The sun started to peak through the clouds, so I ran outside with my camera. I grabbed my old Pentax SMC DA 18-55 lens, which came with my original Pentax ist DL body. It's just a kit lens, priced at $50, but every time I use it, I wonder why I don't use it more. I love this lens. I'm using it on my Pentax K10 here. The lens is sharp and has the best color I've seen, which of course, is something for which Pentax is famous . Simply put, this is great glass!
This is the view out my front yard to the street. We used to have to hike up that every day with our books and groceries back when our driveway was washed out. When the city put in the new driveway and culvert, they took out two huge firs and a lot of smaller trees and bushes. It looks so barren to me now.
Note: All goats are herd name Goat Mountain View unless otherwise specified. Yep, these are my breeding, and I love them!
I tried to get the does to go out to pasture so I would have lovely green grass in the background, but they saw the sky and refused. Goats hate to get wet. They came out this far from the gate and then raced back into the barn.
Brothers Ezra and Nehemiah out of Blythmoor PayDay X Limerick. Limerick always has beautiful kids.
Tiny baby Violet is the most adorable kid, and she's got a cute personality to match. (out of Tuppence Magnum Opus X Virelai) She might be polled; no horn buds yet at 2 weeks old.
It's a lot of fun to take pictures of Violet. Even though she is teeny, tiny, she has a personality as big as the sky.
This is Violet's mom, Virelai. (out of Oasis Storm X Poem) She is polled and also quite small. (Hailey and Violet are behind Virelai. Virelai is exceptionally mellow and sweet.
Violet is best friends with Twilight (black and white doeling out of Tuppence Magnum Opus and Tahoma Almond Joy). Both Tahoma Almond Joy and Virelai were first fresheners, so they got to stay together for the first two weeks in the large nursery pen. Their babies act like sisters. Twilight is the shy one, but she has lovely conformation. I expect her to be a knockout after she matures.
Chanson is my pretty girl, and she has the LA score to prove it. But, I think you can see for yourself. (out of Oasis Storm X Tahoma Mikado)
This is Mansa. (out of Blythmoor PayDay X Tahoma Mikado) She is Aru's sister. I believe she will be stunning as she matures. She has a very sweet personality to match. Most of PayDay's kids have that white bracelet on their leg. Mansa is named after my supervisor at TNQ in Chennai.
This is Vidhya. None of the customers wanted her because she wasn't a flashy color. So, I'm keeping her. She is polled. Vidhya is super sweet, a real snuggler, and a bit shy with strangers. She is out of Hailey, who is my superstar in the herd for milk production and butterfat. So, I believe she has a bright future in the hoof prints of her mom.
Here is the doe herd, afraid to come out of the barn lest a drop of rain land on any of them. Front Left: Mansa and Ice Cream; Center L-R: Chanson, Aru, Tahoma Mikado, Hailey, Poem (screaming at me for attention), Muru, and Vidhya; Magnificent (Maggie) is resting on top of the manger; Limerick is peeking out from the sleeping area in back with her bucklings. You don't see Hopeful in the picture because she has climbed up on my shoulders as I try to get the picture!
MR Blue MacLibbyHeart (Mac) is our senior buck at 3 years old. He sired all the kids last year; we retained Hopeful and Maggie. He's really quite something. Mac is my younger son's number one favorite goat.
Our second most senior buck is of my own breeding: Goat Mountain View Dusty Storm (Dusty). (out of Goat Mountain View Oasis Storm X Goat Mountain View Poem) He is polled and has magnificent width through his rump and hocks. He's also very sweet and gentle. Dusty is the grandson of Goat Mountain View Xlnt Storm, and we are grateful to keep this magnificent line going through him.
Blythmoor PayDay, who just turned a year old last month, sired most of this year's kids. He is just stunning, and he appraised quite well as young stock last June. He was a bit too busy trying to get enough grass before the rain hit hard, so I didn't get very good pictures of him. He throws his coloring and markings, as seen in his kids; it will be exciting to see if he also throws his awesome conformation and his mom's superior udder (SGCH Blythmoor HM Almond Joy 3*M).
The youngest buck is 10-month-old Tuppence Magnum Opus. He's still a baby, but he's already got kids on the ground: Violet and Twilight. He comes from one of the finest Nigerian Dwarf herds in the nation, whose breeder is Penny Tyler. I am very grateful for Penny's generous gift of Magnum.
It's been a long, wet winter in the Seattle area. In fact, it's been the wettest winter in recorded history. Fortunately, the mama goats and their young kids have been content to stay in their barn and lounging yard thus far. Today, we had a nice sun break (this is Pacific Northwest terminology for a time when the sun briefly comes out from hiding behind our persistent cloud cover). When we do get a sun break, we all rush outside to enjoy it. Hailey's kids (Murugaraj, Vidhya, and Ice Cream) are too small to go out yet, as they could easily get picked up by a bald eagle. And, Vivek has a tummy ache. So, those babies stayed inside the barn by the heat lamp. All the other kids and their moms had a wonderful time romping and chomping on green grass. Here are some pictures. (Note: I took these with a Sigma DC 18-125 on my Pentax K-10.)
It has come to the time of year that I start to see posts on the Facebook goat groups of newer breeders looking for advice on kidding preparations. I don't dare comment on the posts because there are always a group of "been there just long enough" folks who respond with vitriol to my suggestions. (Don't these folks have day jobs?!) These are the muddled through it a couple of times folk who are convinced they know it all. This is my twelfth kidding season, and I have real-life experience in the field of veterinary technology. I also cut my goat-herder teeth under the mentorship of Sue Reith and Colleen La Marsh, with more recent advice from Penny Tyler and Joan Hicks. So, I do get offended when these just-past-newbie folks start their hate speech as if I just fell off the apple cart. But, I do want to help those who are sincerely looking for advice. This blog post is my answer.
Here's your routine disclaimer: This protocol has worked for me over the years. I don't lose mamas nor kids, and the kids grow fast (to the point that some buyers have been a bit concerned over how much bigger my kids are than others...trust me, they all even out by a year old). Please consult with your vet and your local farm agent before deciding firmly on any protocol. I would like you to pay particular attention to the specific nutritional needs in your geographic area. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where our soils are notoriously deficient in copper and selenium. So, I have to supplement accordingly.
One month before kidding
One week before kidding
What if things don't go right?
The day after kidding
Other items on your to do list
Here I am, ready to milk my Nigerian Dwarf goats this morning. This is a picture of my new Ultimate EZ Milker that I just purchased this past spring. I've been using the hand-held Udderly EZ Milker for 8 years. I'm a big fan of the EZ Milker as I have a lot of pain in my joints, which is exacerbated by milking tiny Nigerian teats. I usually only milk one doe a year for my family's table milk and for making soap, as that has been enough to satisfy our needs. Historically, I've always milked Limerick. Last year, I gave Limerick the year off and milked her granddaughter Poem instead. But, this year I chose to go on DHIR Milk Test and was expecting to be milking 6 does twice a day, so I upgraded to the electric Ultimate EZ Milker.
(p.s. The Ultimate EZ Milker will SOON have a portable solar unit to power the milker!)
I recently saw a post on one of the Facebook groups for Nigerian breeders that asked how folks got their milking systems to the barn each morning. I saw pictures of wagons, carts, and such. Goodness sakes, that would be quite a lot of overkill for Nigerians. If we were blessed with living on flat land, I might be able to swing something like that. But, we live on a hillside, so I have to navigate two sets of stairs between the house and barn. I am very grateful for the handy canvas bag for my Ultimate EZ Milker (picked out by Buck Wheeler's insightful wife Karen). I just loop the handles over one arm and carry my little stainless-steel bucket full of collection bottles in the other hand--easy as pie and very lightweight (which is a huge blessing as I am in the most pain early in the morning).
Here, you see Goat Mountain View Limerick during her milking. (Don't ask me why my does squat while being milked, just their weird thing.) It only takes a minute or two to fill the bottles, so I had to snap the photos quickly! She is only a couple weeks fresh here, so I am still able to (just barely) use the 8-oz bottles, filling them to the rim. I pop a lambar nipple on top, and I am ready to feed kids.
As you can see, Limerick is relaxed and content. The Ultimate EZ fills those bottles so quickly, that even my "Hoover" cannot finish her grain before she is done being milked. So, I use the extra time to dump, bleach, scrub, and re-fill all four water buckets while she finishes her breakfast.
There have been some folks on the Facebook group spreading the rumor that the EZ Milkers cause "hickeys" on the goats' teats, ruin their udders, and give them mastitis. That has certainly not been the case on my farm. It concerns me what kind of psi breeders are cranking up to cause such issues. There is a very visible mark on the psi gauge to not exceed 11 psi for goats. I usually have mine set at 10 psi. On the hand-held milker, you only need to pump until the milk flows. Use the smallest collection bottle available that will hold the amount of milk produced from your goat, and you will have faster milk collection that doesn't need much suction.
Here are Limerick's teats. Tell me, do those look bruised and damaged? Nope. I've used the Udderly EZ Milker on Limerick for 6 years and the Ultimate on her this year. She's never had a case of mastitis. (Limerick is a gold doe with spots, so those are freckles, not injuries.)
Another option is to just milk one teat at a time. Buck Wheeler told me that Mary Jane Butters does this so she has more time to relax in the barn. I absolutely understand! Milking is one of my few moments of down-time during the day as I work as a copyeditor, teach homeschool, run the farm, handcraft goats milk soap, and also do all the normal things a housewife/mom does during the day.
For those folks in the Pacific Northwest who have believed the story that anything that is not a pulsating system is bad for the goats, please do some independent thinking on this point. I told Buck that I used a breast pump just fine on myself with no ill effects, and I was a very milky mama. OK, maybe TMI, but that is an important part of the story. If someone would have tried to stick a pulsating claw on me, I would have slapped them! Ha, ha. Really, think about: if Buck's system hurt the teats and udders of milkers, would someone like Mary Jane Butters be using it on her $6,000 mini-Jersey heifers? Try placing the inflation on your own hand and see what the suction feels like. It is very gentle. Think about the amount of suction you use to suck the chocolate cake batter off the tip of your finger (who bakes a cake without tasting?). That is what the suction feels like.
Here is Hailey being milked one side at a time. I'm using my favorite collection bottle on her: the 18-oz bottle. Thank you so very much, Buck, for the recent gift of more bottles!
I do bring the collection bottles back into the house so I can add a spoonful of yogurt to each bottle. My friend Penny Tyler just recommended this to me, so it is my first year adding yogurt to the bottles. The babies like it, and they are all thriving. I prefer using the EZ Milker collection bottles because the opening is big enough that I can easily spoon a bit of yogurt into the top. But, for my really young Nigerians, I use a Pritchard nipple. So, I have to use a smaller necked bottle, and therefore the assistance of a funnel to get the milk and yogurt inside.
Here are the bottles ready to load back into my bucket to take to the nursery.
My 3-year-old Nigerian Dwarf named Poem will be kidding tonight or tomorrow. Here are her pre-kidding photos. I just love this doe!
And, for some fun, here are the babies after getting their bottles. Well, Tuppence Magnum Opus was not so happy when the milk ran out; silly baby!
Yeah, they all look calm here--little angels. But when they hit those bottles, it's a completely different story! Now that they have full tummies, they are all going to curl up in a Pile O'Babies and nap.
One of the best parts of the Ultimate EZ Milker is the cleanup. Here is what I just had to wash after my morning milking and kid feeding. Yeah, seriously--that's it! I feel sorry for the folks who have to have a dedicated utility sink for washing out collection jugs, claws, and milk lines. I can see that if you have a cow, or maybe a herd of 20 standard-sized dairy goats. But, for a handful of Nigerians, this is all that is really needed. And, you will only pay a quarter of the price of a regular milking system.
Well, time to get back to work copyediting. I am currently working on Amazonite: Mineralogy, Crystalchemistry and Typomorphism by Ostrooumov. Later, I'll make some goat milk soap. I think I want to make another batch for my twin nephews' birthday. They are going off to college in the fall. I'm going to make sure those boys are scrubbed clean and smelling sweet, so they meet some nice girls <wink>.
Buck, you need to tell me which scents you and Karen like so I can send you a couple sample bars! Pick from here: http://www.editormelinda.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
Folks, please ensure you read the comments below, as there is more good information there. (Things I didn't think about when quickly writing this post!)
Update: 9 pm -- Poem just gave birth to twins: a doeling that will be retained named Trinity and a wether for a 4H family that they are naming Mario. Trinity is a light buckskin (Poem has a light buckskin doeling every year, e.g., see Virelai) and Mario is a tri-color buckskin with roaned cape. He is a big boy too!
No homeschool today in honor of our fallen veterans of war. So, I had a bit of time to play with my old Pentax this morning. I was using my kit lens, which is a very nice lens for being the freebie given away with the camera. It actually came with my very old Pentax istDL, but I am using it on my Pentax K10. It's a 18-55 mm SMC DA. I love the color that I get with Pentax, and this kit lens is auto-focus, which is always nice for a relaxing morning with the goats. In fact, I was so relaxed, I just left it on aperture preferred, set at F 6.7.
I'm going to separate out the pictures by goat, so folks can get a good idea of the conformation of each animal. Some of them are wearing coats, so there are not as many good pictures of them. I will get those another day when it is warm. Today, it is overcast with a cool, wet breeze coming in off Liberty Bay. I've been clipping goats to get ready for both ADGA Linear Appraisal and kidding. They are quite ready to be done with their scratchy winter coats anyhow.
Disclaimer: I was supposed to be forking out their yard this morning. Well, I've had a tremendous amount of pain in my foot, so walking back and forth with the wheelbarrow to the compost pile is out of the question for me today. I need to keep my wits about me so I can copyedit a 60-page chapter on Good Manufacturing Practice compliance in the manufacture of cell-based medicines this evening. Being in pain does not help me stay sharp for copyediting. So, please overlook the terribly untidy condition of the yard and focus instead on the lovely goats :)
Ah, PayDay. This little boy is a dream come true for me. He is 3.5 months old and is out of SGCH Blythmoor HM Almond Joy 3*M, who has an LA score of 90. His dad is Diji Farm SD Gunslinger, who is polled. PayDay reminds me of a little Clydesdale horse. He's so strong, with a super soft, wooly coat, and a little heart-shaped nose that begs me to kiss it. Yes, I do kiss this buckling. I love him that much!
Goat Mountain View Dust Storm
I could take pictures of this boy all day long. I absolutely love Dusty. He is a yearling out of Goat Mountain View Poem and Goat Mountain View Oasis Storm. He has Oasis Storm's wonderful back end: super wide and strong. He has his mom's depth and dairy character. His genetics are too tight to the does in my line to use him with those that I have linebred for this past decade. But, he would be very nice with my Tahoma does. Dusty is going to my friend Penny at Tuppence herd. Penny was planning to come out today to see him, but she is not feeling well--so here are some pictures for you to hopefully brighten your day!
Goat Mountain View Thundrstorm
Here is the boy affectionately known as Mr. Personality. He's got such a lovely face, dreamy blue eyes, and when he is in full coat (recently clipped here), he looks magnificent with his enormous mane and dorsal (that he likes to wear mohawk-style). He also has a bit too much personality. Thundrstorm is not quite a brat, but certainly close considering he is very friendly = always climbing up on you for kisses. He is also the one usually in trouble if there is any amongst the bucks, though they rarely get in trouble. Thundrstorm is going to my friend Joan's at Tahoma herd, also not too far away in case I want to use him again. He is out of Wag's Ranch S'Mores Pi and Goat Mountain View Oasis Storm. It will be a bit tough at first to separate Dusty and Thundrstorm, as they are very close. But, it is needed as they play and play and play and play. Thundrstorm never stops to rest because he just loooooves the ladies. Yeah, he is obsessed, and he has been obsessed every since he was 2.5 months old and trying to breed his mom, which is the same age when his dad DID breed mom Lyric. Yep, family trait...grandfather Xlnt Storm was the same way. Speaking of the ladies, Thundrstorm bred Tahoma Sonnet and Goat Mountain View Poem, who are due in weeks.
M.R. Blue MacLibbyHeart
Mac is a sweet, gentle soul who is more interested in being our family's lap-pet than chasing the ladies. But, he did breed Lyric, Hailey, and Mikado, who will be kidding in about two weeks! I guess he just saves his energy for when he actually gets to be together with the doe--maybe this boy is a bit smarter than Dusty and Thundrstorm, who run themselves ragged lolling and grunting at the fence of the doe's yard or headbutting until their heads bleed. Mac's mom has the nice medial ligament that I'm chasing after to improve the udders on my does, which are really nice, so I'm being quite picky at this point in the game. He has nice dairy character. Mac is available for stud.
Goat Mountain View Limerick
I dearly love this old gal. Limerick is 8 years old, has given me 19 beautiful kids, and 16 of those have been doelings! Once, she gave me quadruplet does. She is very consistent in the kids she produces, almost like a goatie assembly line. Every year, there is a solid gold doeling that knocks your socks off; there is often a chocolate buckskin doe, and usually a gold doe with a white belly band. Someone explain to me why I have always sold her knock-your-socks off gold doeling each year? Well, I intend to keep it this year! Reverie, Hailey, and Rondeau are some of her chocolate buckskin does. Lyric is a gold doeling that was actually the runt of triplets. I sold her sisters after weaning, but I wanted to retain Lyric longer so she could have more time on mom's milk to grow strong. Well, things got busy, and she never got sold. I'm so glad because I love Lyric.
But, the main reason why I love this old goat so much is because she is so very sweet. Limerick is a total lovebug; she is the favorite of everyone in my family. She's the doe that I can rest my head on at the end of a hard day, while she calmly chews her cud and watches over her herd. What a great doe for herd matron she is.
Limerick is also the doe that I usually milk each year. She is a wonderful producer with a lovely udder. And, she is cool as a cucumber on the milk stand. She produces enough milk to satisfy the needs for my family's table.
Goat Mountain View Reverie
Six-year-old Reverie is our self-assigned watch goat. She always keeps an eye out for threats to the herd, though not just at this minute. She is puffy and pregnant, and the only coat that I could find to fit her has terriers all over it. Oh, the humiliation in the doe yard. But, this particular coat is very thick and well insulated = recently clipped mommy doe falls asleep while still standing. Reverie is my largest doe and is standoffish. Her kids are always very friendly though.
Sonnet joined our herd this past winter, and she has been a hit with everyone. Look at that sweet face! She is an absolute love. Sonnet adores being scratched by humans, and all the does seem to love giving her scratches with their heads too. She came from Puyallup, which is a bit more chilly in the winter than we are here on the coast of the Puget Sound. So, she was very grateful to get rid of her super thick coat, though also grateful for this extra-padded coat this morning. She always seems to be in a good mood--thus, her nickname is Sunny Sonnet.
Mikado is my shy girl. There are times when, if I sit still in the barn for a while, she will come alongside me to get her neck scratched. But, generally, she does not want to be approached. But, she is very good about coming to the milk stand when called and stands nicely without ever a kick, so I don't complain. I especially don't complain because Mikado is gorgeous. I love this doe's conformation and deep mahogany coloring, just lovely. Also, she is an easy keeper: calm, gentle, and never gets into mischief.
Goat Mountain View Poem
Poem is a rock star. Reverie usually throws gorgeous bucklings, who I castrate and sell to pet homes. One year, she gave me a single doe, and it had been a tough year for me, and Poem was a really good snuggler...so she never was sold. I named her after one of my favorite Bible verses: Ephesians 2:10. The Greek word that is translated as "workmanship" is poema. Once Limerick retires, this pretty doe will easily step into Limerick's place. Poem is very long, refined, with lots of depth, and she has beautiful kids. She is also consistent in her babies, as Limerick is. (She is Limerick's granddaughter.) Poem usually throws light buckskin kids who are long with great dairy character. Last year, I gave Limerick the year off from milking and milked Poem instead. She milks just as nicely, with great capacity...though she did try to pull the drama queen play the first couple months on the stand. But, such is often the case with does that were very spoiled as babies.
Goat Mountain View Lyric
OK, OK, what is with the odd haircut? This is something I do with the Angora rabbits when the weather is cool (they are next for shearing!). Lyric is the first to kid: June 7th! So, I decided to clip her top half and give her some time to grow a bit of length on it before doing her bottom half, which I will clip close closer to kidding time (and if the weather doesn't warm, I will only clip her udder). Her coat looks odd, but look at that lovely topline! In fact, this one is nicknamed Lovely Lyric because she is lovely in many ways. She is a very sweet, gentle doe, similar in personality to Mikado. Lyric went through a phase as a yearling and two-year-old doe where she was very shy. Now, she has become quite the lover and has really won my heart. She was the mom of Oasis Storm and gave him his terrific rear view, which he threw to his kids. She is a great mom as well. She also does well under pressure, as she got bred back (accidentally!) by her precocious 2.5-month-old son, carried triplets without a fuss, and then gave me gorgeous twins (Gadget and Gidget) just 7 months later. So, as a 3-yr-old, she will be on her fourth freshening early next month. Through it all, even being junior in the pecking order, she never lost condition. Yep, she's a keeper!
Goat Mountain View Hailey
Hailey is another amazing doe in her own way. She is abundantly calm and easygoing. A bomb could go off and Hailey would just stand there chewing her cud. She will even let other does babies stand on her back to reach the upper portions of the manger. She is so wide through her body that she is the perfect choice for goat surfing, like her mom Limerick. She loves to be brushed, so her coat always stays nice. Hailey gave me triplets as a first freshening yearling, with plenty of milk. Her udder is so tight to her body, it is surprising when you see how much milk goes into the bucket, as she doesn't appear as capacious as she is.
Wag's Ranch S'Mores Pi
I traded Jane Wagman Goat Mountain View Alexandra (Hailey's sister) for S'Mores Pi. It turns out that Alexandra is a bit of a stinker (though a lovely doe) and doesn't like to be touched. I think I got the better end of the deal as far as temperament is concerned because S'Mores is the ultimate sweetie pie. She is the mom of Mr. Personality (Thundrstorm). S'Mores went to another breeder to be bred to an outside buck (Millers Buckaroo Freedom) so I could bring in some new genetics (as I kept S'Mores' son as a herd buck). S'Mores had a single doeling, Constellation, who is now in my herd. S'Mores did not fare well while away from our farm. She was at the other breeder's for nine months and was down to condition score 1 when I brought her back home two months ago. She integrated right back into the herd, as all the does love her. Who wouldn't? But, I believe she may never reach her potential as she did not have proper nutrition during her growth as a yearling doe. I may choose to place her with a loving home as a pet. She is a petite doe who is very friendly, gentle, and obedient--certainly a very easy keeper.
Goat Mountain View Rondeau
Rondeau is my yearling doe out of Limerick. I have her registered as a tricolor, but I need to learn that Limerick usually has one chocolate buckskin--and they always seem to morph color as they age! Such is the case with Rondeau, who is now a chocolate buckskin with a belly band and extensive roaning. She is going through her lanky yearling phase right now. But, this is one long doeling--long body and long legs. She reminds me of a deer. Rondeau was the champion goat surfing kid last year (not so hard when you mom is as wide as a tug boat) and would always find a way to ride on my shoulders as well. As a yearling, she is a bit more cautious. But, I know this line; she will be back to kisses galore once she turns 3 years old. I plan to breed her for the first time in the fall.
Goat Mountain View Chanson
Chanson is my yearling doe out of Mikado. I'll bet you could have guessed that, as they look so similar. Chanson is as wild as the hills and equates human touch to being burned with white-hot coals. But, that doesn't bother me because this little doe is gorgeous! She may be the prettiest doeling ever born on my farm. I had taken Oasis Storm over to my friend Joan's house. I asked her, "Pick out the doe that would be a match made in heaven with Oasis." She's been breeding Nigerians for a couple decades, so this was not hard for her (it would have been for me!). Mikado went home with me and gave me lovely twins. The boy was very nice, but there are enough bucks in the world, so he was sold as a pet. Chanson has her mom's dairy character and lovely coloring in addition to an improvement in the rump and very pretty head courtesy of Oasis. She also will be bred for the first time in the fall.
Goat Mountain View Virelai
Um, so this is awkward--I didn't get any decent shots of Virelai. Well, I wasn't really paying attention to how many pictures I took of each goat. And, she is swimming in this bulky coat. Virelai is a very pretty, petite, blue-eyed, polled doe out of Goat Mountain View Poem and Goat Mountain View Oasis Storm. She is Dusty's sister. There was also a tri-colored doeling in the litter named Dreamer. I was calling that doe Screamer because she was such a needy baby, but the buyer convinced me to change it to something nice. And what do you know? She no longer screams. Anyhow, Virelai stayed here on the farm because she was the runt of the three. This was not due to any lack of milk production on her mom's part. No, Virelai was an absolute space cadet as a baby. She was the ADD goat, constantly getting distracted by all the interesting things in the big world and forgetting to nurse. Her siblings never forgot though! Though she was slower to grow, she is turning out to be a very nice doe. She is long like her mom with Oasis' nice back end. And, she is the world's most mellow goat. Yeah, even more easygoing than Hailey. I know, you didn't believe that was possible. Virelai was a big hit at the nursing home last year because you can pretty much pick her up and move her anywhere you like, and she is absolutely relaxed, doesn't even miss a chew on her cud.
Blythmoor Coffee Bean
Coffee Bean was purchased to be a companion to PayDay, as I had no kids of my own yet in February. She is out of Blythmoor Jelly Bean and Gunslinger (same polled sire as PayDay). The jury is still out on whether or not she is polled. I asked Margie, "Is she long and straight?" When Margie answered in the affirmative, I said, "Sold!" She is a lovely doe with a great personality. I am very pleased with her indeed. She is very well blended, smooth, and well set. Speaking of "long and straight," I asked my friend Penny about that on the phone the other night. I have a bit of an obsession with that in goats. I told her that it could be that I've gone overboard and now have goats that are too long. She has been breeding Nigerians for 25 years and used to be a judge. Penny said, "It's not possible." I take that as a wonderful excuse to continue my obsession. There was a line from some movie, "I only have one weakness...." Yep.
I had a rare experience today where I actually caught up on my copyediting work by dinner time. Well, I chose to skip dinner and, instead, go sit out in the pasture with my old Pentax K10 fitted with a Sigma 18-125mm. The does were all in a good mood, chowing down on grass in their last month of pregnancy. It was a really lovely break.
I am writing this blog post in response to a thread I was participating in on a Facebook Nigerian Dwarf goat group. Some of the comments that people were making had me in absolute shock. They said they did not like the hand-held Udderly EZ Milker because they tried it a couple of times and it did not work for them. Some of them offered to sell their milkers that had only been used two to three times.
Back when I bought my Udderly EZ Milker in 2007 (or was it 2006?), I think I paid $159 for it. That was the cost of a half ton of hay back then. The Udderly EZ is now selling for $189.95. That is still the cost of half a ton of hay. The reason I was in shock by the comments was because I cannot imagine choosing to make that kind of an investment in my farm and just giving up on it after a couple tries. I would be on the phone to Buck Wheeler or racking my brains to figure it out. But, that is just me. My father grew up during the Great Depression, therefore I am frugal to a fault . Or, maybe it's because of my Asperger's? At any rate, it bothers me that people have bought this product, can't get it to work, and then give up on it.
The picture at the top of this blog post is the Udderly EZ that I bought all those years ago. In the center, you see the original two bottles that came with the milker. Yeah, they look pretty sorry after all these years. I must confess that I did put them into the top rack of the dishwasher a few times--even though the company tells you not to. I discovered that is not really a good idea (maybe they knew what they were talking about?) as the bottles became somewhat misshapen as a result. Fortunately, the top that attaches to the extraction tube was not affected. I just have ugly bottles now.
A couple years ago, I bought the 18-ounce bottles that are round. I love them. They hold more milk and still fit under my does, though at a slight tilt. I just checked the product page for Udderly EZ accessories. They no longer carry the original, 12-ounce, square bottles. But, you can see that you can buy the round, 18-ounce, plastic bottles as well as pint-sized bottles in either plastic (hand wash) or glass (dishwasher but hold onto the bottle when you milk -- you don't want that heavy of an object hanging off your Nigerian's teat!).
Let me walk you through the process of milking a Nigerian Dwarf doe using the Udderly EZ Milker in pictures.
When the udder is almost all the way empty, I will often give the milker another pump or two to help ensure the bag completely empties.
The milker naturally comes off the teat when the bag is empty, so hang onto it. I am one who would cry over spilled milk <grin>.
And now, I have a pen full of happy, QUIET kids. Oh, and one very small yearling doe, Virelai, who is bonding with the kids so she can watch over the doelings once they are moved to the kid pasture (and the buckling PayDay is moved in with the bucks). Ah, yeah, that tri-color would be PayDay getting ready to mount his cousin Coffee Bean. He is 7 weeks old and has about another 3 weeks before he has to say goodbye to his doeling friends. The 10-day old baby in the pink coat is Constellation.
My chores are done, and I can head back to the house. I dump all the bottles, nipples, extraction tube, and inflation into some hot, soapy water; wash; and let air dry until the evening milking. Cleanup is amazingly easy!
Pippin the rescue cat has decided to help show you some of my collection of bottles to use with the EZ Milker. At the far left is one of the original bottles I got when I first bought the Udderly EZ Milker. Next, are the wonderful 18-ounce bottles. Then, you see the large, quart-sized bottles that came with my new Ultimate EZ Milker. And, on the far right are the 8-ounce bottles that are sold for collecting colostrum. I used one in this picture tutorial today. I plan to use a pair of them on the Ultimate EZ Milker (which milks both teats at once) on my shorter does. I can just pop a lambar teat on top and have a kid-sized bottle ready for feeding. The flip-top lid (shown on an 18-ounce bottle) is nice for use in the refrigerator for my family's milk.
I am not sure why some Nigerian breeders have had such a hard time getting the Udderly EZ Milker to work for them. There are two possibilities that come to mind:
1) Folks are not massaging the udder to help the milk drop, and thus, they are pumping way too much for the comfort of their doe.
2) Users of the Udderly EZ are unwittingly tilting the pump unit away from the extraction tube, thus breaking the vacuum seal. Watching the video I linked to previously in this blog post will give you a great visual of that, so you will know what not to do during milking. Also, I would suggest ensuring your doe is standing calmly. Give her a treat and some pets before you milk her. If she is kicking and moving about on the stand, it is likely you may be breaking the seal on that extraction tube.
And, a third possibility was just suggested to me by someone on the Facebook group:
3) You will get a better seal on the teat if it is still moist from wiping it off when you clean it beforehand. Buck Wheeler advises rubbing a bit of olive oil on the teat right before placing the Udderly EZ Milker.
Enjoy your Udderly EZ Milker. If you have questions, I know Buck Wheeler is anxious to attend to them.
There are other systems out there if the Udderly EZ does not work for you. There is an electric milker that many Nigerian breeders like that costs a bit over $600. Personally, it didn't even occur to me to change brands, so I just bought the Ultimate EZ Milker, which is also an electric system, for $549.00. I tried it out last night and was pleasantly shocked that I don't have to wash the tubes as you do with all other milking systems. I only have to wash the same elements on the Ultimate EZ that I currently wash on the Udderly EZ. Life just doesn't get any better than that!
Here we are at week 3 since I planted these baby greens. The mini-aquaponics system is on the left, Kratky-method non-circulating hydroponics on the right. I lost a cilantro on the left and an arugula on the right. My bok choy is bolting on the left, and the arugula is bolting on the right. I am still not happy with how things are going on the Kratky side though.
(p.s. That is one of my Nigerian bucks, Dusty, on the picnic table outside. I didn't even notice he was in the picture until I put it up here.)
Let's take a closer look at the two planters.
Here is the aquaponics system (below). The plants are healthy and ready for me to start harvesting leaves.
Now, here is the non-circulating hydroponics system. I'm not impressed, and I actually feel a bit sorry for this crowd of plants.
I'm even less impressed with the root growth. Yuck!
Shown next is the root system of one of the greens from the aquaponics side. Most of the roots are inside the pot, but look at the lovely white primary root coming out of the bottom of the pot. Keep in mind that I used 2-inch net pots for the Kratky setup and 5-inch ones for the aquaponics. And, the pots in the aquaponics system are not suspended. I just set the pots on the floor of the planter and allow the flush-and-fill system to water/aerate them.
Here are the things I did to try to get the Kratky side to fare a bit better:
1) I flipped the piece of foam insulation over so the silver, reflective side is no longer facing up. Maybe there was too much radiation causing plant stress?
2) I drained the planter (saving the nutrient-filled water to use on my outdoor plants). I filled with fresh water and nutrients to a TDS of 1200 above my initial water reading.
3) I moved the spindly, bolting arugula plants as well as one of the smaller greens to the aquaponics side. I just set them in the planter in their tiny pots.
4) I planted 5 bok choy in the vacated holes. Bok choy can be happy anywhere, so I will be surprised if they don't thrive.
Here is the adjusted setup:
That is a sodium lamp on the left, thus the yellow tinge. Wish my baby greens luck!
Her name is Constellation, and she is a Nigerian Dwarf. She is out of S'Mores Pi, who I had sold and have rescued back (along with her daughter) because the lady who had her does not always feed the goats. The breeder has no income, so often has no food for the over 50 animals on her property. Two of my goats have already died of starvation there. It is sad, but S'Mores and Constellation are going to make it.
Hey look, I have color-coordinated pets. Tom's brother, Huckleberry Finn, is fine with baby goat as long as she is in her box. Once she is out for playtime, Huck is in a bit of shock that I would inflect this upon him. Ah, and yes, she is wearing a diaper. Our carpet is 30 years old, but we still do not wish to have it stink. I put a newborn diaper on her, but it wouldn't stay on. Baby goats don't have hips like baby humans. So, I decided to buy a XS dog harness for a dollar. But, upon trying that on, it was not long enough to reach. Baby goats have much longer bodies than puppies. So, while holding a baby goat who is bouncing about like popcorn popping, I fashioned a fix with one hand: a strip of canvas patch held on each side with a safety pin.
Pippin, another rescue cat, does not seem to realize that he should be disgusted with Constellation. Pippin is our special needs cat. I honestly believe he suffered some sort of brain injury before we adopted him. But, it is working to our advantage here because Constellation has found a playmate. She seems especially interested in Pippin's twitching tail. Don't worry, I'm staying close to play mommy referee in case play gets rough.
Well, I am typing this while trying to peddle on my FitDesk. This is not working because Constellation is trying to nurse off my ankle. So, it's time to put her back in her box for a nap. And, I need to get peddling!
Update 6/10/2015: Connie has gone to live at my friend Penny's house. Constellation had a umbilical abscess due to poor sanitation conditions at the farm where she was born. The abscess has subsided, but it is still not clear if Connie will be able to be anything more than a pet. Penny does Goat 911, so she knows how to handle this sort of situation much better than I do.
This is the soap that I made Sunday evening using the sample of Crisp Cotton fragrance from Brambleberry. I did an in-mold swirl and used three colors: natural indigo, titanium dioxide, and aquamarine blue oxide. The soap "mold" I used is a silicone bread pan.
There isn't any goat milk in this batch as I don't have any to spare at the moment (Constellation is getting it all). I changed my recipe to use more affordable, more readily available ingredients (and to get away from palm oil). As I generally get massive brain-fog during kidding season, I wanted to test my new recipe well in advance. Things went well. The soap is very soft right now; it will be interesting to see how it does as it cures. Kidding season for me starts in June this year and runs through July. This is so I don't go into brain-fog phase during the homeschool year. I should be making soap like a squirrel storing nuts starting about mid-July through the end of 2015.
The bars need to cure for six weeks. If you are one of my egg customers, expect a bar of crisp cotton with your egg delivery on May 5. Shoot, if I had planned this better, I would have created some sort of salsa bar for Cinco de Mayo!
Melinda Joy Wedgewood
Freelance Copyeditor, Farmer, Homeschool Teacher, Retired GIS Analyst, Programmer, Cartographer, Structural Geologist.