Saturday, December 31, 2011

Linear Appraisal 2011

I meant to write about Linear Appraisal earlier in the year, but often the work of farming keeps me from writing in a timely manner about the farming. If you need a primer on what Linear Appraisal is, I wrote about it here.  You can go ahead and read it.

I'll wait.

In 2011, Northern California was scheduled to have its normal appraisal sessions in September and/or October.  Since I had freshened 42 does starting in early February, and was on the fence about several of them, and because I wanted to use LA to help me decide who could stay, and I was not about to milk all of them until the fall, I had to schedule a special session.  This allowed me to have my appraisal session in May instead of October, but that convenience does cost a good deal more than being a part of the regular schedule.  On the other hand, milking ten more does than you would like for an extra five months isn't free either.

The session was scheduled the one free weekend I had in May, with two show weekends before and two show weekends after.  Several of the does had already been clipped for shows the previous weekends, though we still had upwards of 20 does to clip in about four days leading up to the appraisal.

We were fortunate to have help once more from friends Amanda, Jenn, and Rebekah in getting the rest of the does washed and clipped in time for appraisal.

One of the things that finally sunk in for me this year is just how much harder appraisers are on first freshening yearlings than they are on any other age group, and that one should not expect even her first freshening two year olds to all appraise at the top of the scale.  In short: I've adjusted my expectations.

One of the does I was really looking forward to having reappraised was Penny Wise, since I was somewhat depressed about her 82 as a two year old first freshener.  As a second freshener, her udder really filled out, looking well balanced and capacious- her udder looked so good that I decided to take a chance and keep a buck out of her for myself and for those people wanting to breed their home milkers to a buck who would get them better capacity.  But, because I had some lingering doubts, I sold her other two bucks as wethers- my philosophy being: I generally don't take chances with bucks, but if I do (see Guy Noir), he's going to stay here and mess with my breeding program, not someone else's.

Penny Wise, sired by Guy Noir

The appraiser took one look at her udder as she was walking away and said "that's an excellent mammary system!", and I heartily agreed with him.  She scored a VVEE 88, which was a huge relief to me, and gave me the confidence to take her to REDGA the next weekend.  There, she easily won grand champion three rings in a row.  Woot!  A long time Toggenberg breeder came over to ask me about Penny Wise at the REDGA show and to offer congratulations, so I asked her if she could believe that Penny Wise had scored an 82 as a first freshener.  She said that an 82 is really pretty good, especially if the doe is developing well.  I was a little surprised, and asked a few more breeders about linear appraisal scores, and it turns out that I was being way too hard on my first fresheners in the past.  Lesson learned-- it's always nice to find out that I can be more relaxed about things.

Overall, my three year old second fresheners (and the one three year old first freshener cough*BlackIce*cough) did well, mostly scoring in the 86-88 range, and I was happy with my first freshening yearlings and two year olds who scored in the 82-86 range.

The real highlight of the day for me was when Alum Root and her younger half sister Blizzard both ended up with scores of VEEE 90 on appraisal.  They are both granddaughters of my much-loved and much-missed doe Sara, and the first Castle Rock does to score 90s on appraisal.   Because I think very highly of Sara's daughters, granddaughters, and even some great granddaughters, it is especially nice to get independent verification of their niceness. 

Blizzard looks much happier in real life
I was also very pleased that Purple Rain scored VEEV 90- the second year in a row she's gotten such a high score. 

I was allowed to have the does milked out before they got final mammary scores, allowing the appraiser to really get a good idea of texture and capacity.  Many of our does scored E (excellent) in the mammary category (this is not to be confused with the E in the final four-letter score), and the appraiser told me that he gave more Es for mammary in my herd than he'd given out the previous year for all breeds.  There were quite a few more excellents at this session than there had been four years previously during my first LA session, which can be seen as an indication that the herd is moving in the right direction.

Overall, it was another good session, though with so many does to appraise (three sheets worth!), it did take quite a bit of time.  The appraiser even asked me if I didn't want to take a break and get off of my feet for a while, but I told him I'm pretty used to being on my feet for the vast majority of the day.  Had I not had extra help from friends, it would have been a much longer day, since others were there to observe and to get animals out of the barn and put them away when they were done.  Oh! And to milk (thanks Amanda!) before the girls got their final, final scores.

In looking over all of the scores for all of the categories and comparing them to the 2010 appraisal and the 2008 appraisal, I like the direction that the scores are moving in as the herd evolves.   I'm already looking forward to our 2012 appraisal session...I should say, I'm looking forward to seeing the scores, not so much the washing and shaving of all of the senior does again!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Out & About

Yesterday, after finishing morning chores, I was sitting on the couch watching a random movie from 1940, when Andy asked me what I hoped to accomplish for the day.  I told him I had pretty much accomplished it already and wasn't planing on doing much beyond watching classic movies and eating tasty fudge made and given to us by our lovely neighbors. 

With the exception of getting Bert and Ernie out for a walk with their packs.  Gotta work on getting those boys in shape!

I've added the pack bags to their saddles, so they get used to the "extra" weight, and the feel of the material against their sides.  We don't have many trails in the immediate area, so we end up on what country roads we can find, which usually have more traffic than either I or the boys would like, since passing cars tend to freak them out a bit.  Fortunately, we have friends who live at the end of one of the longer and steeper country roads within walking distance, which makes for a decent training walk where we can let go of the leads.  The boys do better at keeping up when allowed off lead, but are unpredictable enough when cars pass us that I can only let them off when we've gotten off the main road.

We do gain several hundred feet of elevation on this walk- these pictures were taken at the highest part, and our turning around point.

What's that in your hands? Can I eat it?

Notice how Ernie is in the lead (usually the case), and how Bert's tongue is sticking out. Bert is still getting tired faster than I would like, but at least there isn't any (extremely) pitiful bleating like the last time we walked up this road.  That was two years ago, the boys didn't have any weight on them and it was around 90 degrees.  So I suppose this is an improvement.

Bert sees many hills in the distance and contemplates laying down right there should we decide to go any further.

I was hoping to get a nice picture of the Valley, or possibly the Sierra Mountains, which you can see on a clear day from this location, but it was so hazy, we couldn't even see Sacramento.

Pssssst! Bert! Snacking opportunity this way!

You may have noticed that Bert has matching accessories, where Ernie's red halter clashes rather loudly with his purple packs. Apparently, really bright colors and pastels are all the rage for goat halters these days as I've only been able to find a pinkish purple (meh), and the dark green halter was a special order because granny-smith-apple-green just wasn't going to do and Bert needed something.  Ernie is actually wearing a llama halter, which I think fits him much better than the large goat halters do, so I'm waiting to get some motivation to shop for llama halters in dark purple before Ernie gets to be all matchy.

The boys don't seem to mind the addition of the packs to their saddles, and while the horses, llamas, and alpacas we pass on our walks seem to find them fascinating, Bert and Ernie pay them little attention.  The one thing Bert couldn't seem to tear himself away from on our walk was the half blind teacup poodle with all of three teeth who was barking and tugging at the end of his leash as though he was fixing to tear Bert to shreds.  I had to drag Bert away from the little monster because he had stopped walking and just wouldn't stop staring at it.

We did get asked if we were walking alpacas (it's the big ears and all the wool that fools 'em every time), and another person slowed her car down to ask if we let children ride our animals, and by the way, what were they?  When I told her they were goats, she wanted to know how much I'd charge, since her daughter wanted to ride a pony, but she though that would be too dangerous.

Somehow, a goat seems safer?

Good to know.  And now I'm tempted to see if the great Google will find me some goat saddles, as there is apparently an area of the goat-related economy I've been ignoring all this time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Russian Beehives

Make my bee hives look boring.

I saw these little gems in Yaroslavl, Russia, and they supposedly are reproductions of buildings found in the town of Uglich along the Volga River.  They are fully functional bee hives set in a large garden within an old monastery that also served as a fort (or as they call it- kremlin). 

My mom and I went to Russia for about a week in early September, which is just enough time to see the very highlights of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a few towns in between.  We traveled by boat along an extensive canal and lock system, which is very heavily traveled by both tourist boats and small oil tankers. Our first port of call after leaving Moscow was supposed to be Uglich, however, heavy fog kept us in one of the river locks for five hours, putting us far enough behind schedule that we had to skip that stop.

At least this gave us some small taste of what Uglich was like.  And an idea of what beekeepers with a short active season do with some of their downtime.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Refreshingly not goat related

Looks like someone is under the impression that she's found some fresh hay before anyone else did.

It's all mine!  Mine I tell you!

Every so often, someone will leave the man-door to the barn open, and some of our free ranging hens will take the opportunity to go where few hens have gone before.  The discovery of one (or more) of these hens manages to surprise me since I'm really not expecting to see a chicken in this particular part of our barn.

You look puny from up here!

It took a little while to convince her that she was not, in fact, a fifteenth century explorer who could lay claim to something just because she "discovered" it.

Ha! I told you we weren't allowed in there!
 A bit later I found the same hen trying to lay claim to a new piece of real estate, which did not please the hen who had already made herself comfortable in that space.

It's too bad I wasn't able to capture sound with this picture- our explorer friend next tried to move into this nest box (also known as a corner feeder), and the Maran fluffed up and let out a steady growl in an attempt to intimidate the red hen. 

Have you ever heard a chicken growl?  It's kind of a funny sound, unless you hear it while you are trying to remove eggs from under a hen.  Then it is a sound that means your hand is about to be attacked.  And can I just say- for those of you who want broody hens so you can hatch out your own chicks- please contact me.  I seem to specialize in getting broody hens, and while they are fantastic for hatching out your own eggs, if you don't want to hatch eggs yet find yourself with a hard-core months-on-end broody hen, it makes daily egg gathering very unpleasant.  Unless you are in to collecting new beak scars on your hands every day.  And if you are, man, do I have an opportunity for you!

Seriously? You're talking about chickens?

 Yes, well, perhaps if you didn't usually close your eyes when we pull out the camera...

I'd have more pictures of you I felt like posting.

At least someone kept their eyes open while the camera was out...

Weighing in at almost 100 pounds, Mini is looking much more like an adult.  She and Stella get along very well, and for quite a while, they were enthusiastically playing together during chore time.  Now though, Mini has gotten more serious about her job and play holds less of her interest, which seems to be sort of confusing to Stella who had gotten quite used to play time.

She's transferred that play energy into following me from room to room while I try to do work.  Sometimes she just stands and stares. Which isn't at all unnerving. There's nothing I love more than having my own entourage of one.  All the time.

My plan to have the blog updated more regularly with a guest writer has, for now, fallen by the wayside.  Katie had some family matters that needed immediate attending to, so her stay with us was unfortunately cut short. I hope to have other guest writers in the future, and will let them introduce themselves as they accept the invitation to blog. I am still hoping to get a few more posts up in the near future about native plants, and the benefits of finding space for them both on and off farms.  I am hoping this partly because more time for writing means I'm probably finally getting a break from milking.  I just need to get one more milk test done, and then I'll be able to start drying off more of the girls.

But, that is a subject for another post...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

California Native Plants: Coyote Bush

Hello and konnichiwa! Katie here, writing my first blog post for the farm. I was introduced by Sarah a couple posts back, with Bert and Ernie, the pack goats. Among other things, I will be posting regular introductions to California native plants that can be found here on Castle Rock farm. Here is the first...

As the nights get colder and the first frosts come, there is still busy activity all around the farm. A couple weeks ago, the Coyote Bush started to bloom. Coyote Bush, or Baccharis pilularis, is one of the only California native plants blooming this time of year and therefore it attracts a lot of attention and is a valuable food source for many insects. Watching for just a couple minutes, you can spot different varieties of bees, wasps, ladybugs, may flies, flies, ants and more crawling and buzzing around the plant. You can also smell the sweet honey-like fragrance of the flowers if you get up close.

Coyote Bush is a hardy plant and can survive even in very dry and nutrient poor soil. It has a large complex root system that is perfect for holding soil in place to help prevent erosion. On the farm there are many Coyote Bush plants planted along the creek bed bordering the property, in order to hold the soil. Coyote Bush can survive harsh weather conditions and even low to moderate levels of salinity, so it is often used as erosion control in nutrient poor coastal areas and is found growing there naturally as well. Coyote Bush is also considered fire retardant and is not eaten by deer. Dwarf coyote bush is more commonly grown for native gardens in California as it makes a nice ground cover or more easily controlled small shrub.

The larger coyote bushes tend to be rangier and less 'pretty.'

There are both larger coyote bushes and smaller dwarf coyote bush here on Castle Rock Farm. Both have small oval leaves that range from dark to bright green. Coyote Bush is an evergreen, so it adds color to the landscape year round. The flowers are very small and are white, cream, or yellow and can bloom from early summer through mid-winter.

I have been having fun learning more about native plants here on the farm and watching all the activity on the Coyote Bush lately. Consider planting Coyote Bush in your garden and you can see what all the buzz is about!

(Note: All pictures from here on the farm except the second photo, of the dwarf coyote bush ground cover, which was taken from the Native Sons website.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Honey Bees

Last Christmas, I asked Santa for honey bees, as I wanted to have my own source of beeswax for the lip balms and salves that I make.  Santa thought we were just getting one bee hive, but after talking with several bee keepers, two hives worth of bees were procured from a local source.

As with just about every type of critter one can keep, the critters themselves end up being the least of your expenses.  There's also the hive boxes- eight frame vs. ten frame, deciding what type of frame you want to use in those boxes, lids, inner covers, entrance reducers, hive stands, and hive bottoms.  Then there's the beekeeper tools- most importantly- what type of protective clothing you're going to wear, and the smoker you'll use.  Then there's the hive tool, bee brush, feeders, capping scrapers, and a few other things you may or may not eventually need.  The bee keeper I got my frames of bees from recommended, after a long day of working his hives, that I get eight frame boxes as full boxes of bees and honey can get quite heavy.

While putting the frames of bees into the hives, we noticed several queen cups in the first hive, which the bee keeper scraped off of the frames.  We didn't see either of the queens, but we did see several drones, which are bigger than the workers and look somewhat husky.  Drones are the only male bees in the hive, and they serve just one purpose- to go out and mate with virgin queens.  They can't even feed themselves, and have to beg the workers to feed them, and once they mate with a queen, they die.

Drone hanging out on the hive porch

I went back a week later and found that queen cups (where the hive grows new queens) had shown up again in the hive that had contained them the previous week.  Before scraping the queen cups off this time, I decided to look and see if I could find the queen.  I was unable to find her, so I left the queen cups alone, and checked the other hive, in which I did find the queen.  Two weeks later, the cups had hatched out, and a new queen had established herself.

In the month after getting the original two hives, we captured three swarms that showed up at our farm.  Luckily, all of the swarms decided to beard on low hanging branches of plants, so they were relatively easy to capture.

A beard of bees

The first swarm was pretty large, and is now my strongest hive.  The second two swarms were small, and when checking one of them, I found that they had no queen, so I combined the two.  We now have four hives in our "bee garden".

We selected a location where the bees would have morning sun and afternoon shade, and where they would be out of the way of farm visitors.  I'm glad we started with two hives as the hive that hatched out a new queen has never really recovered and is currently my weakest hive, and should be requeened in the spring- if I hadn't had another hive to compare with, I'd probably be pretty discouraged with my first experience in beekeeping. 

I love to take a few minutes to go sit near the hives and watch the workers flying in and out on their daily chores of gathering pollen and nectar.  The guards check all who enter, while other workers either fan at the entrance to help with ventilation and temperature control, or scurry about filling in cracks and crannies with propolis.  The workers typically pay me no heed even though I sit within a few feet of their homes, going about their daily chores since I am not threatening their hives in any way.  There's a faint scent of honey in the air and a contented buzzing which has made this one of my favorite spots on the farm.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Introducing Katie, Bert, and Ernie

And now, for something a little different (besides one post every wow-has-it-really-been-that-many months)...introductions of a few farm residents.

We'll start with Katie- she's the person on the right in the picture.  She's staying with us at the farm for several months after spending the last couple of years in Japan teaching English, and has an interest in international agriculture.  She'll also be putting up some blog posts about the farm and a topic I have long planned to write more about- California native plants.  So, when you see her name on the blog, that's who it is, and I'm excited that the blog will be a bit more up to date. I know, I know, more than two posts isn't that high of a bar- our goal is for at least one post a week.

As for the four legged beings in the picture, you may have noticed that they look different than the goats you usually see on the web site.  Much longer legs, and much shorter ears.  These guys are La Mancha-Saanen cross wethers I obtained when they were a mere one week old and bottle raised with the goal of making them into pack goats.  I love backpacking, but I also know that my knees most likely aren't going to last forever.  I considered donkeys, llamas, mules, and goats when deciding on a pack animal.

Llamas have the advantage of being relatively low maintenance, quiet, and efficient eaters who are light on the land.  However, I have owned three llamas (we currently have just one) and they are too aloof for me- if I'm going to get another animal or two to take into the back country, I want a species that does more than just tolerates me, I want them to like me.  Growing the llama collection didn't really excite me all that much.

Donkeys seemed like a good option- they appear to be awfully strong for their size, smart, and my friends who have them seem to really enjoy them.  When you have a donkey, you still have to do all of the shots and ferrier work that a mule requires, only a mule could carry you out of the back country while still having enough smarts to take care of themselves.  If I'm going to feed a mule, I might as well feed a horse, which I've wanted since I can remember.  But, I don't really have enough time for a horse right now, which meant I was back to looking at pack goats.

So, back to goats.  Their advantages: I already know how to take care of them, they can carry 20 to 25 percent of their body weight, and I don't have to put them in a trailer to transport them.  Bert (the lighter one) and Ernie are about three and a half now and I'm starting their packing training by getting them out and about just with the saddles on.  I will add paniers soon with a little weight at first and then slowly build up from there.  I have to say, it is a good thing that most backpacking happens at elevations where it doesn't get as hot as it does here cause these boys are a bit more heat sensitive than I expected them to be.

I hadn't realized just how much bigger Ernie is than Bert until we took these pictures!  These guys are littermate brothers, but obviously Ernie is going to be the one who will end up with the heavier packs.  Ernie is a bit of a momma's boy when we're out and about- he gets pretty worried if I am more than 30 feet from him and will call to me in a clearly worried voice.  Bert is quite attached to his brother, and gets worried if Ernie is more than about 30 feet from him.  This should work out fairly well on the trail- I'll lead, Ernie will go where ever I go, and Bert will go wherever Ernie goes.  At least, I hope it works that way out on the trail.  So far, we've just gone for walks on the roads where we live, which is not all that much like being on a trail, especially with all of the cars going by.

Handling goats that are much bigger than I'm used to can be challenging, and makes me appreciate that the majority of our goats are small.  I suppose that if we had more of the bigger goats, we'd be better set up for handling them and taking care of routine maintenance, but the way we are currently set up, hoof trimming turns into a two person-one-goat wrestling match.  I am pretty fond of these big guys though- they are pretty affectionate, and with the bucks being in the midst of breeding season (which means lots of wether molesting by the bucks), they are pretty eager to go out for hikes these days.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Kidding Season

Now that kidding season is a few months in the rear view mirror, I finally have some time to write about it.  This is the biggest kidding season we have ever had- 41 does kidded with a total of 106 kids.

Whew!  I get a little tired just thinking about it.

When I bred all of these does last fall, Andy's recovery from his back injury was going well- he was progressing along well enough that we weren't sure that he would need surgery.  Then he suffered a set back while at a physical therapy session, and it quickly became clear that he would need surgery to fix the problem.  Surgery, which should have been performed much earlier, happened right before New Year's, and kids started hitting the ground about a month later.  I was a little panicked about going into this kidding season so shortly after the surgery, but it was too late to do anything to change the inevitable.

The first eleven days of kidding were fast and furious, with 67 kids hitting the ground, with two sets of quintuplets back to back.  The fortunate thing was that these kids came during a very mild two week period of February.  The unfortunate thing is that mild weather in early February usually means that we are not even close to being done with winter.

And we weren't.

It didn't stop raining until sometime in June.  The farm was totally squishy and muddy, with dry does, milking does, and bottle babies couped up in the barn.  When it did stop raining, the temperature would briefly go up into the low 80's, which was great for the fly population, then drop back down into the 40's, which is not so great for kids.  As I've mentioned before, our barn is at the bottom of a whole lot of hill, so even when it did stop raining, the barn and barn yard stayed pretty damp.  The back corner of our barn had quite a puddle- and right by the milk room door, which the does just loved to walk through.  While the rain was great for growing the pastures, the constant rain made it impossible to get the goats out to graze it, and meant that we went through a greater amount of hay than I had expected to go through.

As a side note, weather that doesn't allow goats to go out and graze is the same sort of weather that doesn't allow hay growers to bale hay. So even though I had put up around 20 tons of hay in the barn during the summer of 2010, I still ran out of alfalfa for the milkers.  There was a gap of over 60 days between the first cutting of alfalfa and the second, which is almost unheard of around here.

We had four more does kid in February, and the balance of the kidding season was spread out between the first and third weeks of March, and the first week or so of April.  After last year's weird kidding season, which seemed to affect many farms, I'm happy to say that everyone pulled through just fine.  I only had to reposition a few kids, and once I got their noses in the right direction, they popped right out, saving me from having to pull them.  We had a pretty even ratio of bucks to does, and I retained about a baker's dozen doe kids and four buck kids for the year.  It was difficult to narrow down who I wanted to keep kids out of since these days, every doe kid kept means a senior doe will probably have to go.  As my "core herd" continues to grow- those would be my finished champions- the number of does I would consider letting go shrinks, and yet I still try to keep room for those slower to mature does, which can mean waiting until a doe is four years old to see if that's when she finally "blooms".

I doubt that I will try to freshen that many does again any time in the near future.  All kids are put on bottles and individually fed- at one point I had 65 kids on bottles, and we didn't use a lamb bar, so that meant picking up each of those kids three times a day and feeding them, plus twice a day milking (which is the subject of another post).  Usually we bring in the kids we are going to keep for some tv/couch time, but this year, there wasn't any time for that.  Near the end of kidding season, my left wrist was shot and required wearing a stiff brace at night and a soft brace during the day.  Fortunately, it has recovered, but I'm definitely thinking of getting several lamb-bar type set ups to make kid feeding, especially of wethers, take less time and less lifting.  I had originally figured that if I had everyone kid at once, then all bottle feeding and kidding chores would be really heavy for a relatively short period of time.  By the time all of the kids from the first wave of kiddings were ready to be weaned, I was ready to be done, but we still had quite a few more weeks of kid work to do.  The spring was so busy with kids in fact, that by the time I got back to my more regular chore/activity load, I felt like it should be around April, and yet it was already June.

So that was kidding season.  I hope to also write soon about our special session of linear appraisal, show season, and a few additions to what we're producing on the farm.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Show Season (cont)

I really did try to get to this update before the calendar changed to 2011.  It was another late night blog beginning, and about two paragraphs in, my computer told me that someone had removed my wireless device, so I was no longer connected to the internet.  This was weird because my hands were on the keyboard the whole time, nowhere near the wireless device, and as far as I could tell everyone else in the house was asleep.  Including, apparently, Blogger, because none of my work was saved.   Usually, it takes many tries to convince my computer to find the wireless device after it has been allegedly "removed" (even though it looks to me like it is still in the exact same place), so I gave up and went to bed. 

This morning there is a very heavy frost on the ground and the heater has been working furiously to keep the house a balmy 64 degrees, so instead of rushing out to start on the yard work required of dry winter days, I'm finally going to finish the summary of the show season.

We return to July, which had the first shows after our Linear Appraisal session.  It was sort of nice to have a bit of a break after all of that clipping and preparation, as there were quite a few other things going on that needed my attention as well.   Usually, the first weekend in July finds me at the Watsonville show, but it had moved to the same weekend as the Placerville show, which is half the driving distance but twice the show rings.  I was very torn about which show to go to because both have been very supportive of Nigerian Dwarf goats, and had hoped earlier in the year that I might be able to send Andy to one and myself to the other.  However, Andy had injured his back at work in early June and couldn't drive to the grocery store, much less a goat show, so I was forced to choose.  My decision was helped when friends Tamara and Kalee let me know that they were coming down from Oregon to attend the Placerville show.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, I got the goats and all of the necessary equipment loaded in the truck and was off to the show which was dual sanctioned for ADGA and AGS.  I took five senior does and three juniors, and my junior doe pen turned out to be the most work since Siren Song decided that Oh-No had no right to be in the same pen, and made her thoughts on the matter crystal clear.  At least Oh-No got some quality one on one people time in our efforts to save her from being mashed by Siren.  After a long day of showing the senior does, milking them, then showing the squirmy junior does, I still had to head back to Vacaville to milk all of the goats I had left at home, then get up early to milk them again, then the drive back to Placerville where I arrived just in time to take my does into the first ring of the day.  The whole morning felt very rushed, especially when the second ring started judging it's first class while we were still doing Champion Challenge in the first ring!  The whole weekend was exhausting, but worth it!

Alum Root went GCH to finish her ADGA permanent championship, and then once more to finish her AGS permanent championship.  Bayberry finally made her 2010 show debut and went Reserve Grand Champion in three of the four rings.  The junior does did well enough with Magpie and Oh-No exhibiting very good behavior for their first time in a show ring.

The next week, we headed to the State Fair which had moved from August to July this year.  We did not show at the fair, but we did go to dairy week to see our dairy goat friends.  We got to see several breeds of dairy cow, including the Brown Swiss with withers higher than my head!  I had no idea that they got that tall.   The move to July did result in the State Fair having much better attendance numbers than last year, which is encouraging- I'd hate to see the State Fair go by the wayside.

At the urging of Tamara and Kalee, I decided to take a trip one week late, up to Oregon for the Jacksonville Fair- a one day, two ring, Sunday show.  I had gone to this show once, four years ago, and a one day show sounded good, especially knowing that the Rousso family would provide a comfy place to stay.  As soon as I finished the farmer's market on Saturday, I got the truck packed and headed north with just four milkers and Stella.

Stella has not been on many trips since she tends to get car sick.  I have noticed that she seems much more nervous in the car than in our truck- I think when she was abandoned, she was taken out to "the country" in a car, which is why they make her uneasy.  She was much more relaxed on this road trip than the last one- she even looked out of the windows and spent most of the trip not curled up in a tiny little ball.  And, there was no barfing!  Progress!  She just might turn into a dog that enjoys riding in the car after all.

I got the milkers all tucked into a stall in the Rousso barn, where they were provided with lots of hay and water, and turned my attention to enjoying a tasty dinner served in the back yard where we could enjoy the weather and watch the dogs play with each other.  This is where I discovered a new quirk of Stella's- Border Collies are notorious for their quirks, and so far this seems to be only the second one she has.  She is much more concerned with heading off a dog that is going after a stick or a ball than she is with getting the stick or ball herself.  When she is alone, she loves fetching sticks or balls, but all Saturday evening, she was just obsessed with heading off Jedi, the English Shepherd.  Jessi, the English Shepherd/Lab cross was thrilled because this meant that Jedi was distracted long enough for Jessi to actually have a chance at the stick/ball/pine cone.  She has now continued to show this behavior with several other dogs- I guess that instinct to head off animals that are running somewhere is just too strong to turn off, even around non-herding-appropriate animals.

Sunday morning found Kalee and I down at the barn early to get the milkers loaded and down to the fairgrounds in time for the show which started at 8am.  I was not very happy with my girls when I discovered that they'd gone on some sort of hunger/thirst strike, practically not touching their filtered water or their hay overnight.  Sigh.  Once we were at the fairgrounds, I remembered why I hadn't gone back to this show for four years.  For one thing, not being able to drop the goats off the night before the show, when the show starts at 8am is a pain for anyone traveling to the show from any amount of distance.  For another, the barn footing is all superfine and dusty decomposed granite- the goats get filthy and the dust gets in everything.  And, once you are there, there's no leaving until after 5pm.  This makes for a very long day, and there were lots of fair attendees who wanted to touch every animal in the barn- a great way to spread disease.  We set up our chairs around the pens in such a way that someone would have to stand on us if they wanted to touch the goats  The competition in the show ring was pretty strong, and we brought home a Reserve Grand Champion win with Irish Cream.  Since I didn't take any juniors, this meant that I was pretty much done at 10am, so ended up talking shop with some of the other goat breeders there and trying to stay cool in the hot summer temperatures until we were allowed to leave.

We didn't have much in the way of shows in August, and before I knew it, September had arrived and it was time to head back up to Placerville for the Fuzzy Goat Show.  A two ring dual sanctioned (ADGA and AGS) show held on one day.  Irish Cream won GCH in the first ring, which was the final leg she needed for her ADGA permanent champion, and made her the fourth doe I've finished in ADGA this year.  In the next ring Bayberry went Reserve Grand Champion- the doe who went Champion was already finished in AGS, so the Reserve should count as a restricted leg.  I took a couple of juniors as well, and Magpie came in second in her very large dry yearling class.  A stunning daughter out of CRF Castle Rock Jamaica Bay (a Sara x Montego daughter) went Junior Champion in one of the rings- I'm always happy to see the quality continue in that doe line.

We wrapped up the 2010 show season in early October with our second attendance at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, which was very nice.  The Harvest Fair seemed a bit smaller overall than the previous year- with the exception of the llama show, which was a Southwest Regional show.  There were no premiums this year, which I'm sure had some impact on how many entries there were- it's much harder to justify spending money for two nights hotel room (we had a Friday night check-in) without the chance to recoup any of it.  Not that we get premiums at many shows around here, but the budget cuts that many, many fairs have had has an impact on more and more small farmers.

We took five does in milk and Mr. Lincoln, but left the junior does at home this time, since all of those that I had registered with AGS had already gotten plenty of "ring time" earlier in the year.  Bayberry took Grand Champion and Best Udder in the first ring, and Blizzard went Grand Champion in the second ring.  Irish Cream went Reserve Grand Champion in both rings, and Best Udder in the second ring.  Not a bad way to end the show season!