Goats, Goats, and More Goats

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Things have been chaotic (chorus for the summer, I think), so I’m going for more pictures and fewer words.

There were two (human) babies expected at work, a month apart. They came one day after the other. While they planned to let the parents take time off, I’m not sure how much time they’ll actually get before they have to come back to work. There’s only one full-time person, me (about 25 hours per week), and another girl (about 10 hours per week), so losing two full-time people at the same time is hard (especially since full-time is more than 40 hours).

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Dad came out to the farm last weekend and I showed him what I’ve been doing, which was fun. He enjoyed feeding the goats some maple leaves.

Our goats are doing better since losing the one (I think I wrote about her? I don’t remember). The pigs are happy, though I think they wish it would rain. It’s pretty dry and they seem to like a little damp dirt/mud.

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May Update

May was an incredibly busy month. Twenty Paces work really picked up for me, Tony was out of town for two weeks (and he’s had a lot of stuff going on at work), there was a lot of (bad) excitement with the goats, and we acquired three pigs (!!). I’ve been wiped out and haven’t even taken that many pictures.

Twenty Paces Work

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All (or nearly all) of the babies have been born at this point, so we’re milking about 80 animals twice per day. I only have three milking shifts, but trying to get them all done in the allotted time is a challenge (it’s entirely achievable, which is nice). I’ve also got two days per week that I spend working on farm stuff. I do a lot of mucking (less of that with the lady they hired to help with that during the week), a lot of hosing down the milking parlor, some fence repair, a lot of fence moving, and generally doing whatever I can to be useful. I love the chance to see more of the operation of the farm.

Goats & Pigs

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The goats have been…everything people say about goats. It’s a little baffling to me because I feel like the goats at work have a much better personality than ours, but we’re seeing how things go. My current analogy is that if goats are to horses as sheep are to cows, our goats are ponies. Those ponies are doing great work for us (they’ve cleared out the blueberries near the chicken house to make it harder for foxes to sneak super close), but in the last two weeks, two of them got themselves tangled in the electric fence and one of them died. This is not an auspicious start to the first year of goat ownership.

The pigs have been off to great start (admittedly, as of my writing this, they haven’t even been here half a week). I put them in the hard fence (the goats were still being reminded about electric when the pigs came home), even though the lady I bought them from had already done a lot of electric fence training for them. I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any confusion since my fence is different from hers. As far as I can tell, they haven’t even touched the fence yet. They’re very standoffish, which bothers Tony, but I reminded him that the pigs from last year were shy at the beginning, but super personable by the time we took them to be processed.

The next couple of months will probably be just as wild as this one was. One baby at work is due to have already been born and the other is due at the end of June, so work may pick up a little. Our goats are due to kid at the beginning of August, so that’ll be exciting and busy-making. Tony’s got a lot of travel this summer, so that’s also going to create some chaos. I apologize if posting this summer is slow, but some days, I’m just trying to keep up with myself.

Review and New

Our first livestock experiment was chickens. It looks like we got those the first year we moved out to the farm. It’s funny to think about all the things I’ve learned since our first chickens. I’m especially amused (?) by the changes in the housing. I learned that I really do want a house I can walk into…it’s much easier to maintain that way. Having a house that’s tall enough to walk into also seems to keep the chickens happier (for ventilation/circulation).

Our second livestock experiment was the pigs…in 2016. It took us a couple of years to add new animals; it looks like 2015 was the year of the dogs…oh, and stump digging. The pigs were awesome and I am really looking forward to getting a new herd this year. We’re certainly doing three, possibly four pigs this year. While the work they did turned out to not be super helpful (we learned our planned garden spot was over the drain field…not an option if we want to leave the door open for organic, among other reasons for moving it), it was fun to watch them root around. I learned a lot about not moving animals into an area until the fence is completely finished.

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2017 is the year of the goats. We acquired four Nigerian dwarf goats almost two weeks ago. Meet Nanny Ogg (Nanny), “the buck,” “the little calico girl,” and “the other little girl.” As you can tell, only one has a name (they came with names, but to be honest, I’ve forgotten them). The girls are all supposed to be pregnant, but I’m waiting to see babies before we count on them. The buck is supposed to be unrelated to both the girls we have and any babies they are carrying, so we’re set for a couple of years if we decide this is a group we want to stick with.

The goats have been another lesson in fencing. I trained the goats on the stranded electric inside the field fence, just like I did the pigs. I had two strands (probably should have had three, since they kept putting their feet on the hard fence, but they don’t seem to have damaged it). I figured they’d learned about the fence a couple of days in, so I strung up some strands to about where the net is in the picture (I really wanted them to take care of the wild blueberries in that picture). The little calico girl screwed up her nerve and dashed through the fence into the newly seeded field mix. I complained a lot, put the other goats back into the hard fence pen, and had just finished asking Tony to come help me get her back in when she put herself back through the fence so she didn’t get left behind. I was relieved that this herd of goats is so cohesive…the pigs were far less concerned about being separated.

That day, I ordered two panels of electric netting. That stuff is amazing and I think that might be the lesson from the goat experiment so far: the right equipment makes the job a lot easier. It went up faster, it’s more of a deterrent for the goats, the dogs respect it (not that they really had trouble with the strands once they touched it), it went up faster (oh, did I say that already?).

Lard

Having our own pig slaughtered meant that we wanted to get as much of the animal back as we could. We figured we’d learn a few things about parts of the pig we don’t normally see. One of the things I was interested in was making lard. The internet (and experience) was my teacher. I used a combination of the Food Network (cast iron pot) and the My Humble Kitchen blog (crock pot) as method references.Not that there aren’t plenty of places to look that will tell you about making lard!

The cast iron pot “recipe” was much quicker and I honestly don’t feel like the difference in result was worth the (huge amount) of extra time it took to do the lard in the crock pot. As a matter of fact, I ended up moving the fat from the crock pot to the cast iron pot (I had something I had to do and I was running out of time). The other thing about making the lard in the cast iron is that that’s the same pot we use to make the no-knead bread we make. I’m not sure it actually made a difference in the flavor of the bread, but it makes me feel good.

There seem to be as many opinions about the ways to keep lard as there are opinions about how to render it. You can put it in the fridge. You can can it (!). You can just put it in the cabinet. You can freeze it (?). For the amount of lard I’ve rendered so far, we’re just keeping it in the cabinet. It should help us remember to use it too.

Not that using it is all that hard. We’ve used it to grease the cast iron pan after making eggs or whatever. We used it in the sausage gravy (in place of butter). We used it for the biscuits we had with our gravy. I haven’t yet gotten up the nerve to put it in cookies, but I plan to, once I get a feel for how much impact the lard will have on the flavor of the cookies.

Oh! And crackling. A byproduct of lard rendering. We haven’t used that yet either. I’ve read that putting it in cornbread is good, but we haven’t made cornbread yet, so if you have a suggestion, I’m all ears.

There are some pictures in the November/December album.