Monday, April 28, 2008
We're still new at the tour thing, but our basic tour for kids shows them all the different animals we have on the farm and as we get to each animal, we talk about what that animal's job is. At the end, we eat cheese. (At least the grownups do...some kids are still not so sure about goat cheese.)
The highlight, of course, is the baby goats. No one can resist baby goats. :)
We've noticed that most kids really like the chickens, too. These guys were the first group of kids who didn't go nuts chasing them, but instead approached quietly - which was rewarded with the chance to pet them. Tame chickens rock.
We hope to do more tours soon. They are still by appointment only, but some day we might add a regular monthly tour day to make it easier for people to just drop in.
Thank you to scout mom Kelly Balser for the photos.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Found this on our porch today. I really am not crazy about snakes, but I let him stay. He's not hurting anyone.
Christian recently messed with a snake by our pond and got a sharp bite to the hand in return. He assures me that this kind is not aggressive like the water snakes. Mmm-hmm. I won't try to touch it to find out.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The sibling rivalry must be someting - her doe was even bigger than the one her sister Miranda had this morning. Both mamas are a little hormonal now, but keeping each other company in the barn. The kids are all out with the "big" kids in happy kiddie funland. We need a nap. As soon as I trim and iodine this kiddo's navel. Yipes. Look at that thing.
Ok-- I am fooling around with the new blogging software. Thought I would post some new photos.
Here is one of Bishop Don Magic Juan out in the pasture. He's such a sweet boy. And the babies he made are just delicious. (As in cute -- we have not been eating them.)
And here is one I took at milking time.
The ladies are all lined up outside the parlor, waiting to get in.
This one shows what they were waiting for.
Mmmmmmm... milking time.
OK-- that's my blog entry for today. See, two days in a row. I am trying, people. ;)
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Now I need to go figure out how to add photos, etc. Technology is not my friend...
Whoa! Has it really been a month since I wrote the last entry? All I can say is that it has been a busy month. Sorry!
Kidding has continued to go well. We have two doelings I still need to put up on the For Sale page, but the rest of the kids have been sold. All but one of the big girls have kidded and three of the yearlings have, as well. That means we are milking nine now, though the yearlings are still not giving us as much milk as we hope they will get up to over time. (But oh, are their new udders adorable.)
We have been making cheese almost every day and…selling it all. On Tuesday, April 8 we became a vendor at the Houston Farmer’s Market held in the parking lot at Rice Stadium. We have completely sold out two of the three weeks we have been there and came pretty close the time we didn’t. We now officially have “regulars”, too, and it is seriously the coolest thing ever.
We also went to our first monthly market day at Home Sweet Farm. Sold out there, too. What can I tell you? The ladies make good milk which I manage not to ruin when I make cheese. J
The very best part of both markets has been meeting people who are into local food. Without sounding all sanctimonious, I just need to share how rewarding it feels to know we are putting good, natural food out there and it is being accepted and – even better – enjoyed.
Starting the first Saturday in May, we will also be at the Bayou City Farmer’s Market at Eastside and Richmond. We had to delay our start there until we had enough cheese to sell at two markets…what a wonderful problem to have.
It looks to us as though we will likely sell out every week. If you want our cheese, you should really plan to get to the markets nearer to their start than to their end. And if you go to the one in Brenham, you really should pre-order. It’s the only way we can guarantee we’ll have what you want.
In non-cheese news, we took the Notorious P.I.G. and Tu-pork Shakur to the processor last week. We call it freezer camp. We will be picking up the packages in another week or so. In the meantime we got two new piglets who we will not be naming. I don’t know what I was thinking giving names to food animals. I am grateful to the girls for their time at our farm and their incredible appetites. They were lovely to have in the time they were here and they did a great job of eating whey and any failed cheese experiments. The two new pigs are filling their shoes as best they can.
We also got a few new ducklings who are just starting to feather out and a couple turkey poults who will be raised for the holidays. …at least that is the plan. I will try to get photos up soon in the “Domestic Fauna” section. I am also working on a new photo album with highlights from the 2008 kidding season. We are selling all of the kids this year, but I can’t help but take a ton of photos. They are just too cute to not document.
I guess that’s it for now. I will try not to let another month lapse before the next update. Hope to see you at a market soon.
Five goats milking, one due any day, eight more to kid in April. Things are snowballing at BHF.
Today we went out and met with the fabulous people at Home Sweet Farm, in Brenham.
I am VERY pleased to announce that we will be participating in their monthly Market Days. You should check out their website for more information, but basically they run a small, natural, sustainable farm that sells CSA shares. Besides feeding a great many people in their CSA with fabulous fruits and veggies, once a month they invite other small production farmers to come sell meats, cheeses, breads and whatever else locals are growing and producing. Blue Heron Farm will be the next small farm added to that family. Please check out their site and come see us there on April 20 if you can.
On Monday we met with Lindsey and Kendra: the Houston Dairymaids. Yet another fabulous pair of people (we meet a lot of great folks in the goat and food circles) – they promote local cheese makers to the Houston market. They came out and sampled our stuff and took a lot of photos. I believe we’ll be making their blog site, soon. (I’ll warn you – my hair was a mess and I didn’t think to put on makeup. Yow!) Anyway, they have the coolest business. I am so happy to have people out there who are really passionate about good food. And to have them like our cheese? Well, even better. I encourage you to check them out if you are interested in local foods, and especially cheese.
The final big news this week is that site traffic is picking up and we are about to meet our first on-farm customers. Yay! We are still on an “email ahead” plan for on-farm sales, as we just don’t have time to build and man a farm stand right now. …but one day we’ll have a regular day and a regular set of hours. I promise.
We are also getting ready to start our big “private party” order. I can’t TELL you how nice it is to be working in a big dairy kitchen. My whole first year of learning to make cheese was in our home kitchen – and as much as I loved it, the added space and big 3-bay dishwashing sink are just sooo much better. We heard once that being a cheese maker is about 80% washing dishes. Truer words have never been spoken.
So that is our fabby week in a nutshell. Things are really coming together and we could not be happier about being goat farmers. We hope you’ll have our cheese soon.
Yesterday we had two births at BHF, bringing our total of does in milk to 4 and counting. We are ready to start business!
We’re giving some the milk to kids this week, but will start making cheese in small batches starting today. (I made mozzarella yesterday for homemade pizza. Mmmmmmmmmm.) We will steadily ramp up production until we become market-ready the last week in March. At that time, we’ll put out our Farmer’s Market schedule, but cheese will be available starting next week if you want to pick it up at the farm. You can just email us to put in an order and to let us know when you’d like to come get it. At this time all cheeses are $1/ounce and are sold in 8 ounce packages.
Today we will be applying to sell at the Bayou City Farmer’s Market – and if all goes well, we plan to make that our primary Houston outlet. I’ll update that as we get that information. We may have to delay our market days slightly, however, as we recently made a big sale for a private party on April 2. We are really, really excited about this opportunity and hope you will be happy for us, rather than bummed about a slight delay in getting YOU cheese.
We still have 10 goats left to kid by the end of April, so we’re really jut at the beginning of the season. I’ll try to put up blog entries more often now, since we definitely have achieved forward motion. I’ll also try to get a few new photos up. There is NOTHING cuter than baby goats. Here’s a little thumbnail you can click to see what I mean.
Check back soon!
Well, poo. I am just terrible at keeping this “blog” up. But by way of excuses, we have been VERY busy. Here are some key milestones we’ve reached since I last posted.
January 4, 2008 – Our pasteurizer was delivered and installed. It is awesome. We had our dairy inspector out that same day and I am pleased to announce that the unit was inspected and accepted by the State of Texas. BIG, big milestone.
January 15, 2008 – We finished the kitchen! We finished putting up the food-grade walls, put in the sinks and appliances and we’re just a few shelving units shy of being totally stocked. It looks great. I’ll have to get photos up soon, and of course – you’ll be able to see it when we start tours.
February 8, 2008 – We got our manufactured foods license. This is the license needed to process cheese. Hooray! We’re legal!
February 16, 2008 – We got listed on Local Harvest. This is a wonderful website that helps put people in touch with farms and other small food providers in their area. We’ve already started getting some traffic from the site, which is great. If that’s how you found us, welcome! We can’t wait to meet you and sell you cheese. J
February 19, 2008 – Peggy Sue started off our kidding season with beautiful triplets. One has been sold and one more is spoken for, but we still have a doeling for sale. All kids this season will be listed on the “Goats for Sale” page.
Those are the biggies. We have four more does due to kid on March 9-10. It’ll be a couple weeks after that until we can get up to a meaningful production rate and start selling at the Farmers Markets. My best estimate is that we’ll be fully ready the last weekend in March.
We have not yet secured our spots at local markets, but it is our hope to do the Saturday Market at Onion Creek in the Houston Heights, and the Bayou City Farmers Market on Wednesdays in the Greenway area of Houston. When we finalize our plans, I will post it here and and on the “Contact Us” page, as well.
OK- I’ve got to bottle feed some babies. I’ll try to post again soon.
Sorry for the gap. I wrote a long, heartfelt blog entry in late October…all about our progress on the dairy and our progress in breeding and I managed to lose the file before I emailed it to my brother, our webmaster. :(
To recap that one, in short: Breeding season has come and gone, we hope. Our young buck, Bishop Don Magic Juan, seems to have successfully bred all 16 of our does. Hurrah! Our first kids will come in mid-February and then we will have several arrive during the second week of March. We’re expecting a few more at the beginning of April and then a whole PARADE of kids around the second week of April. One doe always has to be last, and our breeding straggler will kid in May. We can hardly wait.
Next year we hope to sell the majority of our kids, as we will need the time (and milk) for the business. We plan to be fully in milk by week 3 of March and our Farmer’s Market days should also start around then. We will also try to get a small storefront up out here at Blue Heron Farm, for those who would like to come get their cheese at its source.
The dairy is really coming along. The building is up and Christian is working incredibly hard at getting the interior finished out. He is in there putting up wall studs as I type this. In the second week of January, our pasteurizer will arrive. We will have officials from the Health Department’s milk group onsite that day to review and approve the pasteurizer and get us on our way to certification. We should be fully legal and operational by the end of January. With no milk to process. :(
That’s right – as of this week, all of our does are dry. They are getting the annual period of rest and recovery that mother nature grants them. On average, goats lactate 10 months out of the year and then take two months off. We plan to follow nature as it presents itself on our farm. We will not use hormones to force does into heat out of season, but if they cycle in the summer themselves, we may get the odd goat who will kid in time for winter milk. It will mean that we won’t have much cheese in the winter, but our first obligation is to the health and welfare of our goats. Without them there would be no cheese for 12 months of the year. ;) Next year we will freeze cheese toward season’s end for those who really cannot do without for a month or so, but there will be no “made today” batches in the winter.
Anyway—that’s the short story. I will try to update our dairy progress as things happen. Here are a couple photos of the building as it looks today.
When it’s all done, half will be milking parlor, half will be kitchen. I’ll post photos as the interior walls go up.
Sorry for the infrequent updates. I’ll get better at this, I promise.
Well, the kids are officially weaned now, meaning we are positively swimming in milk. I have taken advantage of this fact by doing a lot of cheese making. With the help of friends and family who have been a very willing and patient testing service, we have developed the products that we will offer once we’re officially licensed. They are not for sale yet (I’ll get to that timeline in a sec) but you can check out the planned product line on the “Our Products” page. I know I’m biased, but I think they are all incredibly delicious. And yes, we eat goat cheese every day. Sometimes every meal of every day. We might just be the luckiest people on earth. :)
So the licensing. The process has gone slower than we had hoped. To be more accurate, it is not the licensing process, it is the building process that is holding us up. We found a construction company we liked, but they had a waiting list, so we won’t even have a building to inspect until the fall. We have, however, prepped the ground for the building, so there has been some forward motion. We think construction will begin in September and we should be able to finish the interior right about the time the goats dry up for the winter. Doh!
We’ll still have some in milk, so we’ll get the ball rolling and get the inspector out as soon as it’s all ready. At that point we’ll probably start some on-farm sales and maybe special deliveries, but I don’t think we’ll hit the farmers’ market circuit until the spring.
That’s the low-down in a nutshell. I’ll try to make more frequent updates, including a photo gallery of this year’s kids, who are growing like weeds. Check back from time to time.
Well, as you can tell, it took a while to post again. Sorry about that…kidding season got pretty hectic. We have finished kidding at BHF unless Liberty or Maybelline end up surprising us. I still have high hopes for Maybelline, but I think Lib got lucky and ended up with the year off.
Anyway, here is the short version:
March 24 – Challenge kidded at 145 days. Triplets: 2 boys and a girl. Textbook kidding, but since it was our first time, we were nervous and called a friend who is a midwife (of the human variety) - who also has goats. She came right over and helped us get through the morning, and when all was said and done, we named the doeling LeeAnne after her. (Luckily her name fits into our naming convention this year – Country Singers. LeAnn Rimes is her other namesake.) One of the boys went back to the woman we bought Challenge from and the other went to a home down near Victoria where he will become a herd sire.
April 6 – Peggy Sue kidded at 151 days. Triplets: 2 boys and a girl. The girl came out first – she was facing the wrong way, but since she was so small (only 5 pounds) it didn’t really matter. We named this one June. The boys were next, and were quite large, so Christian actually helped pull them out. Her second baby – the first buckling - just melted my heart. He may well be the cutest goat I have ever seen. We are not ready to keep bucks yet, though – so I was not allowed to become attached. The boys were re-homed.
April 7 – Jade kidded at 152 days. Triplets: 2 girls and a boy. These kids were all HUGE. It was a difficult kidding with all three kids presenting backwards. Christian very actively assisted in the delivery of all three, and even though it was scary at the time, he never balked. (There was a slight hesitation when two tried to come out at the same time, but he worked up the courage to push one back in.) I am still so incredibly proud of him. The girls were named Naomi and Wynona and their brother was placed in a home as a pet. …not sure what they named him, but we had been calling him cookie head.
So on April 7 we were bottle feeding 14 kids and it was – to say the very least – overwhelming. On April 9 we re-homed all of the boys, bringing us to our current total of 9 kids.
Here is the list of kids and their moms:
Patty – Lucinda, Emmylou and Carrie Underwood. (All were purchased from Stritch Farms)
Kelly – Miranda and Loretta (These girls, too, came from Stritch Farms)
Challenge – LeeAnne
Peggy Sue – June
Jade – Naomi and Wynona.
Add Maybelline and Liberty and the herd, which started as 5 does in December, is up to 16. Wow.
At this time, the babies are drinking pretty much all of the milk that the moms are making. Since we do not have a license yet, we are just going with the flow, but I will start making cheese again soon. The oldest babies (Lucinda and crew) are two months old now, and so will be able to be weaned in another month or so.
Our other big animal news is that we got three chickens last month who are laying delicious eggs and we are getting our LGD (Livestock Guardian Dog) this weekend. We have already named the dog Goatrude and can’t wait to get her to BHF. I will post pictures in the gallery soon.
In non-animal news, we have sold our Houston house. Once we close on April 30 we will begin planning and construction of the dairy. We could not be more excited. We are just that much closer to being able to sell you raw milk, regular milk, cheese and eggs. Keep checking back for more progress.
Well our website is up, albeit in a skeletal manner. I will work diligently on adding content on a regular basis. I hope you'll visit often.
We are in full baby-watch mode at BHF. Challenge is due to kid March 29, followed by Peggy Sue and Jade on April 6. Peggy Sue and Jade are absolutely enormous. Last night while I was milking Patty, Jade decided to lie down for a bit. Once down she started this crazy talking/groaning thing that previously I had only heard from Challenge. (Who talks when she is sleeping, even while not heavily pregnant) I'll try to get a video clip - it's so sweet, but also kind of sad. I guess she's not terribly comfortable right now. It being our first kidding season, it took all I had not to panic and call Christian screaming that she was in early labor. She is not in early labor. :
Patty's babies are eating every last drop of milk she is making, so there is no new cheese for friends and family right now. We pick up her sister Kelly and two more doelings on Sunday, so we'll have two milkers and five mouths to feed. We'll see if there is anything left for humans when the new balance is struck.
We are officially putting our Houston house on the market next week, which will allow us to finally dedicate our full focus on getting the dairy building up. That is the first step in getting our licenses, so we hope it will go well. I will continue to post updates as we make progress. Thank you for checking in with us - I hope you'll stay tuned.