Jackson

My horse Jack AKA: Jackson or Jackass depending on the situation, is getting up there in age. He turned 24 in March and for the last two years he has been getting a little touchy with his health. Seeing him struggle a bit has me feeling a little nostalgic so I’m going to share a few memories of my brown eyed handsome man.

Jack, Lucian and I in 2015

My parents own a dairy farm and although all of us girls wanted a horse the right one never came along. Until one day we came home and a colt was waiting for us in the heifer barn. My great uncle John bought him from a horse jockey and dropped him off. Jack was about 9 months to a year old when he came to us. He was a playful colt and liked to pull my sister’s hair, pick the cats up by their tails, and throw his jolly ball around. We couldn’t pasture him in with the cows because Jack hates cows. He would chase them around until they broke through the fences so Jack was by himself.

Jack 2020

Although we loved horses we knew nothing about training one. When he was about 2 1/2 “riding” lessons started. Jack became somewhat of our local bucking bronco for friends and relatives to try their hand at. He had this habit of rearing really high until his rider tumbled backwards. I remember all the rodeos we had in his pasture and shake my head now. It is not how you train a horse but I know better now.

Around the same time a neighbor’s mare showed up and she ended up staying. Thankfully Isabel was trained to ride and she became the first horse I rode on a regular basis but we never really liked each other. We tolerated each other. So one horse turned into two, then three, then four, and soon we had five horses. Jack was turned into a gelding when he was nine and there are many days where he still has the temperament of a stallion.

He was nine when I left for collage in Montana. I met a great couple there who took me under their wing and taught me about horses, their behavior, and how to work with them. A year later we took a road trip and brought Jack to Montana. I boarded him at my friends house for the next three years while they helped me train him. We had a lot of adventures while we were there and Jack turned into a great trail horse (mostly). He rarely spooked even when we kicked up Mule deer and ran across rattle snakes. He would go up and down ditches and step over logs without trying to jump over them. We had a great few years there before we moved back to Wisconsin.

Blaze and Goliath

Back home to the north woods of Wisconsin Jack met back up with his fist love, Miss Isabel. Isabel and two of Jack’s sons, Goliath and Blaze, still lived at my parent’s farm. While I lived there I worked with them on ground work and was able to sell Blaze to a lovely girl. She was one of the flag girls in the Spooner Rodeo a year later and I was so happy to watch them gallop around the arena. Jack and I spent many hours exploring the various logging trails in the area. He impressed me a few times with his ability to gingerly step over various brush and logs that most horses would balk at or freak out about. Not to say he was always good. Half the time I had to fight him for every inch of ground to leave his darling Isabel behind. Jack has a tendency to be stubborn and tries to muscle his way in whichever direction he wants to go.

Jack has been at our hobby farm since 2012 when we bought it. Until last year his only pasture pals have been the goats which he pretends aren’t there. He doesn’t bother them, like cows, but he doesn’t like their company either. I think he has been happier or at least more engaged since we brought Melody home last year. Unfortunately he has been more difficult to work with because she is here and he feels the need to show off for her and act like a 5 year old stallion some days. He’s been getting better now that my sister has been riding with me and it is nice to go out with someone again. Jack and I have only been having solo adventures for the last 10 years now.

His health has been in a slow but steady decline for the last 3 years. It started with a gum problem that made it hard for him to eat. After we were able to heal this problem arthritis in his joints made riding a bit more difficult. His arthritis is easily managed with exercise and bute (phenylbutazone) which is a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory before and sometimes after a ride depending on how far we travel. He has also become increasingly picky with his water which causes him to become dehydrated. For the last two springs he has been getting mites from somewhere which we treat with ultra boss, a pour-on insecticide for livestock. This year during his spring vet check I was told he has developed a heart murmur. Weight retention will be harder and he may start to tire faster. If he starts to tire easily our riding days will be over.

Keeping weight on him this summer has already been a little challenging. I think the hot, hot week we had a while ago was really hard on him and he definitely slimmed down in a short amount of time.

I hope we have several years of riding adventures left but he has always been better with kids than adults and will continue to be a great teacher for my kids.

Jack and I have been together for 23 years. There are many adventures, arguments, happy moments, and pissed off ones (on both sides) in those years. He is a hard animal to get along with but he’s mine and I love him.

Selling Goat Kids

Goat kids are the cutest animals I have come across and I love to snuggle them and watch them play. I would love to keep them all but I can’t. Sometimes this can be a hard concept for the kids and myself on occasion, but it is a reality of farm life. We cannot keep every animal on the farm. Each year we sell the kids from our goats Nora and Fauna.

We sold one of our goat kids this weekend and my son and I had to discuss all the reasons why we sell the baby goats.

  1. We would be overrun with goats if we kept them all.
    • I decided it would be fun to do a little goat math to see exactly how many goats we would have if we kept them all. We have had the 2 does for 7 years and on average they each have 2 babies a year. So 4 babies a year times 7 years equals 28 goat kids. Add the two nannies and the buck and we would have a herd of 31 goats by now!
  2. There is not enough pasture to feed them all.
    • Before the addition of another horse our grass was able to maintain one horse and three goats. That’s it. Our soil is sandy and does not grow thick enough to maintain too many animals. I could feed hay year round but that would be super expensive.
  3. It costs money to buy hay for them.
    • I have to buy hay for the winter. The sale of the goat kids pays for their hay for the year. In order to keep the goats I have to have revenue coming in to pay for them which is where the sale of the kids comes in.
  4. Too Many Goats!
    • I like having goats but when we occasionally decide to keep a doe kid for longer I realize I like having two goats and only two. When we have more they seem to get into trouble and cause havoc to my fences and garden. I’m not sure why one extra goat is a catalyst to trouble making but it is.

I do enjoy having the baby goats but after they are a few months old I am ready to see them go to new homes. Lucian is my sensitive child and he still gets upset when the baby goats leave. Fiona waved goodbye after we loaded the buckling into the buyer’s truck and she was good to go. We still have two bucklings left and I hope they will sell this weekend. Fingers crossed that I find a buyer.

Using Goat Milk

On our small hobby farm we have two milking goats, Nora and Fauna. When we first started our small herd we did not realize how much milk one little goat can produce. Nora is our best milker and in the summer she will produce roughly a gallon of milk a day. If we are milking both goats that is 2 gallons a day which turns out to be about 12-14 gallons of raw milk a week. What in the world do I do with all that milk?

A few ways to use goat milk:

  1. Drink It- If I were a good homesteader I would drink the goat milk but to be honest I don’t like the taste. When I milk hot, sweaty goats I smell hot sweaty goats. Cooling the milk fast helps to mellow the goaty flavor but when I drink the goat milk I taste hot, sweaty goat. No, Thank You!
  2. Bake- Although I do not like to drink the goat milk I bake with it or use it to make creamy soups. The goaty flavor that I taste when I drink the milk does not transfer into other foods when I use it to bake with.
  3. Make Cheese- Making cheese is a great way to use large quantities of milk. There are many different types of goat milk cheeses that are absolutely delicious. My favorite is a spreadable cheese that is delicious on crackers.
  4. Make Soap- I can make a large amount of soap with only a little goat’s milk so making soap does not use up great quantities of goat milk but it is one of the nicest benefits to keeping goats.
  5. Freeze it For Later- There are some days in the summer where it is too hot to make cheese or I’m too tired at the end of the day so I freeze the milk for a later day. The milk will stay good in my freezer for about a year which gives me time to process it or sell it to other soap makers.
  6. Feed it to the Pigs- This may sound wasteful but it really isn’t. The goat milk helps my pigs put on weight faster and saves me a little on the cost of feed. I make sure I raise pigs at the same time I am milking goats because occasionally a goat will put her foot in the bucket and I don’t want to waste the milk. Also the pigs love whey which is a byproduct of making cheese.
Fiona adding dandelions to Nora’s collar

Milk Sharing

Milk sharing is when you separate the goat kids from their mother, usually overnight, and milk once a day while the kids nurse the other portion of the day. Last year Penelope was a newborn and it was the first time I tried milk sharing. I loved having the option to only milk once a day. Usually we wean kids off in the early summer and sell them in June but last year we shared milk with Fauna’s kid and sold her in the fall. I was worried we would get a lower price for her because we were selling her out of season but the price we received for her was competitive with previous years.

This year we are milking more regularly with Nora. She had two bucklings and we are getting ready to sell them so they will need to be fully weaned before they can go to new homes. She is being milked twice a day now and we have a nice amount of milk coming in without it being overwhelming.

Our other nanny had triplets, two does and one buck. We are milk sharing with her because my aunt is planning to buy her doe kids in the fall. Her kids are three weeks younger than Nora’s so we have just begun milk sharing with her. Soon we will wean off her little buckling and continue milk sharing with the two does. Milk sharing will help her kids grow bigger through the summer than they would on just a grass diet and it will bring our influx of milk down to a manageable amount.

Milk, Milk, and More Milk!

I have been milking goats, making cheese, baking, and freezing milk for the last few weeks and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer!

Enjoy a Little Spreadable Cheese

1/2 gallon goat milk warmed to room temperature

1/2 cup lemon juice

Salt

Warm the goat milk to room temperature and add lemon juice. Stir until curd forms and whey starts to turn yellowish. Strain through cheesecloth or butter muslin. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and add salt to taste. If the cheese seems too dry add a bit of goat’s milk until it is the desired consistency. I like to add fresh chopped chives and sweet basil to my cheese spread. Keep refrigerated.