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Monday, April 25, 2016

Re-potting

Every year, I buy tomato plants. I have tried starting them myself, but the most success I have had is 2 plants making it. This year, I decided to try again and started... Way too many plants. This weekend I re-potted the seedlings that look too tall. 

I have 4 different varieties of tomatoes this year. Bonny's best, Amish paste, fox cherry, and riesentraube. This weekend, I only re-potted the Amish paste and Bonny best that were tall. About 25 plants. There are still a ton that will probably need done next weekend if not sooner. 

I couldn't find pots, and they are probably expensive anyway. So I used cheap meijer brand plastic cups!  If I'm careful, I may be able to reuse them. After poking 3-4 holes in the bottom with an awl, I put a little organic soil in each. Then Kaybug helped by putting eggshells, old coffee, and Epsom salt in each cup. 


I put each plant into the cup, added more dirt, then transferred them back to the sunny window. 

Hopefully they all make it! If so, I will have more than I need. It would be nice to sell some to help pay for all the organic/heirloom seeds!  Gardening can be expensive, but cheaper than the grocery in the long run!  



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A full udder can be hard to milk

Saturday, my husband "taught" me how to milk. I had planned on not milking Sunday and taking a day off but I was too excited to see how it would go. So Sunday I got up bright and early, excited and prepared for the milk to flow like it had the day before.
Why do I think things might get easy?  Haven't I learned?  
Aurora had a nice, full udder this morning. That made the whole "grab higher on the udder" thing impossible. I had to go back to milking her tiny teat, exhausted hands, and hurting back. Once the udder was about half empty, I was able to grab higher and get a longer stream. Things did go quicker then, but it still took about 30-35 minutes to milk her out. An improvement for sure, but still a long time. 
I had Kevin milk the other side, while it was nice and full, to show him that it isn't always quite as easy as he had it Saturday. I had already been milking her for 40 minutes before he came Saturday, so she was nice and soft. He definitely didn't have as good of luck this time, but his hands do work better than mine because they are so much bigger. I have a hard time clamping down tight enough to keep the milk from rushing back up - which is bad for her. 
We still ended up with a quart of milk, but it was definitely not quick and easy as I had hoped. I'm going to stick it out a while longer and see if I can improve my technique and get better/faster. If not, I'm not sure what to do!  My hands and back can't take these long sessions daily. 
But first, I'll take a day off. One benefit to having a dam raised baby is that you can just not separate them and skip the morning milking, so that is what I did Sunday night for Monday morning. My body appreciated the rest. We will see what Tuesday brings. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Homemade milking machine fail, husband win!

We have had the goats a few weeks now, and it has truly been a struggle milking Aurora every day. It takes 40 minutes for me to milk, and I get about 2-2.5 cups each day. I'll be completely honest here. It is not worth it to spend 40 minutes getting 2.5 cups of milk and having your hands and back hurt so much that you can barely make it through.
Friday, after forcing myself through another milking,  I decided to make a homemade milker and thought, if this doesn't work, I may have to sell the goats. I don't want to, I love them both and it's been a dream of mine for a while to have them. So I bought the supplies and the husband and I built the milker Friday night. 
Saturday morning, we woke up and I couldn't wait to get out there. This was going to be the day that I got half a gallon of milk in 10 minutes!  
No. The darn thing kept coming unattached, and even when I held it all in place it barely had enough suction to get a small stream of milk. This was NOT what it looked like online. 
After messing with the milker for 15 minutes, and Aurora taking it pretty well, I threw the thing to the side and started milking her the old fashioned way. Even I was faster than that contraption, and you still have to hand squeeze it. 
20 more minutes of me struggling to get my hands to squeeze the milk out, her kicking, etc and my husband says "can I try?"
Yes, go ahead. Please! 
I position myself behind the goat, hold her legs, and watch him get a few misfires. Then, out of no where, this glorious stream came out and went on for several seconds. It just floooowwwwed out. My mouth dropped open and I repeatedly said "no way!" as I sat in awe. I wish I had taken a picture of my husbands grin, he was so proud of himself. I did get this picture though. Gosh he is handsome...

He showed me how he was grabbing higher on the udder, where I was only milking her tiny teat. He milked for a few minutes, then I tried with the new technique. It worked!  All this lovely milk came out and she even kicked less!  We ended up getting a full quart of milk. 
Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday did not go quite as well, but I'll save that for another day. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gotta keep 'em separated

Have you heard that song?  I think it was by Offspring? Ah, my fun alternative "grunge" stage. My poor parents.

Anyhow, last night I put Millie into a dog crate inside the goat shelter. I have been getting 1/4 cup or less each time, and the no kicking was a fluke, if you remember my last post about that. Aurora is not a fan of being milked. I kept getting advice to separate mom and baby at night and milk in the morning. I finally sucked it up and did it. 

So this morning, I grab all the supplies and head out. I decided to bring an extra bowl, and a jar with a lid to try to save some of the milk when she kicks the bowl.  I should have gotten about 5 extra wipes, as well. 

Aurora used to hate getting on the stand, but now hops up eagerly and puts her head in the catch. Good goat, things are starting off well. I empty her food into her bowl and she eats like she hasn't had food in weeks. In reality, it has been 12 hours and she has unlimited access to Alfalfa hay. 

Time to get to work. There is no comfortable position to do this in, I have come to realize. At least not when you have to push yourself against the side of the goat to keep her still, while holding one of her legs and the bowl in one hand, and reaching past your arm to milk with the other hand. I am right handed, so I think I need to adjust how I have our stand situated. 

In several books I have read, they talked about "milking routines". Many people will play music, hum, or sing to keep their goats calm. After she kicked the bowl a few times, I started singing. It definitely calmed her down (and made Millie stop calling for mama) so I kept going. You're dying to know my song selections, I just know it. So here they are:

Hush little baby
ABC's
Twinkle twinkle little star
Old McDonald had a farm
John brown had a little Indian
Rock a bye baby
And any other nursery rhyme I could remember

After I had repeated each of these a thousand times, I began making up my own songs. I should start recording myself because I'm kind of a musical genius. 

When I stopped singing and focused too much on milking, she would remind me by kicking the bowl to the ground. Sometimes I got her so relaxed she pooped. Thankfully I am aware of the signs and removed the bowl as soon as I saw her tail go up. Three times she pooped!  This is why I wish I had brought more wipes. I kept knocking the poo off the stand with a wipe, and when she kicked me she would get mud on my hand and arm, so I needed to clean myself. Next time!  Live and learn. 

There were times when things would go really great and I would try not to think about how great it was, or adjust myself in any way, hand cramp be darned, incase it reminded her that she should be fighting me. During those times I felt like this awesome farm girl, milking and singing out in the pasture on a sunny morning. Ahhhh. Just as I start to feel confident she kicks me. Thanks for keeping me humble, Aurora. 

After 40 minutes of this, my back and hands could take no more. I released her, then released Millie and watched as she effortlessly finished milking Aurora. I thanked them both, and took my milk inside where I filtered it 4 times, once with a coffee filter added in for good measure. It wasn't dirty, but it did have hair in it and who knows what else so I felt better filtering it repeatedly. I put it in the freezer so it could cool quickly, then placed it into the back of my fridge. 

We ended up with 2.5 cups of milk before filtering, and about 2.25 after filtering. My daughters were so excited to see so much milk after my previous attempts that they all congratulated and praised me, so it's worth it. 





Friday, April 8, 2016

Happy fluffy butt Friday!

Future stars of fluffy butt Friday, that aren't real into cooperating right now. Still adorable, though!  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Seedlings

A week or two ago (I'm so scientific with all this), I started seedlings in these "jiffy" green houses. They were nearly $5 each and you still had to supply your own soil. 


So, yesterday I decided to use paper cups (I actually purchased them for this purpose and forgot I had them!), a toy box bin, and plastic freezer wrap, to start more. Can you ever have enough seedlings?  We plan on growing a LOT of tomatoes, and everything else. I wouldn't mind selling me a few plants as well. Organic, heirloom seeds are expensive!  

We will see how they work out!  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I have never been so happy to see 1/4 cup of milk

That's right. One quarter of a cup of milk. Less, actually but I'm rounding up to feel better.

Today I have had the goats for one week, and one day. I've milked Aurora twice a day for about 5 days and, as my previous post explained, it has not been pretty. As a first freshener (this is her first baby, and her first time giving milk) she has not learned any milking stand manners. Without manners, it is difficult to milk a goat, and almost impossible to actually get milk. 

Last night, I stared up at the stars, requested the universe help some family members that are struggling, and before closing added that, if possible, I could really use some help with the goats and the farm. Trivial things in the grand scheme, but you know, it doesn't hurt to ask. 

This morning I had almost decided not to milk her. Who wants to start their day off by failing?  But at the last minute, I grabbed the supplies, warmed up the wipe, and headed out the door. 

This is me staring at the shelter, dreading going in. I took a deep breath, unlatched the door, and managed to get past the two eager goats. 

A little coaxing, and Aurora was on the stand.  Push Millie off the stand, repeat, give up and let her stand next to momma. Wipe the teats (this keeps autocorrecting to tears. I almost left it) and begin. 

After a few squirts up my sleeve I realize I forgot to take my coat off. I'm wasting precious time here!  So I rip it off and go back to milking. Squirt the ground, squirt my leg, hey she isn't kicking me!  Squirt the bowl, her leg gingerly moves and I grab the bowl, but she doesn't kick. I keep going, switching from teat to teat after a few squirts, fully expecting the bowl to fly across the shelter and spill all my hard work. 

Aurora is gobbling up her feed at a quick pace, even with a mini basketball in the bowl and I mentally note that I *must* get alfalfa cubes soon. She finishes, and the leg jerks. I take one last squirt, grab my bowl and stand, running it to the opposite bench as fast as I can to save my precious milk. Back to the stand, apply teat dip, give her some good scratches and praises, and release her. 

We did it!  Maybe it's a fluke. Maybe she was just really hungry this morning. But I'm calling it a small success. I go inside with my liquid gold and decide to measure it and keep a record. 

We will continue to work on stand manners, and soon (I hope!) we will begin working on quantity by separating her and Millie for a few hours at a time. 

Baby steps. The human kind, not the goat kind, because those are leaps.