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.

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