This has been our busiest spring since we added new animals to our farm. I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. I hope you enjoy my story about hand milking experience.
Ginger, our goat, gave birth to her baby in April. I was thinking that she would have twins but being her first time she only had one baby. I thought that I would have a good 10 weeks before I would start milking, which would put us after baseball season and school would be getting out. So of course, my perfect plan was not so perfect. A few days into nursing she got really hard and red on one side. I was thinking mastitis so without a milking stand I was attempting to milk her kneeling next to her in the barn stall. My dad had just started working on the milking stand since I figured I didn’t need it yet. My husband had to hold her while I attempted to milk her into a mason jar because I had no supplies. This lasted for about four days and then she finally started feeling back to normal and her baby was nursing on both sides again. That experience left her very lopsided but she still produces milk on both sides.
When I started researching what I would need to milk properly, I came across a site that said they start milking in the morning when the baby reaches 2 weeks old and then the remainder of the day the baby nurses; that way both baby and us can have milk. This sounded like a good plan so I just needed to wait for my milking stand. I really didn’t buy any supplies for milking. I use a homemade teat dip and cleaner and use one of my stainless steel bowls. I figured why spend money on supplies if I am not sure I am going to be successful. We had gotten some electric fencing so we have more than one pasture, which makes it easy to separate the mom and baby at night.
Those first couple of mornings were a nightmare. I am not really what you call a morning person so getting up early and going right out to deal with my ornery animal was not a good combination. I had to be sure I was done with all the animal chores and in the house by 7 a.m. to make sure the boys got ready for school and I could make their lunches. That first morning I tried to do the two-hand method of milking and it was going everywhere but in the bowl. Once I started getting some into the bowl, she kicked the bowl and what I could save was all dirty. Luckily, we had just gotten a pig and I gave him the milk. This happened the first few days and I was getting very frustrated but the pig was loving it. I had to get a goat hobble, which I read about in my research.
A goat hobble secures the two feet together with Velcro closures and it doesn’t hurt them. I ordered one right away because I was ready to give up on milking. Once it arrived, I tried it and she kept kicking it off because her legs were too skinny and it was too big. I managed to figure out a way for it to work because I just spent money on this thing. So once I got her to stop kicking and start cooperating, things have become less frustrating.
My Amish neighbor, who let us borrow his billy goat, stopped by to see the baby and he gave me some advice on technique, which helped.
The last week or so, I have been consistently getting a little more than a quart of milk each morning. I have about another week before I am going to wean the baby completely and then my twice-a-day milking will begin. So far I have attempted to make cheese and yogurt with little success. So if any bloggers out there have some good recipes, I could use them.
My kids are drinking the milk but they prefer it if I make it chocolate milk but hey, it’s a start. This is still very new but I hope milking will go smoothly from now on. Now I just need to figure out what to do if we want to visit our family overnight. I am hoping our Amish neighbor will help us out or one of his many children. If you would like to follow more of my journey into hobby farming visit me at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.
This weekend our farm grew once again with the arrival of four sheep. We purchased three ewes and a ram lamb. The first picture is of our new flock.
This brings me back to my youth when my sisters and I raised sheep. It all started when my older sister had a friend that was in 4-H and had a couple of sheep. She begged my parents and I guess they were up for the challenge even though we lived in a small village. Luckily our house was at the very edge of the village so nobody seemed to mind. Her first sheep was a Corriedale named Coconut who really didn’t like anyone especially my mo.
About a year after she got her first sheep, I turned nine and was old enough to join 4-H so I got to go pick out my first sheep. She was a little runty dorset with spunk. I named her Pinky because her nose was pink and it was my favorite color (pictured below with Heidi our black lab). I remember spending every summer getting ready to show our sheep at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY. We would wash them, trim them and teach them how to walk on a leash. It was so much fun hanging out in the sheep barn with our friends and answering all kinds of questions. I was always a little intimidated to show my sheep, mostly because I was shy. I am not sure we won too many blue ribbons but it was a great time in my life. I was in 4-H from 9 years old until 18. When my sisters and I started going off to college, we had to say goodbye to our sheep.
I really never expected to have sheep again. I also never expected to have a hobby farm with goats, chickens, ducks, geese and a pig either. So now that we are here my husband thinks I should know everything about sheep because I raised them before. Well, before was over 20 years ago and I was a kid. After reading some books I think we didn’t always do it right back then. It was just an expensive hobby for my family instead of a means of income or food. We never ate our own sheep, I hated lamb and my mother wouldn’t cook it. She still doesn’t. It wasn’t until my mother in law made it for me that I really started enjoying the taste of lamb.
Our goal in raising sheep is to first, put meat in the freezer. Second, I hope to be able to do something with the wool. Like I said, it has been many years but I hope to learn. Third, we want to breed our ewes and raise the lambs for meat to sell hopefully in the future. Mostly our goal is for our animals to make enough money to at least pay for themselves. We have lots of land so spring, summer and fall are all pasture/grass fed. Visit my facebook page to see more pictures of our new sheep. Please like my page if you enjoy my stories at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.
We read a lot of books on farming, my husband more than I do. The goal for our farm is to raise grassfed animals. It makes the meat healthier to eat, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on feed. With this goal in mind, we have been thinking for a while that we would buy a pig to raise. Our next-door neighbor’s son raises pigs and sells the babies for his homeschool project, so, of course, we wanted to buy one from him.
One Saturday afternoon we decided to stop by to see when the pigs would be ready. He said they were just about 5 weeks old so we could take one with us right then. I am not sure we were prepared but why not. We seem to learn as we go anyway. So they put the pig in a feed sack so we could get him home, which was just around the corner. He was a little bigger than I pictured a 5-week-old pig to be so there was no holding him on your lap plus he was pretty feisty.
We went home and put him down in the pen with the goats and chickens. He was pretty calm when he came out of the bag. It took a couple minutes for him to realize that he was free to roam. He was in a box with his mother and no room to go anywhere at our neighbors' farm. Once he started running, he didn’t stop. He ran around the perimeter of the fence. That’s it, we thought, never going to catch him again. He ran and ran, chased the goats and chickens and ran some more. Was he ever going to tire himself out?
We figured that we should introduce the dog to him since he is always in the pen with the animals. Max, our black Lab, went right over to him and instantly they became friends. We realized the pig just wanted a friend. The goats didn’t want anything to do with him. After a couple days they started to tolerate him.
When we got this pig he was taken away from his mother so he really wasn’t weaned. My poor goat Ginger, who is nursing her baby, was being harassed by the pig. He wanted some milk, too. Since I had just started milking Ginger a little in the morning to get her used to the milking stand, we decided to give that milk to the pig mixed with his food. We had to separate the pig from Ginger because he really wouldn’t leave her alone. We have some electric netting fence that we just started using, so time to move the pig. Well, that was a crazy task in itself. So how do you move a pig from one pen to the next? We didn’t know, and he was difficult to catch and handle. So my idea was to take a rope, add a slip knot and catch him around the neck. After trying for about 20 minutes, we got him and, of course, he freaked out. He squealed and carried on. Tom was able to pull him to the next fence area, but it was a feat. He pretty much didn’t want anything to do with us for a while after that.
We put the baby goat in with him at night since he needed a friend. Well, baby goat got his horn caught on something and was bleeding. I was holding him to stop the bleeding and what do you know, that pig came right up to me and tried climbing onto my lap with the goat. I couldn’t believe this pig; it was so cute and funny. Well, he has calmed down over the last couple days and doing better. He seems to enjoy the company of the little chickens and the baby goat at night. My goal is not to get attached to this little pig since he is going to be dinner once fall comes. If you would like to learn more about my hobby farm, visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.
My dad had three girls, and not one of us was interested in learning how to build stuff. My mom was a hairdresser, and I definitely wanted to use a comb and scissors over a hammer and nails. My dad will tell you he isn’t a very good builder, but I tend to disagree. He helped build our childhood home, built our sheep barn when I was a kid, built our current chicken coop and just finished building my milking stand (shown below) among lots of other projects over the years.
I refer to my dad as my own personal handyman. I figure he’s retired so it gives him something to do. Of course, he isn’t getting any younger. Well, when it was time to build our shed for the goats, I figured I wasn’t going to let him do it by himself. We had an idea of what we wanted, just a simple three-sided shed to keep the animals out of the elements. He came up with some plans and measurements, and I went with him to the local hardware store to purchase materials.
I should back up a minute and tell you that when we had the eaves redone on our 150-year-old house, the contractor told us to keep the wood because we could reuse it for our shed. At the time, this pile of wood with nails all sticking out did not appeal to me, but when we didn’t have to purchase extra wood to cover the sides, it became really appealing. We have become really good at recycling leftover materials. I have learned, that is what farmers do. It was also really cool to see the old nails that were used when the house was originally built, a little piece of history.
So when the work began, I didn’t want to be a passive by-stander. This was my shed so time to grab a hammer and get to work. It was fun, tiring and fulfilling all at the same time. I didn’t know how much work it was to hammer in a few nails, my arms were killing me, and I work out regularly. Slowly it came together. My husband and mother-in-law helped with the “barn raising,” well, getting it standing so my dad and I could finish it. We only had enough wood from the house for the back and one side but that is what I love about a recycled barn, the hodge-podgeness of it. I know that is not a real word, but that is my description.
The winter hit us before I could get a coat of paint on it, but that is going to be a good spring project. I am already thinking of adding a sliding door to the front for those winter nights when the snow is blowing. Lots of projects, never enough time. Everyday living on a hobby farm is a new experience and I love it. Please like my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.
To name or not to name your chickens, that is the question? When we started with our first three chickens, three years ago, of course we had to give them names. My three boys insisted on naming them. We named one Izzy and the other two were Rock and Roll. The latter two looked exactly alike. Unfortunately, Rock got hit by a car on the road the first year we had her and Roll died unexpectedly last year. So Izzy, our oldest chicken and matriarch of the flock, is dear to our hearts. She is also pretty much unproductive and sometimes an egg eater and all-around bad influence. We are learning to weed out the older chickens for stew chickens since we replenish the flock every year. Izzy is like the pardoned Thanksgiving turkey that so far has not seen this fate.
We have learned a lot and added quite a few chickens to the flock so naming them is really not an option. Most of them tend to look alike if they are the same breed anyway. This year we hatched some of our own chicks and also bought some. Each chicken has a band with a number so we can tell which ones are the ones we hatched. Of course in this batch we had a little runt. She had a bad leg from the start, and I babied her a bit. My husband told me not to get attached because what are we going to do with a one-legged chicken. He didn’t expect her to make it.
The little one-legged chicken stole my heart. She would sit in my hand when she was little, and she was the cutest little thing. My youngest son decided to name her Mingo. I asked< "Why Mingo?" He told me because she stands on one leg like a flamingo. So how can I argue with that? Mingo is now about 8 weeks old and is smaller with a strange-looking leg, but I don’t think she plans on going anywhere.
We just received our shipment of ducks and geese. I am guessing the kids will throw around some names but most likely they won’t stick. Since we are not raising our animals for pets, it is better that they don’t get a name. My oldest son gets a little sentimental and when we eat one of our animals, he sometimes gets a little teared up thinking about it. We tell him that the chicken had a great life of leisure while on this Earth. Our chickens roam around, scratch to their hearts content, eat lots of good food, and have a warm safe place to sleep. I would say they have it pretty good here at Conley Farm. To learn more about us, please like my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.
We were so fortunate to have purchased land that is loaded with wild blueberries. They are smaller than your average blueberry, but they are delicious. It is very time consuming to pick them, but so worth it. Last summer was my best season, and I think I picked more than 30 pounds of blueberries. My husband and boys helped too, but I am by far the fastest picker. I would say it takes an hour a pound because they are small, and I have to find the best bushes. There is nothing like wandering around paths and woods looking for the largest berries. I tried counting the bushes once and there must have been hundreds of them, and they all grow together. I have been trimming the best bushes to get ready for the upcoming season and thinking of all the yummy things I can make with my blueberries.
The best part about picking berries is freezing them for use over the winter. I love using them in oatmeal, smoothies, crisps, muffins, and the list goes on. I enjoy these frozen beauties almost everyday until the next season begins. I hope you enjoy my muffin recipe.
Amy's Blueberry Muffins
Yields 12 muffins.
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice and zest of 1 lemon (you could substitute orange juice for a different flavor)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 farm fresh egg (I guess you could use store bought if you don't have chickens in your backyard or support your local farmer)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup yummy blueberries (fresh or frozen – mine are frozen)
Heat oven to 375 F.
Mix milk and lemon juice; set aside to thicken. I sometimes put in a little Greek yogurt to thicken it (no more than 1/4 cup).
Combine dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. Add egg, oil and vanilla to milk mixture.
Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients, fold in blueberries. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes.
Enjoy, from my farm to your table.
Last week our first baby goat was born on our little hobby farm. As I go through this journey of having a new baby on the farm, I think back to how we got here. It was my mission all last summer to make sure my goats got big enough to breed in the fall and to find a billy goat. I am not sure why, but it was not an easy task. We live in the country, but it wasn’t easy to find a breeder. I tried the local cooperative extension, and I visited every farm market in the area looking for someone who sold goat cheese. I figured if they sold it they either had goats or had a source. I did meet some nice people, but the breed of goat was not really what I wanted.
One day we set out on a drive around the block with my mother-in-law to show her some of the new Amish farms in our area. We were less than a mile from the house, and I noticed some goats grazing in a field next to a small barn. Where did they come from? Outside the barn sat an Amish buggy. I felt like I was saved. A couple days later I decided to take a walk to their house since it was only a mile away. Their kids were playing outside and the mom was doing laundry. She told me that they just moved in. I spoke with her husband, and he agreed that we could borrow his goat because he was just about done using him. The next weekend was the day to pick him up. The Amish have been buying up a lot of the broken-down farms in our area and bringing them back to life. I was grateful that they agreed to help us out.
I had never been up close and personal with a billy goat before. I had sheep when I was growing up so I figured billy goats were similar to rams. I did hear that they stink and pee on their beards. I didn’t understand how they could pee on themselves until I witnessed it firsthand. It was pretty disgusting, and I can say they are nothing like sheep because our rams never did that.
This goat, who we called Billy, lived with us for about a month. Our fenced in area is a good distance from the house, but you could smell him all throughout the backyard. My poor girls stunk like him for a good month after he left. That smell is really hard to get off your clothes, hands, everything. He has a whole story all his own for another day, but his broken collar still sits outside the fence and neither my husband nor I want to pick it up because I am guessing it still stinks even after having been snowed and rained on. I guess one of these days it will find its way to the garbage, but I am not touching it.
Like I said, there are more billy goat stories to come. The best thing that came out of it was our little baby goat and, of course, goat milk. I am going to let nature take its course and have the baby nurse before we start milking her full time. For more photos or to hear more about our farm you can visit my facebook page at www.facebook.com/conleyfarm.