Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The goats of Blessed Acre Farm.

We have renewed our desire to have goats on our property in a few ways over the past week, and one of them was simply visiting Michelle Chandler's goats with their kids. I thought the one Above was good to start with because it looks almost like a classical painting, and I'm a nerd.

Both of us really enjoy goats as animals, and I'm going to admit to some of our desire for goats being entirely that enjoyment. There are plenty of practical reasons for us to want goats though. One of the biggest ones is of course, goat cheese. The Lady of the House and I both really like goat cheese, and that is very easy to make as the Lady of the House discovered fairly quickly when she got a cheese making kit.

The breed we are planning to get due to their ease of care, heartyness, lower feed costs, and ready availability in our area are Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They are quite small compared to most goats. Full grown they are under 2 feet tall at the withers with most coming in under 21 inches due to differing requirements by breed standard depending on who you ask. They average production of 2.5lbs of milk per day with an average milk fat content of 5%. For comparison a Jersey cow produces milk with around 4.85% fat so Nigerian Dwarf milk is very fatty which makes it great for cheeses and soaps if less so for drinking. Given that we don't drink milk much if at all, the focus on cheese is probably ideal. The other thing we'd be using milk for is baking, which the Lady of the House has been doing more and more of lately. It looks like when substituting goat milk for cow milk it's just a 1 for 1 substitution with a slightly tangier flavor from the goat milk which sits just fine with me.

The challenges of getting goats is, they are a bigger investment than chickens or rabbits. They require regular vet visits and some more complex husbandry techniques. They also require significant investment in fences. We'd probably be looking at $1,000 - $1,500 in materials to fence the areas we would need to cover to properly pasture our goats out in the woods. We'd also need to build them shelter or shelters depending on how we do the pasturing. The shelters themselves would take time to build and probably pallets to reduce cost since goats don't really need precision built shelter since they just need a place out of the rain with good ventilation. The work level associated with goats is also significantly higher. So while visiting Michelle Chandlers goats made us want them Right Now, we are going to have to hold off until I have a job that pays the bills on 40 hours a week instead of 60 +, and we're going to need to have a little bit of a financial buffer that we don't have right now.
A quick look at our own property,  we are still getting more berries from the blackberry bushes by the porch which is fairly nice. A female orb spider has moved in there which has made it a challenge for the very arachnophobic lady of the house to pick berries, but she's still managed it. We need to take another hike up to the clearing a mile back from the house to pick more blueberries from the bushes up there. We have been freezing all of the berries so we can spread out eating them over a longer period of time than Right Now. We are lucky to have a freezer so we don't have to can or eat everything as we get it. We need to learn to can, but with our life right now, being able to just freeze it is a really good option since we're already running around like chickens with our heads cut off day to day. We hope that some of that stress is alleviated shortly when we manage to get our car situation settled, but that could be a couple more weeks.

Finally for today, as they have already been brought up, Chickens! The girls are doing very well and are just about fully grown. Their molt is ending, and a few of them are developing red on their combs. That means they should be laying any day now. We check the nest boxes every day and look forward to sharing our first strange and malformed egg, soon to be followed with our first good looking egg with you all. Lots more to talk about Thursday, see you then!

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