A farm of many fortresses

In the last week, there’s been many changes here at the farm. After the repeated minkings (that sounds so much more pleasant than “attacks”), I increased Gene’s to do list significantly. To date, the Bunny Ranch has been overhauled with hardware cloth, traps have been baited, burrows have been gassed, and the garage brooding facility was rebuilt. Sadly, brooding boxwhat I thought was the one secure location on our property was infiltrated — apparently our super mink broke into the truck, stole the garage opener, then helped himself to two poor little ducklings. Gene and his oldest son built me a brand new brooding box, complete with two snug covers and a divider. Since it was so much bigger than the first box, I felt compelled to go the feed store and fill it with two turkey poults (Dimsworth and Hawthorne, since they are the type of turkeys the Pilgrims ate), two new chicks, and two more large, white Pekin ducks (Stoli and Seagram). I’m headed to the feed store tomorrow to stock up on more chicks, since their new shipment came in tonight and I bought their last two when I picked up the turkeys and ducks. Just in case I don’t get there in time and they sell out fast, I also put 24 eggs in the incubator. Half are to replace what Abby lost during her latest minking, the other half are for me.

In other big news, Sunday was Shearing Day here at the farm! This time, Shy opted for a proper alpaca cut, with his tail left bushy (to hide that disconcerting rear view of his), shy and wooland a high and tight fade on top. He was much calmer this time around, which was nice. We also discovered he’s gained quite a bit of weight since he’s been with us, and has filled out nicely. Woolimina also got a shear. Catching her turned into quite the rodeo, in the most literal sense. Thirty minutes into the chase, I looked at Elizabeth the shearer, who was watching while politely trying not to laugh, and asked if most people had this part taken care of prior to her arrival. Gene’s son was finally able to snatch her by the wool and wrangle her outside the pen, where she then got her shear on. When we put Shy and Woolimina back in the pen, introductions had to be made all over again when the goats reacted like they’d never seen them before.

I think the shearing festivities were a good distraction for Daisy, who was pretty daisy milkingunhappy because Abigail had taken little Leonidas down to her place where the other boy goats live the night prior. Leo was becoming besotted with grumpy old Ursula, who to everyone’s surprise started to actually welcome his advances. Without Leo there to nurse, Daisy’s udder began rapidly filling up, and I added “milking the goat” to my list of daily chores. Since Daisy had never been milked before, nor was she accustomed to being restrained in the stanchion Gene devised, milking turned into a bit of a battle. Since I’m in no shape to restrain a full-sized, annoyed milking goat, Gene added leg restraints to the stanchion, and I wedged a stick under her horns so she can’t turn her head and pull it through the frame. Now that both she and I have a few milkings under our collective belts, she’s calmed down quite a bit. Gene’s daughter turned out to be an expert milker right off the bat, while I took a few days to catch up to her output. Since I don’t have much dexterity in hands anymore, I have to milk one side with two hands. It looks pretty weird, but it puts milk in the bucket. She gives just less than a quart a day, and I’ve already made my first batch of cheese! It resembles nothing like what you would buy in the store, but I’m thinking that’s because it’s not processed at all. It tastes amazing spread on toasted French bread, and tonight I’m topping a turkey burger with it.

I really enjoy milking Daisy, now that she’s calmed down. She’s really warm, and I basically have to sit right up under her so I listen to her breathe while I milk. Milking her baby bunreminds me of bottle feeding all of Claire’s baby bunnies last year, and how grateful I am that Cinnabun and her babies are doing well. Their eyes should open any day, and once we reinforce the floor, Cinnabun and her brood can come down and play in safety during the day. For now I love looking inside the nesting box and seeing how much bigger the moving pile is getting.

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