Shady Apple Goats Newsletter

OCTOBER 2011

News from the North Forty Farm, October 2011

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The first frost always catches me by surprise. I always have veggies in the garden that have not been protected and flowers and herbs that wilt overnight after being touched by the frost. I think of the garlic that has yet to be planted and the sugar water that never got mixed up to feed to the bees. The milk room starts to feel really cold on those first frosty Fall mornings where you can see your breath and the milk steams as it hits the cold cup. Our hands start to dry out about this time — and then crack — Lisa’s crack in deep ravines down her thumbs. Every year when the cracks come it signals the start of Winter.

The goats love wandering out of those cold crisp Fall mornings — they nibble on all the fallen leaves from the evening before and lay on their platforms warming themselves in the afternoon sun. Milk production drops precipitously as the cool weather arrives — and the goats think more about breeding and eating and staying warm through the cold nights.

They crash into doors and walls full force and leap off high planks running home for attention... for food... for a break from the cold wind. Honeysuckle is seven months now and she is wild and crazy with the change in weather. She charges up the yard and hits the barn wall six feet up with all four hooves and then flies back down the yard only to do it all over again. I think she is showing off what she can do with those long big girl legs!

The chickens are still molting. Seems a cruel joke of nature that the chickens loose all their feathers just when they need them the most to stay warm. And just when I thought we were going broke feeding 26 chickens for two eggs/day the production increased! This is a good thing as the cost-benefit analysis of backyard chickens is an ongoing discussion in our house.

I cleared a drift of snow off the front of the hives so the bees could get outside when the weather warms again. Now the worker bees are busy now dumping bodies outside the hive — the ground in front of the hives is covered in tiny yellow bee carcasses as the bees clean out the hive and prepared for Winter.

Now is the time of year that I let all the unfinished outside projects go and start thinking of reading books and making bread and the smell of soup cooking. Susie (the cow) is due to calf December 26th and after the calf is weaned there will be lots of fresh Jersey cow milk to make cheese with through the Winter. I am experimenting now with the cheese rind development and complexity of flavor. I slowly am learning that there is a profound art of cheese making. The milk matters — you cannot have good cheese without good milk. The process of making the cheese matters with its required patience and attention to detail. But the art of cheese making — and the real challenge — is the aging of the cheese. The loving flipping and wiping and watching of that cheese. It is a labor of love.

I plan the CSA for next year and think of ways to make things better. I certainly learn to make cheese better. I have plans now for a small aging “cave” and try to excite Lisa with the prospect of spending Winter weekends in the dark cold basement making an experimental cheese cave.

Overnight the flowers are gone. The leaves hang on cold branches shocked by the sudden cold. The dogs roll on frozen snow covered ground. Summer is over...