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July 2011

There is something enchanting about this latest batch of kid goats. They had been bottled from the time they were 48 hours old, and lived together with nine lambs in a pen in the cellar. They were subsequently moved to a horse stall in the carriage house and weaned, gradually, but with a touch of haste near the end of it. Nonetheless, while in the stall they developed the habit of calling out to me the moment they heard the door to the carriage house being opened. And, furthermore, continued their clamor until I petted each one and fed them. It would start all over again the moment the grain was finished. They became particularly vociferous while I milked their mothers. A yearling doe, full sister to two of the twins, half sister to the rest lived with them as well, and joined in vehemently with the others. They were moved into the carriage house loft a few days ago where they have free choice hay, water and are grained twice a day. They run and leap around in the space. And sit at the loft door looking down at me when they hear my front door close as I leave the house.
            Today I decided to spend some “quality” time with them. I needed to braid lead cords to use with the new goats that I bought, and decided to bring the snaps, baling twine and scissors upstairs to the loft to be able to sit with the goats rather than my dogs on the side porch. They surrounded me like puppies, putting their little faces up to me to be stroked and to have the place behind their ears scratched. They all took turns rubbing their faces against mine. The year old doeling, last year’s Petunia, sat on the bale next to me, chewing her cud nicely after having been reprimanded severely for putting her front feet on my shoulders. One of the little goats sat next to my feet while the others stood at my knees looking up into my face. They are still small enough for me to be able to pet two with each hand leaving one with whom to rub faces. I am fortunate having these five plus one, four doelings plus one buck and the yearling because they may be the last kid goats that I shall keep. Adelaide Merriman, grand lady doe is at least nine years old, if not ten. She ultimately needs to be replaced, however, she still is my best milker. Her twin doelings, this year, are outstanding. They, unfortunately for me, have the cream markings of the Toggenburg, however, one is a perfect pitch black, the other is a rich chocolate brown. Three new goats have arrived. Big goats. They are Sables, an offshoot breed of Saanens. Just as large. One, Amira de Maubry is cinnamon colored. Her milk is abundant. She may do best being milked three times a day for awhile. Her twin sister is a shiny Expresso coffee in color. She, too, has a great deal of milk. Both have been nursing twins and have extra milk for the house. They shall be a joy to me.
            A surprise has been Sherlock. Not part of the original plan but a very nice addition, indeed. I’ve struggled with the name and am highly reluctant to change his first name. The last name of Witherspoon (one of my choices) has not stuck. MacGillicuddy has always been fun for me, but he is a bit too dignified, charming, and artistic to be saddled with MacGillicuddy as a last name. Then Lawton Pearsall Smythe turned up. It seems like a perfect fit. It shall be Pearsall for short. I don’t know how to tell his former owner that he is no longer  Sherlock, at least here, however, I shall have to.
            I am breeding for brown goats, with no other color or markings. I don’t care which of the many shades of brown from cinnamon to black coffee that they manifest. They just need to be brown. Sienna. Mahogany. The goal for me is to have a herd of solid color brown goats.
            Cameron is a multi colored doe that has lived here for her whole life. About four years. She is shades of tan and brown and butterscotch, with the fly away ears of her Nubian grandmother. One of her twin doelings strangled herself in my fireplace between one of the andirons and the brick wall. A black kid with white facial markings. The second one, a tri-color has been sold. Cameron shall stay as she was an early addition to the flock. Born and raised on this farm. However, she is not part of my breeding program. She shall probably be bred to Pearsall and I shall not keep her kids. Five goats to hand milk are quite enough. Too many for that matter.
            I’ve come across a remarkable cheese recipe. It may possibly be an ancient one. Since the normal temperature for a sheep or a goat is around 103 degrees, it stands to reason that their milk, immediately after being drawn, is about that temperature. The recipe calls for “warming” the milk to 89 degrees presumably it is coming a lot colder, straight out of the fridge. One is to add ½ cup of cultured buttermilk store bought will do. (I add one cup) and ½ teaspoon liquid rennet. (I add one teaspoon). It is to set for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. It is then drained, salted and weighed down. The resulting cheese is similar in texture to a ricotta without the graininess. Smooth and creamy. I’m going to use it in a receipt I’ve read in The Country Kitchen and roll it into balls, drying them for two days and then putting them into a jar, covering them in olive oil. That shall be made of today’s milk.
            The summers seem to be taken up with the goats, of late. Autumn and winter being to the sheep. The goats, sheep and chickens take up the spring. The chickens are the most time consuming of all. Trip after trip to the portable coop, and trip after trip to the indoor coop. The ten indoor pullets give an egg a piece a day including two or three double yolkers a week. A bonus eleventh egg occurs a couple of times a week, as well. The outdoor chickens give ten to fourteen eggs a day. Considering one is lame and can’t make the nesting box, one is molting and one is ancient, it is a goodly number for the fifteen of them.
            The chickens lose money for me, of course. They need to be fed. Laying mash and oyster shells and scratch feed. The goats are doing a lot better eating their grain when the oats and corn of the scratch are added. Of course, they are laying about twelve dozen eggs a week and eating about fourteen dollars in feed. However, those that go to my table are supposed to be counted as earnings. One is expected to change oneself. I can’t afford such fancy eggs and have been known to buy supermarket eggs for baking. I don’t eat my own lamb. Can’t afford it. It, too, is out of my price range. I do make cheese for the table and were I to charge myself the going rate for a pound, it probably would represent a profit. I also sell kid goats, the bucks, for meat and others for breeding stock or lawn mowers. So it may be said the goats are income producing. In moderation. Lambs no longer are. The feed costs are too high. My hay price was not raised. This year. A miracle. But grain shall be.
            I’ve heard many expressions of late to describe the farms in this area. Hobby farm is one. Life style farm is another. Those farms were not in the common parlance when I started twenty-three years ago. I did, and had reason to expect, to earn some money farming it. And I did. I no longer do. However, I have made a commitment to my livestock to keep them going, and have honored that for near enough to twenty-five years to say almost twenty-five years. When I have ever set a date to start to phase down, and gain a year or two into it, it becomes suddenly too close and I back away. How could I possibly say the week old lamb running around with her mother, a wild little thing, shall be the last I shall keep. She could live eight to twelve more years. Will I keep none of next year’s lambs who would live eight to twelve more years. Would I ever be able to restrain my hand from keeping the newest most perfect ram lamb? This year’s two are each magnificent in his own way. One a huge Horned Dorset, almost, at four months, as big as his mother, and certainly bigger than some of my yearlings. And the Horned Friesian I chose for his fleece is an absolutely beautiful creature. How could I resist seeing what lambs they throw? And keeping the ewes out of them? I can’t.  
Sylvia Jorrin

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