One year, 18 days and 20 hours ago

Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Goats, On the farm

One year, 18 days and 20 hours ago

…two Subarus turned gravel in their new driveway, with the first of two truck-bed trailers full of live cargo from the desert southwest. The farm name “Wish We Had Acres” was “stitched” on the side of the modern day covered wagon. Under the hinged plywood, sat a nursing mom with her two babes, and a pregnant Daisy; our virgin State Fairground goat purchase, first Nigerian Dwarf, and the beginning of our dairy goat lineage. A second human, four dogs and a cat spilled out of the other Forrester… breaking ground on their return to the trans-Atlantic region with over five years, and countless more notches, weathered into their proverbial desert belts.

A farm name is your entity, your daily answer to the question “Who are you guys?” and your two seconds to be what you want to be inside of that answer. You say this name so many times, why not make it your mantra? Neither of us come from a direct line of farming families, so a decent sized plot of land to us evolved from an apartment with good south facing windows and maybe a porch or patio, to renting a house with a small backyard to have LAND access to Grow Our Own Food, then Food as Medicine… then connect with more of our food source through chickens, then goats. We realized quickly that managing goats to produce milk might put us right out of our britches if we didn’t start sending messages to the universe… and soon. So we became our wish; Wish We Had Acres. Within the year we moved into a quarter acre plot, more land than we knew what to do with! So we did everything we could, not the least was adding two pregnant does to the herd (more goats!). We were later able to purchase one full acre that we left behind in Phoenix, and our now renting five…

We brought our first goat home in 2009, and named her Daisy. She taught us the importance of good latches, strong fences, and gave new meaning to the phrase “doggie door”. Nearly a year later, we learned our way around the goat stud farm, witnessed our first freshening, grew the herd by two, and coined the phrase “boinking around”. How on earth were we going to milk? The term “dwarf” is no joke if you’ve ever milked a cow… or even a standard sized goat. We use the phrase “hand” milking loosely, since anyone whose milked a Nigerian Dwarf goat knows you only need a thumb and a forefinger to get the job done. Yes, we know how that sounds.

We were flat broke and milking stands cost over $100. We had already spent our hard earned pennies on a pure-bred goat, and stud fees with a registered buck. We were $300 invested not including the fencing and feed and had no idea yet what goat milk even tasted like! No way were gonna drop another $100-200, nor did we have it, on a milking stand… how hard could it be? Not hard, we found, but this was the first of many farm-tastic DIY projects where we realized both of our carpentry skills were lacking 90 degree angles. Luckily, the goats and chickens don’t seem to mind!

While that beloved alley-scavenged scrap of frame-mounted CDX plywood held it’s own for four years, we were not sentimental about moving it East, and quickly made a second prototype from salvaged barnwood upon arrival. We sprang for a milking pail, strainer and filters during our first milking season and later splurged on hobbles to keep the girls’ hooves outta the whole milk. Each year that we grew from hobby to farm, to functioning farm business and licensed LLC in 2014, we took strides to work smarter, not harder. A next big step toward an official milking parlor is a hands-free milking system. This meets three big needs at once… sanitation, efficiency and hand preservation. There’s nothing sustainable about hand milking dwarf goats twice daily for eight months while increasing herd numbers. It’s not even about the time commitment… your FARM HANDS just won’t hold out.

Our current “method” of leading our bearded ladies to the milking stand leans heavily on an off-hinged, heavyweight barnwood door and a single eye-hook latch. The morning routine consists of juggling sliced apples, dangled carrots and a pocketful of sweet feed in a pinch.

We are also carrying an open pail from the feed room of a half century old pole barn, through the barn gate, past the herd up the hill, through the mudroom to the kitchen before straining the milk. There are several steps in sanitation that we have shrugged off for personal use, pet consumption and soap milk base that we’d love to improve as we set goals for Grade B (or even Grade A?) milk.

Until we can settle a plot of land more permanently, a FARM HANDS-Free milking station is our first step to a portable milking parlor, which improves the efficiency and cleanliness of daily milking as we expand our herd and grow our business.

Most portable milking parlors are designed to be economical to leave cows on pasture. Given our urban farming environment and educational bent, we have thwarted the concept to take goats from the pasture and bring them to the people. Why? Why not? Namely, we are renters and any improvement we make to our farm, needs to be a portable investment and modular where possible to upgrade as budget allows. In the mean time, if it’s truly portable, why not bring the Wish on Wheels to Southend for a milking demo? In the era where people are looking to learn more about where their food comes from, why not give them a window into the source of their skin care products as well? A truly toxic-free, transparent experience… complete with bearded ladies and an optional Goat Milk mustache.