Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Adventures in Bread Making

There are several blogs out there with information on how to make bread. I have read many of them in my search. This is a process I have found that works for me.

I have tried since childhood to duplicate my mother's bread. 100% whole wheat home-made, hand-made bread. However, when she wrote out for me the instructions included words like "until it feels right" and no actual measurement for flour, and when attempted it kept turning out as a very hard lump. Throughout the years I tried many whole wheat recipes - the ones that worked included an amount of white flour in them. None of the 100% whole wheat recipes worked.

I have also used my bread machine to try to make whole wheat bread. While bread machines are supposedly foolproof, it is not true when it comes to 100% whole wheat bread - you can still end up with a heavy lump. le sigh.

For some time, I gave up. At least I gave up trying to make it - but I kept searching. I read the information from 5 minute artisan bread, I watched Alton Brown, I read blogs. Everyone give little hints on how to make it work. They made it look so easy, but I was skeptical. Then I picked up my husbands old book "Mrs. Curtis' Household Remedies and Cookbook." It listed a recipe for "entire wheat bread". It listed a few things I had not considered before - like heated liquid. I finally had the courage to try it. It turned out great! Yipee!

The secret at the time was scalding the milk (150-180 degrees) - starting out with warm liquid to dissolve the sugar, and then letting it cool a little (120-130 degrees) and adding everything else in. Also the time of mixing it 5 minutes at the end worked great.

The recipe is simple, and it works. It has worked well enough that I have felt comfortable experimenting with the basic recipe and trying other breads and techniques.

The basic recipe (I am taking this from memory - I will try to post a follow up with the actual wording of Mrs. Curtis).

In bowl put
1/2 cup brown sugar (I use 1/2C honey +1 T Molasses)
1t salt

add in
4C scalded milk (I use water from my faucet (120 degrees) + 1/2C dry milk)
mix until sugar disolved

mix in
1 cake yeast (2.25t yeast)

mix in 9C entire wheat flour (I end up using closer to 11 - however, I mix them in 3 C at a time)
Mix/knead for 5 minutes

Let rise till double in size (about 1 - 2 hours)

Divide and make 3 or 4 loaves (depending on size of pans). Let rise again until almost double (about 30 minutes).

Bake 375 for 35 minutes.

With this recipe it takes me just 15 minutes to throw together, then 1-2 hours to rise, then maybe another 15 minutes to form the loaves, and another 30 minutes to rise, then 35 minutes to bake. Each batch makes about 4 loaves. I am currently making this recipe once per week to sell at farmer's markets or to coworkers.

I also make a Rosemary - Olive Oil bread (8-10 loaves per week). That is another post for another day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


These hands are beautiful hands and have done beautiful things. They have held newborn babies and touched the cheek of death. They have played compositions and planted tiny seeds. They have painted and sculpted and designed and written. They are strong hands. They have wrestled goats and raised up men. They have hauled lumber and soothed pain. I look at them now full of lines and scars, full of life, and I wonder. I wonder what you see. Do you see these hands and what they have done, where they have been, or instead perhaps you see what I see when I gaze at the mirror, the rest of me. The parts and pieces I try to hide. Do you see what I have done or do you see who I seem to be or who I am.

As I listen to waves crash against the shore and cool air brushes my cheek, I remember. I dream. That these hands are again being held gently as the sun sets and we gaze out at the world. I feel soft and delicate as we dream together of things that we hope will one day be. Together in our Eden surrounded by life, overcoming the past. Our hands together with one purpose pursuing our future. Hands covered in earth and life.

These hands with jagged nails and callouses. Hands with cracks and compulsions. They have kneaded bread and pulled weeds. They have entered data and drawn butterflies. They have done so much and still have so much to do.

These hands are strong and beautiful hands and I am beautiful because of them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures in Gardening

I love Spring and Fall. I love planting seeds, and harvesting produce. I love the gearing up, the new earth turned and cool, buying seeds, daydreaming about the bountiful harvest, buying supplies for when the harvest is picked... but I do not like the middle part. I have enthusiasm for weeding for maybe a week, sometimes two. I rarely think to water after their initial just planted watering.

My garden reflects my life. I am easily enthused by many things, but rarely stick with it for long. Last year my garden was constantly tangled with weeds - 1/2 my radishes came up squished because I did not thin them out. My carrots were tiny things that I had to dig up at the end of the year. Despite this, I was very proud of my harvest last year.

However, I am trying a different style of planting this year. I am trying to be meticulous. If the package says thin to 8" apart - I am planting 8" apart. I put my peas in first. I planted them 8" apart, and only one row to start. The following week I did another row, and then a third row the following week. My hope is to stagger the harvest. I also got my radishes & carrots in - although it is too hard to plant carrots to correct spacing - I might look into seed tape next year for carrots & lettuce. I meant to stagger the planting of my radishes so they would be ready in shifts, but I was running late, and just planted them all. I really was hoping to get all the spring veggies in right away. Ran out of time. Too much to do. Life gets in the way - the usual.

Every spring the organization I work for puts on the largest conference of its kind. I work on it from September to May every year, and in March and April I am swamped. This year I put in a lot of extra hours, and therefore the spring garden was not fully planted. Then when I come back from the conference, I have to play catch up not only on the gardens, but the house work, and time with the hubby and kids (and sleep too).

Then there is May. Events on weekends, fences to build or reinforce, animals to rearrange, new animals to integrate into the coops, plus getting in the garden.

When we first started planning our gardens for this year, we thought it would be a great idea to use the pen we had used for the goats & sheep last fall. Natural fertilizer, and weed control by the critters. Then it rained. It was too soggy to till when our friend came to till our other plots. I really wanted to get in there last weekend, but we had to do other things - pluck the turkey, shear the sheep, build new fences, farm stuff. Finally this week the hubby tried to plow it with a friends cultivator - could not cut through the sod.

So it is 5pm on May 20th, I have no idea where I am going to put my over 60 tomato plants, and the goat pen is not cooperating. A friend and I head out with hand tools. I start with the shovel, after several minutes I get through the sod, only in order to actually pull the clod out, I have to cut it out on all 4 sides. The hoe did not do much on its own, the garden fork poked decent holes, but really did not do much either.

25 square holes later, we have pulled the clod out, put back as much dirt as we could separate from the sod, and piled the sod next to the new chicken fence - now they can not escape underneath. I now I have 25 holes that are 1/2 full of dirt. First I mix in some sand to help it drain, and then put a few shovels full of dirt on top - finally I can plant - 5 down, 20 left to go, plus, only about 40 more holes to make.

We are planting big this year with the intention of selling at the farmer's market. We have taken last year's garden, and put in only peas, spinach, letuce, green onions, radishes, and carrots (the Salad Garden). The 2nd garden which is twice the size of the Salad Garden is filled with beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons (the Gourd Garden). The final garden (the North Garden), which is the one I am digging by hand, will contain everything else, however, because I am having to work so hard at it, I might forgo most of it and just get my started tomatoes & peppers in. Maybe plant just a few cucumbers & other things I want for home.

So there you have it, the first installment of the Adventures in Gardening. We will be at the North Branch Peterson's Country Mill Farmer's Market every Saturday - wish us luck or visit us!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

a plan

Well here's what I started to do:

1. write a very opinionated, offensive piece - couldn't post it - didn't want certain people to read it, so I didn't feel I should post it.

2. find time during my 24 hour website building experience to post on the night, and other things - didn't have a spare moment.

3. write a lovely Easter piece, or anything because post 1 was sitting in the back of my mind, still undecided... really don't feel comfortable posting it. I think I will polish it up a bit, and leave it here.

So here we are almost 2 months after my last post, and I will try to come up with something interesting for you to read.

Spring is lovely. Rebirth, renewal, and life everywhere you look. The gardens starting to come in, the grass and trees starting to turn green. The babies being born.

This spring we decided to order 50 chicks from McMurray Hatchery. We order their super assorted bargain, which means they can send me 50 of any chicks they have, plus they always offer 1 free "exotic" chick. This year's batch looks like it will be so pretty. We ended up with almost half of them being feather footed! I'm so excited to see what they'll grow to be. Our plan is to keep most of the hens, 1 or 2 roosters, and then let them make their own babies next year! We did lose 8 of them the first 48 hours, and McMurray allows you to be refunded for those loses. I was very disappointed, because they seemed to be all of one breed - I wish I had separated them from the rest. But we now have 43 active 4-week-old chickies in our basement! We even had them vaccinated this year to avoid what happened last year, and they'll stay separated from everyone else until they're 6 or 7 weeks old.

Our cat princess had 3 kittens this week. A gray, an orange, and a cream. Cute little ones.

Then there's Mary. Hubby brought her home when she was 4-weeks-old. She is the cutest little pygmy goat, and is being bottle fed until she is 6-weeks-old. We are hoping this will make her more docile when milking season starts for her. We have plans to use Jimmy our male as her husband, since our other female, Annie seems to be oblivious to his charms.

Then there's Betsy. I stopped milking her in March because her milk was decreasing again, and I knew I had several engagements that would take me away during milking. She didn't seem to mind at all, and actually because quite willing to let us pet her (through the fence, when she was in a pen by herself). We moved her down to the "fields" to help us start clearing it out. She happily munched away at the grass and cattails. We moved her further down, and added in Annie and Jimmy. She was so happy to see Jimmy again. She would cuddle up next to him, so content. She died this week. We don't know why. It was almost as though she died of a heart attack, mid chew. It prompted us to get the goats all dewormed and vaccinated. The vet didn't have any ideas of why. It puts a big dent in your confidence as a farmer when your animals keep dieing.

My 5 adult chickens are doing great. Pip my tom turkey has decided it is his job to keep them all in line, he follows them around, proudly on display, making faces at anyone who thinks they can talk to his girls. And the girls don't seem to mind either. Molly, my old lady - we got her when we lived in Minneapolis. She, is just as sweet and docile as ever. She is still the easiest to catch, and everyone's favorite as she's a bantam cochin (small feather footed - black puffball). Clara is a cream colored English game hen - if I remember correctly. Chicken-Licken is the same size as Clara, but is a mixture of a smaller version of Clara with a Red Star rooster we had, so she has pretty golden feathers and cream accents. Henny-Penny is of the same mixture but more standard sized. Chicken-licken and Henny-penny were both hatched on our farm last year. Then there's Peeves. Peeves was named from the morning I though I heard juvenile crowing down in the chicken pen. I figured we had a rooster on our hands until the morning I discovered the most beautiful green egg in the egg basket! Green, yes truly a lovely, pale green. Easter eggs without the dye. Peeves started laying faithfully last fall, but then stopped as they often do in the winter. I didn't think anything of it until this spring when everyone else was laying, and I still wasn't getting any green eggs. The kids & I had several of our very own "easter egg" hunts trying to figure out where she was laying - I still don't know. But finally I gave up, and put her in the hay shed with Mary, and "forced" her to use the egg basket in there and have successfully begun collecting green eggs again! Yippee. I hope I get more green layers in this batch of chicks... or maybe even some with blue tints!

More to come soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A few of my favorite thing

I love parties. I love getting dressed up and fixing my home to appear perfect. I love spending days getting ready, and laying out all my favorite dishes, and inviting everyone I know and getting them all together to have a good time. I love fancy! I love friends and family nearby. The first big party I had was when I lived in a 4-plex apartment in South Minneapolis, and had over 60 people come over. I had musical performers, and a dj for dancing in the basement. I had an amazing spread of foods that I had prepared and purchased some great glass pieces for the occasion. It is now a party I have every year about the same time, and the collection of gowns I have from those events now fills my trunk and makes my nieces ask to play dress-up almost the minute they step into my house. It is one of the few occasions I wear make up. (The Olympic ice dancing was just on and I was wishing I had the funds to find something like the gorgeous red dress worn by one of the skaters.) The party has scaled down through the years, but besides the collection of gowns, I have photos, and menus, and lists, and...

I enjoy art. I like taking discovered objects and using them to create shapes. I like using windows or clothes instead of canvas. I love color, and variety, and making people think. I have a degree in graphic design, and I love interesting ads and printed work that makes me stop. Lately I have been all about photography. Except for the "quilt" I am painting for my husband and I to use in our room. I have stacks of artwork, and photos in boxes and bins and cupboards all over my home, and just a few on the walls. I also have bins of paints, and wires, and shiny objects, and...

I treasure physical memories. Those things that remind me of the event. The pamphlet from the play. A note I wrote to my hubby. The first suit and tie my baby boy wore for Easter. The sweetest shirt my baby girl wore her first summer. The school photos from my step son, his artwork, his event programs. Photos and cards received at Christmas and birthdays. Lists, colored sheets, ideas for someday, and...

As a family we love books, and movies, and music, and stuffed animals, and cars. When I tried sorting through the kids room, I came across things I did not want them to give up, and things they did not want to give up, not much actually left their room, or the book shelves, or the movie shelves, or...

Sorting through my home has brought all of these loves back to the front of my mind. I am reminded of what I once enjoyed most, and what I used to be, and who I try to be, and who I thought I would be. In it all I found a bin full of Animaniacs memorabilia and stuffed monkeys. I found a bag of rocks, next to a box of rocks, with a few other rocks nearby. I discovered several bins full of framed photos and several bins full of art and craft supplies. I even found bins that had unopened mail from the many times I needed the house to appear neat, and stuffed things in corners and cupboards and then never saw them again - until now. I have cupboards full of items I do not use, of things I had forgotten about. My china hutch was stuffed full of pretty things, most of which I had found at garage sales or thrift stores. Eclectic assortments of lovely shinny things that I really do not need, nor do I have any strong memory attached to them, but I still try to use them at parties...

There are two ideas I am currently trying to implement in my life. One idea - the simplicity of keeping only what you truly love and treasure - is fueled by a blog called "Simple Mom" and the other idea - debt freedom and financial stability - is from the Financial Peace University CDs with Dave Ramsey. I am implementing both right now. I am trying to make a little money by selling all the stuff that I really do not need or want in my life. Getting rid of things to make time for what I really love. I am trying to do this, but I keep being caught up in the past, and looking in these bins, I'm torn between wanting to remember, and wanting to have less. How many of these things will anyone care about besides me? Could these things be as easily categorized, and remembered with a journal or scrapbook page? I would love to have the time to pause and think these things over with every bin, but I really need to get most of the stuff out for this sale I am holding, this weekend - eeek.

It all leads to the overwhelming fact that I like things. I have so many things, that I have been tangled in the past these last few weeks, and unable to focus on the present.

I really was hoping for something more inspired to blog about the last two weeks. Something to make all of you come back again, but this is me after all. I attack with intensity and then pick up something new, and forget what the last thing was, until I discover it in a box, in the back of my closet.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My month long pantry challenge

I first read about the pantry challenge at but discovered many other blogs that mentioned it, even one where she had enough in her pantry to live off of for a year - I am a little envious of that. In GettingAhead she seemed to be trying to lower inventory, and get to some of those bottom of the freezer items. I had in the past tried to "eat myself out of house and home" and have tried repeatedly to do that since marriage but hubby was not interested.

We had listened to the first three Dave Ramsey CDs and made our first real budget, and it did not balance of course. We were short by only $300. That amount was an amazing thing for me to see, because as we talked through the budget, we set up line items without setting the balance, we added items in that we'd never planned on before - like car repair, and a monthly amount for propane and Christmas, things we had purchased in the past. It was eye-opening to see on paper; the clear reason we were going deeper into debt each month. I started looking to see what we could cut. There really was not much that we should cut, but it was necessary. We figured we could live without buying clothes for awhile, that we could go a little longer without saving for Christmas. Between the large debt payment minimums and the huge amount I drive to work (1 hour each way, 5 days per week), there wasn't much space left. I cut and I cut and I cut until the only expenditures were absolutely required, and that left only $39 for groceries.

Yes, you saw that right, $39 for a month of groceries for a family of 4 (family of 5 every other weekend). On the Financial Peace cds, he talks about the 4-wall planning. You pay your shelter, food, utilities, and transportation first. I did this budget backwards. I really wanted to keep paying at least the minimum on the unsecured debts. I was not ready yet to give up on my bill paying habits.

Thus began my pantry challenge. We made it with help from many sources. We had donations from friends, we picked up our WIC items, we took home bread from church. Friends who were aware came over and brought us dinner (and leftovers). We made goat cheese from our goat, and bread. Turns out that while a person can not live on bread alone, it does fill in a lot of gaps. We had bread most nights for dinner, and since I have a huge supply in the pantry, canned beans and corn most nights too. Now, I have absolutely no problem eating what we have in the house, on the other hand the husband was frustrated. He's at home during the day while I'm at work. He takes care of and feeds our two children for breakfast & lunch. He has for years had a routine, for breakfast box cereal and milk and raisins, for lunch, bread, lunch meat, and cheese, and 1/2 an apple (or other fruit), and fruit snacks. So when I stopped buying lunch meat because it runs more than $2 per pound, he wasn't sure what to feed the kids any more.

While perhaps not always the most balanced of diets, and not always varied. We made it completely and entirely within the budget. Well, except the required car repair bill which was covered by the bounce protection transfer that occurred last month, so technically no new transfers occurred.

Things I learned. It's good to stock up on things when they are on sale. A whole turkey will last more than a week - and can be fixed a variety of ways so that you don't get bored. It is extremely important to not be too prideful to accept help. It was really hard to be able to say yes to everyone who offered, really hard.

At the same time I am learning to say yes to help, I am learning to say no to extra expenditures. I can now go into Walmart without buying the whole store. I am learning to make lists and stick to them. I am learning to write all our purchases down and rely only on what I have on paper, not on the banks idea of how much money there is. I did trick myself into saving a little money last month by starting my balance sheet over when a new paycheck came in, but also made a few unnecessary purchases.

Our budget is very tight again this month because we are determined to get out of debt. "A borrower is slave to the lender." We did agree to 4 additional budget cuts and rewrote the budget from the top: 4-walls first! Now our grocery budget is $130 for a month. We have been applying for some financial assistance, and food assistance so that we will be able, in the next couple months, to take some good steps forward on our new "financial plan". I guess it is reassuring to see that I really am at an income level which needs assistance. HOWEVER, if I really had just kept to a budget from the beginning, I would not need the assistance. We could make it on our own, I think.

Next steps, "sell so much stuff, the kids thing they are next."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Me vs. sleep continued... or catching Betsy trials

In case you were wondering, I did go back to bed for an hour. I've been meaning to stop long enough to finish the post I had in mind that morning. However, my life is full and I just haven't found a spare moment to get back to it.

Betsy my milking pygmy goat is one of the smartest and opinionated goats. If she were only smart, she would have realized that by helping me out, she would get to the grain sooner, she would walk calmly into the house every day, maybe even be waiting for me at milking time. If she were only opinionated, I could count on her hunkering down in one space and just have to drag her to the house to milk her. Instead she fights me creatively. I think she is betting against my persistence, I think she knows that one of these mornings I am going to give up. Each day is a new challenge. Friday morning she ran past me from the "barn", out the door, up the hill, around the hay shed, then around the house, then started down the road. Thursday, she allowed me to catch her by luring her with a bucket of grain. The day before that, I had to crawl under the house on my belly to latch on the leash and drag her out. The day before that, the dogs managed to block her in the barn. You get the picture.

I've been chasing her down every day for almost 3 weeks now, and every time I think she has settled into a pattern, she does something new.

One day she will have been fairly cooperative and stayed in the barn and let me catch her - well rephrase that to say, I managed to catch her. Another she will get away from me. I have tried patiently luring her with grain, but just when it looked like she was going to put her head in, our other female butted her out, and she moved away. (Why couldn't it have been Annie in milk right now?!) I jog around after her, I get the dog, let the dog chase her, we go up and down, back and forth, finally blocked in under the stairs, I drag her into the house. She will no longer go under the rabbit hutch, which is the simplest place to catch her - she knows. Katie, my mama dog is not a natural herder. And Betsy, won't be forced to do anything she doesn't want to do. So very often Katie gets butted, and Katie learns to stay back, so Betsy will run for a bit, then turn around and face off with Katie. And getting Henry involved would mean chancing waking the children up - since he sleeps upstairs with them.

Once she's into the house, she'll now jump up onto the milking stand - very helpful - and then turn around backwards. So I drag her around to stand correctly, and get her latched into the head bars. I've tried putting grain and other things out for her so she'll just put her head in the bars herself - nope.

I then give her the grain, wash her teats, test her milk, remove her grain, grab the milking bowl and put the grain back. 80% of the time she stands calmly while I milk her and she munches up her grain. 20% of the time it's a different story. She'll kick, and when I resist that, she'll sit. sometimes even lying down. And even when she's behaving properly I have to be ready, because at some point she'll finish her grain, or just decide I'm done, and make every attempt to spill the milk. I'm getting better at sensing when this is about to occur. I grab the milk bowl, then her grain bucket, and ignore her while I pour the milk into the storage jar (filtered through a coffee filter.) There were a few time I just let her be done when she threw the temper tantrum, but I don't any longer, I really want to make sure I get it all, so she keeps increasing. So I head back under, only at this point she's really grumpy, and I have to either hold her leg or squeeze under her because she's decided to sit again.

Why do I persist? Cheese. I'm currently yielding 1 cup per day. I can make cheese easily with 4 cups and a little vinegar and salt. I have my third batch currently draining and drying in the fridge. Hard earned cheese - it is so very good.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Me vs. Sleep

I love sleep. Given the opportunity to choose between doing something exciting and a uninterrupted nap, the nap will win most of the time. I also am a night owl. I feel like I can get so much done after 9 or 10pm. Even now as I type, I want nothing more than to crawl back into bed even though I have been up doing farm chores for the last 30 - 60 minutes and am clearly awake. My natural rhythm is to stay up late and sleep in. My life has forced me away from that schedule.

My husband is a drivers ed instructor. He is partially disabled and by our choice, stays home with the kids during the day and works in the evenings. When we moved out here to the country, I had to change my schedule in such a way as to allow him enough time to get to his job. What this has meant is I work 7am - 3pm 5 days per week, and he works 5:30pm - 9:30pm 4 days per week. I have a 1 hour commute, his is 30 minutes. I have to leave my house by 6am to get to the office on time.

I resist life in the mornings. I am not a jump out of bed in the morning kind of girl. I am a hit snooze for at least a half hour every morning, cuddle up next to my warm husband, ignore real life kind of girl. If it were possible to turn off the alarm and just wake up when I'm ready (and not risk the wrath of my boss) I would be the first to sign up! Once out of bed I rush about and run out the door. There has been the occasional morning where I do that in 5 minutes!

Have I mentioned before that we have a little hobby farm?

I have been able to get away with doing farm chores only once per day in the afternoon, usually with my children joining me. My animals have been very obliging and have not seemed to mind only one appearance by me. I bring them fresh water, fill their food dish, bring them table scraps, and check for eggs.

When winter hit it meant a change - I have to stoke the wood stove before leaving for work, and start my car earlier. When we moved our mama dog to the basement with her puppies it meant another change. I had to let her out to potty because if I did not she would whine and bark when I stoked the stove and leave for work. And now I milk a goat... be continued - if I crawl into bed now I can get an hour in before we have to get up to get ready for church.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Milking a Pygmy Goat

When we bought Betsy & Jimmy, Jimmy was about 3 months old and still nursing. We had difficulty getting anywhere near Betsy unless we captured Jimmy first; and Jimmy wasn't easy either. We didn't have a pen, we didn't have anything in place. We caught her once or twice and tried milking her, but never really pursued it. We thought, give her some time, next batch of babies she'll be much gentler because she'll know us better.

As this winter progressed, hubby was fairly certain she was pregnant again, but I wasn't. Everything I have read so far has said it was impossible to tell if goats were pregnant - you had to plan it so you'd know. Well, her son was the only male she had access to, and they were together for a year during which she didn't get pregnant. Just this week I was surprised to fine two beautiful kids (baby goats) that had died.

Death. I always thought that is was silly to have to intervene with the birth of animals. They're animals, they have instincts... both my dog & cat had babies without complications without my intervention. My chickens managed to hatch some babies without intervention. But yes, there is almost always death with the life. I thought I would get used to that - the death. But still anytime I see another animal, especially a baby, I am saddened and I now understand better why people try to control birth a little more. It is very cold outside in Minnesota - it is definitely not ideal for babies.

All that has led to this, a mother goat without kids but with milk! Eureka! I don't have to worry about taking too much milk from the baby, I can just milk her and not worry... Sites I've read say twice a day, 12 hours apart. My first milking was in our basement where we had brought Betsy to clean her up post birth - I did a few pulls, she struggled, hubby helped hold her. We didn't try long.

We kept her in overnight, and the next day hubby let her out because she was only crying. He didn't try to milk her. That evening I trapped her under the rabbit hutch and tried to milk her again. She kept sitting down, and fighting me. Got a little - mostly dirty from the struggle - gave it to the dogs.

Here begins the comedy that is my life:

Stubborn goat + Inexperienced milker/farmer + creativity = the oddest milking set up ever.

Betsy doesn't like people. All my other goats will eat out of my hand - except her. It's nearly impossible to catch her, and like I mentioned before, I don't have pens. During the winter (post harvest to planting season) they are free range. All my animals currently bed down in the summer kitchen - 3 goats, 1 sheep, 1 turkey, 5 chickens, and 2 rabbits in a hutch. The best way I've discovered to catch Betsy is to give them some corn or oats & while she's eating grab her horns. Then once I've got her horns, I can attach a leash to her collar and drag her places. Yes drag. It is impossible to get her to follow me. Even if I shake corn in front of her, or tempt her with bread, she still won't really walk. So between her horns & the leash I drag her across the snowy, icy yard, up a flight of steep steps into our mud room.

Yes, the mud room. After chasing her around the "barn" and catching her, and trying to get her to behave under the rabbit hutch, but not having enough light, and then trying to get her to stand on some boxes in the corner where there is light, I remembered the one place that was fairly small, contained, and a little warm.

I hooked the leash up, around, and through some nails on the wall, put a plastic coffee can under her bum, and put a jar under her. We struggled, we fought, I pushed and I yelled and I gave her treats to get her to stand still. We got a little more milk - it was 5:30 am. That evening I automatically dragged her to the house. The first difference, I have two monkeys following me around, trying to sled a little, and play while I dragged. Daughter's crying because I haven't waited for her. Hubby's trying to leave for work. I get her in the porch, start gathering things together, Daughter comes in then Son. They can't decide if they want to be inside or out...

I was struggling to keep her still on the porch, the coffee can wasn't tall enough, I was crouching down on the floor - these are really short goats, kids were going in & out, hubby left, dogs were fighting and scaring the goat. I tried one of our kitchen chairs to put her food on, and to tie her to, to try to get her to stay - she got her head stuck and started throwing the chair around. I dragged her into the house and tried getting her to stand on two chairs, having the kids help hold the leash, keeping her on the chairs - she kicked and fought until the two chairs separated and she lost her feet in the gap. I was grumpy, and frustrated.

We went back into the mudroom. We tried a different corner - you usually milk from the right, and I had been doing the left. I put food under her nose, I found a taller pot that fit perfectly under her bum, shoved the chair up behind the pot to keep it in place, managed to get a little more milk. YEAH!

This has been our setup ever since. It's been a week since she lost the babies and I still have to drag her up the hill to the mudroom at 5 am & pm. She's giving more milk and we're getting a little better at the milking. She still fights me if I move away from her, so I push myself up against her body and milk by feel only. I am figuring it out - it's easy to milk now when she's full. I milk a little beyond when she's dry to try to stimulate more. On the fourth day we all sampled it, and then I put some in my coffee, and used the remainder for the irish soda bread we had for dinner. I hope to someday be able to make goat cheese, if I can just get enough. I think I'm getting about 1/3 of a cup per milking now.

Oh, and now that I feel like we've got a rhythm and are figuring it out. I find out a friend is bringing us a milking stand. We'll see how it goes.