Meet our goats

I’ve often said that one of the biggest adjustments to farm life is the inability to have a plan for the day and actually see it through. Events on the farm have a way of just unfolding in their own unpredictable and sometimes urgent manner. As farmers, we try to effectively respond.

Today began with rain as expected, which meant it would be a good time to catch up on indoor work and errands. Personally, I had a really long (and unrealistic) list that I hoped to tackle and Bruce and Rick went to do off-farm tasks.

Sara’s mom, Katie, is visiting and around midday went to check on the does and their kids -- this is (finally) the exciting part I’ve been leading up to.

Apple and her kids

The goats had chosen today while it was pouring to ESCAPE! Katie thinks that a (mischievous) goat kid led the way through a small hole in the fence. Eight other goats (large and small) followed and were happily grazing by the tractor barn when she discovered their mischief.  (We didn't get pictures of this so we'll substitute generic cute goats).

kids climbing mom

Sara, our goat whisperer, dashed down and in no time had those errant goats back where they were supposed to be. Armed with a bucket of feed and their favorite call, “hey ladies” they would follow Sara anywhere!

Doe with kids

 

I got back to the farm before Rick and Bruce and (very proudly) fixed the fence. Snickers and Doodles supervised and protected me from all kinds of imagined beasts.

So, I’m a bit late writing this blog.  I had originally planned to write about our adorable kids rather than than our mischievous kids. But, this change might be ok because we’ve actually had a couple people tell us to turn down the “cute factor.”

Did the breakout succeed in lessening the cute factor?   I don’t know—they really are cute!

2105 buckling

Right now, their favorite game seems to be bumper cars. They zoom here and there and occasionally crash into each other. There’s a few who are climbers and will get in the feeders or stand atop the salt block and a couple who are ballet dancers and gracefully leap through the air—yep, they’re pretty cute!

kids at play

They have all been tagged, given a vitamin booster, weighed, and photographed. Now, they need names and that’s the job of Laura (age 10) and Maya (age 7). Every year we pick a theme for naming our female goats --I’ll let you figure out why we don’t name the bucklings. Of our 31 kids, 16 are doe-lings and need names.

Laura & Maya with new kids

Last year. Laura was learning about and fascinated by Greek goddesses so that was our theme. This year is a little tricky for the girls. We chose wine grapes so we’re making a list of white grapes and red grapes and then the girls can assign names. So far, they’ve named the first and last born.

Champagne, 2015 doe-ling

 

This is Champagne,  first-born white doe-ling born.

Petit Verdot, 2015 doe-ling

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, this is her petite brown sister named Petit Verdot.

 

 

 

 

This cutie is Sherry, the last doe-ling born.  I wonder if Laura and Maya will name one Port?Sherry, 2015 doe-ling

We’ll try to keep the “cute factor” under control in future posts but it's a challenge!  Stay tuned for some videos of goat kids at play.

kid at rest

Kids are never predictable—whether they’re human or goats. We were caught with our fences down on Saturday afternoon when our first pair of goat kids arrived.   Sara and I were at the Charlottesville Waldorf Holiday Bazaar when Rick, Laura, and Maya found two new arrivals in D field -- where the fence is intact.       They expertly guided all 22 goats (15 pregnant does and 7 yearlings) back to the goat barn through fields C and B, where the fence is currently being repaired.

Cocoa kid #1Our first pair are the offspring of Cocoa, a maiden doe.  We are very proud of her for successfully initiating the 2015 season. She proudly presented us with two lovely doe-lings and put us on heightened alert Cocoa kid #2for more kids—in other words, frequent trips to the barn. Last year once the first kids arrived, we had a domino effect for the next five days so we figured we should be prepared for a similar sequence.

But alas, no kids on Sunday.

Faith kid #2

 

Monday brought three new sets of adorable healthy kids.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepy kid

And then came Tuesday.

Between 5 am and 11 pm, we had seven does give birth! Two single births, one triple birth, and 4 twins—yep, we had 13 kids yesterday. It was a bit crazy at times with multiple does in labor.  We had a couple worrisome moments--like when one of our big experienced does was in horrible pain (not normal delivery pain). Our guess is that either there was a breech presentation or some other internal obstruction or twist. Nature is amazing. She worked through the pain, getting up and down, stretching and contracting, finally came out of it and presented three healthy kids.

kid playing

We also had a maiden doe that didn’t seem to immediately have the maternal instinct. She needed help cleaning her kids and helping one of them to nurse. It's critical that the kids get mom’s colostrum as it provides antibodies and helps get the digestive, immune and respiratory systems started.  We were glad we were there to assist!

Happily all the kids are now doing great.

Goat pile

And what about today? Five new kids! One doe went out in the field and popped out three Super Momstrapping babies in less than 20 minutes. Another doe labored all morning before finally delivering two very cute kids around lunchtime. Sara and I were hoping that the last two does would also deliver today but not yet.

 

Who knows, maybe by the time I post this there will be more kids in the barn…stay tuned.

happy kid

Well, I didn’t meet my goal for writing blogs in 2014, but it’s a new year with new hope and (more realistic) ambition -- one blog per month. So, here’s my January blog…

Wrapping up 2014

Goats: If you’ve been following our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middle-Fork-Farm/540326095986621), you already know we have 21 adorable, rambunctious goat kids -- 12 girls and 9 boys. They were all born in a very busy six-day period from December 9 - 14. The does gave birth so quickly that Bruce and Rick had to convert our 4 spacious birthing stalls into 6 less spacious birthing stalls to accommodate all the new moms and kids.

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With lots of family help, Sara and I tagged, vaccinated, weighed, and photographed all the kids when they were one week old. There was lots of chasing, laughing, and squealing by humans and kids alike (and occasional barking from Snickers and Doodle while barn cats, Jewel and Larry, came by periodically to make sure we were on task). We weighed the kids again this past weekend and they are growing fast—approximately ½ lb per day!

P1070610 We decided that we should pick a naming theme for each set of kids to help us keep track of each generation (we only name the does as the bucklings will be sold). Laura was captivated last year when she studied Greek gods and goddesses (Percy Jackson helped, too), so we decided to go with a Greek theme for this year. Not all the doelings are named but so far we’ve got Hera, Hestia, Aphrodite (of course), Artemis and Demeter.

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Vines and Wines: Rick and crew were busy in the fall winterizing the vineyard. This involved two key tasks: winterizing pipes and irrigation lines and “hilling” the vines. Hilling is just what it sounds like—making hills around each vine. This protects the grafted wood from freezing. As you might imagine, this can be a very labor-intensive process if done by hand. So, in typical Rick style he researched “hillers” and designed and built—yes, built —an attachment for our tractor to make the task more efficient. Yeah, Rick!!

IMG_2554Bruce has also been hard at work making our first vintages of red wine with guidance from his mentor, Matthieu Finot, winemaker at King Family Vineyards. These will be our reds when we IMG_2621open our winery/tasting room in Spring 2016! We had lots of help from family and friends in the fall sorting and processing the grapes before they could be made into wine.

We now have four varieties of red wine ageing in barrels. From these, Bruce plans to make two pure varietal wines and one red blend wine. Three of the four varieties have been “topped off” (in lay terms, the barrels were filled with wine so there’s no room for air) and will rest for a year. The fourth barrel still has to finish its 2nd fermentation.

In late fall, we began working with architect, Susannah Marshall, on the winery/tasting room/farm store design. We’ve picked a picturesque site between the vineyard and the woods and plan to start construction in the spring.

Strawberries and Spreads: The strawberries, like the vines, have been winterized. It’s a longer IMG_8568process because they go dormant much slower than the vines and not only does the foliage have to be trimmed but the wounds from the pruning have to heal before we can put them to sleep for the winter with a cover of hay.

We hope you’ve tasted our Strawberry Balsamic, Strawberry Lavender, and Strawberry Vanilla Spreads. They are available around town at Foods of all Nations, Great Harvest Bread, Jefferson Pharmacy, Michie Tavern, Salt Artisan Market, The Inn at Monticello, and The Bakery in Farmville. We also have 9 oz. jars available at the farm, but we are sold out of Samplers (note to self—make more Samplers in 2015!).

photo 1We received approval from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (VDACS) for our new flavors, Spicy Strawberry Spread and Ginger Lover’s Peach. They will be available through the farm and local stores in 2015. I am working on a new strawberry flavor (can’t disclose the flavor yet) and will write more after I finish experimenting with the recipe. Our farm kitchen now has VDACS approval so in the future we will make our spreads both at the farm and The Prince Edward Cannery. All of our spreads qualify for the VA Finest designation.

Last word on strawberry spreads…we are thrilled to be listed as an Edible Pick in the Artisan IMG_8569Issue (winter 2015) of Edible Blue Ridge!

A glimpse of what’s coming in 2015…

  • Prune the vines, then “de-hill” them
  • Uncover the berries
  • Plant more Merlot vines
  • Plant more strawberries
  • Wean the kids
  • Breed the yearling does
  • Start construction on the winery/tasting room/farm store
  • Open for Pick Your Own Strawberries starting late May/early June

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