Building a Social Media Presence

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I am a very lucky person to have so many great hobbies, but one of my greatest passions, one that has lived longer and surpasses even my love for our caprine companions, is computers and technology. My dear grandfather is the source of this – as an architect, he had access to home computers very early on in their life, and as he adored me as all good grandfathers do, he shared this with me. Nevermind I was little more than a bouncing baby! Almost before I could read, I knew how to switch on the computers and navigate MS-DOS (Windows was a thing of the future in these times) via keyboard (the mouse too came later!) to the simple games and programs a young girl might enjoy. Even better, I knew the appropriate way to shut the computer down – much more complicated than it is now!

I’ll never forget the first day we logged into the World Wide Web. I barely understood how it worked – and I had no idea how it would shape the rest of not just my life, but the world itself.

My grandfather passed on fairly young, but the love of technology stayed and only grew. As my life changed and computers were much too expensive for me, I learned how to rescue parts and pieces from others and build my own. When personal websites became available, I taught myself HTML. I remember typing classes in Elementary and advanced networking classes in High School. For many years, I funded our farming venture by building websites for others – until WYSIWYG builders put me out of business!

I continue to seek out new things to learn in the industry however, as I’ve always really enjoyed the straight forward challenges of writing code. And too my interests have expanded to include many other aspects of our new world, all of which tie back into my beloved desktop computer.

So – obviously – I’ve managed to build a miniature “social empire” surrounding K-N-S Farm. Following links, one can find my website, my Facebook, my Twitter, my Youtube, my blog, my Reddit, and a few other less attended to social media platforms. My logo is recognizable at a glance, and the content I put out consistent – or at least I hope it is.

In this day and age, a presence on social media is almost necessary. When people are looking for local farms and breeders, it’s Google they turn to now, not the local Thrifty Nickle. So let’s look at what’s important for your farm:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Other Social Media

 

Logo: Your logo is so important! This is what you should use on anything that comes from your farm/operation. From website header, to Facebook avatar, to Forum signature. Keep it simple – it’ll be easier to add it to anything, and you never know what you might want to put it on someday. Pay or create something original for yourself – avoid using clip-art spliced together or pre-made logos if you can. Often times farms start with these, and they often work well enough, but as you grow, remember, you’re also growing your brand recognition. It’s worth the investment.

Website: In this current time, there are a good number of operations that believe websites redundant, and prefer to use other social media platforms exclusively. I say they’re wrong. A website is an incredibly valuable resource for your customers – all of the information they need should be there. A customer should be able to view your stock/product, and contact information should be available to them as well. Keep in mind when building your website – it’s for the consumer! One may love sparkles and music, but when someone goes to your page and encounters lag from particle effects and auto-playing music, they’re going to close your page.

Facebook: There are many social media platforms now, places where one can connect to others, be they local or distant, but there is no denying that Facebook is still the current king. There are an uncountable number of resources for goat and other stock breeders and keepers, from sale groups to pages about color patterns. Just about every farm I know these days utilizes a Facebook page – myself included. I always recommend to have one, and to ensure a link is easily available on your website. Don’t forget to share the page on your personal page!

Other Social Media: First and foremost – don’t take on more than you can keep regular, but don’t forget to check out other social media platforms. The Internet moves at breakneck speed and it waits for no one. You just never know what the next platform to explode will be! If you have a special or favored hobby/skill that falls in line with one of these, absolutely use it to its best advantage. Love to take a lot of pictures? Instagram is great for that. Do you have a talent for videography and editing? Youtube offers a ton of possibilities. Even if you don’t have the time to dedicate now, it’s often prudent to sign up to these services and set up a profile that links back to your mainstay location.

There’s more to it than just setting up and posting, of course. It’s incredibly important to treat your farm’s business pages as exactly that. Remember that you are posting to potential, past, and present customers and consumers. Your page, website, etc, are no place for political, personal issues, and religious postings. Now, I know many farms are founded on religious ideals, and perhaps there are farms founded on political ones as well. Your pages are like your farm in the end – yours. Post as you will, but when it comes to drawing in a large – and varied – fanbase, you must be aware of the image you are presenting.

How you handle an issue that arises will change how others perceive you and your farm as well. It’s difficult to give guidelines in these cases because they vary so wildly, and each farm will handle problems that arise differently. The rule of thumb to remember is to remain calm, collected, and never allow yourself to become heated publically. Whenever possible, move issues with customers into a private method of communication.

Finally, you’re never going to please everyone. You’re never going to make everyone happy, and no doubt you’ll face some type of online harassment, abuse, or negativity. This is just part and parcel on the Internet. The keyboard and screen gives some the courage to be ugly, and there’s absolutely no point in responding to it. Block, ban, and move on. Occasionally there may be instances in which it’s prudent to respond, but for the most part, there is nothing to be gained from it.

We are so fortunate to live in this age of fast paced communication and education. I remember clearly the days of scanning the newspaper ads, or putting ads in them ourselves to sell stock. The bulletin board at the local feedstore was the original Facebook local sales group. You played phone tag with a stranger, then wrote down directions and hoped they were correct! The flea markets were the hot places to be when looking for a varied selection.

Now it’s easier than ever to get what we’re looking for, and so many ways to utilize it. Break free of your Internet comfort zone and expand!

 

Dairy Diaries: The Making of Minx

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If you follow my farm in any form, be it Facebook, Youtube, or even Reddit, you know who Minx is! How she came to be, and came to be mine is actually an interesting little tale, that covers a range of goats and even a couple of generations.

Our first goat was Hope, a rather large Nigerian Dwarf doe. Once we’d moved to our little farm, we added a few more goats to the herd, and made a few goat friends. I leased a very handsome buck from a neighbor, Pace County Roadhouse Blue, and he bred the handful of does we had.

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Hope gave me two beautiful blue eyed doelings. Both buckskin, one a bright gold, the other a darker shade. Immediately, there was something just . . . not quite right with the darker doeling. I’d never before seen (and never seen since) a kid reject its dam. But this is what this doeling proceeded to do. As both doelings struggled to stand on their wobbly legs, the darker kid wandered away, over and over. No matter how Hope called to her and licked her and chased after her, this kid completely ignored her.

I was able to encourage her to nurse by holding her up to the teat, but after filling her belly, off she went again. As you can imagine, I took both doelings inside, concerned. I milked out Hope and made sure they got full bellies. In the morning, I returned them to Hope. The golden doeling nursed immediately, but again, I had to help the darker doeling.

I christened the doeling “NQR” – Not Quite Right – and kept her inside for a week or so, taking her outside to nurse on Hope alongside her sister and let Hope fuss over her. Besides her strange behavior, NQR was normal – she grew at the expected rate, played, and was a typical goat kid. Both doelings spent the nights inside, as I didn’t want NQR to be lonely.

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After a week or so, NQR’s little lightbulb seemed to go off, and she began to nurse on Hope by herself, though she showed little other interest in her dam. I still kept her inside at night, though I started letting her stay longer outside with her sister as the days passed. Before long, she was almost like a normal doeling in the pasture, so I decided she could go to a pet home with no problem. Her new owner would be a lovely young woman who recommended me through a friend, and after her visit to meet little NQR and my other kids, I had not just a new customer, but a new friend. She planned to take little NQR home when she was weaned, and put down a deposit.

Unfortunately, before that day could come, I suddenly found little NQR cold and still one morning. I’ll never know exactly what happened, but her little life was over.

Saddened, I offered her sister, who I was calling Rose, in replacement. Her new owner promised to bring the now named June back to be bred, and then I could have a baby, as she emphasized with the disappointing turn of events.

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June did indeed return the next year, to meet the most influential buck my herd has seen.Sometime in between she’d lost her ear to a very rude dog, but she hardly seemed to notice. Her owner was planning her wedding, which would be fairly close to the birth, so I was happy to agree to board her again when she was closer to kidding, so that her owner wouldn’t need to worry about her while trying to plan the most exciting event of her life at the same time.

June’s pregnancy progressed normally, and it was almost no time at all before she was back. She enjoyed an extended stay on our farm, and when it came time for her to kid, she had a stall all to herself, and I had a camera to monitor her. When her labor began, I set the camera to record so I could share the event with her owner, and settled in to be with her.

The labor was fairly quick, and uneventful – which is always nice. The kid was a large single, so I gently assisted June as she pushed, and soon the kid landed in the bedding, steaming hot. June was shocked by this and retreated to a corner of the stall to stare at this new foreign life form. I rubbed the kid, stimulating it as it breathed its first startled breaths, and marvelled at what a pretty kid it was! Sturdy and large like most singles are, it was a buckskin like June, but splashed with patches of white. I picked up the kid and checked between the hind legs, dreading the sight of a scrotum, and was rewarded. It was a doeling!

I gently brought June back over and showed her the doeling, and after a short time, she was nuzzling and licking her, one hundred percent mom material. Indeed, she’s ended up being one of the best goat mothers I’ve ever known.

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Once June recovered from the birth, and her owner recovered from her wedding, the little doe went home, and began a career as a home milker. The little doeling stayed with me, and for anyone who doubts whole milk to raise goat kids – that’s what this girl was raised on!

She 485717_2168043218094_370609915_nearned a name quickly enough with her bold hijinks and playful attitude as she froliked amonst the other kids on the farm. I named her Minx, and I adored her like I’d never loved a kid before – though I’ve loved a few almost that much since. She grew quickly and flaunted her domination of her age group, and when I moved her and her companions to Honey Doe Farm, she took it in casual stride. Totally unfazed, she made friends with some other does her age and created the first “teenager gang”, constantly squeezing under gates and getting into trouble together. We’ve had a group of them every year since – much to my dismay!

Since then our love for this doe has only grown. She’s proven herself not only intelligent and affectionate, but a good mother and a great milker. She rules the Nigerian Dwarf herd with little challenge, but she always has time to break off to request a scratch or two from her favorite people. It wasn’t long before she became the face of our farm, with her likeness adorning everything to do with K-N-S Farm. She truly embodies the goals of our breeding: A hardy doe that milks well, mothers well, and does it all in style.

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I Don’t Trust Raw Milk

uh9jch3Let me finish that sentence – I don’t trust raw milk that comes from any animal but my own.

I know that many folks are immense fans of the benefits and digestibility of raw goat’s milk, but I must say that I also feel that some overlook the risks that raw milk truly carries.

I’ll start by saying much of what people claim raw milk can do is greatly exaggerated. I have seen blog posts and news articles hailing it as a miracle healing broth, and quite frankly, I find that terribly amusing. It’s not – it’s milk. “An opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.”

It becomes something far better with a little skill, but cheese is a topic for another day!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to goat’s milk of course – we all know how much easier it is to digest, how much more efficient goats can be when compared to other production species. Many people find that it tastes better, and seeing as the majority of the world drinks goat’s milk, it’s certainly a very popular product!

We consume raw milk from the goats here at our dairy. Our animals undergo a full panel of testing before joining our milking line. They have a full time on site caretaker – me – who makes it a mission to spot problems such as mastitis and illness before the milk from that animal is combined with the rest. I know every detail of their history, from deworming, to their last antibiotic treatment, to when their hooves were last trimmed and the health histories of their parents.

So I trust our raw milk.

There’s a reason they do not recommend raw milk to the immunocompromised, the elderly, the pregnant, and the young. While a mature healthy digestive system will have little trouble with raw milk, the fact remains that it can be the vehicle to pass along many problems. Toxoplasmosis, Chlamydia, Q-fever,  Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, along with many other types of bacteria, viruses, even internal parasites and fungal infection.

While it’s unlikely to see many of these problems in a clean maintained herd, the possibility exists, and a shiny healthy looking goat may indeed be hiding a lurking monster, unbeknownst even to the herd owner.

It’s very easy as well, to take a person’s word that their entire herd is CAE-free, use their raw milk to bottle feed your kids, and then later realize that a mistake was made somewhere along the lines. It’s happened before, much to the dismay and grief of both parties.

It happened to me.

When it comes to the health of your stock, it pays to be cautious.

Pasteurization is not some evil method cooked up by corporations to “ruin” the integrity of milk. It is a proven and appreciated way to ensure the safety and quality of your milk. It’s not even terribly difficult to do! Here are some links to help you out:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home

http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-news/story/how-to-pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home/

You’ll find there are nearly as many opinions on pasteurization as there is raw milk, so be sure to do your own research as well.

As with all things, the contents of this blog post are my personal opinion – if raw milk works for you, and you enjoy it, then there is little reason to stop using it! Just be sure to do your research and check into your source, if you’re unable to produce your own. Be careful out there, friends – when folks get sick from raw milk, it only hurts the industry as a whole.

 

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Dairy Diaries: Goats Gone Missing

396928_1744080219284_2108549644_nHow I met Honey Doe Farm is actually a much more interesting story than one might think.

Though I had, from time to time, seen their advertisements online, I had not yet had a chance to visit their farm, which was only about twenty miles from our then home. When another goat friend decided to go see what they had available, I hitched a ride, and we drove up to check it out.

I was surprised to find such a beautiful farm tucked away along the highway, hidden from plain sight and pretty much a complete unknown to the local goat community. Even better, as the sweet and friendly owners described their method of care, I was impressed to hear that they were up to date on the latest in goat maintenance.

The herd was made up of Nigerian Dwarves, my breed of choice, and some funny earless critters I knew to be La Mancha goats. I’d not yet seen one in person, and at first I thought they were rather off balance, but as they swarmed around me to be patted, I had a newfound appreciation. Especially since the Nigerian Dwarf members of the herd only stared at me suspiciously.

Now I had quite the problem! There was an entire herd of Nigerian Dwarves in front of me – and I wanted one! But I hadn’t thought to bring any money. Thinking quickly, I offered to make the farm owners a website in exchange for a doe – after all, it was a shame that no one knew this nice little herd was here. They accepted, pleased with the idea, and I picked out a little golden doe named Cinder.

Unfortunately, Cinder ended up being sterile, and when the website came up for renewal, I returned to Honey Doe Farm and picked out a replacement – a lovely red and white Nigerian Dwarf doe, and a cute little golden Mini Mancha in exchange for another year of hosting.

Upon returning home, I secured the now screaming newcomers in a small pen, and went inside for a nap. I woke up later and immediately realized it was entirely too quiet.

I had left the shelter (a large dog house) too close to the fence, and my new goats were gone.

Great, I thought. Just great. I grabbed a feed pail and went searching. A couple hours later I came back, retrieved my pony, and expanded the hunt. By nightfall, I had to call it quits with no luck. I sent an embarrassed email to Honey Doe Farm, describing how I’d managed to lose the goats in rather record time. Immediately they responded, offering to come help me look. I was very grateful, and that next morning they arrived, toting a border collie alongside, and we set out searching.

During this time, I got to know both owners better, and we traded stories as we trekked through pastures and along roadways. They told me about their plans for the near future, plans to build a dairy and make cheese. They even promised to bring some along next time.

We didn’t find the goats that day, but we persisted. During one evening, putting up posters, they asked if I would be interested in helping butcher some turkeys in exchange for one. Well of course! I’d seen their big fat delicious looking turkeys, and it happens to be my favorite bird to eat.

Just three days after the disappearance of the two runaways, I received a phone call from a lovely family a mile down the road. Their dog had cornered a little goat in their shed, and that morning they had seen my post at the feed store. It turned out to be the Nigerian Dwarf doe, who earned the name Gypsy for her wandering ways. I took her home gratefully, and she stayed in the pen this time. One of her daughters still resides in our herd – K-N-S Farm Catnip.

Unfortunately there was no sign of the little golden Mini La Mancha, and as the days went by, my hopes of finding her dropped lower and lower. It was very likely she had been killed or died somewhere, and I pretty much chalked her up to a loss; an easily preventable loss that I had caused by one silly little mistake. Ah well – we are all harder on ourselves than we should be.

During this time, I did indeed help with a group of turkeys and took home one for myself, along with some ground turkey as a bonus. It was the best tasting turkey we’d ever had. They also shared some smoked queso fresco with us – so delicious my husband and I fought over it. As we continued to visit and help out, more invitations to come and work came. The farm owners were not put-off by my inability to drive – “Why, it’s not that far at all! We’ll come get you.” and were always very interested in hearing the latest in goat news.

One day I pointed out several just beautiful Nigerian Dwarf kids and mentioned I could probably get those sold for them if they wanted – I had by now been dabbling quite often in “brokering” goats (selling for people and earning a commission on the sale) and had a fairly good grasp on the market. We quickly came to an agreement, and I toted home a crateful of kids that I disbudded, broke to the bottle, and sent to new homes.

Another afternoon after finishing up tattooing some yearlings, the upcoming dairy was the topic of the day – it was a short time before construction began – and I laughed and said, “Well, you’ll surely need help once you get going. I know where you could find a good goat keeper, at least.”

Two weeks after going missing, Yumi the golden Mini La Mancha was found on the side of the road ten miles away. A friendly chicken farmer picked her up and brought her home, and later saw my now faded and tattered flyer on the Post Office bulletin board.

They never ran away again.

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The Overnight Expert

dsfadfaThe definition of “expert” is having or involving authoritative knowledge of a subject. Often times it’s not a self-described trait, but one placed upon you by your peers. Dr. Anders Ericsson says that it takes ten thousand hours, or twenty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, for ten years, to become an expert in a field.

For some, it’s a label they put on themselves at the first opportunity. Perhaps out of arrogance, perhaps from ignorance, perhaps out of insecurity.

Most people who have known me a good long time know that I was not always the goat person. Before goats, I handled, bred, exhibited, and kept many species, ranging from exotic mammals including deer and wolves, to slithering scaly or slimy cold blooded animals, be they frogs, turtles, or snakes. I have always been grounded in the animal world and I am extremely fortunate to have gained experience and knowledge on a wide range of life before I finally “settled down” to become a goat enthusiast. Since then, I have been only digging myself deeper into the world, turning it from a hobby into my literal employment. I am with goats more often than I am with my husband.

I now fit the definition of a goat expert by most accounts, but I always get rather amused with myself anytime a situation needs me to actually present myself as such. While I am not foolish enough to deny that I have gained a great deal of knowledge about goats, I am also not quite conceited enough to believe that I know it all. In fact, I’m one hundred percent certain I don’t even come close to knowing everything about goats; there is not a season that goes by where I don’t learn more.

Every kidding season brings a unique birth I haven’t had before. Every message sent to me has the potential to be a problem I’ve yet to handle. Every day brings a brand new opportunity to learn. While there are several ailments I have a good working knowledge of, I have no hands on experience of them yet, which is often the most valuable part of learning and where one gains confidence in a situation. Where I may be strong in some areas, there are others who may be stronger, and there are areas where I am weak in knowledge where I depend on the experiences of others.

Which is why the phenomenon of the “Overnight Expert” can be such a potentially dangerous thing.

Not unique to the goat world in the least, an Overnight Expert is someone who comes into a hobby, and after a relatively short period within, begins to dole out and dispense advice alongside the veterans of their community. Much of what they tell others is parroted from their own mentors or sources, which in itself is harmless enough, despite the lack of solid understanding behind the given. It’s often driven by a desire to prove oneself in their community, and I can certainly empathize with the desire to be a part of the group. It rarely comes from malicious roots, and is often unintentional by the person in question. These folks are just seeking to share and help, and there’s nothing untoward about it, as it’s merely a facet of human nature. These are our friends we must show patience and positivity to, as we continue to guide them along the path. More than one of these innocent and unknowing Overnight Experts has gone on to take the title legitimately, because of those who supported them.

We do no one a favor when we drive away the new members of our community for overstepping the invisible understood boundaries. Patience, patience, patience.

However, the range of Overnight Experts, as with all things, does include those who do far more damage than good. These are the folks who twist their limited knowledge to spread misinformation, speak over those who should be speaking, and drive away others with a sour high horse attitude. You’ve all met at least one, if you’ve spent any length of time in a community.

When they spread misinformation, it hurts those new to our community the worst, because they know no better. We so often believe things we read on the Internet or are told to us with no concrete evidence of the claims. We are subconsciously thinking the best of those who appear to be helping us, leading us to not question what we’re told.

One of these was a claim by a group of “young” goat keepers that CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis) was not “as bad” as the older generation claimed, that the “hysteria” surrounding it was unfounded. They went on the claim that it was cruel to cull infected animals, and that CAE infected milk had potential benefits. That “most animals are asymptomatic anyway” – I am being very broad here, and they had their reasons to back up their thoughts, some of which are even worth a second look.

But the truly cruel thing here is any defense of a disease that causes our beloved animals terrible pain. Yes, some animals are asymptomatic throughout their lifetime, but how could one even begin to consider the risk of perpetuating such an awful preventable disease in any fashion. I have seen what the effects of CAE can be. I am not hysterical about the disease, nor do I consider it always a death sentence, but this is something that breeders before me have taken immense steps to control and eliminate. To speak so callously against the great work they did is, quite frankly, insulting in my opinion. There is nothing I appreciate more than those that do and did the work that I benefit from now.

Regardless, this blog post is certainly not about that discussion, and both sides have valid thoughts. Where the problem lies is when that way of thinking is marketed straight to a professional looking website or blog, forum or Facebook, paraded as fact from a truly experienced source. Where newcomers to our community read it and begin to think that they don’t need to test their herds. That CAE will not harm their animals.

This is only one large example in a sea of misinformation surrounding our funny little caprine friends.

In the end, it really depends on you to do your research. Don’t take anyone at their word – and don’t forget as well, what works for one farm may not work for another. It doesn’t make one farm wrong and one right. Ask ten breeders a question and you might get fifteen answers – all of them right in their own way!

We’re all in this together, and our community has room for all of us.

 

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Dairy Diaries: The First Pumpkin Toss

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Our farm has it’s own holiday.

Every year in October, for nine years now, my husband and I can be found at the local grocery store, picking out a handful of bright orange pumpkins. Not that unusual of course – these fabulous gourds can hardly be avoided this time of year. But our chosen pumpkins are not meant for decoration.

We’re going to go home, throw them against the ground, and feed them to our goats.

Well, that’s a little silly, I’m sure you think. Which of course isn’t a bad thing – it is rather silly. If we want to feed the goats some pumpkin, why not just cut them into chunks? Obviously smashing a pumpkin sounds fun (and it is fun) but we’re supposed to be mature adults – right?

The Pumpkin Toss is tradition – one with very humble beginnings.

It was quite early in our herd, and there were just a handful of does. Hope, the mother of our herd, and her wether companion Uno. Joining them were Cowbell, a brown doe whose belly hung further than I’ve ever seen, Rudy, a little brown and white doe named for barbeque, and Cowbell’s black and white daughter, who could scream “nooooo!” in a childlike voice. In the pen next door was Buckly, our handsome buck.

Like most in the beginning, I was very interested in doing things in a “natural” way. Time would teach me that this often isn’t the best way to walk with goats, but that’s a topic for another blog. Regardless, at the time, I had stumbled upon something I found quite interesting.

“We should get some pumpkins for the goats,” I told my husband next time we were at the grocery store. By this point, he’d become brainwashed – I mean, accepting – of this new goat venture, and he paused to consider my words.

“Why?”

“I read that the seeds are a natural dewormer, and the flesh is good for digestion,” I’d read it on several websites, so it was surely true.

He immediately looked concerned, “The goats have worms?”

I hurried to reassure him, “No, no, no. At least, I don’t think so. But they will like it.”

My husband brightened, “Well, if they like it, yeah let’s get two.”

So we did. Arriving home, we shoved the rest of the groceries haphazardly into fridge and cupboard and skipped outside, clutching the pumpkins. We presented them to the does with an air of parental affection, and received puzzled looks in return. Chagrined, we realized our mistake quickly enough. Of course – we needed to open the pumpkins, so they can get at the guts.

My husband and I looked at the pumpkins.

“Do you want to go get a knife?” I asked. My husband frowned at the idea of walking all the way there and back – unwanted exercise – and shook his head.

“Nah, let’s just throw them.”

Here is where a sensible wife would say, “Don’t be ridiculous. They’ll smash all over the ground. Go get a knife.”

Here is what I said, “That sounds hilarious. They’ll smash all over the ground. Do it!”

My husband picked up the first pumpkin, and the goats craned their necks to look up at him curiously. Now, my husband is quite a tall and strong fellow, but even I was impressed at how high he heaved that gourd. It flew clumsily into the air, spinning a bit, then fell down twice as fast, hitting the ground with a hollow thump. It cracked in half, spilling seeds into the grass, and suddenly the goats were much more interested.

Delighted as we were with the result, the second pumpkin quickly took a flight as well, splitting into several chunks as it met the ground. The goat herd was truly engaged then, and they dived into the bright flesh of their treats, tearing huge mouthfuls of stringy guts to gulp down. From time to time one paused to hit her neighbor rudely, horns clattering together. Before long they were chewing on the rinds and we deemed the entire affair a success.

I know now that the dewormer effects of pumpkin seeds is negligible at best, though the flesh has indeed been useful, though more easily obtained in canned form. But it sure doesn’t stop us from repeated this adventure every single year, some time in late October on a pretty sunny day.

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Dairy Diaries: Backseat Buck

13375_10200338751428870_600057575351994988_nI’ll never forget my first buck. Several months after bringing home Hope and Uno, our first two Nigerian Dwarves, I decided that Hope was indeed not pregnant from the buck in her previous home, and I would need to find a new buck to join our little duo.

Browsing craigslist rewarded me with an ad for a handsome little black and white buck. The blurb assured that he was a proven breeder, gentle to handle, and even better – he was just fifty dollars. The fact that he was my favorite color sold me, and I excitedly showed my husband, who merely looked resigned at the idea of putting even more goats in the backseat of our car.

I had read that bucks in rut would quite smelly, but I neglected to mention such a thing to my dear husband. The seller told me that the buck was in rut and ready to breed, and as we pulled into the parking lot of Petco forty minutes from home, we had no clue what we had signed up for. Truthfully, what I had signed us up for.

The seller cheerfully accepted my wrinkled fifty dollar bill and pulled “Buckly” out of her truck by one horn. He looked placidly up at me, his face crusted with yellow stains, and snorted. As my husband came around the car, he stopped dead in horror at the sight of the filthy creature he was expected to lift into the back of our Chevy Malibu.

Thank goodness we had leather seats.

The buck was unceremoniously shoved through the rear passenger side door, hooves flying as he scrambled in confusion. My husband recoiled in disgust as Buckly turned around and tried to get back out. Instead the goat had the door slammed in his face, and my husband backed away, rubbing his hands on his shorts, obviously rethinking his life choices. I hurriedly thanked the seller, and we left.

To the husband’s credit, he did not start complaining until we were once more seated within the car. Both of us looked back at Buckly, who was now standing on the backseat peering curiously out the window. His horns impressively curled around his head, he had a thick long beard, and I was personally very pleased with our purchase.

My husband? Not so much.

“He reeks! I’ve never smelled anything so bad. Is he sick?”

No, no, I assured him. Bucks in rut urinate on themselves and exude a strong musk. It’s normal!

“You knew he would smell so bad?”

Well…

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I’ll never forget the exasperated look I received, and we drove home in relative silence. Buckly occasionally turned to snuffle at the sides of our heads, which made my eyes water in the most unpleasant way. My husband cracked all the windows, and finally arriving home was an immense relief.

I cheerfully popped Buckly into a small pen where he could see his new friends, Hope and Uno, but not reach them just yet. I left them to get introduced, and returned the next morning to find Hope in heat, Buckly eager to escape his pen, and Uno disgusted with the entire situation.

Five months later we had the first kids born here at K-N-S Farm.

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Dairy Diaries: Sunday Reset

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Throughout the week, from Monday to Saturday, I am a very busy person.

I am fully responsible for nearly two hundred animals, who need to be fed, watered, and inspected every day at the very least. Twice a day the dairy herd is milked, and you’ll always find me in the parlor in the mornings, and several evenings as well. Hay has to be thrown into feeders – massive amounts of fodder for insatiable ruminants. The dairy and other spaces need to be cleaned, buckets scrubbed, fly traps exchanged. This time of the year, does are found mooning around the buck pen, and need to be caught and sent to a honeymoon suite with a fine looking – and foul smelling – buck.

There are ponies that need to be checked on, ensuring that all of them have four feet and a head still. A pack of guardian dogs and collies swarm my legs in greeting at every chance, and their health is just as important. Poultry scatter at my approach, eager for their hen scratch. Even the tiny wild birds, peeping in the trees, are waiting for their share.

Even when I’m not with the animals, the work does not end. Breeding and kidding take meticulous planning and forethought. Purchasing and selling rest on my shoulders as well, as well as the extensive social media presence we have built around the dairy. Beyond the dairy are of course my own personal projects, and heaven knows that I have a penchant for starting entirely too many in my eagerness to do everything, be everything, have everything.

Not least of all are the hours I spend answering emails, messages, texts. I have always been available to those who are looking for help, if I am capable, and that will not change.

But Sundays are different.

Sunday I turn off the phone and I turn on the camera. Sunday, when the gate is opened to release the dairy herd, I am among them. On Sunday, I am little more than a rather peculiar looking goat, and as the herd goes out to browse, so do I.

I wish everyone could experience a Sunday morning the way I do. I listen to the sounds of the goat herd moving among the brush, the birds and wildlife speaking softly to one another, and the only reminder that civilization is waiting for me is the distant drone of the highway. The goats move at a steady pace – they do not stop for long before they are pushing forward, each of them searching out just the right things to eat. They strip branches and vine, grunting and puffing and sometimes shoving one another, and occasionally stop for a scratch from that one odd looking goat with hands.

For one morning, I let go of the rest of the world. The frantic freight train of my life pulls into a station for a day of rest. Tomorrow it will be barreling down the tracks at an unstoppable rate once more, but for today, it is still. For a short time, the phone hangs dead at my hip, making no demands for my attention, giving no reminders of all the things yet unfinished. Deadlines and worries are like water that beads up and runs down a mallard’s feathers, and I can breath. For one morning, I am just me.

The goats take me to interesting places, and I follow. I know their paths as well as anyone really can, and yet they often show me a new one. Even when we trod the familiar tracks, there is a freshness that only the untamed depths of the forest can bring. A heron startles from the creek and flies overhead. A snake whips through the grass, on the hunt for his own morning meal. A whitetail deer peers at us in suspicion before vanishing into the shadows.

We are safe, for the guardian dogs are at every corner, watching, listening, protecting. It’s thrilling, not frightening, to see them lunge through the underbrush at a perceived threat, and both the goats and I trust them. The herd queens watch over their herd as well, and the alarmed snort of a startled goat will bring the dogs at a run.

We make a large circle, moving from creekside path to pasture track, and then we are home again. The goats fold their legs and thump to the ground in little groups, eyes closing as they bring up cud, or nap. The silence is broken now by the highway with its semi trucks roaring past, and the phone vibrates, reminding me that I can’t stay out forever.

But that’s okay. I return home. I plug back into life as I plug in the camera, downloading the videos and pictures that I have captured, in some small effort to share this day with those who cannot join me. I feel refreshed. I feel alive. The world has reset, and I’m ready to meet the new week once more.

 

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2017 K-N-S Farm Calendars are now available for purchase on the website!

 

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Now Hiring

3prghj0I have great news for local La Mancha dairy goats seeking employment: Honey Doe Farm & Creamery is hiring!

Let me start off by telling you, my dear applicants, what would be expected of you as an employee here at the dairy.

We do expect our girls to kid once a year – generally in January, along with all of your peers at the same time. You’ll be expected to settle easily when paired with a buck as well, but you’ll find we recruit some very nice fellows, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

After kidding, we do expect you to show up to work, both morning and evening. We have a very nice milking parlor, so you won’t find the experience unpleasant. Please do not make us chase you about – tardy employees don’t often stay employed! You’ll need to learn our milking routine quickly and follow it consistently, but we assure you it is very easy to understand. We do require that you give us all of your milk during these milkings, but the process is quite short and you’ll be on your way again. We do, of course, provide both breakfast and dinner, to be enjoyed during milking.

We really appreciate employees with cheerful demeanor and friendly attitudes, who enjoy a good scratch on the head. An employee who brightens the day often finds other shortcomings are overlooked! You’ll have quite a lot of co-workers, so social butterflies will be right at home here.

Now that you’ve heard what will be expected of you – and such a short list it is! – I must also discuss what we do not want here at the dairy. All applicants must be healthy, and proof will of course be required. There are many illness we will not tolerate, and new hires will be expected to complete new testing and a quarantine period. This is for the good of everyone, and we promise the time will just fly by!

Let’s turn to far more pleasant thoughts – the perks of working here! Not only will your provided meals during milking be of the highest quality, but there is free choice hay available at all times of the day throughout the entire year. What’s more, during most of the season, you will be allowed to roam and freely browse a large area between milkings. Never fear – well trained security guards accompanies the herd during these outings, so you can enjoy turn out comfort.

We also offer two months paid time off between the end of the milking season and the birthing of new kids. When your time comes, you will have an experienced midwife, day and night, who will assist you if needed. What’s more – we allow our does to keep and raise their doelings that are chosen to remain on the farm. If you’re looking to build a family, this is the place to go! If kid raising is not for you, however, you can leave your offspring in the hands of our on site staff.

That’s correct, applications – you will have on site staff available to you, 24/7, 365 days a year, for all of your needs.

We reward does who put in the hard work to produce both quality kids and offspring with both fully supported retirement, as well as disability leave for goats who have unfortunate accidents or illness that prevent their future production.

We do need to inform you that upon becoming an employee here at Honey Doe Farm & Creamery, you will appear in advertising and our Youtube channel, including both photographs and video, not excluding sex tapes.

If you think you’re the right goat for the job, we look forward to hearing from you!

 

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Dairy Diaries: Five Times the Excitement

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I think by now, everyone knows that my favorite part of goat keeping are the newborn kids, and I have made labor and delivery a specialty of mine. But it hasn’t been an easy road – just when I feel like I’m starting to get a handle on things, along comes a doe to teach me something new, or to give me an experience I won’t forget.

Midori, a large heavy doe, decided to ensure my very first kidding season here at Honey Doe Farm and Creamery started out interesting. I was personally still reeling from the devastating loss of my pets and possessions in a house fire, and the stress of moving into a home and culture very different than my own, and so greatly looking forward to the more complicated yet far more simple birth of the kids.

It was Lance who texted me that the first doe was in labor, and I hurried outside to attend, nervous and eager to prove myself half-way proficient at this extensive (and I had no idea how extensive it would become) job I had taken on.

Midori was a first freshener, but already quite a large mature doe, and I felt assured there would be no issues. I checked the position of the kid with two fingers, and told Francine, who had joined us, that it was doing just fine.

And indeed, it wasn’t long before a pretty little spotted buckling joined us. He also set off an alarm bell – he was tiny. I said nothing, thinking perhaps he was just small, as sometimes happened, and helped clean him off before setting him in front of Midori to lick and nuzzle.

 

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The next kid was too long coming, and I checked carefully, and what I found made me break out into a cold sweat. I had never felt what I felt inside that poor doe’s uterus, and as I glanced up at my two waiting employers, I could feel anxiety closing in like a thunderstorm.

I turned my attention back to the doe, and that was enough to turn the storm aside – there was never more a place where I have felt more in my element than with a doe in labor. I went and washed my hands and arms carefully, then with the aid of a lubricant, I began to sort out the terrible tangled mess I had encountered just beyond the birthing canal.

Unfortunately, as this story is straight from reality, this part does not have a happy ending. The second born kid I extracted was a tiny doeling that took two desperate breaths, but no more. We tried to revive her, using every technique each of us had learned, but she passed away and was set carefully on the hay. The third and fourth were dead as I pulled them free, the cords and bodies tangled together in a snare that took me many long careful minutes to sort out.

I couldn’t believe there could possibly be more, but as I swept her uterus one more time, my fingers encountered a tiny hard bundle. As I gently guided it free, we found it was a long dead mummified kid, the first I had seen in person.

We were greatly disheartened by the four dead kids in front of us, but one was still alive, and Midori needed to be cared for after such a stressful ordeal. We moved her and her tiny boy closer to the house where I could monitor them, and we got them settled in nice and warm.

 

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Thankfully, there is still a bright shining light to this story. Little “Han Solo” as I called him, though he was tiny and delicate, thrived under Midori’s care. We babied him and I carefully chose a home for him where he would become a breeding buck.

 

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It ended up being the right choice, as you can see for yourself what a magnificent animal he has become. Our little Han Solo has grown into a pure piece of artwork, and we’ll never forget the interesting and sad event of his birth.

Adult picture courtesy of Whirlaway Farms.

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