Got Milk?

I don’t recall how old Q.T. Pie and H.O.B. were when they came to us. The whole family enjoyed watching them with their antics of climbing woodpiles and head butting one another. They were larger than most of the little ones that prance around on YouTube, but they were just as playful. Imagine a bigger version – like a grown dog – bouncing around and jumping off the highest object they could find.

Only a few weeks later, Dad brought home another goat. Star was their mother and as soon as they saw her they ran toward her. It was so precious and cute with Q.T. Pie’s bell ringing and both of them jumping with joy. Until they ran past her, dropped to their knees on either side of her and drank every last bit of milk.

We were just as stunned as you… the whole family was witness to this bizarre animal reunion. Dad said something colorful and we just looked at one another for an explanation.

None was forthcoming, but the obvious finally set in. The kids were clearly not fully weaned from their mother. Dad told us later that the previous owner told him he had the same problem, but he thought it would have been enough time for them to stop.

Really? No, really? Yep, and that was our first lesson about about herding goats.

We had to keep Star separate from Q.T. Pie and her brother H.O.B. for that entire milk season. Once we did, Star gave our family about a quart of fresh milk in the morning and another quart in the evening.

Of course, when I say that Star gave us milk, I mean that I learned to milk a goat. Dad learned from the previous owner and showed us how. Once you got the hang of it, the milk flowed fairly easily.  Star was clearly used to it and not nearly as offended by the job as I would have thought – you know – all things considered.

I would like to say that later, when Q.T. Pie got pregnant and gave birth to her own set of twins, she didn’t find out that she had her own milk supply even closer at hand.

But, I would be lying. We actually did have that problem and there really wasn’t a solution to it. That first milking season for Q.T. Pie we didn’t get any milk.

It was a good thing that the herd grew quickly in other ways.

Mom also had a great sense of humor when naming our animals. I’m not sure if this is “This” or if this is a picture of “That”.

What Do I Care What a Goat Herd?

It started with two kids and before we knew it we had a herd.

The first winter in the basement was an eye opener in many ways for our family of five. We learned that the Jeep couldn’t make it home every time and that we had to plan on walking part of the way. We also learned that a family of five goes through about a gallon of milk per day. In a backpack, that is around 63 pounds of whole milk per week.

Have you tried powdered milk? Me too!

That spring, Dad unexpectedly brought home the answer to our problem. Two kids recently weaned from their mother and ready to live with our menagerie of people, dogs, cats, horses and rabbits.

To me it didn’t look like much of an answer. The young nanny didn’t appear to even have a milk supply and I wasn’t sure why we would have a billy at all. Dad assured us that once they mated, the nanny would have milk. He also brought home a couple of quart jars filled with their mother’s milk for our family to try.

Have you ever tried goat’s milk? I mean really, fresh goat’s milk that has been handled properly? I have, it’s delicious and super creamy. But, then it was gone and we would have to wait for more.

The little nanny’s coat was various shades of brown with white mixed in here and there. The billy was a little larger and black with occasional white patches. Neither of them had horns because they were both pure-bred Nubian, a fact I found strange at that age, but got used to over time.

The nanny was already named when we got her, Q.T. Pie. I thought it was a dumb name, but Jennifer liked it and the girl goat was “hers”. But, I got to spell her name. Can you tell?

The billy goat didn’t have a name. Which meant, of course, that I got to name him. What to name this boy goat though? I wasn’t going to make a rash decision. My sister and I already had disagreements with my decision to name my puppy Arwen (from my favorite book series The Lord of the Rings).

After a better understanding of just how we were going to get the milk started and after watching the billy chase Q.T. Pie around the yard, I asked my dad if I could name him H.O.B. Naturally, he wanted to know why I chose that name. When I told him he said, “Yes, but do not tell your sister why. Just call him Hob and let it go.” He and my mom had a good laugh at it though.


Goat Chili (Not Like It Sounds)

Not our baby goats, but they could have been.

A trip to the store was a little over 8 miles by truck in the summer… in the winter it was also 8 miles, but 4 miles of that often had to be taken by foot. A gallon of milk weighs a little over 8 1/2 pounds in your backpack.

Mom tried powdered milk, but honestly have you tried it?  It is a poor substitute while camping for the weekend, seriously though powered milk is not very good and not something for every day milk consumption for a family of five.

It wasn’t long before Dad traded for 2 baby goats and not very long after that their mom joined our family. Then another two goats… and a billy… so started our herd of milk goats.

Winter was harsh and our herd grew regardless of the season.  When it was too cold in the goat shed for new borns they came into the house.  Kid goats are like other farm animals and learn to walk around within hours, in a day they are jumping around and chasing one another through the house like kittens.

One day, two kids named “This” and “That” were running up the woodpile next to the stove, then jumping off the top.  At some point they decided to jump from the top of the woodpile onto the stove itself.  It was winter so obviously the stove was heating the house, but it was also being used to cook Dad’s famous chili.  As the kids walked across the hot stove their little hooves became hot and they started to dance across the stove and through the chili.

It happened in just a few seconds of time because of course we had to get them down, but it was a very memorable few minutes indeed.


Sleighrides and Hayrides

A Shire approximately the same color as I remember Sarge

Ever in search of a sustainable home-based business, Dad thought that providing hayrides during the summer and sleigh rides during the winter would be a good moneymaker. So Dad bartered something (I don’t remember what) for two draft horses.

Ace and Sarge were very large Shires, a particular breed of draft horse that actually exceeded the size of the better known Clydesdale (of Budweiser fame). These horses were so large that we couldn’t get saddles for them, so we rode them bareback. This was rather like riding an elephant. Even adults walked bowlegged after a short ride.

Once we had the horses, we also acquired a wagon and a bobsled. Then, it was time to go to “the city fathers” and discuss the business idea and get their blessing.  As it turns out they weren’t too keen about having horses clop-clop through town and leave their business behind in the street. Of course Dad had a solution to that!  I would walk behind carrying a large shovel and scoop up the “road apples”. You can imagine how anxious I was to perform that duty. Thankfully, the city still didn’t go for the idea and I never had to suffer the humiliation of my school mates seeing me scooping up horse droppings throughout town.

We kept the horses and they came in very handy later when we built the log cabin. We also kept the sleigh and wagon for a while. We used them to carry friends and family around the rural area outside of town near the Buck House where we lived before building the cabin. The wagon and the bobsled were very fun to ride in, but it was the bobsled that I have the fondest memories of. Wrapped up in wool blankets, drinking hot apple cider, dashing through the snow and singing Jingle Bells (of course) will be something I never forget.