It feels like I've been living under overcast skies for months. Snow, rain, rain, snow. The fields are muddy and just walking across the yard from our house to the barn seems like a major feat in weighty boots. Wet and dirty clothes are piling up by the backdoor as we refine living strategies to keep the farm on the farm and not in our living room. The Persephone Months of winter have me tired and feeling a bit slowed and down. Being indoors does have its advantages- a friend bakes bread, wine in front of the fire, long mornings with Joe and coffee, naps and time to read for (gasp!) pleasure.
On the farm not too much is new. The hogs left the farm a couple days ago to go to Matkins Meat Processors and are now back in a variety of cuts. We're looking forward to trying the bacon and sausage- these were some special pigs, so more on that in another post.
We are experiencing a break in births. So far, a total of 56 babies have been born on the farm and we are currently milking around 27 does. All of the babies are doing well and have been weened to feed from buckets that we fill with fresh goat milk and milk replacer.
I'm proud to report that I am now able to milk all the does by myself, two at a time. Our milking parlour can hold 16 does and I am finally getting acclimated to them and them to me so that I can get them all done in two shifts, with each milking session lasting about 30 minutes. My time each night in the barn averages 3 hours, which I think is pretty decent given the prep time, actual milking time, clean up time, and feeding time for both the non-nursing adults and the babies.
My nightly routine goes something like this: walk through the barns and check in on everyone, prep the parlour by setting up all the mechanical milking equipment and setting out food, put out alfalfa for the milking mothers to lure them into one section of the pen that I close off, feed the non-milking mothers and mix up milk formula for the babies, bring in the nursing mothers to milk in sets and then clean up by sweeping the floors, depositing the milk into the dairy, and washing all the equipment. The only part of my routine that hasn't gotten easier is when the goats need to be physically moved - they are surprisingly strong, but more than strength they can be incredibly stubborn and willful animals. I'm not strong enough at this point to pick up a heavier goat that has dug her heels in and refuses to step up the milking ladder, but I have gotten better about using my body weight to try and position them to move. But the way it usually works is that once I give up and it's obvious that I don't care anymore, the doe jumps willingly up onto the milking stand. It's a funny dance we do in the parlour.
Over the weekend we hosted our first Open Barn of the year to welcome our friends and customers over for some food and a tour of the barn and new babies. To prepare, Joe and I found a free plastic play set we picked up for our girls. I can't believe how fast they are growing up. Suri, our first born, has already hit four weeks old and seems more like an adolescent than a baby. Her body has plumped up but her head is still tiny and delicate. I imagine her as an awkward junior high student growing into her self. The babies are full of energy and testing the abilities of their bodies. When it's not raining or snowing, you can see them shooting through the pasture like rockets, then stopping with urgency to change directions before jumping into the air and kicking out their legs with a little twitch. And now thanks to craigslist they have added sliding to their acrobatic routines.
We finished the weekend off with a farm Super Bowl party- an excuse to stay up late, eat chicken wings, drink beer and yell at the tv in a room full of friends after a weekend working.