Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short time of being a goat herder, it’s that at breeding time, the goats are in charge. How is this different from any other time when they’re in charge. They’re in charge..with an attitude. Well, not all of them, just Frannie. You might remember me mentioning Frannie in former posts, my sweet girl who enjoys having a quiet conversation every morning about our days. Well, a few things have changed since our days have grown shorter and the hormones have started ramping up. This ain’t your grandmother’s PMS. This is 145 pound, off the wall, chew the boards, kick the bucket kind of hormone crazy.
Milking with Dollie is an idyllic experience, a zen moment, a type of meditation. The most unpredictable thing about it is not knowing whether she’ll want one or two alfalfa cubes when she’s ﬁnished. Milking with Frannie on a good day starts with her frantically rushing the gate bursting past Dollie, leaping onto the milking stand and then turning to give me “the look”. She’s deﬁnitely got the ‘tude. Once she’s munching away on her grain, and I use that term munching loosely as it’s more like a swirling, grinding, tossing, blast of feed ﬂying thru the air kind of thing (remember your Mother always told you not to chew with your mouth open?) she settles down and the milking begins. I have to say for the most part, things go smoothly. We have our odd day when she decides it would be a good idea to remind me who’s in charge. Those times, and especially if I’m relaxed and taking my time milking, she’ll lift up her left foot just high enough so that whatever is stuck to the bottom of it winds up on the milk pail with a decided plop. Nice.
During breeding season, things get a little more interesting. The plop is preceded by a little dance, a dirty look which translates to “stop pulling on my ta ta’s or I’m going to stick my foot in that bucket” and some decided shifting back and forth letting me know she’s done with this little exercise for now thank you very much.
My mentor and I have had several conversations about breeding season and the changes in the girls behavior. We both agree that goats do get PMS and POST-MS.
He’s been watching his girls for 30 years so I ﬁgure he’s got some experience with the mood swings of goats in season.
Last year I decided to milk through so every 3 weeks or so, Frannie and I did our little dance together. It was a long winter. This year, my plans are to take her for her ride in the back of the Volvo to visit Mr. Neptune the ﬁrst chance I get. I have three girls lined up this year for a little ride. Hopefully if all goes well, we’ll be adding to the herd around the end of March or early April next year. That’s my plan anyway. I have no idea what the goat’s plans are.
My Grandmother used to tell me I had the patience of Job. I think to be a goat farmer, it’s a requirement. Maybe it’s a requirement with any farming, waiting for crops to grow, waiting for rain to come, waiting for snows to melt. In farming, as in life, you do a lot of waiting.
I waited half my life to try my hand at farming. It was worth the wait.
Dyan Redick, Bittersweet Heritage Farm
I describe myself as an accidental farmer with a purpose. My farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine is a certiﬁed Maine State Dairy. I offer cheeses made with milk from my registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from my Romney cross ﬂock, goats milk soaps, lavender, woolens and whatever else strikes my fancy. Bittersweet Heritage Farm is an extension of my belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food source, our connection to where we live and to the animals with whom we share the earth.