I've drafted many posts for this much neglected blog over the past few months, but then wasn't able to get around to publishing them while they were still relevant. Finally, at 1am, I have some time!
We started kidding season on January 27 with a beautiful set of triplets out of Sky Lupine, and we're now up to 69 kids on the ground, with more on the way. We've had four sets of quadruplets so far, plus our first ever quintuplets (and from a first freshener no less), and our first ever sextuplets. Watching Bambi have her six kids was sort of like watching a clown car empty- the kids just kept coming and coming. I've never had this many kids in one year, let alone compressed into about two and a half months and I'm not sure that I'll ever have so many does kid at once again. It is nice to get to evaluate all of the does around the same time, but with the large number of first fresheners, getting all of those girls trained to the milking routine (and keeping it straight in my own mind) is making chore time extra-long. This year I have been letting pretty much all buck kids stay on their moms so I have less bottle feeding to do.
Andy and I have enjoyed watching spring unfold and the warmer longer days which allow us to be more comfortable working outside. As many visitors to our farm know, we are big fans of California native plants, and we've worked to incorporate many more of them onto the property while removing non-native invasive species. We managed to get quite a few new natives into the ground last fall and have spent the last month or so diligently checking on the plants (the spice bush is alive!) and updating each other on their progress (the black oak is leafing out!). We've been exceptionally pleased with the various California lilacs (aka ceanothus) blooming enthusiastically in their new homes. It seems to be a good year for brodea- a very pretty native bulb with purple flowers- in some areas around us, it fills entire meadows. I hope to have some pictures up soon of some of our natives in bloom.
The birdhouse we put up on our own house in an effort to appease the flickers so they wouldn't go after our eves with so much vigor has attracted a very different resident. For the second year in a row, a pair of kestrels is raising a family in that birdhouse, which is somewhat surprising because it is above our heat pump/air conditioner- not exactly the quietest location on the property. We see them often in the largest of our black walnut trees over by the garden and take a certain amount of pride in their return to the farm.
Another birdhouse, which is located on one corner of the garden, has a titmouse family in it. They're quite cute little birds and they swoop in and out of the house with an amazing amount of speed. In fact, we didn't even realize that anything had taken up residence in the birdhouse until Andy heard the peeping of the little ones. A third birdhouse does apparently remain empty, although we have seen western bluebirds checking it out for the last few years. We keep crossing our fingers that they'll move in, but apparently it hasn't quite passed inspection yet. I've also seen a pair of red tailed hawks gathering branches from some of our trees, so they must also be setting up house close by. We can hear ring-necked pheasants near us, and it sounds like wild turkeys are expanding their territory towards us as well.
Andy's been working to get the garden in for the spring- he planted seeds in the greenhouse quite a few weeks ago, and now that we've passed the last frost date, he's able to get some of the seedlings into the ground. Broccoli is in and will soon be joined by peppers, beans, tomato plants, and I believe zucchini will be joining them. We're also going to plant paddy pan squash (the ones that look like alien ships) and pumpkins around the stone fruits- the squash I've requested because the goats enjoy them so much when the squash get way beyond the size that any person would want to eat them. Andy is also planting some flowers for a cutting garden so I can enjoy some fresh flowers in the house. He has also discovered that in addition to the large western fence lizards who live in the greenhouse and keep the place virtually bug free, we now have some sort of frog amongst the seedlings. Between those critters and the ladybugs, we have a full range of natural pest control at our fingertips.
While I'm thinking of it, this month is also perfect for a few goat related items: check the tattoos in your goats' ears and/or tails as they may have faded over the winter. I've lost several legs on one doe in particular because her ears keep absorbing her tattoos. This is also a good time to order fly parasites. We had a subscription for them last year and they work so well. I would recommend them to absolutely anyone- they take the fly population down to about mid-winter levels, which is especially nice when it comes time to clip the girls since I have yet to find a fly spray that actually works.