Sunday, March 16, 2008

Did you know that goats can fly? Farm Update 3/16

I know this photograph isn't great but I had to post it anyway. Our four angora goat kids have discovered the joys of jumping from one bale of hay to another and it is such a pleasure to watch. They chase each other around at mad speeds, incorporating an upturned crate, a plastic chair, and sometimes a sleeping mama, into their obstacle course.

They are so happy and so healthy and growing like crazy. Even little Basil, the youngest of the group, is sprouting some good sized horns!

The six remaining bred nannies in this group should start kidding by the middle of next week. We have never had this kind of break between babies. (Basil was born more than a month ago.) I spoke with our friend Sara, owner of Buckwheat Bridge Angoras, and the person we bought these bred does from. She said it appears that the does were bred by the "clean-up buck."

Basically, when you breed goats, you put 20 or 30 does in with one buck and allow them to go through two or three 21-day-cycles. Then, as an added insurance, you take the first buck out and put a second one in. That way is your first buck is shooting blanks you don't have to go a whole year with an unbred doe. Sara and her husband Dan followed this procedure before we picked up the does and brought them up to the Vineyard. Once they arrived here, we put all 10 of the most-likely bred does in with our new buck, Buck Fifty, just to be triply-sure they were all bred.

So I have a fairly high degree of certainty that the six remaining does are in fact bred. And all but one of them clearly are and four of them are "bagged up" to some degree. Bagged up means that the does udder has begun to fill up. This can happen as much as three weeks before kidding.

So stand by for new babies! I will send out an email as soon they make their appearance. Unfortunately, Patrick and I have to go off-Island next weekend for Easter and Patrick's eldest son's 16th birthday, so we will be getting the news second hand. Mark and Melinda Defeo, our dear friends, are super qualified to keep an eye on things here. Melinda works at the Farm Institute and has just attended her second Women's Kidding Week at The Heifer Institute.

My mom and I went to the Heifer Institute's Women Lambing Weekend in Arkansas a few years ago. It is a good program and we met a lot of very successful, intelligent women there. The thing is, the program was really designed to introduce people to Heifer and wasn't so great for the animals. In order to be sure that lambs were born during the weekend of the program they injected the ewes with something to force them to go into labor. It was kind of icky.

I love the idea though, and I think we will do our own version of it next spring. I'll let you know as the idea develops. Another idea that we are going forward with right away is Weekend Shepherd Camp for people who are interested in raising sheep or who just want to take an agritourism vacation. I've been doing a lot of reading about making a working farm sustainable and diversification is the key. We are going to start the Shepherd Camp in April and do it all through the summer.

Speaking of reading, I want to recommend a couple of magazines that I have really been enjoying lately. The first is Hobby Farms Magazine. This publication is really an introduction to small-scale farming (what the British call "smallholding") and we have probably outgrown most of the farming how-to info it contains, but I do like reading about what other people are doing with their livestock around the country.

The magazine I have a complete crush on right now is the UK edition of Country Living. It's nothing like the US version- it's actually about living in country, not just decorating your house as if you do. There is a sheep or fiber article in almost every issue and it's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. It's also expensive, expensive, expensive. Like $7 on the newsstands. But it's so very inspiring and oversized and just lovely.

All of the sheep and goats are heavy with wool and fiber respectively and more than ready for their shearing. I'm happy to say that the fleeces look relatively free of vegetable matter, which is amazing at this time of the year. I love shearing, not just because of all the yummy, wonderful fiber we harvest, but also because it feels like a new beginning.

We are going to be jacketing all of the sheep this year right after they are sheared. In the past we have only jacketed the cormos and this year we only managed to get jackets on Sicily and FDR. Jackets are a pain in the rear but they really cut down on the amount of vegetation in the fleece and the time it takes to pick all that stuff out. I am ordering a bunch of new jackets in a variety of sizes so they'll be here in time for the shearing at MV Fiber Fest.

That's all for this week. Be sure to enter the MVFF Hat give away in the previous post by leaving a comment.


elephant7 said...

Great picts. Wish we had the time to come up and see the fun, my girls would love to see the lambs and kids.

--Deb said...

Oh, wow, I just LOVE your pictures. Always.

And, no, I did not know that lambs can fly.

But I can imagine how much the sleeping moms just LOVE being used as springboards for the acrobatics....

SeDress said...

Instead of jackets, looks like you need some little [super hero] capes for your flying goats.
Do the jackets stay on the sheep all year then?

Anonymous said...

So cute

Susan said...

Sedress, we try to jacket the cormos all year because their fiber is so lovely but it's hard. Mostly because the shearer is always in a big hurry during shearing time and I'm reluctant to take the time to get the jacket on while he is waiting for the next sheep. If you don't put it on RIGHT THEN it's way to easy to keep putting it off, because it's hard to get them on and the sheep don't like it. They don't mind once it's on, but they hate being caught and held while you put it on.
You also have to change the jackets every couple of months as their fleece grows.

Writer bug said...

I love the idea of the agra-vacation! Count me in!

Maggie said...

man, every time I look at your posts, it just reinforces the fact that I will have goats of some sort when I "grow up", hard work and all. My husband will likely hate you by then ;)

Zoe said...


I'd be very interested to hear more about the Shepard weekends. I would like to get goats in the future and have been spending some time on a dairy goat farm. Please let us know more info when you can.


Shirra said...

Shepherding camp! How cool that sounds! I'll be putting the word out.