Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'm Swearing Off Milk!!

Sabrina's milk for a day. Jar on right is 1/2 gallon.
Yup, that’s right folks….. Me, the big milk drinker will be forgoing milk!
Ok, not forever, but at least until the end of January.

After drinking whole, store bought milk for ages, I have become horribly spoiled to fresh, raw, uber healthy, perfect goat’s milk. So have my munchkins…

If you recall our "Dramatic Dairy Dilemma" you originally wouldn’t have thought my kids would have become as attached as I am to our fresh, raw milk, but they have been 100% converted.

Sabrina, my sweet polled Alpine is due to kid January 26th. This means she needed be dried up prior to kidding….

Sabrina with her March twin doelings on an unexpected cold spring morning.
Drying up is a process. There are several opinions on the best way to do this. I’ll share mine, though I promise it’s not the only way to go about this..

Some may think it odd that I’ve been milking Sabrina through her pregnancy, but I’ll explain that.

Some will allow does long, extended dry periods thinking it best to “give them a nice break”. When in fact these long times off do the owner's thought process a lot of good, but not so much for the doe or the long term health of the udder.

Kind of like those owners who put hats on their dogs… Yes, the owner thinks it’s adorable and it’s keeping Fido’s ears warm, but poor Fido wants to eat the stupid hat, vomit it up on your nicest rug and scream at you that he has furred ears for a reason…

As long as the doe is in good condition & maintained well, there is no reason for them to have extended dry periods. When an udder sits dry for long periods it can be harboring mastitis causing bacteria that is not being flushed out of the udder by milking and since the doe is not being milked the owner is often unaware of any issues until the doe freshens again.

So, ideally we keep the girls milking for the first part of the pregnancy and then begin drying up for the last 1-2 months of pregnancy. Does do need to be dried up at least a month or so before kidding again so they can produce colostrum for the new kids.

Now for our drying up process….. Sabrina has always been a great producer… We always got AT LEAST a gallon per day, even though she raised one doeling who stayed with her 24/7 & nursed until she was almost 7 months old. One day, when she was about 2 weeks fresh, we pulled Sabrina’s kids for the day & bottle fed them so I could get an accurate weight on the milk produced in a day without the kids stealing it. That day we got a lil over 14lbs of milk! For reference, 8lbs of milk is roughly one gallon.

Sabrina's udder 8 hours full at 1 month fresh
So… since she has such a great “will to milk” and produced well, I decided a slow process for her drying up… For about a month when I milked I didn’t fully empty her out.. I’d leave about ¼ of the milk in the udder at each milking instead of emptying her. Then I had about 3 weeks of leaving about ½ of the milk each time… This told her body the demand for milk was down, so her production gradually went down as well.

Then we went to once a day milking.. This was a nice change as I only had to milk in the mornings and wasn’t tied down in the evenings to rush home and milk on time. I had only meant to do this for a little while, but ended up milking once a day for a lil over 5 weeks… Liked the combo of fresh milk & less chores.

At the actual time of drying up, I simply stopped milking. I hear folks saying they go out and relieve the udder every 5th day (or whatever schedule) but there is NO NEED to go out and relieve the udder UNLESS she is filling to capacity and is becoming painfully full or is risking leaking. If she reaches that point you need to empty out just enough to relieve the pressure and prevent leaking, but no more.

I see people going out and emptying a few squirts on a doe who is no where near to being uddered up and the only thing this does is prolong the process and tells her body to keep on milking.

Silly 'Brina begging for treats... Her favorite treat being Mountain Dew!
When I decided to dry Sabrina up, the 2 days before I only milked her out less than half way and on the 3rd day I didn’t milk.

Not only did I not milk, I did not put her on the milk stand or do anything that was even close to our milking routine. She still got a bit of grain, but in a feeder in the pen instead of on the stand.

This is because for some does the whole milking process tells her body to let down milk… Sabrina instantly let down the moment she jumped on the stand and since we were drying up, I didn’t want her having any of her “Let’s Milk!” signals.

I did check her udder daily and thankfully it all went smoothly… She never over filled or leaked and now she’s officially “dry”.

I tried an organic cow’s milk from the store… Ick. Tasted the same as the non organic stuff to tell the truth… Watery, seemed thin and was, as my daughter so eloquently put it: "Just Blah."

I went to the health food store and bought a non- homogenized, low heat pasteurized cow’s milk… Not being artificially & mechanically homogenized it at least had the cream on it still, but instead of this smooth cream that’s blended in perfectly with raw goat’s milk, this cream was a big thick chunk that I had to poke at with a spoon in order to let the milk flow through the jar. The actual milk is ok…tolerable, but not fabulous. It is better than the homogenized cow’s milk (both organic & non organic) that I tried, so that’s a plus… For a quick summary on how cow's milk is homogenized click *here*.

Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and doesn’t have to be artificially & mechanically homogenized like cow’s milk does & it’s so rich, smooth, flavorful & creamy…. Well to be fair, cow's milk doesn't HAVE to be homogenized either, raw cow's milk left in it's natural state is pretty good, but big dairy business doesn't seem to agree with me on that one...

I miss my goat’s milk.
I’m getting a silent protest to the “store bought milk” (which my kids now say that as if it’s a dirty word)..

Before, Tator alone would drink at least a quart of goat’s milk a day… If given a choice of soda (rare), sweet tea, water or goat’s milk at dinner time, they always chose milk. Now they choose tea or water….They sometimes hold out hope, check the fridge for goat’s milk before choosing. I have had the same gallon of store bought milk in my fridge for almost 2 weeks now and less than 1/2 of it is gone…

Ok, I’m done whining (for now anyways)… At least the wait won’t be too awful long.

My mom’s miniature doe, Keys, is due any day now, and Tootsie, the miniature Alpine doe I sold to my mom (who is also Keys' full sister) is due at the end of December. So I’ll go to momma’s, look pitiful, and she’ll send me home with milk to hold me over until Sabrina kids at the end of January.

Not to mention, not only will I soon be back in fresh milk, but I’ll also have baby goats!

I’m stating this publicly so y’all can hold me to it…. No matter how freaking unbelievably cute Sabrina’s kids are, I AM NOT KEEPING ANY OF THEM. So if you see me hinting around or being swayed by the overwhelming cuteness, firmly tell me “No!!”....... I really want a daughter out of Tonka, and since I have to keep my numbers low I can only keep so many. So, this kidding season I’m only planning on retaining a Lamancha doe, no Alpines retained until next year.

See?!?! The urge to keep them is hard to fight!

It's even harder to say no with this munchkin around begging to keep them all!

Thankfully I already have a few folks interested in bottle babies, so my goal is to move them out as fast as possible so I don’t get attached.

In theory this all sounds fabulous… Let’s see how firm my will power is at the end of January....…

Friday, December 9, 2011

Noodleville’s Fowl News

Here’s just a random mish-mashing of all things of the feathered variety around here.

First of all, I gave away 7 chickens. The Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons & 1 Jersey Giant rooster. My mom had a bobcat go on a killing rampage in her chicken coop, killing 27 of her 28 birds. They shot the cat, but all those birds she had raised, and who had just started laying were gone.

My chickens are the most ill treated birds ever. They have no coop, no pen and half of them suffer from a case of species confusion and believe they are dogs… So these were things I had to keep in mind when choosing which birds to give away. The 3 Silver Laced Wyandotte hens were very flighty and couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of staying on my property. The 3 Buff Orpington hens wouldn’t come when called and weren’t people friendly…. And the big Jersey Giant roo was fondly referred to as “The Survivor” as he survived the inappropriate advances of a buck in rut, but carried the battle scars of a naked bum due to being held down and plucked by that goat. He was an outsider…after all, why would the hens want the half naked roo who had been molested by a goat? Now all 7 are happily contained in my mom’s nice coop & run… Jersey roo is the only roo, king of his domain, is growing his feathers back, and with it, his lost self esteem.

Jackson- The bloody thirsty rooster

Next up, we got rid of Jackson, our former top rooster. Jackson was supposed to be a Light Brahma but obviously wasn’t. He was a small, stringy looking bird with a lot of attitude. He fiercely protected the girls though, so we tolerated him…. Until he turned his temper fits loose on us.

I was attacked a few times and usually gave him a kick, and once beat him off me with a bat. You’d think he would have learned…but NOOOO!

One day, my son was outside & Jackson was stalking him…

Usually Tator turns around and threatens him and that’s that…. This day was different. Tator ran & the blood thirsty beast of a bird loved that!

I’m ashamed to say I failed miserably in my motherly duty that day….. Tator is dashing about in one huge circle, that evil bird right on his heels and the entire time Tator is screaming…. Not several screams…but one very long, extended, solid scream that went on and on like a looped recording…

My gosh it was hilarious!! So funny in fact I could barely help him out due to the giggle fit that had me paralyzed.

I know! I know!! I already said I was ashamed of myself so stop thinking evil thoughts about me!!

I did eventually help him though and caught up to them just as Jackson caught up to him.

That day Jackson went to freezer camp & “Big Red” happily stepped up to the plate as the only roo left.

"Big Red", his girls & the barn cats sharing kitchen scraps.Girls are: Jersey Black Giants, HP Reds, 1 Welsummer, Speckled Sussex, Blue Cochins, 1 Blue Andalusian & Ameraucanas..
 I love Big Red….. He’s watchful & protective of the girls, mellow with people & doesn’t crow non stop like Jackson did. He’ll gently take treats from you, follow you around the yard and round up all the girls for me when I call the chickens. Big Red won’t ever have to worry about a trip to freezer camp.

Next up a Riccardo update.

I introduced you to Riccardo *here*.

Well since she received her unfortunate name I think it altered her personality. Perhaps she thought she needed to be simply outstanding to help folks see past such a ridiculous name… Either way, this bird is officially a pet. She’ll stay as long as she lives, regardless if she’s productive or not. She comes to her name, likes to sit on your lap and is very, very smart. She averages 6-7 eggs per week too, so that’s not too shabby!

One day, Jasper is carrying on, barking up a storm. I get on to him twice & finally put him in his kennel because he won’t be quiet. Once all is quiet I hear a “Tap-Tap-Tap”…. “Tap-Tap-Tap” on the front door…. Not being able to see anyone through the window at a distance, I assume it’s the neighbor’s kids knocking and I couldn’t see them and that’s why Jasper was barking.

I open the door thinking to find a child and instead find Riccardo!

She cocks her head to the side, reaches out her foot and scratches my pants leg…. This scratching is common and means she wants food. So I go grab her some kitchen scraps, take it to her and she happily leaves to enjoy her snack. 15 minutes later the whole thing repeats and I now have a bird that knocks on the door for food…..

She also went broody on me! She went missing for a few days and I freaked out. Couldn’t find her anywhere… Then one day I found her with this:

A big ol’ clutch of eggs… Timing was bad, but I was going to let her have them… Sadly my neighbor's wretched dogs ran her off of it and the eggs got cold so I had to toss them. I really, really, really despise folks who don’t have the decency to contain their dogs.. And this nut has anywhere from 9-12 at a time! Ugh….


Next up in fowl news, our odd egg find:

Clayton poking the squishy egg to show it's squishiness

It was all squishy and had no shell, just the inner membrane. It was also double yoked. The kids thought it was great… Tator wanted to keep it, Shayla wanted to eat it, but in the end the barn cats got it. Haven’t had one like that since…. They have a good diet, plenty of calcium and such, so I’m assuming that one was just a fluke.


We had our first real predator threat not too long ago… An owl!

Around 4:00am I hear frantic squawking from the front yard where there’s a door leading to the bedrooms and a covered porch. In the midst of the squawks I hear the “Tap-Tap-Tap” on the door… I jump up, turn the light on and head out with the closest weapon… A broom.

Never underestimate a woman armed with a broom.

All the terrified birds are piling on each other, Riccardo is trying to get inside and just past the porch overhang a big owl has one of my beautiful blue Cochins by the wing and is trying to gain altitude!!! He was about 7ft up in the air when I took after him with the broom… Two solid hits makes him release my Cochin and he hit’s the ground on the other side of the fence… I check on my birds and much to my surprise he comes back!!!

Tough lil booger.

He does another low fly by and once again gets my broom, though this time he was high enough I only managed to give him a swat to the backside.

He goes from telephone pole to tree….flying just out of reach, back and forth, getting closer to the porch each time. We play our game for about 25 minutes, but by this time, I’m cold and tired.

Jasper, excited by the outside commotion, wanted out.

Turned out to be a fabulous plan! He had such a great time chasing that owl back and forth across the yard and after the owl’s first swoop down with Jasper, he discovered that a Great Dane has a pretty impressive leap and was forced to stay higher up to avoid becoming the most delightful chew toy ever. Jasper faithfully chased the bird and watched him until sunrise (though I don’t believe this was done out of loyalty to my chickens, I think he was just having fun, lol)…

I cleaned my poor Cochin’s wing (only a few punctures) and everyone survived the night…. Now they all roost in the barn. Thankfully it only took one night to teach them to bed down somewhere safer than a porch!

My Blue Andalusian is a hen (she's in the top picture with "Big Red"..small blue bird, big comb, white earlobes)! Couldn't figure it out for some time with her big comb, no noise and no eggs...She is a small bird but lays good sized white eggs, is the most scatter brained bird I’ve ever encountered and she can actually fly. She’s my only white egg layer and for the past month or so we’ve been averaging 4-5 white eggs per week. The kids used to be crazy over the *green eggs*, but since we get 14-20 of those a week now, the new competition is to see who can find the white egg… A real chore since that dumb bird lays them in the most inconvenient places..


And of course I saved the best for last….and for obvious reasons, this bit once again will feature the famous Riccardo.

My son has this giggle….. When I hear it he’s either 100% tickled to death about something, or he’s doing something he really shouldn’t be doing.

I’m in the kitchen one day and hear "The Giggle"…. So I walk from the kitchen, into the living room and glance out the window to see Clayton trying his best to control his laughter, but he's having such a fit he can barely keep himself upright.

He’s kneeling, holding an apple core in his mouth and Riccardo is jumping up on his knee, taking a bite, and hopping down… Over & over again. I went out and snapped pics really fast, but sadly these were the only two that didn’t come out blurry.

Clayton feeding Riccardo an apple core while holding it in his mouth... Big Red wants some too!

I believe the Ameraucana thinks both of them are nuts...

I asked him what on earth he was doing....

“Feeding Riccardo of course”

Yes, Yes, I see that, but WHY are you feeding her like that?!?!

“It’s funny momma, she likes it”

Okay….but WHY did you start this? When did you start doing this??

“Oh, we always do it and it always makes me laugh… We do it all the time, she really likes bananas! Isn’t it so funny momma??”

Yep honey, it sure is…..

Of course it’s gonna make folks wonder why I don’t give you better things to do so you're not compelled to invent strange ways to feed the chickens, but whatever floats your boat honey!

Silly kid…Silly bird..

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sufferings of a Mother

I adore my kids….. There were times I worried we had kids too early, or had moments of sheer terror thinking I was not ready for such an immense task, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I may be biased, but I do believe I have some of the most well behaved kids…..Never prone to tantrums, always great students, respectful and most importantly they care about other people.

They don’t avoid temper tantrums because they fear retribution, they avoid them because they know how it would make ME feel..

To have children their ages (6 & 8) with a genuine care for those around them and how their actions could affect others makes me proud beyond words…. Sure they have their typical kid moments, but those moments are never severe and pass quickly.

Shayla is the sweetest, most compassionate child I’ve ever encountered. She is a friend to everyone and a joy to anyone she encounters. She’s goofy, good humored and is always willing to help. She is naturally that person who sees the glass as half full, not half empty and her easy going, happy nature is sure to make anyone smile. She loves animals, music & dancing though I am saddened that she seems to have inherited my dancing skills….

Clayton is an intense, sensitive child. Very gifted, focused and has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He always thinks outside the box and is the one to ask the questions most wouldn’t think to ask. He is very straight forward and often embarrassingly blunt….He loves Art, and wants to be a Marine Biologist & Paleontologist when he grows up. He tends be obsessive over things that interest him (he gets that from me) and at times seems wise beyond his years..

I could go on and on about my children… They are my most precious gift, my favorite people to be around and a constant bit of humor in my every day life…

Tonight I’m forcing myself to go over all the joys of motherhood because I’m suffering from the aftermath of some of the not so nice sides of being “Mom”…

Mom tucks you in at night, teaches you how to cook, plays silly games with you, helps with homework & brings home that new puppy you’ve been asking for. Mom fixes boo boos, tickles you to make you forget something upsetting and takes care of you when you’re sick..

There’s that word… “sick”

We’ve had a round of some stomach flu here. The kids stayed home from school Friday because of it and it’s been a weekend of recovery… Or so I thought.

After a weekend of getting better and small meals, Clayton was feeling great, and hungry! He chowed down on pizza and seemed his normal self since early this afternoon. Even had a bit of ice cream.

All was well….. Until about 10:45pm.

I was snuggled up, reading a good book when I heard the awful sound…. That pre-gag sound…

Oh God, please not again…

Rush into the kid’s room in time to see Tator hanging over the top bunk vomiting EVERYWHERE!!

Do you have ANY FREAKING IDEA how far vomit can spread when it’s done from a good height?!?!?!

I didn’t break out the measuring tape to get an exact coverage area, but lets just say it covered a pretty big area…

But, being the holder of the title of "Mom" I had to pay my dues for all those happy times I enjoy so much.. So I crawled on the top bunk, held him until he was through, the whole time telling him not to worry, it’s okay, and I would fix everything up.

Got him settled and tucked in on the couch, reassured him that everything was just fine (he was apologizing for the mess, poor kid) and got him set up with his favorite show. All the while letting him know the mess was just a little one, no big deal and it would be easy peasy to set everything right again.

Sometimes moms lie!

Once he’s far away, I enter the contaminated zone of the house…. Oh noooo…. There is so much, on such a variety of surfaces that I don’t even know where to start and I know if I don’t start soon I’ll get overwhelmed and it will be that much harder. Thankfully the kid’s room isn’t carpeted…

I start with the bed….get it stripped, bedding in the wash, bed rails scrubbed down.

The floor took 2 entire rolls of paper towels just to get the more “solid“ bits….

Then the toy box.. Oh Oh Oh! Please say it isn't so...Not IN the toy box!!

I’m loosing my nerve here… Yes, call me a sissy but it’s getting to be too much, I’m getting sick.

Come on Crystal! Breathe through the mouth, don’t think too hard!

That was until I picked up a dinosaur toy and it DRIPPED vomit onto my other hand…

I jumped back…right into a missed puddle on the floor…

Slipped, and fell on my bottom right into a vomit puddle!

Can’t right myself without touching more of it…

Yep, too much for me!

I barely make it out the door to get sick myself.

I sit on the porch in my now nasty jammies, in the cold and bawl like a baby.


Why can’t mom’s have an “Ick Person” on call for these types of things?!?!!? Why is it just a given that moms can handle this stuff with ease?

I use the freezing water hose to clean off my feet & legs before going back inside… Strip down to my undies to finish the rest of the process & probably went a lil overkill with the disinfectant cleaner…

I admit, I gave up, tossed a BUNCH of stuff in the trash….

If you wanna call me wasteful then YOU can come do this crap next time.

At this point I’m barely holding it together…Cleaning, bawling and gagging as I go….

I will replace the toys I tossed.

I threw the toy box & my soiled clothes in the front yard.. Not very mature, but I figure in the morning I can hit them with the water hose or burn them…Whichever strikes my fancy when I‘ve had time to clear my head…

A bottle of chlorox, 3 big rolls of paper towels, two feed sacks worth of contaminated stuff and one very sick, empty tummy and I’m off to boil myself in the shower until there is no hot water left.

Once clean, I check on Tator… I cheerfully tell him the room is spic and span and it was only a little mess… He ask what all the noise was and I tell him I tripped. I fix him a lil chicken broth to sip & a few crackers to nibble. I wipe his brow with a damp cloth and sit with him until he drifts off to sleep again.

Because that’s what Mommy is supposed to do. He’ll never know my ordeal, the slew of profanities that slipped through my mind or my desperate hope that anyone but me could be mommy in those few nasty moments.

I’m wide awake and now that the mess is gone and he’s snuggled up around his beloved, ratty pillow known as “Stripey” I can bask in the joys of motherhood. He won’t be this sweet or this small forever. One of these days he won’t want me to cuddle him and one of these days he’ll probably give up that awful looking pillow and certainly won’t name his next one…

My favorite picture of Clayton & his "stripey"

Yes, at times moms pay a high price & get the tasks others can’t handle. But what we get in return is simply priceless…

Though if anyone is feeling sorrow over my plot tonight, you can hook me up when Mother’s Day rolls around… I jokingly tell people they can get me diamonds, but in reality I’m needing some seamless, big, stainless steel pots for cheese making (as well as a slew of other cheese making supplies), a yogurt maker & canning supplies....

Just kidding… Kinda J

There is one small bonus to this night.. Though it was far from fun, I won’t have to worry about that slice of pizza going to my hips, nor do I have the slightest hint of midnight munchies!!

See look at me "Little Miss Optimistic": Seeing the brightest side of things, even though it's approaching 2:00AM!