At least I’m not milking in the same set up as last year, which looked like this. I used to have Myrtle tied in the corner there, with the fence to her side so she couldn’t get too far away. My new set up may not be perfect, but at least there is cover over my head, and I am shielded from the worst of the wind and weather. I’m using my fitting stand. I need to make a better head gate, but it works. The grain pan hangs on the wall to the left (in front of the goat), and there is a bench at the side for me to sit on. I milk into a pint measuring cup and take a mason jar to carry milk back in with. That way I can keep pretty exact records on how much each doe gives me. I know the pictures aren’t great, but there hasn’t been a lot of ambient light today, as it has been snowing all day. I am so done with winter!
We are settling into a routine. I lock the kids up before I go to bed, at about midnite. For now we are using an old dog crate that used to belong to one of my Akitas. The kids will outgrow it soon and I will have to make other arrangements, but this allows them all to see their mommies at night without interfering with my ability to milk said mommies in the morning. At about 8:30 am, I go out and bring all 3 does out of the pen on leads. Two get tethered on to t-posts while I milk the third. The order is Myrtle, then Cloe and finally Clara. Once everyone has been milked, they get to graze while I do the rest of my morning chores (though the snow this morning meant access to hay, not fresh grass). The rest of the chores consist of locking Bridget in the barn for some supplemental feed (she is looking her age right now and needs the extra), and collecting eggs. Once those are done it’s time to take the does back to feed their children. I wish I could adequately capture this on film. The general consensus seems to be that any mom will do, and Cloe and Clara are ok with that. The other morning, poor Clara had all 7 kids clustered under her before they split off for the correct udders. I am putting Myrtle’s milk into a bottle which I offer to her kids first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The triplets are bottomless pits, but hopefully that will taper off a little now that they are eating some hay. Even when their bellies are full they want to keep sucking on the bottle, but I make sure they all get a turn. Since I’m only supplementing, I don’t want to carry more than one bottle out, and I want them to nurse mostly on their mom so they are only getting the 16-20 ounces I’m getting from her in the morning. They sure are cute little buggers though. Obi Wan and Odin are both naturally polled (like their mother, it turns out), but all the others are getting pointy bits. I don’t mind horns, and since none of them will be joining the herd on a permanent basis I won’t bother debudding them.
So, how is production you might ask. Well, I started milking Myrtle on March 16, Clara on the 21st, and Cloe on the 22nd. Since then, I have gotten over 3 1/2 gallons of milk, milking just in the morning. We’re all learning together. Myrtle’s milk is getting put in the bottle for her kids, as I said earlier, and I’m playing with the rest. I tried my hand at Cajeta the other day (goat milk caramel sauce. Think Dulce de Leche made from goat milk). I need to work on my technique, but it has great potential to be highly addictive stirred in to my coffee. And while the chickens are not reacting well to having ducks sharing their quarters and have quit laying, the ducks are all starting to lay. Since the 16th, I’ve collected 44 eggs, not bad considering I only have 4 hens. Mom has declared that these are the most delicious eggs I’ve ever given her, and I may have to agree. The yolks are so dense and yummy! I want to make fresh pasta soon, as I hear that duck eggs are the best for that.
Last Saturday was our annual Fiber Market Day at the Prineville fairgrounds. I shared a booth, which kept expenses down, and spent the night before at Laura’s house to save gas. This is the first time we could set up the night before, which was a great improvement. In the past we have had to start setting up at 7 am and be ready when the doors open at 9! The weather cooperated, and we had a steady flow of customers most of the day. I did a demo on spinning with a drop spindle and hope to have made a few new addicts. I brought a basket full of cd spindles for the adventurous to try with, and even let someone try out my Golding so that she could see the difference a good spindle makes.
It was a good thing that I made a little money, because I had to replace a tire this afternoon. That was not what I had planned for that money, but at least I had it available. Fingers crossed for more regular income soon! Doing without is getting old.