You might ask why we scheduled two hundred babies in less than a month? Good question - we'll ask the bucks. In the autumn, as the mature does come on heat, we introduce our bucks to separate groups of the does. Coltrane, Bruno and Billy Idol were all new on the farm, and the last two were barely the size of the yearling does. We weren't sure how appealing they would be to the women. We didn't see a whole lot of action. Seemingly, though, the nights were sizzling. The bucks were efficient, perhaps a little too efficient: wham, bam, why hello, ma'am.
In these same three weeks Carl, our dairy plumbing expert, has repaired the stainless steel pipe that crosses from the milking parlor to the dairy and replaced the milk pump in the parlor. We began our new routine of once, not twice, daily milking. Although most of the milk is being slurped up by the babies, Salud will try to make the first batch of ricotta today, ready for the weekend. And if not, then very soon!
Meanwhile, we're fixing the farm kitchen drainage and installing a flush lavatory in the small garden shed just beneath the hayloft. This involves exciting trenches across the garden. We hope our farm dinner customers will enjoy the elegant comforts of their new bathroom.
Hardworking shack: chicken coop, then garden shed, then bathroom
Inside, we have added a splendid refrigerator in the farm shop, the first step in fitting a kitchen suitable to prepare hot soups and drinks to add to your picnic lunches here on the farm. Check out the alluring full-size cheesecakes, party-sized Monet cheeses, big pots of plain chèvre and the farm kitchen's new harissa and kiwi nectar.
Kiwi nectar on scones for tea time
Donkey presides over the oldest kids, who are now in the run alongside the farm chicken coop. She clearly enjoys the attention from visitors on tours. Each morning begins with a huge bray, deafening the rooster's effort. Then she gets to nibble my own garden, before the gardeners get snippy, and scratch herself under one of the fruit trees, before spending the day in the run.
When I was younger, my skin often flared up in itchy patches. Eczema is the general word for all itchy rashes. I get it on my face and neck, but it is common behind your knees and at your elbows and armpits. Millions of people have eczema, but there isn't one simple trigger. Irritants like detergent and scent, allergens like mold, dust, pet fur and some foods, hormonal levels, high and low humidity, and anxiety may all affect your skin. When my face got blotchy and red, it was hard not to get worked up about my appearance, probably making the situation worse.
I was interested in goats before my first six pets arrived on the farm because I couldn't drink cow milk without upset. Goat milk made a huge difference in my diet, since I love a drop of milk in my tea. It lead me very quickly to goat milk soaps and lotions. When your skin is inflamed, it's crucial to keep it clean and moisturized, but regular soaps were not doing me any favors. Goat milk is packed with ingredients that make a difference to your skin - and to my ezcema.
We began making small batches of goat milk soaps and lotions on the farm a decade ago. Goat milk is pretty much all-powerful, since it will help remove irritated skin, repair the damage, retain moisture, and protect your skin from sun exposure. The alpha hydroxy acid lactic acid in goat milk destroys the bonds between dead skin cells, removing some of the irritation. Lactic acid is a major ingredient in chemical facial peels for this reason.
Goat milk is packed with vitamins, including vitamin A, which affects skin elasticity and tone. The butter fats are a supreme natural moisturizer. And goat milk minerals include selenium, which is believed to protect your skin from overexposure to sun.
I was lucky to have a right-hand woman in the shape of Eilís Burke, who makes our bath and body line. She trained as a nurse and rocks a no-nonsense attitude to life, but she could not be more of a caring goddess. She nursed me back to sanity after my operation a few years back. It's Eilís who develops our luxurious choices of aged bar soap, liquid soap, face, eye, and body lotions, face cleanser and toner, bath oils, bath salts, and more.
We sell our full range of bath and body soaps and lotions in the farm shop and onlineOne of Eilís's dogs
Each December we take the flatbed truck into the hills to thin my friend Sande's woods. It was misty and damp this year, with the wind in the trees. This is one of my own Christmas rituals, brought straight to mind with the scent of freshly cut pine. Roberto climbs the bank with the chainsaw, and the rest of us haul the trees to the truck. They are lovely without decoration, though we do hang lights and carved goats on some, and they will scent the farm Christmas fete this weekend.
Like the moist tender crumb of homemade chocolate cake to the hungry, a barn floor of straw and goat manure is irresistible to gardeners. It makes the dirt of your dreams. It is the perfect present.
Two days of sun after the rain makes for an ideal morning to muck out the loafing barn. Our pregnant goats will have a fresh bed of straw to take them through to birthing in early spring.This year's manure will be ready for your garden next year. Last year's manure is rotted, alluringly rich and crumbled. Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org for sack and trailer-load prices
We introduced Coltrane, our new, very handsome buck, to a pen of ladies this past month. At two years, he should have the stamina to breed about 25 does a month. At three, he will be all business, breeding up to 40 does a month. This is his "buck power".
Buck libido and fertility are linked to day length. Now, in late summer and early fall, is a good time to breed. As the days get longer, a buck produces less sperm, of uneven quality.
Does reach puberty at anywhere from 4 to 12 months, depending on breed and their health, but we don't breed them until they are a solid 70% of their adult weight. At puberty, they will come on heat about every 21 days, and stay on heat for 12 to 36 hours. On heat, they will waggle tails, snort, and flirt. We have used raddle powder in the past to identify which does have bred first. Raddle powder is a non-toxic dye - just a solution of colored chalk and vegetable oil will work - that you can apply to the buck inbetween his front legs either manually or by attaching a harness. Provided you position the powder where it will only mark a mounted doe, you will have a good idea of which does have bred and therefore their due dates. If marked does are marked again the next month, you may have a buck with poor quality or even sterile sperm.
So far, Coltrane is all about the look-at-me, aren't-I-handsome snorting and less about getting down to business. Maybe if we stop hanging out watching?