Know what’s great? The Grader!

Road-scraping steel

By Katie Sullivan

This behemoth, familiar to dirt road dwellers as The Grader, is a very welcome site after a long mud season.  With just a few passes of its mighty blade, our road goes from oil pan busting quagmire to smooth sailing.   At least until more runoff and dampness soften it back to a slimy state.   Maybe we’re just excited to see such a huge, hulking sign of spring!

We also want to send our Congrats to Amy and Hathaway, the winners of the Name a Baby contest.   Tassel and Dendron are the names of our two dear girls.  All the baby goats are enjoying this warm weather.  They spend most of their time jumping on and falling off stuff these days, including their mothers.

Happy Spring!

Written by Elisa Mayes

Happy Spring!

There were definitely mixed feelings at the breakfast table about this unseasonably warm start to spring. Some of us would prefer 3 feet of snow and the traditional chill of winter still to be lingering. Others are happy to be having outdoor meetings at the picnic table and to be in t-shirts. Personal preferences aside, all of us are attuned to how this weather forces us to be ready to adapt at all moments. The snowdrop flowers are out, but we are weary if other buds appear too soon.

 The nearby sugar shacks have only boiled about 5 days, but perhaps a few more days will happen with some upcoming cold weather. So, like the maple sap gatherers, we have to go with the flow. We do spring chores with an ‘eye on the sky’ that winter could still drop snow upon us. We rake the garden beds, we move the rooting pigs before they erode the hillside, we hoe out the barn entrances, and the list could go on.


But while the pigs dig, we will wait until the calendar gives us more security before we get our hands deep in the soil. To keep us fueled we continue to bake and explore recipes. I am on the lard quest as of late – trying to determine how to use it to get the best texture and flavor. So amidst our lengthy to do list, we made gingersnaps (adapted from THIS New York Times recipe) with lard rendered from our Tamilworth pigs.

Upon retrieval from the oven, we turned half the batch into thumbprint cookies – voila caramel thumbprint gingersnaps.  My fingers move






…And of course the babies are as cute as always: d with an extra bounce as I wrote this with a glass of goat’s milk and a few cookies by my side.

Fat Toad Farm and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

My dear friend and former coworker, Darren used to keep this excellent book – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – at his desk in case of emergencies.  …emergencies like yesterday at FTF where we could do nothing right and disaster (and a fair dose of stupidity) plagued us until our lack of luck became downright comical.  It was our very first day back in the caramel-making saddle after a 3 month hiatus, so a certain amount of calamity was almost guaranteed, but by the end of the day we were all a little stunned by the depth and breadth of it.   I didn’t dare write about it last night in case this post became Fat Toad Farm and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad WEEK, but we were able to turn things around today and I hope I can report out on our ridiculous day without tempting fate to smite us again tomorrow.

First, I woke up with gum in my hair.

That’s a total lie, but we did celebrate the beginning of the caramel season by burning the ever loving bejesus our of two copper caramel pots.  Whether it was the goat’s milk itself – which is forever changing depending on where the goats are in their lactation and what they’ve been eating – too much heat, or not enough stirring, we’re still not sure, but the pots burned SPECTACULARLY and we were eventually forced to call the manufacturer to ask for cleaning advice.  “Yeah, hi.  Let’s say, hypothetically you burned your copper kettle beyond all recognition, what would you do? Hypothetically.”   All tolled, we’ve (mostly Judith and Christine) collectively invested 9 hours of elbow grease into those pots and the bottoms still look like this.   Luckily, the other two pots and their caramel content survived unscathed, so the day was not a total loss.


Somehow our little buck Obe managed to escape his pen, not once, not twice, but three times before we identified his crafty escape route and shut it down.  I suppose from his perspective he had a lovely day yesterday exploring the apple orchards.

And finally, my dad, Steve, proclaimed yesterday evening’s milking to be the biggest FAIL in the history of milking at Fat Toad Farm – which represents roughly 1,500 milkings – so that’s saying something.

Part A: When my dad cleaned the milk holding tank earlier in the day he forgot to close the release valve at the bottom, and later, when I went to dump  40 pounds of milk into the tank I forgot to double check to make sure it was closed.  Halfway through pouring I was distracted by the sound of all my milk gushing out of the bottom of the tank onto the floor and down the drain.   I yelled things that you’re not allowed to repeat in a blog and slammed the valve closed, but not before 20 pounds of fresh milk got away.

I’m moving to Australia.

Whatever, it happens.  My dad and I trade apologies, each of us valiantly trying to take credit for that incredible act of stupidity, and we move on to the next group of goats.  …which included the goat formerly known as Amber, now known simply as “I HATE YOU”.

Part P: In the middle of everything Amber decides she has just GOT to pee.  So she does.  It’s rare that a goat will decide to let loose in the milking parlor, but it happens occasionally and it is annoying and gross.  Usually, however, it doesn’t stop the entire show.  Amber’s height, aim, and placement on the platform uniquely positioned her to pee all over the clean milking can and equipment.  Like, seriously everywhere.  My dad and I, too stunned to intervene,  just stared as Amber finished up, wagged her tail a few times and went back to eating her dinner.  After we recovered enough to think, we realized we had two options: either we stop and rewash all the milking equipment – rinse, scrub & sanitize, tacking an additional hour on to the job, or we continue milking with our nasty equipment and donate the rest of the night’s take to the pigs.  Tired and discouraged, we go for option #2 and lock in the best dinner our pigs have EVER had – a brimming bucket of prime goat’s milk and a pot’s worth of extremely burned caramel.

Yesterday was definitely a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.

So I ate THIS for dinner to make myself feel better :)




Mindy & Major

Over the last few months we have had the great pleasure of corresponding with Sergeant Major Robert Haemmerle and his wife Mindy – two of our most supportive fans who aspire to having a few goats of their own some day.  Robert is currently serving our country in Afghanistan and has shared with us some wonderful stories and photos of Afghanis and their goats, which, as is often the case in developing countries, share a roof with their owners.   We have been spending so much time in our barn lately monitoring births it feels like we share a roof with our animals, but we draw the line at our front door.

In honor of Fat Toad Farm’s biggest fans and their selfless service to this big old land of purple mountains and amber waves – we proudly present:

One of the newest additions to our herd: Mindy









Our new new Boer Buck: Major









Welcome Mindy and Major!

And thank you Mindy and Robert for all if your incredible support!

Name-A-Baby Contest

By Katie Sullivan

Seventy-five baby goats down – 20 more kiddings to go!  With all the interrupted sleep, coffee and hustle and bustle, we don’t have much cognitive power left for the hard part: naming future herd members!   That’s where YOU, our loyal fans come in.

We want to take it to the audience:  Help us name these two cuties!

A doeling born 3/7

Tinsel's Girl

Newest Intern Melissa (YAY! Welcome Melissa!) and Rhoda's Girl











Comment on this post, send us an email, a letter, a carrier pidgeon (we’d be totally impressed by a pidgeon) with your name and a suggested name for each kid (be sure to note which goat’s kid you’re naming), and we’ll pick the one we like best and send each winner their favorite flavor of 8oz caramel!

Some parameters:

  • We almost always pick names that somehow relate to the mother’s name, for at-a-glance herd management.  Let “Tinsel” and “Rhoda” be your muses!
  • We love humorous names – for example last year we named Rhoda’s baby Tiller – but it has to be appropriate  – something we can shout across the barnyard in front of visitors with small children.
  • Nametag friendly: “Grondag: Destroyer of Planets” is a great name, but we can only get 8 characters on the little yellow nametag.
  • We’ll have to eliminate names that already belong to a current herd member, for sanity’s sake.
  • One entry per person, please.
Send email entries to, subject “Goat Name Contest.”

Deadline: March 16th

Thanks so much for your help!

-Katie and the (tired) Fat Toad Farm Crew