Our main vegetable garden is putting on quite a show this week. The mammoth sunflower has reached full bloom. The bee balm is just about passed, but is still holding its own. The pole beans, which we never eat, are putting on a fantastic display as they wind around anything within reach. The kale is growing out of control and is overdue for a harvesting.
Like everyone else in the valley, we were recently hit with the tomato blight. Just a week ago we had a raised bed of lush greenery that was shading the many heirloom tomatoes. The blight has reduced the bed to a mass of brown stems that are being weighed down by the plump red fruits. Our friend, Kathryn, suggests that the soil may be lacking the nutrients that the plant needs to stave off the disease. Hopefully, next year we might have better luck because the beds will be fertilized with composted goat poop!
To start the ball rolling, Dr. McCoy preformed Sage Meadow’s first open castration. That’s right, turned a rooster to a hen with just one swipe … well almost.
Our friend Jess, from Healthy Herds, stopped by with an old handsome buck in rut. It’s hard to describe what a buck in rut smells like; it’s a fairly strong musk, in line with that of a skunk, only not as offensive, but still pretty rank. I understand that they achieve this fabulous aroma by peeing on their neck and face. The smell will cling to you like skunk musk if you touch the goat or anything that the buck has come in contact with. You can usually smell if a farm has a buck in rut as soon as you are within fifty to a hundred feet of him. Hence, we have no intentions of ever keeping a buck on our farm.
Anyway, Joe sedated the buck, numbed up the area and removed the two elongated tennis ball sized appendages. As luck would have it, I was working, so I missed out on all of the fun. Having Jess assist Joe was a good thing, because just hearing the description of the procedure made me a bit queasy. All went well, and the brand new wether was sent home happy and healthy ... just a tad lighter.
Then the girls had their first go at a stanchion. They were coaxed up onto the platform with their favorite licorice grain treats. They didn’t put up much of a struggle to having their heads locked into place, since the grain bin kept them fairly distracted as their hooves were expertly trimmed. We will have to start training them to use the stanchion, on a more regular basis, so that it is not such a shock come milking season.
*** We've added more goat milk soaps that have cured and are ready to go!
Gemma loves posing for the camera
When we left for vacation, we had just finished weaning the three kids. Our concern was that it might have been too soon and that they were not ready for solid food. In fact, Gemma had thrown us a scare by displaying diarrhea the day we were leaving. Diarrhea presents a dilemma with goats because you never know if it’s caused by illness or something in their diet … in either case it can cause a kid to go down quickly.
Fortunately, Patrick and Joe got things under control. They extended the weaning process a couple of days and everything returned to normal. The girls took to the grain and hay like champs, and when we returned our little ‘kids’ were no more – we came home to full blown adolescent ruminants.
We also came home to three distinct personalities. It looks like Gemma, the brown sable, has taken on the role of ‘queen’, is quite inquisitive, and will often stand her ground to a perceived threat while the other two run inside.
Louise is, in a word, loud. She seems a bit shy at first, and often stands back while the other two jump up for a petting or a handful of grain. But step away from her and close the gate and one would think a goat was being slaughtered. She doesn’t have a bleat or a ‘baaa’, she just lets out a piercing noise that sounds like a screaming child. We have to wait until a decent hour in the morning to let her out of the pen just to stay on friendly terms with our neighbors.
Thelma, the darker of the two nubians, loves attention. She is the first to the gate to accept whatever hand will pet her. She is the smallest of the three, and still tries to be a lap-goat if you give her the chance.
We are also picking up on distinct characteristics in the breeds. The Sable, Gemma, is quite, calm and confidant, typical of the Saanen breed from which Sables originate. The Nubians, Thelma and Louise, although very friendly and personable, can be a bit skittish and noisy. Maybe this is why they are often referred to as ‘neurotic Nubians.’
We have been back now for about a week. We had an amazing vacation with good friends, fine wine, and wonderful experiences! Too much to post in a blog, but here are some highlights and a few pics ...
We started off in Prague, joining our friends Kevin and Al for a few days of sightseeing. The food was fantastic and the people were really friendly. Lots of meat and beer! They aren't yet on the Euro, so it was fairly inexpensive. We were even able to catch a live performance of Mozart's Requiem.
Joe and I continued on to Vienna by train. There we visited an impressive zoo where the animals were actually treated humanely! We went on to the National Palace, took a walk through Mozart's apartment, and took in another concert that evening. The goulash was fantastic!
We then flew to Florence, met up again with Kevin ad Al, and Mark and Steve for an evening of Florentine sights and food.
The next day we continued on to our main destination, a villa in Sinilunga, for a week long celebration of Al's 60th birthday. At this point we were joined by 16 other friends, and A'ls sister and her partner dropped in later in the week. It was an amazing week of sightseeing, wine tours, hikes and , yes, lots of fabulous food and wine. Joe and I were even able to get away on a solo 5 hour hike to an old castle ruins in the middle of the woods called 'Castle that only God Knows'.
Our final leg of the journey was Rome. We did a whirlwind 'Rome-in-a-day tour' before catching a plane back home to the U.S. the next morning.
Locally Handmade in Easthampton, Massachusetts
Sage Meadow Farm Goat Milk Soap