I hope you enjoy reading this blog. I will never claim to be an expert on cheese making, goat milking or farming (everyday I learn something new). However, I have learned so much from others who have generously shared their experience in books and on the web and hope to use this blog to pass it on to folks considering goats. I am completely enchanted by these creatures and how they have enriched our life. The amount I have learned since we got our first two goats has been exponential. Now our herd of 21 Nigerian Dwarf Goats is a big part of our daily life and I can't imagine it any other way. This blog will chart the seasons of milking and cheese making as a record for myself and a resource to others who are looking for a window into what it is like to own these adorable mini dairy goats.
For more information about our farm, please look us up on: Our Farm Website
Or LIKE us on FACEBOOK and check often for creamery updates: http://www.facebook.com/sunflowerfarmcreamery

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Kids Gone Wild!


44 kids born this year. 22 doelings and 22 bucklings. We are really going to miss them when they go to new homes at 8 weeks. It has been so much fun watching all the kids who visit them and enjoying their silly goat tricks! Our favorite thing (after snuggling) is to take the herd of little kids on a run! Enjoy the show!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Minutes from the Start of 2014 kidding Season

It has been 145 days since the buck (in all his smelly glory) began his yearly Thanksgiving visit at the farm. This means, impossibly cute goat kids should have hooves on the ground any minute now. I should be savoring these last few minutes of quiet before the wild ride of spring kids, milking and cheesemaking begin, but it is just so hard to wait.

Elsie spent Easter showing labor signs and then deciding against it...many times over. She along with 8 other of her goat friends are due this week. There should be some action in barn, and yet, all we can hear on the baby monitor is a riot of peepers. I begin to wonder if the first person to say “crickets” when faced with a long silence void of all the things one might expect to hear was a goat farmer awaiting the start to kidding season.

I imagine if I could find something to do it might make the time go faster, but in my insane nesting of the previous three weeks, I have done every scrap of laundry, cleaned out closets and even taken to filling the ruts in the road left by winter with heavy wheelbarrows of dirt and rocks. I’ve run out of even the least desirable jobs and so I wait.

Today when my impatience filled me to the top, overflowing in a grouchy mood, I went out to the pasture. I sat in the grass, warm for the first time since September. One by one the goats came over  -- Chianti put her forehead against mine. Go Go leaned against my right shoulder. I scratched their chins, leaned in and closed my eyes. I’m not sure how long the three of us sat that way. I know I wasn’t worried about rushing ahead towards the next thing, but instead swam deliciously in the sunlight of NOW.

As I get ready for bed, listening to the peepers on monitor, I try to imagine what I would have given for this moment in the cold months of January. I remind myself to enjoy the richness of  possibility 16 pregnant goats hold without needing to rush forward. In this moment I am luckier than I ever dared dream I could be. If you had told my younger self I could sleep over on a farm, I would have turned inside out with excitement, now this is my life. I’m not sure I’ve changed much. As I lay in bed I am giddy with what the morning might bring, but content to slip between the moments into a quiet space filed with the hum of possibility and contentment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Love Story

Bonnie & Junie B. Jones.
It is cute how the kids look like their mom even if their coloring is completely different.
These two are inseparable. 
We made the decision to allow the kids we keep to stay with their mothers as soon as we got goats and saw the amazing closeness among families. This means we get less milk at evening milking since the kids enjoy drinking throughout the day, but it is worth the trade off for us to see them all together. At night all the kids go in one pen together and the mothers enjoy a break. That leaves plenty of morning milk for us. 

This was the arrangement until this week when our little goat Junie B. Jones, now eight months old, decided she had a different plan in mind. Just recently she has developed the trick of jumping out of her pen in the morning and evening as we are delivering grain. Because she was the smallest of our kids, she is spoiled and feels she should get her breakfast and dinner first! The other night, she did not go back in with the other kids after she ate. I was a little worried she would get stuck out in the barn so later in the evening I went out and found that she had jumped into the pen with her mom and Don Pedro (he is a wether who has been Bonnie's friend and stall mate since we got them as kids). They were curled up together in a little ball, enjoying the visit. Every night now she does the same trick of sneaking in with her mother after we have shut off the lights and closed the barn door. 

As I prepare to let my oldest daughter head off to college in six months, I must admit I found this especially touching. There is a pull between mother and daughter that defies any walls of space or time, a connection which no one can sever. Because I think part of the fun is that Junie thinks she is being naughty, I will still put her in with the kids each night and delight each morning when I find her stretching into the day next to her mom. Why not keep kids close for as long as they want to be with us? I am savoring each moment I get with Lila for sure! Animals provide the simplest reminder of what is right and good in the world. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snowy Day...perfect for making caramels.

Snowy day made for cranking the music in the kitchen and making caramels. 
Our goat milk, butter and salt.
There is a simple beauty in simple ingredients. 
What a luxury to get to watch the mixture caramelize...and it takes  about 3 hours less than our cajeta.

This year, after 21years of full time teaching, I am trying a new schedule - teaching 4 out of the normal load of 5 classes - which allows me to cram them all into one day of our alternating day schedule and have the other day free for farming and cheese making. This has been a lifesaver all fall as we adjusted to the demands of being a licensed dairy and found ourselves often busy each night until 11 and waking up to do it all again at 5:30 a.m. Although a bit of a financial pinch and tiring at times, the change in schedule and the natural energy which comes with following a dream made our new enterprise possible. 

Then January hit and the world finally slowed down. Today is the first day since May when I feel completely calm and unrushed. We are drying off the goats which means I am only milking every other night, and since there is very little milk, that means it is time to close up the cheese kitchen until April when we will be eager to start up all the excitement again. The days I am not teaching now take on a unfamiliar calm which I have a few weeks to learn to savor! It is amazing how we (especially in New England I think) become so used to busyness that we forget how not to be. The race comes to define our self worth and even when we could have a quiet day we fill it with running around. I am talking myself out of this insanity this week...it helps that snow has settled again over Maine and I have a delicious goal I have been waiting for a long time to pursue. 

I am going to perfect goat milk caramels. While most caramel candy recipes call for cream, I had read that goat milk makes especially creamy candies and figured it would be fun to work out a recipe suited for our Nigerian Dwarf goat milk. The results so far are heavenly. Today I began the process of keeping a more detailed record of my process so that I can pin down the best approach. Sea Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels this week. Next week I'd like to play with an espresso caramel. By April I hope to have the caramels perfected and cool packaging developed so that we can sell them! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The End of the Season is Bittersweet

There were a few bitterly cold days recently. When I came in from the barn my pinky fingers (the only ones not involved in milking) were little blocks of ice. If you had visited on those mornings I would have said that I couldn't wait to stop milking. But in truth, when I begin to dry off the herd it always feels a bit sad. Morning and evening milking becomes so much a part of my life, that I begin to depend on these half hour breaks at dawn and dusk as a quiet time to refocus and reflect. The same is true for the daily routine of cheese making. The simple beauty of cracked pepper on a plate, plain cheese in a stainless bowl, the scent of freshly sliced herbs and garlic, and cheese hanging in a flour sack never gets old. The whole process is so aesthetically pleasing that it feels more like reward than work.

Time away from what we love, however, refuels our passion and the goats have earned the weeks of rest when their only job will be to grow the 1-5 healthy kids which are now brewing in all of our 13 bred goats! So I began by switching to just evening milking and soon will milk every other day and by the end of January, they should all be dried off.

Perhaps the perfect celebration of this transition in the season was our final cheese making class last weekend. Eight eager cheese makers gathered for an afternoon to try their hand at milking a goat, snuggle our kids who are now 8 months old, and to make chevre, feta and cajeta. It was such fun to share the magic of turning milk into cheese with others and we had a ball. When the class was done, my energy was renewed and I couldn't wait already to start all over again in the spring.

There will be mornings in February for sure when I miss the splash of milk in a pail, miss leaning against a warm goat to fight the cold, the soft sounds of a goat enjoying grain, but there will be plenty of cold ones, when it will be just fine to ignore the first alarm and sleep in an extra half hour.  There's always next year.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Eve of Breeding Season

Vision of what is to come...GoGo has a family meeting with her kids who are just a few minutes old.

Think of how you feel on Christmas Eve or the night before a birthday as a kid. All the eager anticipation and possibility just hours away. This is how it feels at our farm each year on the eve of the buck's arrival. 

Each year, our holiday gift to the does in our herd (11 are of legal age this year, 18 next year!) is a month long visit from a leased buck. When they are ready to visit with him (in heat) they stand at the fence making faces and we send them over for a date. 

Right now our buck Hopkins is on the ride home to our farm with Chris and by nightfall tonight, likely one doe will be bred. This is the first step towards all those adorable snuggly kids who will follow in 5 months (April this year) and a fresh start of another milking and cheesemaking season. Who knows what it will bring.

We have met so many wonderful people in our first year as a licensed  creamery. The folks at Bow Street Market, Walnut Hill Market, and Sweetser's Apple Barrel have been so much fun to work with and we had a great time collaborating with OxBow Brewery and Ruth Miller for a beer and cheese tasting at The Lion's Pride, Ferry Beach Ecology School for a fundraiser at Cinque Terre, and Skyline Farm for their Harvest Dinner. And then there are the families who brought home goat kids from our farm this past summer or visited this fall for Open Creamery Day, a cheese class or just because they were in the neighborhood. Hoping these connections continue to grow next season and it all begins with the buck. 

If you are thinking about buying a couple of goat kids this spring for pets of milking goats, then this is the eve of an exciting time in your life too. In hours your little goat of the future may be more than a twinkle in your goat farm dreaming eyes, it may be a goat kid brewing through these cool months and ready for a new home in early June. 

If you would like to come visit the girls this winter or to reserve first pick of the kids, or just want to talk about how amazing goats are and what it entails to take care of them, please feel free to come visit. 

I'm off to go watch the goat show. Bucky boy is likely just minutes away! More news on the romance soon!

Fall 2013 Update: 
Last year 11 goats ended up bred and kidded successfully, producing a total of 29 kids (we kept Poppy & Fern). It was a pretty even split between doelings and bucklings and they found amazing homes with 13 families across the state. 

This year, our buck Tex has his work cut out for him. We plan to breed 15-17 does, so if our average of 2.5 kids per goat holds we should have 37+ kids in the last couple weeks of April and the first week of May. It never gets old. I am a whirlwind of excited energy knowing that by this time tomorrow night, a few goats might be bred! The first 12 does are already spoken for with deposits as are 8 wethers, again a cool bunch of families who we look forward to getting to know better through the process. I could not feel any more lucky and grateful to have discovered goats. 

It is incredible how fully they have found places in our hearts. Sometimes people ask us if they all have names and when we say "Of course!" are amazed that we remember who each one is. That is always funny to me. We have watched most of them be born and grow up, know each of their distinct calls without looking out the window, love each quirky personality. All 21 are family and we can not imagine the day when we start to lose them to old age, but for now enjoy every day that we share the farm with them...especially during breeding season when the magic of all that is farming is so crystal clear.  The eager anticipation of spring kids is enough to pull us through even the darkest winter days. 

Interested in checking out the wild rodeo that is goat mating? Swing on by for a look over the fence between Thanksgiving and New Years. ;) 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Long Overview News!

The tricky part about a cheese making blog is when you are really busy making cheese, there is no time to keep it updated. Hopefully this fall I will do a better job, for now, this a sweeping overview. It has been an exciting summer! This summer we are milking 8 goats by hand, finished our cheese kitchen and had a great visit with the new state dairy inspector which was followed by our dairy license! We are the 70th of the licensed cheese makers in the state of Maine! We hope all our readers will have a chance to visit the farm. We are very proud of the kitchen, our girls and the product!

We also got excellent test results back from the state lab! Our cheese is super clean! Feta, Chevre and Cajeta (caramel) all tested at ZERO coliform. Our milk has 5.29% butterfat content (which means we can make more cheese from every quart of milk than milk from most other goat breeds) and 4.23% protein (average protein of goat milk according to The University of Delaware Extension is 3.4 percent-so we are high in protein!) All great confirmation that our hard work at making healthy and delicious cheese is now a tested reality!

You can now find our Cheese at Bow Street Market in Freeport, the Walnut Hill Market (across from Ames Farm & Feed) in N. Yarmouth, Sweetser Apple Barrel in Cumberland and at Orchard Hill Farm in Cumberland.  Or e mail or call and come stop by the farm. Our production will be limited in our first year, about 100 cheeses a week.


FALL Schedule of Sunflower Farm Events

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Eco Appetito
Cinque Terre, Portland, Maine
Sunflower Farm Cheese will be featured at Eco Appetito in September. Eat, drink & mingle for a good cause!
Executive Chef Lee Skawinski and his staff at Vignola Cinque Terre will highlight the best food and drink Maine has to offer:local meats and seafood • area artisan cheeses • locally grown veggies • desserts • hand-crafted beers • area wines
Event also includes: Silent auction • Door prizes • Live entertainment
Tickets are $40 in advance (available online at http://ecoappetito.org/ and $50 at the door. All proceeds will benefit Ferry Beach Ecology School and its Food for Thought program which teaches healthy food and sustainable living choices to children and adults throughout New England.

Sunday, October 7, 2012
Open Creamery Day & Sunflower Farm Opening Party for Friends & Family
Farm and kitchen will be open from 11-3 for the general public with an opening party for friends and family to follow from 6-8. If you are interested in also visiting other cheese makers around the state, see more info on The Maine Cheese Guild Website.

Saturday October 20, 2012
Womens' Cheese Happy Hour
4:00-6:00 pm
Come visit in the cheese kitchen, cook up a few goat cheese appetizers to enjoy together and get creative mixing your own herbs in spices in to plain chevre to take home. A delicious chance to get a taste of cheese making and to visit with other fun women!
Call 829-8347, E mail hope.hall@thorntonacademy.org or message me on our Sunflower Farm Page to reserve your spot.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cheese Label/Logo

We may still be a couple of months away from a finished cheese kitchen and state license...but there is something about having a logo design which makes the whole adventure seem real! I had played with a million options, hoping I could make one myself, but had a vision in my head and no drawing skills to pull it off. Then one night a couple of months ago I was stumbling around on Etsy and came across amazing graphite drawings by art professor Jessica Boehman on her Hans-My-Hedgehog site. I knew this was the look I wanted. Lucky for me, she agreed to do our logo as soon as the school year ended. The end product feels like she read our mind and then improved upon what we were dreaming of. In the center of the design is a drawing of our very sweet doeling named May. We keep telling her she is famous, she is more interested in hugs than fame right now.
The real life May!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spring in Full Swing

Sonnet is our best producer.
5+ cups a milking.
Wooohooo! After months of dreaming spring is in full bloom. This weekend we made three types of cheeses (mild feta, pressed fresh cheese with dill, garlic and chive, and chevre of all kinds). I'm         milking our 7 goat mamas every morning between 5-6. The 20 new kids all have a big sleepover and enjoy some grain each night which gives the moms a break and their udders plenty of time (12 hours) to build up some nice fresh milk for us.

I can't help remember my first morning milking when I came it to proudly show our visiting friends the 1/2 cup I had milked from Chianti. Now I am developing muscles bringing in the one and half gallons each morning! More evidence that good things often take a little time and practice. Our goat winner is Sonnet who makes 5 or more cups a milking. I am also very impressed with the udder and teats on little miss Rosemary who is a first freshener. She may be our top goat next year when she has a bit more time to develop. They are all very polite, with the exception of Bonnie who kicks very occasionally so that just when you have let down your guard she tips the bucket. She's only gotten me twice, but I have to be on guard. Most of them are so lazy on the stand that I can lean on them and half nap half milk on sleepy mornings. I really love my girls and even when I've stayed up to late, all I have to do is make it to the barn and any early morning grouchiness disappears.

So many cute kids have visited,
some to buy goats, many others just to learn more
and get a snuggle.
We sold all the 13 kids we put on the website quickly to nice families, so in early July, they will all go off to new homes. Lucky for us, a few are going just down the road so we will be able to wave at them as we drive by to the grocery store or ice cream!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

First Kids of the Season

May, Stella, Greta

Mama out on the first adventure with her kids

Pretty Greta

Tiny Stella
If you are getting a dairy going, during kidding season doelings are the equivalent of hitting the jackpot, a slam dunk, a hole in one! Imagine our joy when Sonnet, the first to freshen, delivered 3 healthy doelings! Stella, May and Greta are perfect little angel goats. Each of them is completely different in attitude and appearance. Greta is a big girl with an amazing zebra face. Stella, the last to be born, is tiny and a mini version of her mother. May looks like a cross between a barn owl (sweet arched hair over eyes) and a deer. She loves to be kissed and to nibble noses! To top it off, their mother is a great milker, so hopefully we have some future stars to look forward to! They are three days old and have already had 36 visitors, so they are very used to human love and attention, something that makes our kids extra special.

Sonnet delivered at 147 das bred. She looked ready the night before, so I sat in the barn from 4:00 in the afternoon until 6:30 in the morning when she finally started serious labor. It was well worth the wait for these beauties. With three does in the bank it looks like we will have both does and wethers to sell this year. If you're interested in buying a goat, feel free to stop by in May to visit the babies. Last year they went fast, so deposits are a good idea if you want your pick. We will likely keep these three, but there are lots more to come!

Next up this week Chianti and Tiger are due. Can't wait to see their kids.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dreaming of Kidding Season-The Naming Game Begins

At least once a day now someone in the family says, "Oooooh I can't wait any more for goat babies." Half way through the 5 months we always get absurdly excited, and this year is no exception. The funny thing about goats is you can never be totally sure that goats are pregnant or how many kids they will have until they kid (unless you do an ultrasound). We are hoping we have 7 bred goat mamas which means we could have anywhere from 7-28 kids.
Most of them should now be 75 Days bred.  A great deal of growth will occur during the next stage, and by this point each kid weighs about 4 ounces and is 2 1/2 inches long. The kid's first hairs have sprouted around its eyes and mouth. It has little legs!
So no time like the present to start thinking of names! We are requesting the help of our blog followers around the world. Perhaps the word goat is adorable in your language, or you have a lovely great aunt with a wonderful old name. We are open to all suggestions.
Please leave comments on this post if you have any cute ideas or think any of the ones below are a must.
So far we have the following list:


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bucky Boy comes for his Christmas Visit

Diableau in one of his few moments of rest.
This post is PG13. :)

Each year we lease a buck for the month of December. Although this is the third buck to come stay with us, the excitement and peculiar nature of goat breeding is always freshly comedic. I figured I would try to take a few notes throughout his visit to share the fun with others who might be considering a similar arrangement.

Note, this year in addition to copper and hoof trimming, we gave all the does a shot of BoSe the week before the buck came. 

Day 1&2- We picked up goat boy-Diableau after a day of teaching. It was a cold, rainy night so my plan was to unload him from the dog crate, treat him to some grain, and introduce him to his December roommate, our wether Don Pedro. After being penned up with a load of randy bucks at his house, I imagined he would relish this break from mega testosterone. I had expected to wait to introduce the ladies to him until the next morning when it was less wet out after he had had some time to settle in. Sonnet, our sweet blue eyed doe, had other plans. She came outside in the rain (goats avoid the rain at all costs, so her bravery was a true testament to the power of hormones) and yelled at bucky through the fence. I brought her over with the boys and the attraction was instant. He ran around her in circles wagging his tongue. She stood still and flashed her baby blues at him and in minutes, she was bred. Although he will try lots of times to get it right, I look for the time when the goat mama scrunches up her body as confirmation that she is likely pregnant. Her lust satisfied, she was then willing to go back in the barn to sleep with the doelings and the other mamas for the night. Early the next morning, I awoke to her calling to me. She was ready for round two. I left her for a day long date when I went to work, and by the afternoon she was done with him. Like middle school students, the crush had come and gone like a rain storm, and by dinner grain was infinitely more important than any goat man. She is our first polled goat (no horns), so with any luck her kids will be polled too and we will not have to disbud them.

Day 3-6- The buck is a sweetheart. Smelly for sure, but gentle and kind. His face is the cutest face I've seen on a buck so I can't wait to see his kids. But, in the days following Sonnet's love affair, he seems so docile I begin to worry if he is man enough for the job of breeding our 6 lovely does. He was plenty interested in the doelings (men!), but largely ignored the goats we are hoping he will breed. In the past we just put the does out with him each day. This year we are more carefully watching for heat to save everyone unneeded stress and so that we will better be able to plan for their deliveries. Just when I was beginning to think he was a dud, Tiger started calling to him on Day 7.

Day 7-8-Goat in heat for sure. I sent her through the gate and although she was interested, they begin a wild running race back and forth through the field. I think Tiger needed a few more hours until she was ready for her date, and there was no way I was going to go to work and let goat guy chase my girl all day and run her ragged, so I put her back with her friends. After school, she was in standing heat. Perfect timing. I sent her over to buckville for a few hours of romance before dinner and voila, pregnant goat number 2. The funny thing about Tiger is she hums when being romanced. The next morning, I set her out again for a breakfast date and by 7:30 am, she was done with him and settled into her sweet quiet mama routine. I went to teach happy that the buck was perfectly able, just unwilling to push himself on goats unless they were interested...or in heat.

Day 9-No goat love, so to amuse myself, I made a huge batch of delicious cajeta (Mexican goat milk caramel) which my friend Judy is going to use in her Martha Moon chocolates she has started to sell. Can not wait to taste them. It takes a good 4 hours to boil down 2 gallons into 4 1/2 quarts, but the result is truly too good for words. You can put cajeta on all sorts of things or dip apples in it, but I am ashamed to say much of the time we end up just eating it with a spoon!

Day 10-Chianti's turn. She makes the cutest kids of any goat on the farm. And we love her, but she is a crooked lady and not the best milker. Great udder and milk, but tiny holes which means you have to have a weightlifter's strength to get much milk out. We milk her anyway mostly so she feels part of the Sunflower Farm team. Interestingly her daughter Luna was a first freshener last year and was great to milk! Chianti woke up ready for her turn. It was a nasty, muddy, rainy day. But, a woman with a plan can not be dissuaded, so I let her out before work and again in the afternoon, and 3 is a charm. Who will be next?

Day 11-13-All is quiet on the goat front. No big chemistry. Don Pedro is having a good time with his new buck friend. No head butting really. At night they sleep in the little goat house in the field together.  I think Don P. misses his favorite goat Bonnie, but otherwise is OK with our December arrangement.

Day 14-Bucky is interested in Luna. Before I brought her over, there was lots of peeing on his face and making insane noises to her through the fence, so I knew he was flirting. The girl goats lift their upper lip in a flirting smile (no teeth on top so it looks a little crazy) when they like the way the buck smells. I sent Luna (our first doe born on the farm!) over and buck spent the day making crazy noises to her. Almost singing. I could hear him inside with all the doors and windows shut! Saw him mount her a number of times. She seemed OK hanging out with him, so I left her on the boy side when I went to work.

Later that day after school, Go Go was acting ready. She likes to lick the bucks face and rub up beside him, very sweet. She is our most affectionate goat, so I guess it's no surprise she would love up the buck. Last year she kidded on the same day, in the same minute as another doe, so perhaps she is planning on another double header. My 13 year old Tess was the only one home when GoGo and Chianti kidded last year. She ran back and forth between the stalls and helped deliver 6 kids! By the time we got home it had ended minutes before and all their umbilical cords we dipped and everyone had nursed! I was so impressed with Tess! I'll leave GoGo out after dinner and put her back out in the morning. She and Bonnie are our best milkers, so I am not taking any chances with whether they get bred.

As a side note, today Tiger was eager to go see the buck and wagging her tail. I wondered if maybe the first time she was in false heat. Don Pedro our wether was interested in her, but the buck was not, so I was not sure what is up with her. Her last heat was 5-6 days ago when I thought she was bred. I went  out tonight in the pitch dark to see if the buck was interested in her and he was. I fell over a goat pail in the dark onto the icy ground, recovered, then sat out under the winter stars so I wouldn't miss what was going on with Tiger. I was interested because it has not been my experience that a goat will go back into heat so quickly and I was certain she had been bred. There was lots of running in circles until she stood and hummed to him again. I think last week was false heat and that this is her real date, but we will see in May. I'll put her out again in the morning with GoGo and Luna. Big day for Bucky!

Just read...
5 day heat

Pgymy Goats Management and Veterinary Care By Lorrie Boldrick.
A doe will come into season [heat] and stand for the buck normally.  We carefully enter the dates on the  calendar and start planning for our babies in 5 months.  But 5 days later, the doe is back in season and standing once again for the buck.  He's happy, and so is she, but what does this do to our 5 month plans?  Apparently the follicle produced with the first heat did not rupture (ovulate).  But since it was ripe, it took only a few days for the hormones to build back up and prepare for ovulation once again.  The majority of does will ovulate on this five-day heat and you should adjust your calendar accordingly.  There is almost no chance that she would have ovulated at the first heat.
So, I think I will calculate her due date from today as was my initial instinct.

Only one left to go into heat is Bonnie. Unless she is just sneaky and we missed the whole love session! I can never tell when she is in heat, so I have putting her with the boys each day.

Day 16-Bonnie's turn. The buck was very romantic with her. Lots of flirting.

Day 22-Hmmmm, our second 5 day heat. Bonnie was ready for another visit today, waiting by the fence door to be let out to the outer field where our wether and the buck are this month. I am interested to see when Tiger and Bonnie have their kids! I'll be looking on both dates for sure...and lets be honest, I sit by the baby monitor all month! (Whenever I'm not at work that is!)

This year the buck has stayed in the pen we put him in! Last year our buck jumped out of one stall and into Luna's to breed her (she was only 7 months). It all worked out for her, she was a great mom and her 2 kids very healthy! Most of our kids are going to wait until next year, but there are two who are 7-8 months old who I am thinking about since they are so big. The NDGA says 7 months is OK if they are big enough, but most seem to wait a year or older.  If the two I am considering go into heat at the end of his stay, I may let them visit the buck, but I am working hard to keep the rest way away from him!

Notes: Nigerian Dwarf Goats go into heat every 18-25 days. They are in heat for 1-3 days but in standing heat, (when they will allow the buck to mount them without running) for only part of this heat period. If they are bred and they do not go back into heat, they will likely deliver 145 days later (about 5 months). It looks like our first will be due on Tuesday May 1st and we'll be busy through the end of May!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good Mold

My first soft, mold-ripened goat cheese is underway! The recipe is a mix of the one in Home Cheese making by Ricki Carroll and a recipe on the Fiasco Farm site. Like Fias Farm, I left mine out longer to drain. To begin the process, I spent a morning cleaning black mold out of an old fridge to use as a cheese cave. BAD MOLD. Somewhat ironic perhaps that my first cheese to find its way into the sparkling clean cave were 4 lovely little white mold covered Saint Maure cheeses (in a Crottin shape)! GOOD MOLD. I plan to try one at 2 weeks and then one at 4 and one at 5. For now they are fuzzing up nicely and I am watching them too much. My friend came by the other day as I sat staring at them on the counter in their mini tent and said, "Is this kinda like the watched pot thing?" Likely true, but my watched cheeses are molding!

1/2 gallon milk set up with whey on top
Instruments ready to begin draining in molds

Molds full. I used Chevre molds because that is what I had, but their tapered shape meant that when I flipped them they had to come out and this meant they did not keep their shape as well. 
Under their tent on the counter draining whey
They are half the size after 2 days out.

EZ Liner roll makes a nice mark and drains them well
Back under tent to get a bit more fuzzed up. I used reusable produce bag from Natural Home to protect them.

A little more time on counter in a Ziplock 
Starting to see white mold on outside. Smells a little like yeast. I may have used too much mold...we'll see!

Into the cheese fridge. Still a little cool, so I ordered a fridge thermostat adjuster and keep opening the door for now to warm it up! 5 days old. Very covered in mold. I should have been flipping them more. Did today.

I will post the recipe...IF they are delicious.
So here is the finished cheese after 3 weeks. It was delicious and goatie and fancy tasting. But as you can see there is an issue with skin slip. (There is space between the cheese and skin and it is milky and drippy in the space when you cut it). Next time to fix this fairly common problem (especially with first timers) I will use even less Goetrichum, a bit more salt, more drying time at lower temps and be sure there is no condensation in the tupperware container during the aging period. I think I'll try again next weekend. For now I am making feta and chevre like crazy. I'll post the recipe for this cheese as soon as it comes out perfect!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Betta' Feta

So last time I made Feta I was impatient. (Recipe from Last Time) I was eager to taste it at every stage and ended up eating it all before it was done becoming good and fettaish. My impetuous nature however worked to my advantage, because I can mentally compare the current batch to my first try at each stage. I worked with the same recipe but took my time and the results are (so far) way better. The cheese is far softer because I was more gentle with my curds, stirring just three times as I heated them. I also added a bit more culture (1/2 tsp) and let it sit a little longer at each stage which is resulting in more flavor. This time I also created a brine (1/2 cup salt dissolved in 1/2 gallon boiling water-then chilled) and have the feta aging in the fridge in brine and whey for 2 weeks at least!
After aging for two days in Tupperware on the counter, I cut it into cubes and put the cheese and the whey in quart ball jars. This is how much cheese I got from 2 gallons of milk. 
Looks good enough to eat already, but I am showing great patience.
Cheese in my fridge soaking in brine.

2 weeks later: So delicious. It is salty, has a good texture and is a big hit with family and friends. Will have to make more soon! For now onto a soft, mold ripened cheese this week. Can't wait for my white mold to arrive in the mail so I can get started!

Note: The next time I tried the same recipe with 2 gallons of milk, my yield was higher and the cheese was softer. I did everything the same except I also added a touch of lipase. (I like the way this one tastes even better.) 61 oz. of cheese before adding brine.  This cheese has been a huge hit so feta will have to be a regular creation. The later in the milking season we get, the longer it seems to take for whey to drain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Big Week of Blueberries, Building and Bigger Milk Supply!

Big Time Blueberries
Each summer there is a small window for each type of delicious berry, miss the blueberry week or the advent of blackberries and you will likely be kicking yourself all through the long cold winter as you are faced with the sad versions shipped from a million miles away. This year we hit the blueberries dead on!

Chevre with Blueberry Chutney-THANKS for the great new idea Travis! 
Classic Summer Pie
Our first goat milk custard with berries-YUM.

Big day in the barn results in Big day in Kitchen...We milked our 5 goats this morning (they are separate from their kids at night) and got 12 cups of lovely milk.  Each goat is averaging over 1/2 a quart -although in truth a couple pull more than their weight and give a quart of milk at each milking- unless they get bored with the process and begin to dance! We will begin miking twice a day once the kids are gone. With more milk we are able to make more treats. This week we made cajeta (Mexican caramel-see Sunflower Farm website for pictures and recipe), yogurt, ice cream and chevre.

Big day in the new cheese kitchen...Meanwhile, the cheese kitchen is looking great. The framing is complete, skylights are in and 3 windows go in today.
3 windows and 3 skylights in cheese kitchen
Big day for the kids...This week we also sent off our 9 goat boys to their new homes. It is crazy how attached we got to them and the farm seems quiet now. To fill a bit of the void we are bringing home a new milking goat and kid early in August! Then we will have 5 doelings, 6 milking does and 1 wether. Stay tuned for new pictures.
Leo, Moe and Zion all went home with a sweet couple from Mass. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Virtual Visitors & 5 things I have learned from our growing dairy herd this year.

GoGo snuggled up with her pile of kids!
Over the past year, virtual visitors have popped in to the Sunflower Farm Dairy Blog from all over the United States, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, United Kingdom, Ghana, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Korea, Russia and Thailand. In total 1000+ folks have stumbled in for a moment of small farm life in Cumberland, Maine. 
I love this for so many reasons. Unless you grew up farming (and I imagine even if you did) there are always a million curious questions which pop up on any given day. Knowing that there are people out there with a million different answers makes the journey less lonely. Farming allows us to disconnect in many ways from the insanity of modern life, but virtual and real live visitors to the farm remind me of how much the simple act of planting a garden, tending goats, collecting eggs and making cheese connects me to people, traditions and history which have persevered throughout all time, all around the globe. I am hoping to add a forum soon where we all can share our hard earned wisdom with each other on topics related to goat herding and cheese making! Also coming in August to the blog, hard cheeses and more on the creation of our dairy! For now my small gift to those in their first year or two of goats...
5 things I have learned this year.  
Note: these are simply my observations based on experience with my goat herd. I am interested in what others have experienced! PLEASE leave a note about something you learned this year!

Giving Shots is worth doing yourself...for sure there are things we call the vet for, but to have them make a farm call to give shots was getting pricey and unnecessary. This year we saved about $900. giving our own antibiotics, BoSe and CDT when they were called for. It's easiest with kids if one person can hold the goat while the other gives the shot. Set adults up on the milk stand with some food and they will not even notice a shot. To be prepared buy: alcohol, wipes needles- it is worth having a variety (Banamine calls for a tiny dose, CDT always a whopping 2 cc.), and a scale. Side note: The bottle of CDT says to dispose of the bottle after opening and using once. I asked my vet and he said it was fine to keep it between the first round of shots and the second round of shots 3 weeks later. Be sure to wipe bottle with alcohol wipes, use a new needle for each shot and to keep the bottle in the fridge when not in use.

Disbudding will hurt you more than it hurts them. In my opinion it is best to get someone with a lot of experience to do it. They will do it once, right, and be quick about it. We tried it the first year on our own and had to have the ones we sold redone by the vet. He used lots of painkiller and took a long time which in my opinion added a lot of stress to the goat kids. We were keeping Luna, so we let her one horn grow calling her our One Horned Wonder. When done correctly the whole process takes about 1-2 minutes and they will yell most of it, but when they hop down, they run to nurse and act as if nothing has happened. It does not appear to cause them lasting pain. Side note: Luna broke her little horn off the other day wrestling over food with another doe. It was a bloody mess and an excellent argument for disbudding. When I called the vet in a tizzy, he sensibly suggested that if I stopped chasing her and trying to DO SOMETHING, her blood pressure would drop a bit and the blood would likely stop on its own. If your goat ever breaks off their horn apply some blood stop and iodine or blue cote and let them be. Keep an eye on it and step in if needed, otherwise let nature heal her up. Her little horn nub healed up great without any real help from us.

Elastration is easy on the owner but clearly is not fun for the goat. In addition to shots, we elastrated 8 of our little bucklings this year. We waited until 7 weeks to give them time for their systems to develop as much as possible to help prevent urinary calcifications later. They are fertile at that age, so waiting longer than that was not possible with our setup. You might imagine burning the hornbud would be far more painful than placing a band at the top of their testicles, but this is not from my observations true. We gave our goat babies Banamine this year, an antinflamatory painkiller prescribed by the vet which did seem to shorten their discomfort. The procedure is cheap and easy to do yourself or with a partner. No vet needed for this either, save the $300 for an emergency! Weigh them and give the correct amount of Banamine. Then wash them up with an alcohol wipe, put the band on and then cover the area with Iodine. Quick and easy. At first, they are fine, they run and nurse and seem unaffected. Then it hits them and for 2-4 hours the poor kids are miserable. They all draped themselves on their moms and took turns crying piteously. Chris left the farm that evening! He could feel their pain. That night life was back to normal and after a week or two the nuts were shriveled up and ready to fall.  If you think about the surgery we do on cats and dogs...or humans for that matter, I suppose the 2-4 hours of discomfort is not any worse and perhaps better. I am looking into other methods though. Many folks seem to use the Burdizzo which I am curious to hear more about. 

Goats will Waste Hay-No matter what hay feeder you buy or build, goats will waste hay. It used to make me a little crazy (second cut costs about $3-5 a bale in Maine and our goats each eat about 25 bales a year.) Then I read someone's blog who said that you need to see it as food and then bedding and you will not go so crazy. They are able to spread the hay feet from a feeder and it does provide them with a constant fresh source of bedding! This is a good reminder to fix what you can and to let the rest go until you find a better way! HAY, if you're not having fun what is the point?

Goat Families Love Each Other
-We can't keep all the goat kids born on our farm, but boy do we wish we could. This year as our herd grew we were able to see how sweet the goat families are together. Pick any summer day to observe and you will find piles of goats laying on top of or following around their mom.  Luna our doe born last year still follows around her mom (now with her 2 kids in tow.)Watching this touches my heart and is why we have chosen to let the mothers nurse their kids naturally. Many bottle feed the babies to increase the amount of milk they get and to avoid spread of CAE, but I hope we will always be able to balance the farm profit with the daily gold of seeing goats being goats together. Our herd tested negative for CAE, so we are not worried about spreading something we do not have on our farm and for now we have plenty of milk. We separate the kids and moms at night and milk in the morning in the first 8 weeks, then once the majority of the kids go to new homes this weekend, we will begin twice a day milking. Even with all the kids still here, we get a range of 2 cups to 2 quarts a day from each doe. Our goal in the next few years will be to add more 2 quart a day goats! Since we started with goats as pets, milk production was not our original concern. Side Note: We want does to expand our dairy herd but only 4 out of 13 kids were girls this year. We leased a buck who ran with our does for the month of December. I recently heard that many farmers believe that a buck who is allowed to see the does and build up his interest and is then given one shot to mount a doe in heat, will be more likely to produce does! Very interesting! I'm sure there are great number of humans who have tried crazier things to improve their odds of creating offspring of a certain gender! I'm guessing each time, you've got a 50% chance of the trick working! Hopefully the coin flips more in our direction next year, but I wouldn't trade this batch of sweet kids for anything this year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smells Good to Me!

Like many modern women, somedays it seems I am almost entirely consumed by a losing battle with "bad" smells. The real breeze filled with a mixed perfume of goat manure, herbs growing in the garden by the kitchen, the lawn just mowed, dog hair and pig musk is fought with Febreze. I'm sure air freshener is far more dangerous to my senses than any "bad" smell, and to be honest I can't even say I enjoy the Linen & Sky or Meadows & Rain fragrances although I am a big fan of how fresh linen, meadows, and a rainy sky smell in their natural form.
Somehow in the the last 50 years, we have been brainwashed to believe that no smell equals status; a sanitized home is a sign that we have made it, that we have conquered nature and all its unmanagable assaults on our senses. But recently it has occurred to me that it is not just our sense of smell that we are providing with a clean (BLANK) slate, but our other senses as well. I have begun to think that maybe by banishing the real world of smells from our daily landscape, we also arrest our happiness which depends on all senses to craft the memories which anchor us. We are constantly barraged with temptations to adopt a goal of "living well" with all the elegance of Martha but none of the gritty and memorable fun of a real experience. We have been tricked into thinking we can control our environment and too often give up the deliciously dangerous world of bee stings and mud and manure.
This summer spend a day in the mall, then another on a farm. I can bet which one your brain is more likely to store away and revisit on a cold winter day. I can't remember a single day I've spent at the mall, although I often comment that I wish my house smelled like Origins and always inhale deeply while passing Abercrombie. These shops smell great, but these manufactured scents are not connected to my life or memory bank and 50 years from now it will be the smell of manure and hay that take me back to hours spent waiting for the birth of a new goat kid or piglet. Those "bad smells" will work their magic like no other can.
In an August 2011 editorial in Cook's Magazine, Christopher Kimball wrote, "One experiment asked participants to sniff 10 common household odors and then to identify them; most correctly matched up fewer than half. Perhaps that's because our brains are given such lousy material to work with; laundry detergent doesn't make much of an impression...As a kid in Vermont, however, I collected unforgettable memories: the aching cold of a swimming pond, the sweet smell of fern dappled wetland, a good snort of wood smoke drifting through the first cold October evening, the wet vanilla and caramel steam from a sugarhouse, the scent of a workhorse-all dried sweat, heat and manure-and afternoon light filtered though spider-webbed, fly-specked windows of the dairy barn. There was nothing between sensation and memory: the senses smashed headlong into the mind, burying deep, leaving immutable patterns of smells, sights, sights, tastes and sounds.
The modern world, however, filters the pleasure of living through infinite layers...Unhappiness steps through the door when we find ourselves removed from the world, from the shock and pleasure of the five senses. Thats' why we cook, to remind ourselves that we are alive...Living with zero degrees of separation entails risk-yes, that glass of raw milk may contain pathogens-but nothing worth doing is entirely risk-free."
So the next time company swings by I will not rush around with a bottle of Febreze but instead will welcome them into the kitchen (which will likely smell like cheese curds) and the barn (which will smell like manure) and perhaps this will be my gift to the visitor and myself...a good stiff wiff of a simpler time, not too far out of our reach if we are willing to step into the wonderfully messy world.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yogurt Maker Has Arrived!

We bought a Euro Cuisine YM260 2 Quart yogurt maker and took it for its first ride this week! Tess (my 13 year old chef and daughter) has been waiting for the UPS truck to pull up our driveway every day and when it finally came, you would have thought it was Christmas for how excited she was to get it unwrapped. The idea is that it keeps the yogurt at the perfect temperature (110-115 degrees) for it to turn yogurt like. There all lots of ways to do this, but most of them take more attention. (Ex. Putting jars of hot water in a cooler with the jars of milk and culture.) The great thing about the yogurt maker is that it hod the temperature for 8 hours and we can be sleeping!

•Heat 2 quarts fresh goat milk to almost boiling. Cool to 110. 

Separate 2 cups of milk in bowl and add yogurt with live cultures. (We used 1 cup of yummy Plain Stonyfield organic.) Stir. Add to rest of milk and stir well again.
Pour mixture into 2 Qt container and plug in. Let sit for 8 hours.

gather what you would like to put in your yogurt for flavor and wash your storing jars
Put container in the fridge for about 8 hours. When it comes out it will look like yogurt!  Now comes the fun part of adding flavor.

Maine maple syrup
add vanilla
strawberry jam thickens the yogurt a bit

Add a tiny scraping of the delicious caviar type seeds inside of a vanilla bean, some vanilla extract and a touch of Maine maple syrup or some homemade strawberry jam to the plain yogurt and ENJOY.

Many folks complain that they find homemade goat yogurt too thin. You can add all sorts of things to thicken your yogurt-gelatin, powdered milk and tapioca. European style yogurt is traditionally less thick, so if you prefer you can enjoy it as is and feel cool and European! I think I'd rather have a thinner yogurt than one full of additives (something cooking at home enables us to avoid!) In our case, using a whole milk yogurt as the starter and fresh Nigerian Goat milk made a yogurt that is a good consistency, so we will not be adding a thing!