Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Milking with kids vs without

Without kids:

  • Wake up
  • Gather milking supplies
  • Get goat food
  • Go outside to milk
  • Finish milking
  • Come inside to wash pans
  • Refill hay basket and water bucket
  • Put goats back in pen
  • Done.

With kids:

  • Wake up
  • Argue with older kid about peeing on the potty
  • Empty/clean potty, get underwear/shorts
  • Change toddler's diaper
  • Get milk for children
  • Get socks on children
  • Gather milking supplies
  • Get goat food, allow 3 year old to help or it's the end of the world
  • Clean up everything the 3 year old spilled
  • Get shoes on the toddler
  • Go outside to milk
  • Start milking
  • Stop to put shoes back on toddler, restart
  • Stop to get phone from toddler, restart
  • Stop to get toddler's hands out of the feed bucket, restart
  • Soothe toddler because she can't sit on your milking stool, and it's the end of the world
  • Finish milking
  • Refill hay basket and water bucket
  • Put shoes back on toddler
  • Put goats back in pen
  • Bring everything inside
  • Wash kids' hands
  • Wash milking supplies
  • Done.

Kids knowing where their food comes from and being involved in the process: priceless.

Darn kids, get off my lawn!

I had my first negative goat attention experience the other day.

I've been wondering why on Earth there were so many rocks showing up in the goat pen. For some reason, perhaps naievety, I just didn't think that people might be throwing rocks in there. I was in my kitchen getting a snack and I heard some odd noises outside. I looked out the window, and saw two kids (trespassing in my neighbor's yard) throwing rocks at the goats, who were now hiding in their house. I banged on the door and they ran away. THEN it dawned on me that THEY had been throwing all those rocks in the pen!!! I was annoyed, but busy with something else, so I didn't think much about it at the time.

Later, I went out to clean out the goat pen, and the boys came back. Awfully ballsy of them. Why I didn't rip them a new one right there, I don't know. I clearly didn't take my crotchety old woman pill that morning.

They kept asking if they could feed the goats, or pet the goats, or whatever. One boy kept asking if he could jump the fence to come see them, to which I responded that he absolutely could not. An older boy riding a bike, who seemed related in some way to the younger ones, stopped by and was asking questions. He was very polite, though, and I never saw HIM throwing rocks at the goats.

Then the younger two went get MORE friends/cousins/brothers/whatever and they said they were coming in to see the goats! I kept insinuating that I didn't want them to come back, that I was busy, etc, but I clearly wasn't forceful enough. I got out of the goat pen and went to the gate to see them jumping OVER it because they couldn't figure out how to open it. UGH!

So now I have FIVE boys in my back yard, probably from ages 8-16 or so, and I'm just completely out of my element. I have little ones, and I'm not authoritative at all with the older kid crowd. They kept trying to pet the goats, and by doing so they would lunge at them and the goats were FREAKED OUT. The poor things were running everywhere trying to get away from the strange people they didn't know. They were jumping over toys and obstacles, falling down, almost running into things. My little toddler was outside and I was so worried they'd knock her over or step on her. It was absolutely ridiculous. I was also worried the goats would hurt themselves or the other kids in some way because they were scared.

Most of the boys were actually quite respectful, but the youngest few kids were trying to show off. It was SO STRESSFUL. I finally made it very clear that I needed to get back to work and they needed to go. Luckily, the oldest boy really got the younger ones to get out.

The poor goats were so stressed out. Hermione wouldn't leave my side for a long time after the kids left.

I had to pick up all the rocks and such in preparation to mow, and then I got REALLY angry.

This is just absolutely ridiculous. That big rock was near the spool the goats lay around on, meaning it was actually thrown AT a goat, and not just at their house. They could have been seriously injured! The rocks were all around the pen, so I'm assuming they threw rocks at them while they ran trying to get away from them. 

So, LET those kids come back. I'm going to give them quite a talking to. They know better than that. I know they were raised right, because most of them were very polite. I don't think they'll be back, though. When they were in the back yard, one of the rock-throwers  noticed there's a camera back there. Hopefully that deters any future shenanigans. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Mwoahahaha! Behold, the power of cheese.

I've REALLY been wanting to try my hand at making cheese, and I FINALLY managed to get my act together and do it. I started with chevre (can't figure out how to put the little accent, sorry!). Chevre is a pretty easy cheese, as making cheese goes.

What I needed:

  • 2 quarts pasteurized goat milk
  • 1/8 tsp cheese culture (I used MM100)
  • 1 drop animal rennet mixed into 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cheese salt (or pickling salt, or whatever salt you want)


  • Heat the milk to 80 degrees F
  • Sprinkle the 1/8 tsp culture over the milk and let it rehydrate for 2 minutes
  • Add in 2 tbsp of the rennet/water mixture and stir for 30 seconds
  • Cover and put out of the way for 8-12 hours in an area that is around 72 degrees
  • When the time is up, drain the curd using butter muslin (extra fine cheesecloth)
  • Salt and enjoy!

 The culture I used:

Up to temp!:

 Cheese culture:

 Rennet mixture:

I hung the cheesecloth on a cabinet handle. It seemed to drain better than just sitting in the colander.


I think it turned out really well, but can probably be improved upon. The flavor is amazing, but the texture could use some work. I've read that straining the chevre using molds actually produces a better product, but I don't have any. Maybe in the future I'll try that. I also have calcium chloride that I didn't use this time, but it does make a stronger curd, so I'll try to incorporate that next time.

Overall, the cheese really wasn't that difficult to make! I would LOVE to make other cheeses, like brie (my personal fave), gouda, etc. Now I'm all inspired, and have been trying to convince the Doctor Husband that we need a cheese cave. Because, obviously, we do. An adapted wine refrigerator apparently does the trick. 

*Hint hint Christmas present hint*

Monday, July 18, 2016

We're going to be famous!

Not really, but the local newspaper wants to do a story on the goats and me. HAHA! I guess goats in the city are pretty weird. :P

Last week, I was out milking the goats when I saw someone walk past. She stopped, looked confused, and said "are those goats?!"

I've gotten that a lot lately.

She asked to come around to where I was milking, and I said "sure!" I love talking about the goats, and I like that people in the community have really taken an interest in them and been really positive about the whole thing. She asked me a few questions about them, and then said she worked for the paper and wanted to do a story about me. Crazy!

That was exciting, but then I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong. What if I say something stupid? What if people DON'T like the goats? What if I really shouldn't have goats and the license guy got it wrong and they take them away?! AHH!

But most importantly, WHAT THE HECK DO I WEAR?! I mean seriously, it's not like I milk goats in a dress and heels, but I also wouldn't be caught ON CAMERA in sweat pants. So, I compromised and wore my nice sweat pants. :D I'm not really a fussy person regarding my appearance or clothing, so hopefully people aren't too judgmental about my goat-milking attire. AND my hair person couldn't get me in for a hair cut, so I probably look mildly disheveled. That's not exactly uncharacteristic of me, though, so maybe I can take comfort in its accuracy.

So today the reporter lady and photographer came to watch me milk the goats and do an interview. I got up a little early to make sure I didn't have bed head, and to gather all my supplies and have them ready. THANKFULLY, Doctor Husband didn't have to go in until 8ish, so he was available to keep the kids contained.

It was pretty fun, and stressful, but mostly fun. Thankfully, the goats cooperated and didn't kick over the milk bucket or throw their food like they sometimes do. Thank you, goats. Extra raisin treats for YOU today.

Hopefully the photographer and reporter work some magic and make me sound knowledgeable and look snazzy. They've got their work cut out for them!

Milking in the Rain

I'm sure there are plenty of people who are upset by the fact that my area is in a drought--farmers, gardeners, people who care about their lawns, etc. I am not one of those people. 

I've been DREADING the day that it would be raining during milking time. Goats are like cats--they HATE the rain. They run for cover at the first rain drop, so I knew it would definitely not be fun to get them to the milking stand while it was raining. My stanchion is outside, because the only option for an indoor milking spot was the garage/shed thing, which is Spider City and I'm not ready to die yet.

I dealt with the idea of a rainy milking like I deal with most unsavory things--I refused to think about it until I had to. Fortunately, with this drought situation, I didn't have to worry about it for a long time. But, eventually the day came.

I usually milk at 7:30 am and pm. At 7 pm, I noticed it was raining. NOO! So, I decided to go out early to set up some umbrellas and hopefully I'd be done by my normal milking time.

Both Paisley and Hermione were hiding in their house, like smart animals, while I was setting up the umbrellas. We have an umbrella on our outdoor table that I usually put all my milking stuff on, so that was already out there, but it wasn't big enough to do much good for protecting the goats (or me, but I was less of a priority). We also have a big beach umbrella that can be screwed into the ground that I brought out to put over the stanchion. I got that screwed in, then tried to put the two umbrellas touching each other so they'd provide cover, but noticed the rain was dripping between them and would have been right on the goats' faces.


So, then I started rearranging things. All the while, the goats are watching me with curious faces from the comfort of their dry house while I'm getting rained on. Must be nice to be a goat.

I moved the umbrella I'd screwed in to the front of the stanchion and the table umbrella to the back of the stanchion, tripping over a hose and dropping all sorts of things in the process. That didn't really seem any better than the first configuration, so I switched it back to the way it had been. 

THIRTY MINUTES it took to arrange the stupid umbrellas to provide the most coverage possible. When I was finally finished, I looked up and saw Paisley looking at me from by the fence.

By the fence, as in out of her house. As in something she wouldn't do if it were still raining. Which it wasn't.

By 7:30, AKA milking time, it was finished raining, and I didn't need the umbrellas. -_-

Doctor Husband got home from work shortly after I was finished milking, and was apparently taken aback by my appearance. I was moist, my hair was a mess, and I looked like I'd been in a fight; which I had, but it was with two umbrellas, and losing a fight with some umbrellas does nothing for your street cred.

I'd like to say I learned something from this experience, but that's not really true. I'm back to avoiding the thought of rain milking, and I'm just happy it hasn't rained again during milking times. Ideally, it won't rain again at 7:30 am/pm for the next few years until we have a barn and I don't have to worry about it at all. Right?!

Totally legit possibility.

Month's review

It's been a little over a month since I brought the goats home, so how are we doing?


This journey has had its ups and downs, and the first few weeks were ROUGH, but I couldn't be happier with how everything is going.  It took about two weeks for the goats to really settle down and feel comfortable in their new home. Now, they seem very happy and have quieted down a lot.

After the fiasco that was the first few days of milking, I decided to get a milking machine. I got one that was fairly cheap, and probably not the best thing to use since it uses a straight vacuum instead of a pulsating action, which allegedly can damage the udders over time. I used it for a while so the goats and I could get used to each other, but now I don't need it. I can actually milk them faster by hand, and I don't need to clean up all the machine parts, which also saves time.

One thing I've been asked by pretty much everyone who knows about the goats is, "why goats?!" Haha...good question.

I've been enamored with the idea of having a homestead for as long as I can remember. Every so often, I'd start researching various animals and their needs. I certainly always knew I wanted some sort of dairy animal, but I NEVER expected I'd want goats. I actually did NOT want goats, because I couldn't imagine milking a goat. It just seemed odd.

Through my research of milking animals, I found out that cows (and goats) are herd animals, which means you can't just have one. They get very sad and depressed when they're alone. This makes sense, since herds keep prey animals safe, so they probably feel very vulnerable when they're alone. As if having a cow wasn't a big enough undertaking, apparently I needed TWO cows, which seemed impossible. Because of this little hitch, I started looking at goats, and totally fell in love. I watched videos of goats playing, of people milking goats, etc, and my concerns about the oddness of milking a goat diminished. It looked pretty easy! And goats seemed fun. A cow can give 5+ gallons of milk A DAY, which is WAAAYYY more than my little family needs. Goats are much more reasonable for a homestead, since they produce much less. Bigger goats, like nubians, can put out a few gallons a day. Nigerian Dwarfs, which is the breed I settled on, produce more on the order of 2 quarts a day if you get a goat from really good milking lines. Paisley is a Nigerian Dwarf, and I only get about 2 cups a day from her because she's a first freshener (first time she had kids), and I got her in milk so her production probably went down with the trauma of moving homes. Her momma produces almost 2 quarts a day as a second freshener, so I have high hopes for her in the future.

Now that I've had the goats for a month, I honestly don't think getting a cow would ever be worthwhile. The goats produce plenty for our needs, and they're not even producing at their maximum ability. They're smaller and easier to care for, and they're cuddly and friendly. I love going sit out on the swing and letting them out of their pen. They happily come up to me for a good rub down, and nuzzle me a bit. They just bring so much joy, and the satisfaction that I set a goal, worked toward it, and accomplished it.

A Day in the Life

The goats honestly don't take much work. I go out in the morning at 7:30 to milk them. Milking takes about 30 minutes now, though in the beginning it was more like an hour. After I'm finished milking them, I refill their hay container, dump and refill their water, and that's it. Altogether, my morning goat chores take about 45 minutes. 

In the mid-afternoon, I go outside and feed them a little salad of spinach, with a dressing of various herbs for nutrition and parasite control, mixed with olive oil and molasses, and topped with sesame seeds. Sometimes I'll also add in a bit of garlic, which is also good for purging parasites. The spinach provides calcium, the sesame seeds are a good source of copper (I live in a deficient area), and the molasses is a source of iron. 

They love it.

I also read somewhere online that feeding them small amounts a few times a day vs feeding larger amounts just at milking times increased the fat content in their milk. I'm not sure that's true, but I have noticed that their milk tastes sweeter now than at first. That could be attributed to better nutrition overall, though, so I'm not sure the extra mid-day feeding is responsible or not.

Every other day, when I give them their salad I also clean out their pen. Since I live in the city, and have a small area vs a big farm, I clean up their poop so it doesn't build up. I bought a shop vac just for sucking up the poop. 

And, of course, fancy shmancy muck boots.

Cleaning up poop was actually more work than I was expecting. They poop A LOT. 7-10 times a day. Cleaning it up actually isn't so bad, though. The weather has been very nice lately, and it's actually quite enjoyable to be outside.

While I'm out there, I check on their hay again and dump and refill their water again, that way I don't have to do it after the evening milking. The evening milking just takes 30 minutes, then I'm done for the day and can relax!

The first few weeks took some adjusting, kind of like adding a new baby to a family. I had to figure out what to do with the kids while I milked the goats. I had originally intended to have them both outside with me while I milked, but quickly realized that running, screaming children spooked goats, and scared goats tend to dance around and step in/knock over milking buckets. LUCKILY, the little one decided to start sleeping later, and the big one is pretty trustworthy and can stay inside and play. The goats have also settled down a bit and gotten used to my littles, so they don't get as scared now if they're both out at the same time. If my toddler is awake during milking, she has to come outside, because I can't leave a one year old in the house by herself. For the most part, she's OK, but does tend to stick her hands in the goats' feed buckets.

I'm really glad she gets the experience, though. The goats have also forced me to get outside and get the kids outside more, so that's great!

One thing I'm REALLY proud of is Hermione's progress. Hermione looked much worse than I was expecting when I got her. Through my correspondence with her breeder, I honestly thought the breeder sounded knowledgeable, but there's a steep learning curve to goats and humans have to provide for all their nutritional needs since goats can't really browse as large an area as they would need to to provide for themselves. Hermione's coat was very coarse and wiry, her eye membranes were very light indicating anemia (and probably parasites), and she just generally didn't look her best.

I was really questioning if I knew enough about goats to help her, but after a month, she's looking SO GREAT!

Oh so shiny.

Her coat now is sleek, smooth, and shiny--exactly as it should be. I dewormed her and the salad I've been giving provided the nutrients she was lacking. It took a few weeks, but she's really looking great, and it has given me a HUGE confidence boost. I did that, ya'll! I really feel like a good goat momma. :)

Let this be a lesson, though. If you're new to goats, make sure your breeder knows what he/she is doing. It's difficult and stressful to "fix" a sickly goat. Paisley was in great condition, and all I have to do is not ruin her. THAT is fairly easy. So, learn from my mistake. Don't get a goat that doesn't look healthy, because something is off and you're going to have to fix it. 

So, it's a month in and we're doing really well! The milk is yummy and sweet, the yogurt is awesome, the goats are cuddly and loving, and I'm rocking this goat mom thing. There are undoubtedly more shenanigans in our future, but for right now, I'm feeling really good about everything!

Making Yogurt Using my Instant Pot

Our goats make WAY more than our family of four would drink, so I have extra that I can use to make other dairy products. The first, and probably easiest, thing I've tried making so far is yogurt.

Yogurt isn't difficult to make, but you do need something that will keep the culture at 115 degrees for 10 hours. I have an Instant Pot, which is a pressure cooker that happens to also have a yogurt setting, but Amazon sells yogurt makers as well.

What you need to make yogurt:

- A yogurt culture (you can use a few tablespoons of yogurt you already have, or buy one)
- Milk
- Something to keep the milk at the right temperature

And that's it!

My Instant Pot also pasteurizes the milk by heating it to 180. I THINK some people make yogurt with raw milk, but I'm not sure. Since the milk cultures at a temperature in the *danger zone* that pathogenic bacteria like and grow well in as well, it's pretty important to kill off any bad bacteria before you make yogurt. Not only will they become more dangerous since they'll proliferate in the warmth, but they will also compete with the good bacteria that you want to be populating your culture, so I don't think your yogurt will come out too well if you don't kill the bad bacteria first.

I start with 2 quarts of milk. That makes about a quart of strained yogurt, which lasts a week or so for a family of 4 eating it almost every day. I dump the milk into the Instant Pot, put the lid on, press "yogurt," then "adjust" to set it to boil the milk, and it starts automatically. When this step is done, the Instant Pot will beep.

After the milk is boiled, I put it in an ice bath to cool it quickly down to 115 degrees, which is the temperature you want for the milk to culture.

I set a probe thermometer in it so I can monitor the temperature, and stir it to get it to cool faster. This process happens pretty fast, so have your yogurt culture ready before you start.

Once it cools down to 115, I dump in a few spoonfuls of yogurt and whisk it in.

When I was researching how to make yogurt, the websites I read suggested putting the yogurt in a bowl and ladling in a scoop of warm milk, then mixing that into the bigger pot. I'm not sure why they do this step. I've done it that way and just putting yogurt straight into the pot once it reaches 115 degrees, and I haven't noticed a difference at all.

After you mix in the yogurt, dry off the pot (since it's wet from the water bath), and put it back into the Instant Pot machine.

Press "Yogurt"

The Instant Pot automatically starts at 8 hours for yogurt. I've done 8, 9, and 10 hours. The longer you let the culture set, the more sour/tart it will be. I like a more tart yogurt, so I usually let it go 9 hours. For the instant pot, you just press the "+" button two times until it gets to 9:00. After a few seconds, it starts automatically.

When the yogurt cycle finishes, it will read "YoGrt" on the display.

At this point, you can pour it into a container for regular yogurt, or strain it for Greek yogurt. I prefer thicker yogurt, so I strain it overnight. I pour the yogurt into a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, set it in a bowl, cover it with a plate, and let it sit overnight to strain. In the morning, I transfer the strained yogurt into a container and add a little of the whey back in, since straining it that long makes it VERY thick and it's a little hard to stir into things at that thickness. Adding a spoonful or two of the whey back makes it a nice consistency for eating with granola or in smoothies.

And that's it! There are a lot of variations to making yogurt, such as culturing for less or more time. I'll have to try a few different things to perfect it, but so far, it's really good!