The first ones have dropped…

Here we go…. Well, my Mom and I were standing chatting by the fire and she said, “I bet there is a goat being born right now.” And I said, “yes, could be.” And then we went about our ways because we didn’t really think one was being born and come on, they shouldn’t be popping out until the 28th. But lo and behold when we went over to shovel snow and do mid-day chores an hour later there were two little ones wiggling around on the ground that had been born very recently. Mama is Rhoda—so by default the girl baby is named Dendron and the boy hasn’t found his calling quite yet. We don’t keep the boys but they are fun to name for the week or so that we have them for. Both are standing up and nursing which is great news. Stay tuned for more…

The Dry Season at Fat Toad Farm

The Dry Season at Fat Toad Farm

The months of Jan. and Feb. are ones we affectionately refer to as ‘the dry season’ here at FTF. What that refers to is the 2 month period each year when our goats are not being milked (dry) and are re-charging their batteries and  growing the kids that they’ll deliver in early March. In addition to giving the two-legged members of the FTF team a chance to take turns away from the farm, these 2 months are our opportunity to do a deep cleaning job on places like the milking parlor and to install new equipment that will shift into high gear come March and keep flying until December, 2011. This year’s new additions include:

Ø  A 66 gallon Nieros milk cooler from Bob-White Systems in South Royalton, VT (www.bobwhitesystems.com) , which will chill a batch of milk from 103 (F) degrees (the goat equivalent of 98.6) to sub-40 (F) degrees in 30 – 40 minutes. Because the speed with which milk is chilled is a big factor in determining its quality, we’re always on the lookout for ways to do this job more quickly and economically.

Ø  Six single burner stock pot ranges (by Imperial) from New England Kitchen Depot in White River Junction, VT (www.nekitchendepot.com), which will line up ‘cheek by jowl’ under a 10 ft long ventilation hood in our caramel room and boil caramel for 4 or 5 hours on each of our production days. We decided on this particular type of range after doing lots of research, because they’ll allow us to hand-stir our cajeta (goat’s milk caramel) in keeping with the traditional method in Mexico.

Ø  Six very large, round bottom copper kettles from Savage Bros. Co. in Chicago (www.savagebros.com) that will sit on top of the stock pot ranges and start out each caramel day with 8 – 10 gallons of goat’s milk organic sugar, etc.  These kettles replicate the shape and material (copper) of traditional, Mexican cajeta-making, which means that our only deviation from the traditional method is our heat source, which is propane rather than an open wood fire.

Another particularly interesting activity of ‘the dry season’ is doing Ultrasound pregnancy checks early in January  — to confirm the number of pregnancies we actually have. Very cool to see tiny hooves, spinal columns and heart beats, which told us this year that 46 out of 50 does are pregnant. And last weekend, we gave the whole crew their annual booster vaccinations for enterotoxemia, tetanus and rabies, which the girls will dutifully pass through to their kids to protect them for the first few months of their lives.

We’ve carefully check our inventory of kid delivery supplies, so now there’s nothing to do — well….., maybe not ‘nothing’ — but wait until the first week of March, when we’ll receive delivery of 90-odd wet, bleating, ‘wanna stand up right now’ kid packages and be ‘off to the races’ once again. Frankly, we can’t wait!

Experience Vermont Maple Sugaring

Experience Vermont Maple Sugaring

Vermonters have been collecting buckets of maple sap in late winter for hundreds of years. In colonial times, they boiled the sap all the way down to sugar and Ben Franklin wanted all colonists to chose maple over cane sugar. Perhaps he was the original locavore. Here’s an opportunity to participate in the activity of sap collection and syrup production that Vermonters still refer to as “sugaring” and enjoy the freshly produced syrup.

This March, you can experience the complete original process of maple sugaring in Vermont: sap collected in buckets, transported by horse drawn cart, then evaporate2in a wood fired “arch” or boiler as part of a Vermont Farm Vacation.  You will also experience the modern version of sugaring where a tubing collection system is in place, but all is still boiled into the state’s liquid gold in a cozy sugarhouse.

The Floating Bridge Food and Farms Cooperative is now offering Vermont getaways, providing easy  access to authentic farm experiences for visitors. Each weekend in March, participants will experience the journey that maple sap makes from the moment it leaves the tree through it’s transformation into syrup and then incorporated into a delicious dinner.

The Vermont Maple Sugaring weekend includes a maple themed dinner at one of Vermont’s premier restaurants, lunches, tours of two farms producing maple syrup, a maple sugar candy making class, and a visit to a goat farm dairy–it will be kidding time and you are likely to see newborns! Choices of lodging include cozy Bed and Breakfasts and private guesthouses on active farms. Participating Farms include: Turkey Hill Farm, Sweet Retreats Sugarworks and Guesthouse, Fat Toad Farm, Green Mountain Girls Farm, and Brookfield Bees. Dinner will be at Ariel’s Restaurant.  For the full itinerary, see the website.

The Floating Bridge Food and Farms Cooperative is a collective of agriculturally related businesses owned by families who are dedicated to locally grown food and sustainable agriculture. We provide visitors with an authentic rural experience, which deepens their appreciation and understanding of a working agricultural community while offering them educational opportunities. Member businesses offer locally produced farm products, farm tours, cooking classes, on-farm workshops, events, farm vacation packages, and farmstays.

Experience small farm living, locally raised food with big flavors, and the seasonal beauty of Central Vermont’s working landscape.

What: Vermont Maple Sugaring Vacation Weekends

When: Each Weekend in March: March 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, & 25-27

Where: Central Vermont: Brookfield, Randolph Center & Northfield Vermont

Cost: Vacation package is $225 per person plus lodging

How: Details at http://www.FloatingBridgeFoodandFarms.com

Reservations@FloatingBridgeFoodandFarms.com or 802-276-0787

Buy some caramel, name a baby goat!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We want to share our love for our goats with you this Valentine’s Day. March is just around the corner and we are expecting our fifty goat mothers to have lots of wonderful little kids. The first ten people to purchase a special Valentine’s Day gift package between February 1st and February 13th will get to name one of our goat kids. Just write your name choice in the comment box on the order form on-line. Then look for pictures and updates about the kids on Facebook and Twitter