Not all vacations can be called working vacations but my week in Maine could. I went up to visit my friend Nancy Whitbeck who used to live near me here in Texas and has moved back to her homeland in the northeast. She bought a farm in Maine and moved all her goats and dogs up there last spring. I have wanted to visit her ever since she moved so this trip was not only a wonderful visit to her but also a break from the summer in Texas. Another friend, Janet Grubbs, went up there at the same time. It was nice to have a partner in the airport and along for the ride.
Nancy lives in a farm house built in 1850 on a very nice sloping piece of land. The barn is attached, as all barns should be, to the house. There is also a small building that will ultimately become her shop. She currently has about 50 goats. She had nearly 20 kids this spring some of which will stay with her, some of which will go on to other homes. The exact number of goats is always sort of a moving target. And these are dairy goats so there is milking involved. And cheese making and soap making.
This time of year it starts to get light about 4:15 in the morning (YIKES!!) so everything starts early. There are chickens, inside dogs, livestock guardian dogs, goats and cats to be fed daily. Sometimes, as now, there are baby goats to be bottle fed. In the case of Josie, the baby we fed three times a day, her mama rejected her in favor of her much larger older brother. There are many reasons why a baby goat will end up being bottle fed - rejection by mama, injuries or health issues and adjusting the milking schedules.
There are goats to be milked - Nancy is currently milking two goats daily but there are also three first time mamas who are being milked just enough each day to train them to the process. In the near future Nancy will have a certified kitchen/dairy and will be selling milk.
There are eggs to be gathered several times each day from the mixed group of chickens. Nancy has a great kiosk out by her driveway that holds her eggs for sale. There is a cooler with cold packs to keep the eggs chilled and a flag indicating there are eggs for sale. If I had chickens and a big tree out by my driveway, that's the way I would sell eggs.
There are goats to be fed - I've has some experience feeding livestock but feeding my mixed herd of fiber animals is nothing to feeding 50 goats. There are many categories of goats - mamas with babies, young goats, old goats, special goats, newly weaned goats, etc. - and each has it's own feeding requirements. Nancy carefully observes and mostly lays hands on each and every one of her goats every day. She knows when they aren't feeling their best just by looking at them across the pasture.
Everything is seasonal. At least most things are. Kidding season is just passed so all the mamas have had their kids, all the little ones have been dis-budded but no one has been weaned yet. There are apple trees in the orchard but it's not time to pick the apples yet. There are maple trees in the woods down by the stream but it's not sap season yet. It is tick season which is one of the reasons we did not go down into the woods by the stream.
We worked hard on the farm in Maine. We didn't feed or milk the goats but we bottle fed the kid, helped get goats into or out of gates, swept and wiped and loaded and unloaded, fed the chickens, washed out water tubs and refilled them, collected eggs, put them out in the kiosk, put out the open sign, brought it back in, did some laundry and some dishes. We also laughed and talked and ate and slept and laughed some more. It was all wonderful. Tomorrow I'll talk about the great things we did and saw that were not on the farm.