Saturday, December 4, 2010

Getting into Goats Part 1

  In 1985, we began dreaming of a farm on which we could be more self-sufficient, growing our own food, raising bees for honey, sheep for wool, chickens for eggs, and goats for milk.  For many years, this remained just a dream.  But in 2001, we bought a small acreage which was primarily covered with woods and poison ivy.   We first developed our vegetable and herb gardens, planted our fruit trees, and started enjoying the fabulous taste of fresh food.  Several years later we added our first flock or chickens and couldn't believe how much better than store-bought eggs our free-range eggs tasted.  We established our first hive of bees and loved the warm taste of honey just harvested from the hive.  Finally, in June of 2009, it was time to buy our first dairy goat.

  After studying the "personalities" of goats for some time, we came to the decision that LaManchas were the breed for us.  All the books we'd read described them as easy-going, great milkers with lovable personalities.  When we were approached at a 4-H livestock meeting about buying a LaMancha doe, we were quite excited.  We traveled to the farm of our friend to see the does she had to offer. There we met several older does and some young kids, and the decision making process began.  Our family is not known for our speedy decision making abilities, and this was no exception.  Our daughters were leaning toward the adorable spotted babies, while I was leaning toward a doe which already knew how to milk.  I thought that at least one of us should know how to milk, and as I had no experience, this became the responsibility of the goat.  The owner offered a brief lesson on how to milk.  I eagerly stepped up to the rear of the doe, took the plastic gallon milk jug I was handed, and put my newly acquired knowledge to the test.  Although the doe did everything she could to make this a success, I at first had difficulty getting out any milk.  After more coaching, I was thrilled to see a beautiful stream of white milk exiting the goat's udder!  The challenge of actually catching the stream with the milk jug remained.  I never realized how small the opening of a milk jug is!  By the time the doe was finished eating her ration of feed twenty minutes later, I had caught about 1/2 cup of milk, and the job of stripping the udder was passed to the owner who had the gallon jug filled in about three minutes.  We thanked the farmer and told her we would let her know in a day or two which goat we wanted.

  At home (actually, our excitement could not be contained, so the discussion began as soon as we were in the van leaving the farm) we calmly weighed the pros and cons of several of the goats we had seen.  The owner of the goats had told us that one goat alone would die, so we had to buy two.  This made the decision even harder.  After much deliberation, we decided to purchase the LaMancha that I had milked and one of the cute, long-eared Nubian kids. Our LaMancha's name was Cashmere, and the Nubian was Annabelle.  After the arduous tasks of fence building, stanchion building, and barn-enlarging were completed, we realized that unless we were going to buckle the goats into the van with us, we had to have a way to transport them.  Within a week my resourceful, ingenious husband had provided a solution, and we were on our way to pick up our goats.

  Our arrival at home was great.  The two goats immediately started devouring all of the honeysuckle vines, bramble, and poison ivy they could reach.  Then it was time to milk........

  And that is another story for another day.....

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