Life on the Farm

Roberta Hammer talks about life on the farm, a new source of revenue, milking the goats, apple trees, christmas pony, and thanksgiving turkey.


| January/February 1971



White Goat


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/VITALY KRIVOSHEEV

A Christmas pony for Ann has maybe launched a new source of income for us! We live at the edge of a tiny town of 200 people, three churches and one grocery-feed store. While making a deal for the pony with the owners of the store I noticed two new, bare sideboards along the bed of their pickup truck. I asked if I could try painting the boards and found the store owners more than agreeable.

I had to prime and put two coats of enamel on the 8' X 12" boards and that was a lot of work but the lettering didn't take long and (if I do say so) came out very professional looking. I added a couple of really nice horse heads and . . . the signs are a success! I am suddenly—and accidently—the Rayville Sign Painter. The store owners have two more signs for me to do now and they want me to try painting the truck doors when I get the proper supplies. A businessman in the next town wants two billboard-sized signs lettered and Keith will help me with big jobs like that. Yes, two truck boards for one pony is pretty cheap sign painting but I like working for barter. I'll do it whenever I can and I'm going to try for pony feed next.

Our apple trees arrived the first week in November and we immediately planted all 15. I wonder if we'll be around to eat the fruit in eight or ten years? Three days after we planted the trees, the goats got out and, yep, had a lunch of apple tree bark. The goats nibbled on five and all still have a few shreds of the vital outer bark layer connecting the top to the roots. We won't know how seriously the trees are damaged until spring but we're not taking any chances on a repeat performance of this "orchard party": Isadore, our goat leader, is now wearing a Y-shaped hickory branch tied around her neck. It's too big to allow any fence sneakin' but doesn't otherwise impair her mobility. What we really need, of course, is four-foot woven wire fencing around our goat pasture, but we can't afford it right now.

We bought a semi-fresh little goat with Nubian characteristics (drooping ears and arched nose) for $10. I say semi-fresh (fresh means giving milk now) because she was—and is—producing just one pint of milk a day. I thought I could increase that so I milked her morning and night and even bought and fed her some sure-fire, whizbang, high protein, milk producin' feed . . . but after two weeks of this program I was still netting one pint of milk a day. Now that the weather is colder and I've given up the night milking (the ending of daylight saving time made the evenings suddenly dark), I continue getting my daily pint . . . but in one milking instead of two.

Some folks wonder why I bother to milk for that solitary pint (our other goats are dry). I do it because the morning milking gives me a reason to get out early and start my chores at a regular time every day . . . and I really don't want to miss a single morning out there. I don't want to miss the frost on the weed tops, the wintry colors rich in the early sun, the shadows lengthened to the west . . . and there's the warmth of the udder, the froth of the milk, the sounds of the goats chewing and the rumblings from their myriad, mysterious stomachs. Well, what I really want to say is that it's worth the pint of milk.

We've had two of our dry goats bred and they'll freshen in February and March. The other two will be bred to freshen in the fall and this should supply us with year-round milk. We'll see. An experienced farming lady suggested we try churning whole goat's milk (since very little cream rises on it) and I tried. From one of my pints of milk I got delicious snow-white butter . . . one tablespoon!





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