Thursday, March 19, 2015

2015 CSA Share Information and Barn Plans

Moved upstairs until they can return outside.
This post was started more then 2 weeks ago and got pushed to the background as new kids were born. At the risk of giving you all whiplash, I am posting it anyway...

It is very much like the game of getting the fox, chicken and the grain across the stream intact. Sean is working at changing the goats about in preparation of business of real kidding season to begin now that pre-season has run its course with two successful kiddings.

We begin to milk tomorrow morning. In order to get the milk stands set up and ready, the turkeys needed to be moved upstairs in the barn this week- which meant that upstairs had to be cleaned up from supplies, shelves, and the other useful bits that had accumulated over the winter and were in need of some serious sorting. Tonight, the kids all need to be separated into one stall together and away from their Mommas for the overnight. And here is where the logistics become interesting.

Asher cannot be housed with the other young bucks while the doors are still kept closed (most of the time) to keep in the heat. He can be housed with Jane, so she is moving back there. Lilly and Bailey need to be moved from a stall without doors, to one where kidding can be more comfortable and fully accessible. The best spot would be living with Abigail and her kids, Sarah and Levi. But, we can't just throw them in there and hope for the best. So, while Sean deconstructs the wall between Jane and Abigail, Lilly and Bailey can chill in the milk room. Ellie, Cassie, and Jem will be moved to live with Leah, Rachel, and Keziah in the main doe stall so that Keren and Naomi can vacate the stall with Abigail and move in with Haddie and Meme in the 2nd kidding stall. They are all due to kid next month, are the same age and grew up as kids together and should get on well. Once all this shuffling takes place, Sean will reintroduce Lilly and Bailey to Abigail while he deconstructs the temporary wall which kept Abigail and Jane apart and use that lumber to create an overnight kid pen all the while watching for any trouble between Lilly, Bailey, and Abigail. Dizzy yet? When all is said and done- for the next 6 weeks- during the daytime hours:
* Asher will live with Jane and their twins on one side of the buck stall
* Jesse, Judah, and Eli will live together on the other side of the buck stall
* Ellie, Cassie, Jem, Leah, Rachel, and Keziah will share a 10x10 stall
* Abigail and her kids, Sarah and Levi, Lilly, and Bailey will share a 10x10 stall
* Meme, Haddie, Keren, and Naomi will share a 10x10 stall

Once the weather breaks and Keren kids, she, her kids, and Jesse will all move to their new forever home to start a brand new herd and provide milk for their new family. The doors to the pasture will be reopened. All three 10x10 doe stalls will have their dividing doors open to allow free access during the day. The wall separating our three bucks will be removed and they will also enjoy free access to their stall and pasture. Once the weather breaks. Boy, that has a nice ring to it!

*************** Back to the Drawing Board*****************

Our make-shift plan doesn't work.

1. Lilly & Bailey began aggressively butting heads with Abigail and the kids upon introduction. While the goats in other stalls gave a few token pushes and feigns while they settled in to who is in charge, the sisters tried using their much larger size to run Abigail outside and not let her back into the barn- over and over and over. *Sigh* Seriously.

2. In Jane's absence, Asher decided he likes having a bachelor pad and tried to pick a shoving match with Jane's kids. Unlike Jedi who was sweetness itself with kids, Asher immediately tried to show his dominance. That lasted all of one minute before Asher was granted his wish to have his own stall, again.

We considered letting Jane and her twins live in the milk room with Ebony, the pig. This will not work. Both bouncy kids tried climbing the stairs already and that is a recipe for disaster! So, for overnight tonight, we'll move Abby to the milk room alone. Jane will sleep in with Asher and all the kids will have a sleep over together in a stall to themselves. In the morning, after we milk, we'll pick up more wood and make some changes.

*********** Success! (Or, a close approximation of it, anyway.) ************

It is not the best solution to our dilemma, but it works for the moment. We pray daily for the weather to finally break. These animals are stir crazy from being cooped up all day and who can blame them? Not I.

Keren, Piper, and Jesse will be leaving our farm to begin their new life together at their new home sometime in the next week or so. When that happens, we'll rearrange stalls slightly and it will look like this come April...

The reality is, we already need a bigger barn. While I realize that perhaps some of you might suggest keeping less goats, doing so is contrary to our reaching the goal of maintaining this lifestyle by working for ourselves. I confess, I worry about finances and whether we are making the right choices for our family, but when we weigh working for others and being away from home and our kids all day with the delight and joy our schedule has been since Sean's February lay off... well, it is not even a close call. The girls education has become more of a family focus. Working together each week in our ministry has strengthened us and brought us closer together. So many projects are getting done with time to spare for US. We are creating more of our products at a better pace in preparation for the coming season. Sean half-jokingly remarked to me that he's never worked harder, but the meals are better. It is hard work, but I don't consider that a "downside". In fact, it is really hard to find a down side. It shouldn't be so in the wake of uncertainty and the loss of a steady paycheck, but Sean, the girls, and I have never been closer or happier than we are right now, today. I understand that perhaps it won't last. Perhaps the financial bottom line will necessitate Sean's return to full-time employment elsewhere. If it does, I will choose to look on these past few months as a wonderful gift. But, how will we know for sure, unless we press forward and TRY with all our might?

Sean has been taking odd jobs as he can find them to help supplement our income until shows, craft fairs, and farmer's markets begin in earnest. We hope that one of these opportunities will become a steady 2-3 day/week employment, leaving him available for the farm the other 4-5 days/week. I am creating as fast as my fingers will allow it. And, we are working on our goal of supplying goat's milk soaps, massage melts, scent tarts, eggshell jewelry, and bee's wax wraps to 8 additional stores in Maine. We are planning for this year's CSA garden shares (Click to read.) Goat rentals (click to read.) begin April 1st. And, we have enough eggs being laid regularly to satisfy 6 of our 10 regular CSA Egg Share (Click to read.) Customers. This will increase daily with the daylight. If you are interested in signing up for any of our shares, you can use this form (Click to read.) or call to talk with Sean or myself at 207-323-4982.

Sean and I spent a couple hours this week planning on the barn expansion we'll need to frame and sheath this year. Most of the year, the does will have open access to three of the stalls and their field. Once breeding season comes in the fall, we'll be able to separate our pairs into private and semi-private kidding stalls. We've planned to create four kidding stalls (marked in light blue). If we can breed the way we did this year, with several weeks between each kidding, this will suit us perfectly. We'll increase to breed 8 does each year, alternating years so the does have plenty of time to rest and recuperate after breeding.

This is our ambitious, 2-year barn plan:

*Pour cement pad for addition
*Frame & OSB sheath 10x10 Dedicated Milking Room
*Frame & Cement Board sheath 10x5 Dedicated Milk Processing Room
*Frame 10x5 Wood Shed
*Frame and Metal Roof Addition
*Typar entire barn
*Move and install windows and doors (as necessary)
Cost of Materials Approx. $900

*Aluminum siding on entire barn
Cost of Materials ?????

When I wrote this two days ago, I felt nothing but excitement at all of the possibilities ahead of us. I knew it would take a lot of hard work, but we're up for that. Today I spent most of the day working on gathering information for a grant I want to apply for. If we are successful, we'll have the funds to expand and complete all the garden beds we want to have, a greenhouse to cover a good amount of them, and the barn expansion completed this year. It would be a HUGE jump for us and allow us to apply for our dairy license as well as more than double our CSA shares. My dream is to be able to focus part of our CSA shares towards supplying low-income and elderly families with fresh, local foods. For some reason the potential to be able to take that leap so soon leaves me feeling overwhelmed and just a little lost. It is all perception. Nothing has changed between this day and that, other than my perception and mental attitude.

I think it is time to get off this silly machine and put my hands to work. Nothing helps change an attitude so much as a little physical work help to distract the mind. I need to make another three batches of soaps to give us a fully stocked supply and there is no time like the present.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit friends.
I am glad you came.

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Monday, March 16, 2015

GRAPHIC VIDEO: Goat Kidding, Piper is Born

The sweet scent of fresh hay and newly-born goat kids lingers on my clothes and I am in need of another shower. I couldn't be happier. Sean was right. Keren kidded quickly in less than an hour just after noon time. Keren's new human, Jessica, wanted to try to be present for her kidding. We'd been texting through the morning with updates, hoping to be able to give enough notice for her to be there without spending all day waiting around in the barn. But, when it was time to come, that kid was on no one's schedule but her own!

We were able to catch a video of her, making her grand entrance:

Jessica arrived about 20 minutes after Piper entered the world. Other than the necessary task of helping to dry her off, we left everything else for Jessica to see and/or participate in as far as she was comfortable with.

Keren did great kidding and possesses good maternal instincts. As soon as Piper was born, Keren immediately helped clean her off, calling softly as she licked her new kid dry, learning each other's scents and voices.

I love the look on Piper's face as Sean checks
to see her gender.
Our most pressing hope was for a healthy kid. Second to this, we really wanted a doe for Jessica's family. We bred Keren specifically so that her kid would not be related to Jesse. A doeling would give her a nice start for her family herd, since both Keren and her kid would be able to be bred with Jesse. As if we had anything to do with matters, Sean and I shared an enthusiastic "high-five" automatically when we discovered that the newest kid was a doe.

Piper tipped the scale at nearly 7 pounds, a healthy respectable weight for a first kid. Piper is 1/2 Lamancha, 1/4 Oberhausli and 1/4 Boer. She should grow to be a good sized doe with hybrid vigor and a decent milk supply. Piper inherited her Daddy's Lamancha elf ears. A quick inspection of Keren showed a nicely-developed udder; large in size, evenly filled, and attached well. I couldn't be happier about Jessica's prospects for her new herd.

Jessica's goats will remain here for about a week. This will give Keren time to settle into motherhood and to make sure Piper is growing as she should. It is bitter sweet to see our first goats leave the farm to begin a new family. Keren is two years old now and a mother in her own right. Jesse was born last year and is ready to sire kids. Sean and I are extremely selective about who we sell our kids to; a wealth of knowledge and experience are not necessary, good hearts and a love of goats is a MUST. It is not about selling goat kids quickly to make a few bucks. It is about finding the right homes for our kids.

Our farm is not the least expensive place to purchase goat kids, but our kids are healthy, friendly, and come from a good line of milkers. We spend time talking with perspective buyers answering their questions and asking our own. We have to feel good about where our goats are going to live. We only sell goat kids in pairs. Our kids come with documents detailing their parentage, medical history, and pictures of their births- if we have them. We also supply a basic goat first aid kit and are on call to answer questions for folks for as long as they need us. As I said, Sean and I are thrilled with the new family these goats will have. I know they are going to be well-loved. ♥

For those keeping track, we now have seven healthy goat kids born this season. Four kiddings completed with excellent results, two (maybe three) more to go before we are done for the year. We'll have updates with images and video to share with you.

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends.
We're sure glad you came.

~Sean & Sonja 

Goat's Kidding, Boaz and Anna are Born

Sean left about an hour ago to bring Miss Caitlin to work. Usually, I take this extra 40 minutes to deeply study the insides of my eyelids, especially if Molly goes with him for the ride and the house is quiet and dark. This morning I awoke to Sean snoring up a storm. (It is ironic that Sean's relentless snoring, when I am trying to drift into sleep, is often annoying. Yet, that same sound in the middle of the night or in the early morning hours usually makes me smile to myself. It is proof that I am never alone. He is here. ♥) Once awakened, nature called and needed attending to. And, as soon as my feet hit the floor, my brain roused itself to begin the day. I tried to convince it that we could rest for a bit longer, but after a few minutes of laying awake thinking about the day ahead, I knew sleep was no longer an option. That did not mean that I had to actually leave the warm cocoon of my bed. If that is not what laptops were created for, it should've been.

I promised you all pictures and a post about the arrival of Naomi and Asher's first kids. No better time to write it for you than now...

To be completely candid, there is not so much to tell. We missed it.

It snowed about 6 inches over night and the snow was still coming down heavily Sunday morning. While I prepared a warm breakfast of fresh, homemade cinnamon buns and sausage links, Sean offered to milk Jane and Abby solo. I agreed. So, Sean milked the two does, gave them their Ivomec booster, and returned them to their kids. Then, he checked pregnant does for signs of kidding before coming inside for breakfast. I strained the milk and recorded the amounts in between working on breakfast and tending the wood stove. Over breakfast Sean commented that he thought Naomi would be kidding in the next couple days and that Keren was not far behind.

After breakfast, Sean and I made three batches of goat's milk soap, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, and a loaf of fresh Italian bread. I finished some new jewelry pieces while Sean cared for feeding and watering our animals. Afternoon chores were finished by 4:00. It felt good to have a lazy day at home. We enjoyed dinner together. The girls cleared the table for us and we gathered in the family room to watch a TV program and enjoy a slice of chocolate cake. Sean brought in Phoebe and Zeke to romp and snuggle with us.

The program ended and the kids needed to be returned outside to sleep. Sean checked the barn once more only to discover two black lumps that he could not account for in the expectant doe stall. He rushed to turn on the light so he could see better all the while worried that he was too late...

And, he was.

Naomi had kidded twins and cleaned up all on her own. Sean was greeted by two alert and completely dry, furry baby goat kids and one happy Momma looking for treats. Sean ran to the family room window and rapped to get my attention. He rattled off, "Naomi has kids!" and he was gone again. Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed my barn sweater, threw on Sean's boots, slipped my camera into the vet bag and headed outside. Since we had not yet moved Naomi into a private kidding stall, getting to her and the kids meant climbing over stall rails and dodging a couple other pregnant does. Easily enough done, but not convenient.

Proud Daddy, Asher was very
interested in his kids.
Haddie, Salome (Me-me), and Keren share the stall with Naomi. Haddie and Me-me are not due for another month with Bailey and Lilly, so we moved those two out to give Naomi some more room and less company. We'll continue to let Keren stay with Naomi for a couple reasons. First, they are buddies. Also, Keren is due any day now, too. Naomi has a strong mothering instinct. She was the doe who cleaned off Samson when Abigail rejected him last year. Since this is Keren's first kidding, it might be good to have a seasoned doe in the stall. Sean just chimed in with, "And, we'll be plum out of room if we can't double up some of the does." He has a point. Our building motto has been, plan ahead for the size we want our herd to be and then, double that. Goat math can be as tricky as chicken math. We framed out and built a 20x30 two story barn over the past two years and we're already planning a 10' x 20' addition to it for this year. We need the room.

Naomi and Boaz
Since kidding had already happened, all we had to do was check over the new kids and Mom, weigh the kids, and discover their genders. Another buck/doe combination! We named the little buck, Boaz. He is pure black and has long, floppy ears like his Momma. Bo weighed in at 6 pounds. His sister is named Anna. She is an oreo-colored doeling; black in front and back with a white band around the middle. Baby Anna has one black front leg and one white front leg and her Daddy's Lamancha elf ears! She weighed in at 5 pounds. These kids are Nigerian Dwarf/Lamancha cross. We expect them to grow to be good, medium sized goats between 80-100 pounds. This will be our first year milking Naomi, so we do not have any idea of how much milk she'll produce nor how her milk will taste. But, if she performs well, we may keep Miss Anna to add to our line. Asher's mother and sister are both excellent milk producers. His offspring may be as well.

So that is three kiddings complete; three healthy sets of twins and three proud Mommas. Three bucks and three does born. We have at least three more ahead of us this season and potentially four more. I will have some video of these new kids as the days pass, but I do not have any of their birth. Instead, please enjoy some cute images of our newest kids.

Boaz and Anna
Keren is getting close! :) 
Last night, Keren was showing signs of impending kidding. Her udder grew considerably larger through the day and her kid(s) had dropped into the right position. As of 10:30 this morning, Keren is showing signs of pre-labor; she is up and down trying to find a spot that is comfortable- mostly unsuccessfully. We suspect she has only one kid, but we aren't certain of that.

We cancelled this morning's plans to go out to "Preach the Word" choosing instead to stay home. The kid(s) could come tomorrow or even the next day, but we are fairly sure it will be today. This is Keren's first birth. We have observed how wonderfully well the instincts created within our animals work, but from time to time, a little help is needed- especially the first time. So, we'll be here. To help if she needs it; to cheer her on, if she doesn't. And, we'll keep you posted with any new developments.

Thanks for visiting with us this morning, friends.
We are sure glad for your company. :)

~Sean and Sonja ♥

PS. Originally, we planned to name Anna, "Ruth", but we changed our minds overnight. She just didn't look like a Ruth. So, Anna it is. :)