Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goat Adventures: Shearing

We have written about these fabulous goats before, but we just can't get enough! Abby and Daniel now have 9 goats - 7 female and 2 male - and they each have a really distinct personality. The more time you spend with them, the more you see it! It's amazing. Abby has become the Goat Guru. She knows all about the different breeds and what traits they have, the different types of fiber, milk production, what they should eat, how to keep them healthy...the list goes on.
Since the last post, they have added a few more adorable goats to their heard. Let's take a look at their growing goat family:
The first two are Pygoras - a cross between a pygmy and an angora goat. These goats were bred for their fiber. They have a wether (a castrated male) and a doe.

This is Ziggy, the wether. He is rambunctious and somewhat of a whiner. He gets jealous of the other goats and likes a lot of attention.

Hi Ziggy!

This is Stardust - Ziggy's mom. As if it were possible, she wants even more attention than Ziggy and seems to be Abby's personal favorite...she is the mama goat, having established herself as head goat in the hierarchy of their heard. If you are paying attention to another goat, you will hear about it from Stardust!
They also have four Nigerian Dwarf goats. These are bred to produce milk. They are just as small as the Pygoras, maybe even smaller, and they can produce up to 2 quarts of milk per day! They recently had all four bred to a few local bucks, so they will have little babies in February or March.

This is Cameo, she is less skiddish than some of the others. They describe her as looking like a deer.

This is Tarot - I think she looks like a cow. She is definitely the most skiddish, but also very gentle. I like her a lot, she always gives you a knowing look, as if she is keeping a secret.
This is Cowalilly. She is beautiful!! She and Cameo are the easiest to pet out of the four of them. Her markings are just amazing.
They used to have a different Nigerian named Cordelia. Abby and Daniel always felt like she didn't really fit into the heard. When they were having their goats bred, the farmer offered to trade her for Cowalilly's twin sister - Abby and Daniel were so excited! Here she is, her name is....Cowalick...ha! She is so sweet, but the most defining personality trait of both sisters is their attachment to each other. Literally. They seem to always be touching. It's so cute!

Fairly recently, they added three more Pygora goats to the heard. At only 6 months old, they are so small and so cute! They had already grown their full fleece, so they look a little like sheep. Here they are:
This is Muriel, it looks like she is nuzzling Stardust, but really she is pushing her head out of the way: bold move Muriel.
This is Muriel with Aoife (pronounced ee-fa). "If Stardust is queen than Aoife is a the princess", Abby said while handling Aoife. She looks a little like an elf, has a heart shaped nose, and her fleece is incredible. She is really calm but obviously thinks of herself as very special. She almost floats around the barn.
And finally, Pippin. He is another wether, and is just like a little puppy! He is so adorable, I swear he smiles. He is really cuddly, when Abby picks him up instead of struggling he just nuzzles his nose into her neck and relaxes. It's irresistible. I know it seems impossible that they could have such personalities, but you can almost see it the very first time you meet them. They are a lot like dogs that way.

Ok - now onto the adventure! Shearing the Pygora babies.

Why, might you ask, is she shearing them in the fall? I had the same question. Goat fleeces, just like sheep, will felt if they are left on the goats for too long. They start out getting matted and dirty and slowly over time turn into a giant, painful, felty mess. Since these goats were born 7 or so months ago, their bodies haven't learned to grow their fleece at the right time yet. Stardust and Ziggy, for example, JUST started growing theirs - perfect timing! But they are a few years older. Luckily, she used scissors instead of clippers. This left them quite a bit of under-coat to keep them warm. She also has another fun solution....which you will see later. :)

How to shear a baby goat:

Step 1: Set up your shearing area with something to restrain the goats. (This is a custom milk stand made for smaller goats.)

Step 2: Catch your goat.

This is Muriel, before shearing - she is so small!

Step 3: Restrain the goat and give them a treat. In this case, she got a nice pile of grain - her favorite!


Step 4: Start cutting. Her fleece looked brown on the outside, but turned out to be mostly gray, what a surprise!

It came off mostly in one piece.

The outside.

The underside.

Step 5: The belly - watch out for the tiny udders!


All done - not so bad, right? Two to go....

Aoife, before. Look at that fleece! She looks like a cartoon goat.

So shiny.


Last, but not least, little Pippin. He was by far the easiest for Abby to shear since he is so calm and cuddly. He just stood there and hung out.

So what is the fun solution to keep them warm? Wool sweaters, of course! Abby found some kid sized sweaters at Goodwill and 'custom' fit them to each of the goats. She cut the sleeves and the belly to fit just right. We'll see how long they keep them on....

What a fun adventure!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frosty November

As we stepped out last night to dump some compost, it really felt like November. Crisp and cold, but with the lingering scent of fall. We knew it was going to be a cold night, but for some reason we didn't check the chances for frost. We woke up to a beautiful (albeit a little nerve-racking) frost. It was so thick it almost looked like snow!
The grass was shimmering and each leaf and flower were outlined in millions of tiny crystals. I spent a while walking around in my pajamas with the camera inspecting how the frost looked on all the different plants. Some of the garden plants look like they are holding up to the frost better than others but while the frost is still around they all look magical!
We will start covering the kale and spinach in the high tunnel, in hopes that it will survive the winter. We will probably also cover what is left after last night so it will last until the end of the market. Looks like it's going to be really cold tonight too.
Here are some photos of the farm with the first hard frost of the season:









Bronze Fennel