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! 

Making Pasteur Proud

When I first got the goats, I was intending to drink the milk raw. I soon found out, however, that Doctor Husband was having NONE of that. He pretty much insisted that I was going to die, and at the very least I had to pasteurize the milk for the kids. I felt like it would be unfair to unilaterally make the decision to feed our kids raw milk, so I agreed. I was worried that the milk would taste "goaty" if I pasteurized it, since I had read that was a possibility, but it actually tasted exactly the same, so I was won over. 

Now that I've been pasteurizing our milk for a while, I actually really prefer it. I know plenty of people drink raw milk and give it to their kids, and I think that's fine. After reviewing the research, I've come to the conclusion that the risks aren't really worth the benefits. I still think the milk I get from my goats has benefits over store bought milk because I low-heat pasteurize it, which allows it to retain the good stuff while killing the pathogenic bacteria. It's also fresh and not processed to be shelf-stable, which I think is beneficial as well. I don't know if goats are significantly different than cows, but I don't think raw goat milk is something I'd want to drink regularly. Goats poo A LOT. They basically can't get away from it. I guess none of us can really get away from poop since it's everywhere, but goats lay around in their poo all the time. I'm SURE that poop is all over their udders, and no matter how stringent I am with cleaning everything, I'd worry about it getting in the milk. So, I can relax a bit since I pasteurize it, and not spend so much time worrying about cleaning their udders to spotless perfection so my kids don't die.

SO, how do I pasteurize my milk?

Since food is king in our house, I actually already had everything I needed to make pasteurizing easy. I use a sous vide machine, which heats water to a set temperature and maintains that temperature while circulating it. 

I store all the milk in mason jars after I milk the goats, which are pretty good for pasteurizing because the glass transfers heat easily. I heat the water to 160 with the sous vide machine so after I put the cold jars of milk in, it doesn't drop the temperature too far below the temperature I want it to be. The recommended temperature for low-heat pasteurization is 145 degrees for 30 minutes. Commercial dairies usually use high-heat pasteurization which is 160 degrees for just 15 seconds. 

Once the water gets up to 160, I nestle the jars in. I usually cover them loosely with cling wrap so nothing gets in them as they sit there. I can't leave the tops on, because heating the milk would create a build up of pressure, so I don't want the jars to be closed during the process. To monitor the internal temperature of the milk, I keep a probe thermometer in one jar that beeps when the milk has reached 145 degrees. I check all the bottles to make sure they're all at 145, then I start the timer for 30 minutes. The sous vide machine keeps the temperature where I want it, so this all requires minimal labor. I do check every so often to make sure the milk maintains at least a minimum temperature of 145, but it usually does. I actually have to set the sous vide machine at 148 to maintain an internal temperature of 145. Setting the machine at 145 for some reason didn't maintain an appropriate temperature in the center of the milk.

After 30 minutes, I put the tops back on and put all the jars in an ice bath. I want the milk to be cooled quickly to maintain its good flavor, but this also serves to create a seal on the jars and hopefully help them last longer. Honestly, we drink the milk fast enough to where none of them have gone bad, so I don't know if this would help it stay fresh longer or not, but it makes me feel better knowing it's "canned".

And that's it! I label the jars with a "P" for "pasteurized" and put them in the refrigerator. I usually pasteurize 4 quarts at a time, so I do this every other day or so. I usually just leave it running while doing other chores, so it doesn't really add much work to my day. Easy peasy!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Road to Goats: They're home!

Everything had been ready for what felt like WEEKS! I had my poulter's license (obtained from the city), I'd built their pen, fenced in the yard, bought a million little things for them, many of which I've never even used. I was READY!

Goat #1: Paisley Moon

I got Paisley from a breeder 4 hours away. We met at the half-way point between the two of us. I loaded some hay into a dog crate, and set out to get my very first goat! She was VERY quiet and sweet on the way home. My fears about how they would be were really calmed by this car ride. When we got home, she was a little tentative, but almost immediately started chewing up some weeds and acclimating to her new space. And, of course, she pooped on the driveway. I got back with Paisley right at lunch time, so I couldn't really sit with her and comfort her much, but she seemed OK. I put her in the pen, and went in to feed my human kids. Right after lunch I had to head out to get Goat #2. It was around this time, I think, that Paisley realized she was in a weird place, and ALONE. It did not go well.

Goat #2: Hermione

I got Hermione from a different breeder an hour west of my house. On my way to get her, I get a call from my mother-in-law (the in-laws were visiting for a week). I didn't notice that I was getting a call until the voicemail notification popped up. Then I saw that my MIL was texting so I called her back. Apparently Paisley had somehow escaped the pen, and gone in the front of the house. Of course, as soon as she said this I thought Paisley had been hit by a car and was dead. She wasn't, but the school across the street had been letting out at exactly the same time. A crossing guard came over and started ranting at my father in law about how the goat could have bitten a kid (unlikely, since they're PREY ANIMALS AND WOULD JUST RUN AWAY). A bus stopped in front of our house and was honking and refused to move. Basically, the neighborhood was up in arms over a wee little goat that was in the front yard. My father in law got Paisley back in her pen and sat with her until I got home.

Thus began the most anxious week I've ever had in the entirety of my life.

After that, I was just a huge stress ball all the way to get Hermione. When I rolled up to the breeder's house, there were two giant German Shepherds in the front yard, and I couldn't even get out of my van. The breeder came out and shooed them into her yard, and told me to pull up to a little square of space on the driveway that was apparently past their invisible fence and would allegedly keep them from ripping me apart on the spot. I wasn't convinced. Bless that breeder's heart, but that woman would NOT SHUT UP, and all I could think was "I have to get home because my other goat is going crazy AND SHE NEEDS A FRIEND RIGHT NOW!" I've mentioned in a previous post that goats are herd animals. Well, this will serve as a warning that you do NOT want a lone goat. They don't like it, and they try to escape and cause mass hysteria. This lady kept going on and on about how people steal her chickens and she had to get deadly dogs to protect them. Whatever, woman. Just give me my goat and let me leave!

Hermione was WAY bigger than I was expecting. I don't know why I thought 23 inches seemed as small as Paisley would be, but I was so wrong. Hermione is probably twice the size of Paisley.

She screamed the whole way home.

When I'm about 10 minutes from home, I get a text from my husband that he's on his way home. I believe I've mentioned his reluctance to get a goat, right? WELL, now I'm trying desperately to beat him home because there's Paisley poo on the driveway, and I want to intercept the Paisley-got-out-and-caused-a-hubub story before he hears it. I make it home at EXACTLY the same time that he did, and of course, the first thing he noticed was the poo since he almost stepped in it, and I didn't intercept the Great Escape story. Argh. He gave me a WHAT-HAVE-YOU-DONE look. Not exactly great for the first impression. :(

After Paisley had a friend, she seemed to calm down a bit. Hermione actually ended up being the quieter one once she was out of the dog crate. I put a chain set low on the gate, assuming that's how Paisley escaped, and she hasn't managed to escape again.

Now, if only this were the most tragic part of the first day, it wouldn't have been so bad. It so wasn't.

The first milking

I'd found a guy on Craigslist who agreed to build me a milking stanchion. He was ALSO the guy who was supposed to build the goat house, but he didn't. >:( As it turned out, the neck hole on the stanchion was WAY bigger than the goats' necks, and so big that their heads actually slipped through. So, basically, it didn't work AT ALL. Ya'll...it was so bad.

I wanted to start with trying to milk Hermione because she had been milked before, and I was hoping she would set a good example for Paisley.


Hermione FREAKED OUT! Not only was the neck hole too big, but the little part that held the feed bucket that was SUPPOSED to keep them oh so happy was too thick, so it didn't even hold the feed bucket up. Hermione kept moving over to the side and falling off the side of the stanchion, she kept getting out of the neck hole, and she kept knocking down the feed bucket that I'd set precariously on a lawn chair because that was the best I could do at the time. About 15 minutes in to failing miserably trying to milk her, I just threw the pan off and held her haunches with my arms while I reached down and milked straight onto the stanchion, or my foot, or Hermione's feet, or WHEREVER the hell the milk sprayed. At that point, I was really just trying to milk her enough to keep her from getting mastitis and dying.

Paisley didn't like it any better, and she had only been milked once in her whole life. I mean really, if you think about it, they're probably thinking "who the hell are you, and why are you touching my boobs?! I don't even KNOW you!"

At some point my husband came out to see what I was doing and was probably frightened by my appearance. I was CLEARLY frazzled, freaking out, and an absolute mess. He held Paisley's collar and held her in the stanchion while I held one of her legs to keep her from kicking and milked her out one-handed. She has these itty bitty cat teats since she's a miniature and this was the first time she'd given birth, so I have to milk her with two fingers and it's significantly harder to do that when the goat is desperately trying to get away from you. It was a nightmare, and if there had been a livestock auction going on across the street right at that minute, I would've sold them without a second thought.

It was about this time that I began to question my life choices. I felt the whole weight of responsibility for getting these goats, spending money on their housing and pen, and THEM, and doing something I certainly didn't need to do, nor did my husband WANT me to do. I was a complete emotional mess, and I tossed and turned the entire night unable to sleep.

The next morning I got up with renewed determination. If you're my neighbor and you're reading this, I'm really sorry for sawing and drilling at 7 am, but I NEEDED TO FIX THAT DAMN STANCHION! I had some leftover pallets from the goat house that I sawed some small pieces off of and closed up half of the neck hole.

Problem. Solved.

After I fixed the stanchion, I moved it so one side was up against the fence and the goats couldn't escape. Apparently that's all they needed! Once they realized they couldn't escape, milking went SO MUCH BETTER! Hermione just stood there and let me milk her out. Paisley still wasn't super thrilled and I had to hold one of her legs, but she's new to the milking scene and that wasn't unexpected. Now I just tie one of her legs to the stand with a piece of rope and she stands quite happily as long as she has food.

Happy goats!

I eventually also fixed the little slot for the feed bucket by boring holes all the way across with the drill. It was inelegant, but it worked, so...I don't care! 

I have to say, the first week with the goats was the most stressful week I think I've ever had in my life. I actually lost 3 pounds, and that is SO not me. I don't lose weight without trying. Ever. In the history of my life. I was so constantly stressed out that I didn't even have an appetite. BUT it's gotten so much better, and now I actually enjoy going outside to milk them now. 

And the kids do too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Road to Goats: Finding goats

After I got the (reluctant) go-ahead from the husband to proceed with goat acquisition, I had to figure out how the heck to find them! I had researched the dairy goat breeds and decided on Nigerian Dwarfs. They're small, have very sweet, rich milk, and I figured they would work well in a city backyard homestead.

First, I checked online by simply searching for "Nigerian Dwarf breeders in (city name)." There were a few breeders near me, but their goats were quite fancy. I didn't need an award-winning goat for $700. At the time, I didn't even care if the goat was registered or not, but that did change later. So, the google search struck out.

Next I searched on Craigslist. This yielded a number of possibilities at first. The more I researched buying goats, the more I learned about what I was looking for, and what a breeder needed to provide. For one, I knew I HAD to buy tested animals. There are three diseases for which you really need to test goats: CAE (Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis), CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis), and Johne's. I was most concerned about Johne's, but I didn't particularly want a goat with any of the above diseases. I'll give a little overview of each.


There is some debate in the goat world about whether or not this is really such a bad disease. Only 10% of goats that test positive on the test for CAE will ever show symptoms, but many different ailments have been attributed to it, such as hard udders that are unable to be milked and swollen joints that eventually lead to an inability to walk. The arthritic version of this disease typically affects does over a year old. The encephalitic version is seen less often, and affects kids. It can cause seizures and death. CAE is a retrovirus and there is no known cure. The trouble with testing for CAE is the testing can only test for the antibody, not the actual presence of the virus. This means that while the goat may have come in contact with the virus, it is possible that the goat has successfully fought the virus and will not suffer any ill effects of it. As I said before, only 10% of goats that test positive ever show symptoms. I think it is possible that there are multiple mutations of the virus, some of which cause problems and some do not. Thus, there is debate whether or not this virus is such a big deal, but I think it would certainly make it much more difficult to sell any offspring of a doe that has tested positive, so I decided not to purchase any positive does.


CL is a chronic and highly contagious disease. It causes swelling and abscesses of the lymph nodes, and can decrease meat/milk production and breeding ability. Abscesses can occur both inside and on the outside of the goat's body, so it is not always possible to tell if the goat is infected with CL by looking at it. There is a vaccine, but once the goat gets the vaccine, it will always test positive for CL, and the vaccine may not be very effective. People usually cull (kill) any infected goats.


Johne's is the disease I cared most about. It is a chronic intestinal disease similar to Crohn's disease in humans. It causes chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and eventually, death. It is caused by a bacterium named Mycobacterium avium ss.paratuberculosis (MAP). The MAP bacterium has been implicated in some studies as the one that also may cause Crohn's disease in humans, though more research is necessary. It is extraordinarily resistant and can live in soil for decades, so getting a goat with this disease can be very serious indeed, because you may never be able to rid your land of the bacteria, which continues to reinfect new goats. It is unknown whether or not Johne's can infect humans, but I didn't want to take a chance. My husband's siblings both have Crohn's disease, so if there is a genetic vulnerability that could lead my children to get Crohn's from the goats, there's a good chance we have it, and I'm not risking that possibility.

SO, finding goats on Craigslist that had been tested for the above diseases proved somewhat difficult. 

The first breeder I contacted agreed to get her goats tested, but she honestly did not sound very knowledgeable. I drove an hour to meet her and the goats. I still had no idea what a "healthy" goat looked like at the time, but I did think her goats were not quite as cute as some others I had seen.

So, I was right to think something was probably off about these goats. As it turns out, I think they probably had mites/lice or nutrient deficiencies. This goat has hair missing on the nose, which means she's been scratching it. Healthy goats don't constantly scratch and lose hair. They're scratching because they're itching from bugs or itchy skin, which can be caused by a zinc deficiency. Additionally, her coat is very dull and wiry, which is indicative of a copper deficiency. So, long story short, this breeder probably is not very knowledgeable, and thus not a good choice. This goat's bag also doesn't have great attachments and hangs a bit low. This can cause problems later if it continues to sag lower. 

This breeder was originally only selling one goat, but since I needed two, she agreed to sell another one so the first would have a friend. I began to have doubts about the health of her goats, so I kept looking at Craigslist every day for more ads. 

There was one ad that I kept passing up. There was a mini Lamancha for sale, that was half Nigerian Dwarf, half Lamancha. This goat, poor baby, was just the ugliest goat I'd ever seen.

AHAHA! I just couldn't take this goat seriously. BUT, we're going to come back to this sweetheart.

Another goat popped up and she was VERY pretty. Then I realized that that was what a goat SHOULD look like--bright eyes and a shiny, soft coat. 

Here's Miss Fiona:

I decided to buy the pretty goat and maybe only one from the first breeder, that way I'd at least have one healthy-looking goat. I had my reservations about the first breeder's goats, but I still wanted goats and, well, they were available. When I contacted the first breeder to tell her I would only be taking one goat, she wrote back something to the effect of "this is the answer to my prayers. I didn't really want to sell my girls, so I'm not offering either at this time. Have a blessed life."


At this point I was beginning to get VERY discouraged at this process. The mom of the pretty goat told me about a number of facebook groups that turned out to be VERY useful. I joined two Nigerian Dwarf facebook groups, one of which was a sale group, and restarted my search. Then this little lady popped up on my newsfeed:

Lexi. Blue eyes, black and white flashy markings, good genetics. She was perfect. I immediately contacted the breeder, and was SO EXCITED! I was going to have two, nice looking and well cared-for goats, and I could not have been happier. Lexi was due to kid in a few weeks, so she would be in milk when I got her. Her due date came, and went, and then a week passed. The breeder had no idea WHAT was going on. I kept trying to update Fiona's mom about the situation. She was getting a new baby goat in VERY soon, and really needed Fiona gone.

While we were waiting for Lexi to stop holding her kids hostage, I continued to research goats. Through this research, I realized that Fiona *might* be a little chunky. I certainly am not one to body shame a goat, BUT it could lead to issues breeding. For whatever reason, fluffy goats tend to struggle with getting pregnant, and if they DO get pregnant, they may have big kids that get stuck. Sadly, I started to have some concerns about Fiona, but not so much so that I'd give her up. At least, not because she was fluffy.

Fiona's mom was definitely very honest about her personality. She was a very dominant goat. She tended to mount her poor little wethers (castrated males) and flap her tongue at them. We both just assumed she was desperate for some action and wondering WHY THE HECK the little wethers weren't up to the task, so I wasn't too worried about that. UNTIL we had a convo about how noisy she is.

Fiona's mom asked if I could maybe take Fiona even though I didn't have Lexi yet, because she didn't really want her there when the baby got there. I said I maybe could, but I was worried that Fiona would be really upset and scared being alone, and might scream (look up youtube videos on screaming goats if you want to get an idea of what I mean). To this she responded "oh...she'll definitely scream. She's very...vocal. She's a noisy goat." 

Uh oh.

The one thing I did NOT want was a noisy goat. You can't have a noisy, screaming goat in the city. Obviously goats make SOME noise, but they aren't all screamers. We came to the mutual decision that Fiona would not be a good fit for me. I decided that this was probably for the best, since I had been having concerns about Fiona's breeding capabilities anyway.

I then contacted Lexi's breeder to tell her the situation, and I asked if she had any other goats she was selling at the time. I was honest with her that Fiona fell through because she was a screamer, and Lexi's breeder wrote back "I'm sorry, but I'm refunding your deposit. You have unrealistic expectations. Goats are farm animals, and they're not silent. I don't have a good feeling about this. Sorry."

I cried. I didn't just cry, I WEPT. My husband came downstairs and saw me tearing up, and thought someone had died or something. I haven't mentioned the DOZENS of goats I'd inquired about that weren't from tested herds, or were already sold, or had been sent to auction, or WHATEVER. Seriously, I'd looked at dozens of goats, and when I was ready to get my goats any day, they BOTH fell through. I had the pen, the house, everything ready, and had sunk thousands of dollars into getting ready, and they were both gone. At this point, I felt like I'd totally failed and had just wasted SO much of my family's money that we really didn't have to waste. Weeping. I was weeping. And my husband, who DID NOT AT ALL want these blasted goats, tried to comfort me and build me back up. Love that man.

SO, I texted Lexi's breeder back and said something like "that is a REALLY CRUMMY (not the word I wanted to use) thing to do. I do not have unrealistic expectations. There's a difference between normal goat maaas and a screaming goat. I have their pen all ready, they have a home, I had to get a license for them, I've researched for months, and I would make a GREAT goat mom." So, she called me and we talked. I sent her a picture of their pen, assuaged her fears, and we were back on. PHEW! But, I still had to find another goat.

Re-enter to the scene, Ugly Goat.

Hahaha...I just had to put that again. I'd messaged UG's mom at least 3 times asking if she was still available, and pauvre bette, she always was. I messaged her again after Fiona fell through, and, of course, she was still available! So, I considered it written in the stars that she was supposed to be mine. I mean, WHO am I to judge her on appearance?? Maybe she has a great personality.

Everyone was waiting and waiting and waiting for Lexi to have her kids. She finally did, and she had a terrible time of it. Long labor, a kid had to be pulled (as in, dragged out of her), she bled more than she should have after kidding, and got an infection. She had a ROUGH go of it, and the breeder thought maybe she should dry her up and not sell her. Heart broken AGAIN!

BUT!!! Ray of sunshine! The breeder decided to let me have a different goat in Lexi's place. This goat was very sweet, and very docile. In short, she was absolutely perfect for my family. I really think this worked out EXACTLY as it should have. Thus, Paisley Moon entered the story:

Blue eyes, buckskin coat. BEAUTIFUL udder with perfect teat placement. She was a steal, I tell you.

So, Ugly Goat (Hermione) and Paisley became my very first, very own GOATS!

Day 1 of Goatdom will be the next blog installment, and it's a doozie. I love those darn goats now, but the first day was ROUGH. Stay tuned!