This past Memorial Day weekend witnessed two unprecedented events here at Fat Toad Farm.
The first: An honest to goodness family beach vacation. Every single member of Fat Toad Farm family vacated this little farm for FOUR WHOLE DAYS. Our first family vacation in about 15 years – since us kids were awkwardly navigating the perils of junior high.
What’s that you say? Real farmers don’t take vacation? I know, it was very un-farmy of us. But, Farmer Steve’s brother Proctor was getting married in Bethany Beach Delaware and we just couldn’t miss it. …plus Real Vermont Farmers Don’t Milk Goats, so we’re already well out of the running when it comes to farm legitimacy. It was a beautiful beach wedding. Proctor and LaDawn glowed like little glowing-glowy glowworms:
…and I’ve never seen my cousins (Sam, Bill, Ellen) clean up so well.
The weather pulled itself together just in time for the ceremony, and Sunday was legit beach bathing weather. My 6 month-old son Driscoll provided endless hours on entertainment for family members and seemed to enjoy his introduction to the beach, despite discovering the ocean is freezing and sand is not tasty.
He does enjoy flying though…
The second unprecedented event: A sudden and violent death in the Fat Toad Farm automotive family while we were away. Evidently the universe felt compelled to reiterate that farmers must not take vacation and punish us for our Delaware beach transgressions. Our trusty farm truck, Big Blue, was smushed to death by a very large maple tree branch freed from its trunk by so much wind and rain. Several neighbors and a large crew of guys from Tree Works helped us unburden poor Big Blue (who started up like a champ and the crawled 50 feet to freedom despite massive internal injuries) and dismantle the offending tree.
Well, shucks. Anyone have a truck for sale?
Written by Fat Toad Farmer Judith Irving
Last time I wrote our blog in mid-March, it was a week or so after most of our kids had been born and I was reflecting on all the ways these small, young critters and their moms communicate and stay together.We are now racing towards the end of May and what a difference two months make in the life of a doeling. As I did chores this morning, I watched this tribe of kids, who now weigh between 25 and 50 pounds (having started at 6-9 pounds), careen around the barn at what seemed like 20 mph, resembling a gang of street kids feeling the exuberance of youth and energy.
Here’s what they have learned how to do in two months:
- Eat hay and grass. When you keep kids with their moms, they actually learn these skills right away. It’s not uncommon to see a 2 day old gnawing on hay, observing the big goats around her. We put the goats out on pasture about 10 days ago (had to wait until the grass was tall enough), and the kids immediately knew what to do – heads down, munch, repeat until bored, which would be approximately 5 minutes.
- Eat grain. We set up a “creep feed” for our doelings about 3 weeks ago – this means they have a small space they can squeeze through to get into the holding pen and eat grain after their moms have been milked morning and night. It’s important that these doelings have good nutrition and calorie intake throughout their first six months because we would like them to weigh 80 pounds or more come October 1st when breeding season starts.
- Nurse – oh right, they knew that from the get go, but they still love it. A few years ago, when we made the decision to keep kids with their moms, we thought “Hey, they’ll just naturally stop nursing at some point”…not. They would happily nurse forever. So we now wean them starting in June. That means separating the whole tribe from their moms for at least a month. Pssst – don’t tell them …they get very upset.
- Avoid electric fences – obviously this is a high priority learning item. Some learn this by touching their little noses to the electric fence that is in the barn area. I think some just learn by being told in some mysterious way in no uncertain terms by their moms “Keep away from that unless we tell you it’s been left off and then we’ll all bust through it”.
- Socialize with us – we put a very high priority on convincing these little girls that we are the good guys. We spend time with them every day. We want them to be comfortable being handled for such things as hoof trimming and milking. Does that mean that each one comes bouncing over to us when they see us, saying “Pet me! Pet me!”? Nope. They all have their personalities and some are more shy than others and remain immune to our kind and generous advances. In time, they will come around.
The next six months will bring many new “learning opportunities” to these little girls – as mentioned, learning not to nurse. And then there’s that breeding thing that will start in October. But don’t tell them about that either…they are way too young!
By Fat Toad Farmer Katie Sullivan
Almost every time we design a new piece of literature for our farm, someone accidentally substitutes “diary” or “dairy” somewhere in the text. Luckily, our team of editors is good at catching little mistakes like this and we haven’t yet printed 10,000 brochures about our “Vermont Goat Diary”. This recurring spelling mistake is now a running joke here at Fat Toad Farm, so I’ve taken a moment to imagine what a diary entry from one of our goats might actually be like. Initiate dream sequence music here…
“I woke up with the sun today. I never really sleep much anyway- I mostly doze from time to time (I’m guessing that new-mom Hannah understands what I mean). I had to wait for hours for one of those lazy farmers to come over the hill at 5:55 am. I didn’t feel like going into the holding pen for milking- no particular reason, I guess I was just bored. I did run into the milking parlor with gusto, though, and buried my face in breakfast. I LOVE GRAIN! I was a good girl during milking and didn’t stomp the milker’s hand or anything.
After milking, we all went out to pasture. I’m always excited to go to pasture, though sometimes when I get there I decide I want to go home again- again, no particular reason. Today, I ran right out into the grass. Gladys was totally hogging the fescue, so I butted her. She butted me back, we eyed each other, and then she wandered off. Mom fought with Flossy for, like, three hours, and about five other goats got involved. I stepped in for a moment, but it only seemed to make it worse so I went back to grazing. I snuggled with my daughter, who really loves standing on my back and making me really dirty.
After a day of grazing, cud chewing and resting, a nice lady took us out of our pen and invited us to eat some shrubs. Blackberries are my favorite – they’re just a little peppery! Then we went back home and into the holding pen for milking, which I resisted entering, again for no particular reason.I really don’t mind being milked. By the end of the day, you really “have to go” y’know? The menu for dinner was grain, again, which is my favorite. Then into the barn for hay, cud chewing and rest. Another big day!
We spend a lot of time talking about the lady-goats on our farm, so I (Katie – FTF herd manager) would like to take a moment to talk about the boys.
Thunder, looking majestic
Hailing from Mamm-Key Alpines in Silt, Colorado, Thunder is our senior herdsire. His mother, Needles, gave over 4400 pounds of milk last year- that’s more than 500 gallons of milk! That’s about twice our herd average, so we’re hoping that Thunder’s kids will help bump up our numbers. Not only is he a handsome devil, he’s sweet as pie and very easy to handle.
Lance Bruno and his mini-clone Tonka Shane
Our junior herdsire traveled even further to arrive at our farm. Lance Bruno is from Redwood Hill Dairy in Sebastopol, California. They are a huge producer of yogurt and cheese, none of which seems to make it to the East Coast. They are also a huge producer of champion dairy goats with high production. We’re hoping that Lance will bring us some production as well as good body structure in our goats.
Obie catches some rays
Obie came to us as a bit of an experiment. His mother was an Oberhasli, which is a smaller dairy breed notable for their brown coloration with black stripes. His father was a top Alpine buck. We’ll be milking a few of his daughters next spring.
Tonka is the class clown of the buck pen. He doesn’t know he’s smaller than the other guys.
After a very difficult kidding season for first-time goat moms in 2011, we decided to see if crossing our full-size Alpines with a Nigerian dwarf goat like Tonka, above, would decrease kid size. It worked- Tonka’s offspring weigh about three pounds less on average and none of the moms needed assistance. The cuteness and personality awards go to his tiny kids.
…along with WellWed magazine & Vermont Vows. Who, in addition to beautifully featuring our goat’s milk caramel wedding favors, know everything these is to know about throwing the party of a lifetime. Their rustic-chic wedding styling is fun, elegant and unique. Every post makes me want to get married all over again.
Meet Aubergine (Aube) the culinary genius behind my new favorite food blog Kitchen Vignettes who just took our Goat’s Milk Caramel (cajeta) to a whole new level of deliciousness in her recipe for Banana Pudding Chomeur.
To be perfectly honest, I’d never even heard of a chomeur before (there I go, exposing my total ignorance of Quebecois cuisine – I can’t even figure out how to get the little carrot thingy to go on top of the “o” in chomeur) but it is clear to me now that I have been living only a half life – a sad, tasteless, meaningless, chomeur-less existence. My world is a little brighter now with this beautiful recipe in it (developed especially for Fat Toad Farm Cajeta) now I just have to figure out how to make it so I can gobble it and start living a real life.
To find this and other fabulous recipes and gorgeous food photography, follow Aubergine’s blog http://www.kitchenvignettes.blogspot.com/