Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Work Is Pure Joy

Life is so full right now - so wonderfully full.

My body is working harder and harder each day - cleaning up the yard, digging garden beds, moving animals, pushing wheelbarrows.

We are also preparing for Thomas and Sam's wedding here on the 30th of May!  (our oldest son)

We talk about all the things we would like to do around our homestead - plans for many more blueberry bushes, strawberry beds, a guest cabin, more fenced in areas, a someday workshop and barn.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015


I am going to share a little glimpse into my milking journey thus far -

Tuesday - (3 days after giving birth)  Was the first day I attempted to get Madeline on the milking stand. I used a dog leash and attached it to her collar.  She got her front two legs up and I did get her head in the stanchion. I milked a little.
To learn how to milk, I simply downloaded lots of videos on youtube and watched them and am learning by just doing it.

Sarah is joining me in the barn each morning.   She is milking one side while I milk the other.  She also will get up and grab some hay for Madeline when she runs out of grain.   As I milk, I am keeping one hand right above the joint in Madeline's leg - holding on to the tendon there so she doesn't kick over the milk bowl and to keep her legs apart enough to milk.

Wednesday - Used the leash and got all four legs on the stand and milked for about 10 minutes, getting 2 cups.  -  We all tried the milk and Abraham says he doesn't like it and Abby says she will use it in her cereal but maybe not straight up - she isn't sure yet.   I think there is a very mild taste, if any and Mike and I both like it.   Mike was a bit worried he wouldn't like it, so this is good news!

Thursday - Used a leash and she jumped right up - milked about 2 cups again.

Friday - No leash and I had to maneuver her a bit before she jumped up (she tried to go around to get the grain without being on the stand).  This morning there was less milk.
So, tonight (after doing a little research I have decided to wait until the babies are two weeks old to separate at night) we plan to separate the babies by building a little area in one side of the barn.  Madeline will still be near them just not with them.   We hope to get a lot more milk tomorrow morning.

I am not to the point where I really like the actual milking yet because I don't feel confident in my technique.  As I get into more of a rhythm with my hand and fingers, I think that it will become an enjoyable part of my mornings and the feeling of bringing fresh milk into the house each morning will be very satisfying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Has Arrived!

 Giving the facade of our barn a face lift.

 Cleaning one of the goat barn stalls.

 Splitting and stacking more wood for THIS season after going through our wood with all the cold this winter.

 Hanging out the clothes again!  Dumping compost into an out of control pile from the winter.

Baby Goats

This is the Daddy, Dante.  He is a Nigerian Dwarf breed - he is quite small.
We bought him from the Hewitts two years ago this August when he was about 2 - 3 months old.
I figured that to get started with a buck, I wanted one that was handled by children from birth and I also didn't want a large buck to have to handle.  I had done some research and learned that it is possible for a little guy like him to breed with an alpine (which are quite large, especially our Madeline).  I also figured that there may be fewer birthing complications because the babies would be much smaller than if she had mated with another alpine.

 This is Madeline.  So when we purchased our buck, Dante, Madeline was already two and the first year it was obvious that Dante wasn't in much of a rut (that is when he is wanting to mate).  
This past fall, he was definitely in rut and while we observed some obvious attempts, we never saw what we considered to be a successful mating.  So perhaps, they just prefer the privacy of the dark barn at night:)

 Abby and the children named the babies.  I think they agreed on them for the most part.
This is the girl and her name is Oreo.

This is Cow - his ears have flopped down which is interesting as both Nigerian Dwarfs and Alpines have ears that stand up.  

So, over the last month I strongly suspected that Madeline was pregnant but in the back of my mind I kept asking myself if it really could be possible.  She has always had bloating issues so her enlarged stomach area wasn't necessarily a sign.  Oh, and she has always had enlarged teats so even that wasn't an obvious sign for me.

And then one week before she gave birth she started exhibited some signs of getting ready to birth - her tail stayed up and her stomach dropped and she looked much more like pregnant doe pictures I found online.

So for five days we kept her separate from the other two goats to be on the safe side.  After five days of not noticing anything new I returned her with the other two.

Thus we found her and her babies on Saturday afternoon with her afterbirth starting to come out in the small barn area.  We had kept all the goats in that morning since it had been cold and windy.  We were blessed that the other two goats hadn't harmed them but we immediately put them in the other barn area and put plastic on the fence covered barn windows to keep them somewhat warm.

So here is the neat part - we have two babies that are half alpine and half nigerian dwarf which I am hoping will make a wonderful combination.  Alpines are known for the quantity of milk they produce and nigerian dwarfs for the higher butterfat content.

This morning I made my first attempt at formal milking - not to drink the milk yet as she is just on day three since birthing.  We have a milking stand - but Madeline is really big, possibly too big for the milk stand.  That is what I am trying to figure out, what will work best.  This morning she only got her front two legs up and her head in the stanchion.  I was able to milk for about 10 minutes.  Milking by hand is a learn as you go process and I am confident I will get more efficient with each milking.  Our plan is to milk in the mornings and not to bottle feed the babies at all.  But separate the mom from the babies at night in about two weeks and milk Madeline before reuniting her with her babies.  We want to make the milking routine work for our family and also do what seems most natural for the babies and Mom.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


We had been wondering off and on for awhile now if Madeline was pregnant.  Last week I was so sure she was but then the past few days I just let myself believe that it simply wasn't possible.

Mike went down to the barn this afternoon to give the goats some branches and he was so surprised to find these two - freshly birthed.

A boy and a girl. 

We are learning as we are going along.   Wondering how much to leave up to nature and how much to help.  I will write more soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Simple Hand Knit Bunny Pattern

When I checked on the link I gave you a couple of posts ago to the bunny pattern I had submitted to Rhythm of Home many years ago, I realized too late that it was no longer available.

So I have rewritten it, to share here.

Little Hand Knit Bunny
Small amount of yarn - use knitting needles and yarn weight that result in atight knit.
Cast on 10 stitches (leave a 12" tail) and knit 10 rows (all garter stitch).
Break Yarn and cast on 10 stitches (leave a 20" tail) on the same needle of first leg.
Knit second leg for 10 rows.
Next row:  Knit across both legs to form body and head for 28 rows.
Next row:  Bind off and leave about 12" of yarn when breaking yarn.
Sew up first leg with shorter tail yarn up to the crotch.
Sew up second leg with longer tail yarn up to the crotch.  Tie both yarns together to secure in place at crotch.  Continue sewing longer tail up the back and back of head of bunny.  Tie a knot at top.
Using a crochet hook, stuff legs and then body and head.  Using a piece of new yarn and yarn needle, sew a running stitch between bunny's head and body and tie securely to form the neck.  Weave yarn ends and cut.
Knit Bunny Ears:
Cast on 6 stitches.
Row 1:  Knit
Row 2: Purl
Repeat rows 1 and 2, 7 times (14 rows total)
Row 11:  Knit first 2 stitches together, knit 4, knit last 2 stitches together
Row 12:  Purl
Row 13:  Knit 2 stitches together, twice
Bind off.
Repeat for second ear.
In contrasting color, crochet inner ear.
Row 1:  Chain 12 stitches
Row 2:  Turn and single crochet in 11 stitches across, finish off
Repeat for other ear.
Using a yarn needle, sew inner ear down middle of bumpy section of ear (the outer parts of the ear will curl inward a little).
Sew ears to top of head.  Sew top of head closed.
Add eyes and other features if desired.
Arms (knit 2)
CO 8 stitches, knit 8 rows, BO
Sew running stitch around top and then sew sides together, stuff, sew last end closed and sew onto bunny.
Repeat for other Arm.
Using a crochet hook (size G for worsted weight yarn, size D or E for sport weight) -
Chain 2
Round 1:  6 single crochets in second chain from hook.
Round 2:  2 single crochets in each single crochet (12 stitches)
Round 3:  2 single crochets in each single crochet (24 stitches)
Sew a running stitch around the edge, put a small amount of wool in the center and pull tight.
Sew onto back side of bunny.

Perhaps crochet a scarf for your bunny.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Beautiful Spring Day

We all spent the day outside on Friday -  soaking up the sunshine, getting red cheeks, feeling the warmth - feeling that anything is possible.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Beautiful Yarn

With the beautiful Gotland wool yarn, I finished the baby bonnet from the book, Vintage Knits for Modern Babies and a little bunny from my own pattern.  
I used up just about all of the 120 yard skein.  Again, beautiful yarn to work with.

Each Tuesday, Woolful not only announces their new podcast, but they also offer a giveaway from one of their guests.  A couple of weeks ago, I won the giveway from O-Wool!  I have these three beautiful skeins of their Local wool which is 50% certified organic merino and 50% alpaca from New Jersey - now what to knit with them? 

Our family has been watching Larkrise to Candleford, a BBC series that aired several years ago.  Our daughter, Abby, was able to download them at the library for us. 
The series is wonderful - thank you for those that recommended it when I blogged about Mike's hernia surgery.

I am admiring many of the hand knit and crocheted wraps and shawls the characters wear and am looking for some similar patterns.

We have time for watching in the evening and knitting because even though the calender says April, we are still deep in snow and cold.
 Emmy asked me the other day, "Mom, remember when we saw the grass?"
And we reminisced yesterday about the April 1st when Abby and Isaac went for a quick swim in our pond and this year we could probably still be skating if we kept up with the clearing.