Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Than Veggies In The Garden

You.  See. Nothing.
Summer is most definitely here (two days at 110 degrees this week), which means that in addition to sweating copiously every time we do chores and worrying over our young plants frying their leaves off, we've got lots of farm fresh food. We're enjoying produce straight off the tree- plums, pluots, and peaches, herbs (spearmint in everything), garlic, more eggs as our spring chicks are starting to lay, and a bounty of milk products from the goats- yogurt, ice cream, and cheeses.  The summer produce is starting to ripen as well, which means we finally have some tomatoes and basil for summer salads.  Andy planted a couple of our favorites, along with a sauce/salsa tomato variety which is different from your slicing varieties in that it is long and meaty with less seeds and a lower water content than typical slicing tomatoes.  I'm experimenting with it to see if it will be a regular addition.  My first attempt at salsa was way too hot to eat just with chips, despite using only half a very small jalapeno pepper, but added to tacos, it wasn't half bad.

I went out to the garden yesterday evening to harvest tomatoes to mix with our basil and garlic for a bruschetta (another experiment with the new variety of tomato) which would go over homemade chevre, and while I usually take Stella with me to the garden, this time I left her in house. She's been picking and eating ripe tomatoes off the vines before I have a chance to get to them, and since it is early in the season, there aren't quite enough to share with the dog.

As I neared the tomatoes, I could hear the California quail chattering softly fairly close by, which is not unusual on our farm, especially lately, as I seem to hear them frequently near the vegetables and the bee garden.  I turned down one of the rows, and all of a sudden a male quail flew up from practically under the basil and landed on an almond tree.  Then a female did the same thing. 

Which caused me to stop in my tracks, because little game birds don't let you get within three feet of them without a very good reason.

California quail chicks! Can you find all six?

Or several good reasons.

These chicks had flattened themselves to the ground and weren't going to move a muscle, even as I moved ever so slowly towards them to try to get a picture or two.  I became very aware of exactly where I was putting my feet, knowing that they most likely wouldn't move out of my way.

I looked around and found just a few more.

At this point, I realize how lucky it is that I left the dog in the house for once!

It is quite amazing how well the dark stripes match our dirt and the light stripes match the golden color of our grass, and the evening dappling of light and shadows made them blend in amazingly well.  Knowing how quickly they grow feathers, these must have hatched out just hours earlier, and this was probably their first adventure away from the nest.

I didn't want to stress the parents or the chicks out too much, so I retreated from the garden and figured that the family would probably move on and I could get my tomatoes a few minutes later.  As soon as I showed those in the house the pictures I had captured on my phone, a real camera was grabbed, and the garden was returned to, in hopes of finding the little quail family again.

This time, we didn't hear any quail chatter.  We very carefully crept through the tomato rows and finally saw the father quail fly up from the furthest row of tomatoes.

Then we saw mama quail.

I'm just hanging out- probably in the middle of a dust bath, so just move along now.

But no sign of the chicks.  And she was staying incredibly still, and sort of awkwardly positioned.

If you look really closely (click on the picture for a bigger version), you'll see a little head peaking out from her wing.  The rest of the chicks were most likely under her as well, which explains her position and why she wasn't budging.

Andy had found her nest several days ago by accident while mowing- he got close enough to flush her out of the rosemary bush she had nested under, though fortunately, not close enough to do any harm.  The bush is only about a foot and a half tall, but with its dense greenery, it provided enough cover that she escaped the notice of a border collie and a cattle dog that frequent the area daily.  I wonder if the rosemary aroma helped to cover any scent she'd give off too?

We went over to check the nest on our way into the house.

Looks like all of the eggs hatched out, and there weren't any bad ones left in the nest.  California quail are one of our favorite birds- there's something about their shape, the sounds they make when a covey is out foraging and all is well, and the way they move that we really enjoy.  Seeing a little family of them out and about is evidence to us that we have successfully made room on our farm for more than just our livestock.  And while my original intent for that rosemary bush was to 1) have more rosemary available to sell, 2) grow another plant that blooms early in the year for the bees and 3) hide a very ugly permanent thing in our "back yard", I'm thrilled that there turns out to be a purpose number 4) quail nursery.

Fresh produce and fluffeh babies!  Our garden rocks!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 Show Season

This show season has been an interesting one, in that there continues to be a shuffling of show dates and the not-happening of others we've gone to for several years.  The shuffling has to do with facility availability and the trying to avoid conflicts with State Fair (now in July instead of late August/early September), other shows that have moved, and the ADGA National Show.  I don't want to get too far into the weeds here on the details of the show moves as that would mean a post that appeals to about three people I know, and they are already well aware of what is going on with shows. What it meant for my show schedule was that I had five back-to-back weekends of shows I wanted to attend.  This can be a challenge, especially when there are does at home that need attending to, and I've grown used to having Andy at shows with me to help with the setting up, showing, and making sure that while I'm fussing over the does, I stay fed and watered.  This year though, he stayed home to take care of the farm so I could go to shows, and even got up in the wee hours of the morning to put coats on the girls so they wouldn't get chilled in transit, and helped me get everything loaded so I could get to the shows on time, which I really appreciated! 

The Plymouth show, which in the past had been either the last weekend of April or the first weekend of May, did not happen this year, which meant that the first show for the herd was the North Valley Dairy Goat Association spring show in Red Bluff.  While last year, we had to contend with temperatures in the lower 40's and high winds whipping through the show area, this year we had clear skies and temperatures in the low 90's.  The show was very well attended and the judges noted that attendance was up over last year- something the exhibitors were pretty well aware of since pen space was pretty hard to come by, especially for those of us who do everything at the last minute.

CRF Castle Rock Black Ice, made up to me for being a second freshening four year old by having an udder that looks like this:

I know, a black goat in low light- not the best picture, but it gives a hint at what a high, capacious, well attached udder she does have, which helped her easily go to the top of the line and win Grand Champion, Best of Breed, and Best Udder of Breed in the first three senior show rings.  Her younger maternal half sister, Castle Rock Snownamie went Reserve to her in one ring, her paternal half sister CRF Castle Rock Roxanne went Reserve to her in another ring, and Castle Rock Siren Song went Reserve to her in the third ring.  With the three champion wins secured, I pulled her from the fourth ring, where Siren went Grand Champion and Best of Breed, and Roxanne won Best Udder of Breed.  This was Siren's third champion win, which meant that I brought home two new finished champions after my first show weekend- a great way to start off the year!

The junior show was fairly good for us too- I took just two dry yearlings, Castle Rock Raspberry Beret and Castle Rock Sarandipity (a Saranade daughter), and both of them got their dry legs, and some good experience in the show ring.  I think I was as pleased as the new owner of Sarafim, a 2012 Saranade daughter, when she got a Reserve Champion win at the tender age of three months.

Snownamie was herd supervisor at REDGA
The following weekend was the Memorial Day show hosted by the Redwood Empire Dairy Goat Association at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The view from our pens, and there's another half of the barn behind me.

It's usually one of the largest shows we go to, and this year was no exception, and there was an especially large Nigerian turnout.

After seeing this in the milkroom every morning,

Penny Wise rear udder
I decided to take SGCH CRF Castle Rock Penny Wise to the show for champion challenge.  In the first ring, she easily won Best of Breed, with the judge saying (and there were only two more breeds left to judge) that this was one of the best udders he'd seen all day.  I think I blushed.  Or was glowing. One of the two, as there is a very high level of competition at this show, since many breeders of National Champion goats live within an easy drive of Santa Rosa.  Penny Wise also went Best of Breed in the following ring, and Sarafina won a Reserve Grand Champion.  In the selection for Best Doe in Show, Penny Wise again got compliments from the judges who both said that she was quite competitive- it was a wonder my head still fit in the barn by the end of the day.

The junior doe show was not all we hoped it would be- the evenings cool down near the coast much more than they do at home, and my two juniors were freezing in the ring.  I kept their coats on while they were in between shows, but they only stayed normal looking for about three minutes, and then hunched up into shivering fur balls. Le sigh.  At least they got some experience being in the show ring, which is really what I'm after when I show juniors, so that was good. And there was the wonderful buffet and getting to chat with lots of goat friends at the end of the day to look forward to as well.

The second day of the show, Roxanne

CRF Castle Rock Roxanne
decided to unpack her competition udder from where ever she'd been storing it the first day of the show.

Thus equipped, she went Grand Champion in both rings, and even beat Penny Wise for Best of Breed in one of them.  I was also pleased when Roxanne's two year old daughter, Annika, went reserve in the second ring.

The following weekend was the Spring Show hosted by the lovely people of the Humbolt Dairy Goat Association, which I've gone to for the past couple of years, but was just unable to go to this year.  I was so sorry to have missed it- if you can make that show, it is well worth the drive.  The host group is made up of some of the nicest people in the state and clearly work hard at putting on a good show and making new exhibitors feel welcome.

June 9 found me in Stockton at a show put on by the Delta Dairy Goat Association at the Stockton Fairgrounds.  I wanted to fill my tub with lotion and soak in it after being out in the constant warm wind that blew all that day, but besides that, it was a nice three ring show.  At the REDGA show, ADGA had not sent any Best of Breed ribbons, and the Stockton show received no Reserve Grand Champion ribbons, leading one to start wondering if there's a black market for ADGA rosettes.  My guess is no, but when you go to two shows in a row that are missing ribbons, you do start to wonder.

CRF Castle Rock Brie VEEE 90, who I sold last fall, did very well for owner Krystal McGuire, going Grand Champion in two of the rings, and Roxanne went Reserve in two of the rings.  One of Roxanne's 2012 daughters, Castle Rock Royalia, got a junior Grand Champion win, as did one of CH CRF Castle Rock Irish Cream's 2012 daughters- Castle Rock Irish Coffee, making owners Carol Morgan and Heather Manzo (respectively) very happy campers.

The last show I got to attend before a break until August shows, was the Watsonville show put on by the Central Coast Counties Dairy Goat Association. I haven't been able to attend for a few years, and was surprised to see that the move in show date seems to have made the show smaller than in past years, which was really too bad since small shows don't cover show costs.  But, I was happy to be at the coast, especially since it was not as warm as home, which hit 110 degrees, though quite tired since Linear Appraisal was the Friday before the show.

Roxanne went Grand Champion in the first ring, finishing the quest for that third leg towards her permanent championship.  Castle Rock Snownamie went reserve in the first ring, then went Grand Champion in the second ring, with Saranade coming in reserve to her.  In the junior show, Castle Rock Roufus Treepie took a reserve win, and seems like she may be getting a hang of the whole showing thing.

When I go to shows, one of the expenses to consider is housing- if I camp, it doesn't cost as much as a motel, plus I don't have to drive to and from where ever I'm staying.  Lately, it's also been the only way my backpacking equipment gets any use.  However, camping does have down sides, such as proximity to Nubians who have a tendency to bleat all night.  And, as soon as the first person drives up to the fair grounds, usually around 6am, the entire barn full of goats greets that person, which makes "sleeping in" (all the way to 7am!) nearly impossible.  This weekend though, I was not worried though because I was so tired from a week of clipping goats for Linear Appraisal in 100+ degree weather, staying up late to finish clipping, getting up early to prep for Appraisal, then up early again to drive to the show, that I probably could have slept through anything.

Sarafina trying to sneak into my tent when she thinks I'm not looking

The second day, Snownamie won another Grand Champion leg, with Sarafina again going Reserve Grand Champion.  Treepie won Junior Grand Champion with Castle Rock Selenehelion behaving herself just barely well enough to get a Reserve Junior Grand Champion win.

So, all in all, it's been a good show season for me so far.  It's been a good show season for someone else as well.

Come again?  I don't recall leaving the property.

As many people know, I don't like showing bucks, preferring my boys to prove their worth through their daughters.  As of the Watsonville show, CRF Castle Rock Guy Noir now has four finished daughters- SGCH CRF Castle Rock Penny Wise, GCH CRF Castle Rock Black Ice, GCH CRF Castle Rock Roxanne, and CH Sly Farms GN Catalina; CRF Castle Rock Brie just needs one more Grand Champion win to become his fifth finished daughter.  So proud of my big stinky fella, even if he is the arch nemesis of my Stella-Bug.

I cannot believe you would mention us in the same sentence. Hmph!
Hopefully, I'll have more good show news in August or September...the next goat show we go to will probably be as spectators at the California State Fair, since Nigerians still aren't included in Dairy Week.