyway.  Somehow this makes it sadder:  she's not crying for food as much as she's just crying for her Momma.  :(

For now, things are pretty loud around here, so please excuse our noise.  ;)