A little R&R?

‘Rest’ and ‘Relaxation’ are two words that, for the most part, do not exist in my vocabulary. Well, not in the traditional sense of the word(s). I find relaxation toiling the soil and tending to my goats and sheepies. Milking (a goat) and spinning wool is something that I love to do and is very therapeutic for me! Fiber’n is also very relaxing as my mind often drifts… usually with thoughts of the yet another project. 

But, the cooler temps and shorter days brings a few more MUST-do’s on the growing to-do list of chores around the ‘farm’ – preferably before the snow flies:

  • There’s harvesting the last of the garden produce (here in Michigan anyway) – canning, freezing and drying – to get you through ’til next Spring  and a new growing season. 
  • I still have to garble my stock-piled dried lavender that’s been accumulating in the drying barn for creating sachets, moth chasers and heavenly fragrant farm-made herbal sundries. 
  • Not to mention, preparing the garden beds for winter slumber – mulching and composting, amending and turning the soil, raking leaves, planting a few more bulbs perhaps?
  • Harvesting wild rose hips, evergreens, pine cones, etc to use to decorate the shop for the XMas holidays. BTW, for any locavores, my Holiday Open House is Nov. 13 & 14.

The flip side of gardening chores is all about the animals:

  • Drying-off my two milking goats; I take the winter off from milking (brrrr)and give ‘the girls’ a well-deserved rest. This will be our 4th ‘freshening’. Our dairy goats are seasonal breeders (similar to deer), coming into heat from Sept – Dec/Jan, approx every 21 days with ‘heat’ lasting for about 18 hours or so. Our Alpine doe, Schaherezade, was showing ‘signs’ of heat…so hold-on, drop everything and load her up to take her to our friend’s buck about 30 minutes down the road! Schaz was very ‘receptive’ and had a lovely little rendezvous with her buck-y boyfriend yesterday – boom bam slam! If she ‘settles’, our kidding season begins next April (there’s a 5-month gestation period for goats). Time will tell…
  • We hope to breed two more yearling does – Sweet Annie and Coriander. It will be their first freshening. So, we’ll keep a close eye on ‘the girls’ and watch for signs of their heat cycle too. 
  • Worming my sheep and dairy goats (the goats are done) is also on the to-do list. I usually like to wait for a ‘killing’ frost before I begin Fall worming – and hoof trimming while I’m attending to everyone and have a captivated audience.
  • Soon we’ll be changing out water buckets as necessary; I purchased an electric/heated water bucket for the goats last year that I’ll give a try this winter. I just absolutely dread busting out all the ice from way too many critters’ water dishes and hauling water buckets to re-fill each of them. While reduced water consumption in winter, it’s critical that all the barnyard menagerie has access to fresh water!

Did I mention Dennis finished building our ‘new’ recycled hay feeder for the sheep? It’s a bit bigger and better(?) than the first prototype. I don’t much care for the shingles – it adds weight & it’s heavy to lift (for me) to fill with hay – especially when my sheepies are all over my back-side trying to get the first yummy nibble of hay!

This is the ‘new’ sheep hay feeder. We reduced the spacing between the vertical slats to minimize potential stuck ‘lil lamb heads. (The initial feeder prototype is pic above.)

Finally, here’s a pic of our completed sheep shed and wind break that we constructed from salvaged/recycled wood.

Happy Day! Today is spinning day! Yeah!

A Day at the Spa…

…for my goaties!

With every ‘freshening’, my girls get the royal salon treatment: several days of warm towels on their udder along with a peppermint oil message and a full body cut and style!

Why would anyone want to spend hours each spring clipping dairy goats? The answer no doubt will vary with the pleasure and/or purpose derived from goat keeping. There are many reasons along with several types of clipping procedures to follow for those who deem dairy goat clipping a worthy endeavor. First, there’s the dairy trim, the body clip, maintenance trimming, and finally, the show clip.

Just as most of us enjoy a day at the salon, I believe clipped goats (after a cold hard winter) are happy goats! A trimmed dairy goat aids in keeping udders clean and shed hair out of the milk. A dairy clip around the flank and on the fore udder as well as trimmed long hairs that may grow on the udder itself and on the teats, is a good practice to promote goat health as well as for cleanliness in the dairy.

Maintenance clipping can be done anytime in the spring when the weather has settled. We like to use an electric clipper with a No. 10 blade for the body hairs. This includes the growth on the fore udder to the midline of the doe as far forward as her mid-belly underneath and starting about four inches up the flank. This “neatening up” is done in the first few days after she freshens.

On the udder, the same clipper is used with a No. 20 blade. The entire udder area front and rear is clipped. When the udder is washed, there is little hair left to hold dirt or bacteria. With a No. 20 blade, there is little chance of nicking the skin, even on a doe showing displeasure with the process. There should be no cause for chafing or scraping as well, and the fresh trimmed doe will appear well-groomed in working-girl attire.

Take extra care with pink skinned and white does when you trim, especially if the spring weather has turned warm and sunny. Goats can sunburn their udders. A human sun block suitable for the beach works well on these gals and needs to be applied for only a few days. As an alternative, cornstarch brushed onto the skin and applied each morning at milking does the job nicely, is organic, washes out easily, and does not gather dirt as a human sunscreen would.

The spring clip is also likely to reveal skin difficulties that may have been hiding in the thick coats all winter (ie lice in my Pygora, Brutus!). It’s not unusual to find lice or fungus on goats that have seemed perfectly healthy. Close clipped hair allows for any treatment to reach the skin. We also like to shampoo each goat at least once a year, weather permitting.

If one is planning to attend a show, the calendar needs be consulted. White goats, black goats and Oberhasli require a slight regrowth to make the most of their brilliant colors. You’ll want to clip them two weeks to 10-days in advance of the show/fair. A smooth over-all appearance is the goal, so it is important not to present any visual distracters in the show ring. It’s best to look to the Dairy Goat Score card to understand where to place the major emphasis in the clipping process.  (Excerpts taken from Dairy Goat Journal.)

I think my goats get better treatment than I, but they’re worth it!