This time last year was many things : a time of hurriedly getting our kidding supplies ordered, testing out our new milking stand with hugely pregnant goats (recommended by many books, but not particularly easy to accomplish when you’ve humongously pregnant goats more akin to young cows than “goat size”); pushing the many workmen still on site to please!!!! get the creamery ready for the milk to come, ditto the caves; the snow fell thick and deep through to the end of March, but somehow nothing like this year.
This time last year we had yet to live what we’ve now lived. This time last year we didn’t know how the cheese would turn out, what pasteurizing would do to the camembert and fresh lactic cheeses, how the caves would affect the aging of the tommes (which up to that point had been kept in plastic containers in a re-vamped cooler).
This time last year it was all new. We were working hand in hand with our local Ag inspector to get that last bit of paper work in for our dairy license. We were putting together all the pieces needed by the Certified Humane inspectors. We were sending out feelers to local restaurants, signing up for local farmers’ markets, contemplating signage and labels and logos.
This time last year, it was all before us.
This year we’re moving forward. From one year to the next, the learning curve has softened just a bit. From a steep climb up Mount Everest we’re in the foot hills, still vertical, our goal still many miles above us, but the switch backs are giving our aching legs and panting lungs a chance to ease up on the intensity of our efforts. Yet still, we are climbing.
We are that much more experienced. We have now been through one season of kidding. The learning is in our souls, our hands, our minds. We feel, if not confident, then assured that we have the skills in us to handle what is coming up.
Last year was our trial year. Our year of getting up and going, figuring out what works, what’s popular, at the local market, in the local restaurants, and, on a national level, at the American Cheese Society competition. This year, we’ll likely double our milk quantity. So time to set in motion careful planning and future distribution, and time to go beyond our immediate neighborhood, perhaps.
Where last year we mid-wived a handful of does over a period of two months. This year we’ll be there for twice as many during a span of no more than six weeks. Where last year we whisked the kids away from their mothers right at birth (a preventative measure for their health), this year our does have tested clean and healthy and we will leave the kids with them for at least the first eight days, perhaps more. We may have does who lack that maternal instinct, and so we’re planning how to best work this potential glitch into our system. Knowing that we’re likely to have nights with multiple does kidding, we’ll prepare the barn with at least 10 goat size boxes to permit a bit of control and semblance of order, at least two of our team will spend the night at the barn, and others will be on call. While I was in France this winter, my colleague described to me her past few years of kidding and her joy at choosing to use this system to facilitate the many hectic days and nights. Where once she’d followed the tradition of letting the does kid amongst their fellow goats, and whisked away the kids to a separate nursery immediately, a few years back she decided to work more closely with nature and leave her kids with their mothers, at least for a few days, or till she needed a box for another doe.
All this swirls through my mind as I slog through the season’s paperwork, putting my goats in order, preparing and planning. Once kidding hits (approximately March 6), it is full steam ahead! Now it’s time to take a break and shovel out the driveway. 🙂