It has been a busy 2 weeks since the kids were born. Dustbunny is back in her pre-pregnancy jeans and things are settling into a routine. A weird routine, but a routine nonetheless.
Dusty and Roxy are growing so fast. We first had to hold them and urge them to drink from bottles; now it’s a matter of getting the bottles to them fast enough before they suck your fingers off (or other body parts as Becca found out after being goosed by a goat). Once, Dusty sucked so hard he took the top right off the bottle and ended up looking like a deformed, hairy child with a binky.
The goatlings seem happy enough in our little barnyard . They romp and play with my kids, er, offspring all day. There is a wheel chair access ramp attached to our deck and I hear them clompity clomp up and down it all day as they run circles with the herd of neighborhood children always in my yard. In fact, since the big day, we’ve have a wide range of visitors constantly in and out. The Whitaker petting zoo is officially open and although we don’t charge admissions, offerings of chocolate are always welcome. (Thanks Catherine for the cherry cordials.) It is entertaining and surprising to note that the little goats have more friends than I do!
Milking is an interesting process. First of all, the motion took me awhile to get down. I thought I had a hard time, till I saw Shea strenuously trying to get his large, manly hands into a very small space to delicately work the milk into the pail. The look of intense concentration on his face made me feel better about all the times I squirt milk down my cuffs or on my jeans. It is a skill neither of us ever expected to have in our repertoire but now I find it strangely satisfying. In fact, altogether I would say I enjoy milking, if it wasn’t for one horrible reality….mornings.
For the record, getting up before the sun does is not natural.
You have to milk two times a day, twelve hours apart for maximum milk production. We are milking at 6 am and 6 pm. I think I would rather milk at noon and midnight. I am so not a morning person. I have little room to complain, Shea leaves for work everyday around 4 am. Kudos to him, but that leaves me and a goat, unlikely compadres at an unholy hour. When my alarm goes off at 5:45, it plays the song Aint No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant. I used to like that song. Now it goes off and I think, “#%&* I’d sell my soul for 1 more hour!!!” Maybe I am wicked. All you morning people out there, how long before it starts to feel natural? I am impressed that I have managed 2 weeks of morning-ness. I am rising, but I tell you, I refuse to shine.
So everyone is happy and healthy and farm life is sweet. We are officially dairy farmers, with only two small problems: Taste and Teats. Sigh.
The day came when we could finally raise a glass to our efforts and sample the first swallow of Whitakermilk. We brought in the pail, strained, cooled, and eagerly poured glasses of the white nectar. Dreamy Chagall visions of goat euphoria and down-home country lovin’ danced in my head as I brought that premiere sip to my lips. What the…?!! My tongue twisted. My sinuses instantly filled with an acrid swelter. There were uprisings in my stomach. Nasty! I tried to calm down. I have a more discerning palette than Shea and I thought optimistically, maybe it was just me. I handed the glass to him, hoping for a smile and a thumbs up, maybe a chuck on the arm. Something besides what I got. He took a swig of the goat grog and must have experienced the same assault I did, he just expressed it more articulately than I. “Blech, it tastes like a mouthful of B.O.!!”
The sinking feeling of “what have we done?” washed over us in a way it hadn’t since we brought baby number 3 home from the hospital. (Don’t gasp, we love her now but anyone that made 3 babies in 3 years knows what it first feels like to be outnumbered!!) I almost cried. I did what I always do to troubleshoot….turned to books. While Shea tried to coax our children into sampling the feculence, I read up on goat milk. Turns out, any deviation from their strict diet can show up in the flavor of their milk. My thoughts turned back to the night before when we had walked Dustbunny through the backyard to groom her. She’d taken a detour and stuck her head in the chicken feed. That can’t be good. Not to mention the beer we gave her. Yes, beer. Her previous owner said that would help her milk come in. I don’t know about that, but after she downed a keystone light, she blew goaty beer foam in my face and I swore off the brew forever. These things combined to make a horrific first experience. However, after a few milkings went by, her milk tasted better. I still assert that goat milk is an adjustment. People that say it tastes just like cow’s milk have not had cow in too long! Hopefully, we can acquire the taste. (We’ve found that if you put enough chocolate syrup in anything it will go down!) [Since this post it has much improved. We got the system down and we adore, even prefer our goat milk to anything else!]
Another serious problem surfaced when we noticed that Dustbunny isn’t making a lot of milk. A champion milker (which we were told Dustbunny is) can make up to 2 gallons a day. We are getting about 40 oz a day, not quite a Big Gulp. Not even enough to feed her kids. I am actually buying milk to feed our dairy goats! I thought perhaps it was just my poor milking skills and anxiously called the neighbors for a milking lesson. Apparently I dialed the wrong number first and well, that was one bewildered person on the other end of the line. Hee hee.
My chivalrous neighbor came to my rescue and turns out I am not the problem (how refreshing!) “I hate to tell you this, but your goat has small teats.” Blink blink. Apparently, her entire udder is lacking. I realize the window of opportunity for quips and puns is wide open here, but I will refrain…some. Apparently my Grade A goat is more of an A-cup. Poor Dustbunny. In the practical, common-sense farming world, she doesn’t serve much purpose. But as my anthropomorphic sympathies overran my thoughts, I imagined the other goats teasing and taunting her with ribs and rhymes, some less than clever and some set to music. I imagined how painfully awkward and inadequate she must have felt around her ample-uddered stallmates. I wondered if she ever dreamed of udder enhancements. Wait, are we still talking about my goat?….I got carried away.
So, my neighbor delicately suggested that Dustbunny, and therefore her offspring, would never be good milkers and we may want to start over with better animals. Sadness. What can I say? I would feel deeply hypocritical to get rid of any animal for having small teats. I tried to have faith in my sweet girl. I thought we could wait it out, that she would rise to the occasion. Then my neighbor showed me his goats. I have never used the word voluptuous in reference to anything with four legs, but when I saw the milk-swollen udders on his “designer” goats, my jaw almost dropped. Next to my humble Dustbunny, they looked like porn stars! Suddenly I was in the 8th grade locker rooms all over again and feeling very, very small.
So now the fate of Dustbunny and her sweet baby Roxy hang in the air. Anyone in overalls would tell us it is time to look at our herd in terms of roasts and chops, but those of us new to the barnyard scene can’t help but be sentimental. In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy the endless frolicking in my backyard, the excited parade of visitors eager to play with our little friends, and even my internal, but nonetheless formidable battle to be a morning person. I love having goats.
Oops, gotta go. It is milking time.