Last month, a local county agricultural council sponsored their annual farm fest, where a number of local farms are open on a weekend day for free tours / open house. It just so happens that one of the farms open for tours was only ~3 miles away so we decided to stop by.
Although only a few miles away, the farm isn’t directly visible from the road, so we had no idea that they raise… yaks!
Here is a picture of one of their yaks:
An adult female yak.
We learned that yaks are a triple threat – they are raised for milk, meat and fiber. The farm was selling yak sliders and yak yarn and fiber products during the open house.
According to the farmer, yaks are smaller than typical beef and dairy cows – the adult females are typically only 500 to 600 pounds. Adult male yaks (domesticated) can weigh in at 900 – 1,200 pounds. For reference, typical beef cattle bulls can reach closer to 2,000-3,000 pounds (but are often slaughtered younger so are usually seen at lower than full weight).
Here is a close-up shot so you can see their shaggy fur coat. Their fiber is used to make yarn and then into whatever product from there. The farm was selling knit yak products such as winter hats.
An imperial yak (I think).
Yaks come in a variety of color patterns. A black yak is called an imperial yak. A yak that is white and black is called a royal yak. There are also somewhat rare golden yaks that are all light brownish in color.
A royal yak.
With the expanded flock, we needed to make sure all of the goats (especially the kids) could get out of the weather all summer, no matter which pasture they were in. While we already have the barn in one of the large pastures, the other large pasture only had a single run-in shed.
While the goats could all fit in our original run-in shed if they stood fairly close together, in practice they would fight a bit and push some of the goats out of the shed at least some of the time, even before we added Treat and her 2 kids to the flock.
So, we decided to add a second run-in shed so they could all be under cover at the same time without pushing each other around.
We wanted to put it relatively close to the current shed so all of the goats could be near each other. We ordered a custom built shed from a local Amish building group.
First, we had to clear a patch of grass where the shed would go. I used the loader bucket on the tractor to clear out a dirt patch slightly bigger than the base of the shed.
Clearing the grass for a spot for the new shed.
After clearing a spot, we had a load of gravel delivered to create a good base for the shed that would allow good drainage. With the gravel leveled and compacted, we were ready for delivery.
After the gravel delivery.
Tessi and Tori, our 2 goat kids, needed a series of vaccines at ages 1-month and 3-months. Our local vet did a on-site farm visit for the first round of vaccines at 1-month old but all of her farm-call openings were booked at the time for the 3-month shot.
So, we took them to the vet’s office in the nearby town instead. It is only a 10 minute drive away. As the kids hadn’t been weaned from their mother yet, we took their mom along as well to try to limit the amount of screaming and crying.
Treat, Tessi and Tori visit the vet.
They were mostly curious to be in a new area with new things to chew on and new rooms to explore.
Treat looking at the exam table.
As long time readers already know, we bought 2 goat kids and their mom from another farm earlier this year. But, it was a harder selection process than you might think.
There were a lot of cute goat kids running around – it was very hard to pick!
Many of the smaller goat kids were wearing sweaters to stay warm as it was unseasonably cold in mid-April this year.
Goat kids in sweaters.
More goats in sweaters:
More goat kids in sweaters.
In addition to the ones in sweaters, many of the slightly larger kids were running around the barn, chasing each other and getting into all sorts of typical goat trouble.
A bunch of goat kids.
Earlier this year in the spring I took a hike up our mountain to clean up any trash or debris that had blown onto our property over the winter.
I collected a handful of empty soda bottles (probably originally left by hunters on neighboring properties), some plastic bags, and 2 deflated balloons.
I also found a few other things in the woods:
There was a deer skeleton just onto our property. It may have died naturally over the cold winter, or it may have been shot and injured by a hunter and the hunter couldn’t track it. It appears to be the skeleton of a young buck – the antlers only have a few points.
A deer skeleton in the woods.
Deer skull with antlers still attached.
Each year we host a few cows from a neighbor’s farm on our pastures for the summer. The cows eat the grass (meaning we don’t have to mow – the goats can’t eat enough on their own to make a dent in the full pasture) and the neighbor gets to reduce any stress on his own pastures.
See here (2015), here (2016), and here (2017) for the past few years of tenant cows.
Nia, Della and Missy shortly after arrival.
This year, we are again hosting 3 yearling heifers. Their names are Nia, Della and Missy. They are all Red Angus and look very similar – it is hard to tell them apart without looking very closely. Nia is slightly larger than the others and Missy has a small white spot on her tail, but other than that they look the same.
The new cows inspecting the run-in shed.
A few days after their arrival, we noticed one of the cows seemed to be spending a long time in the shed instead of grazing. She might have been in there for an hour or two. Turns out she got her head stuck in the cow head gate and couldn’t get it out on her own. The cow head gate is used to lock their head into place in case you need to do anything to the cow such as give medication or dress a wound. We unhooked the gate and she was able to get her head out and rejoin the others in the pasture.
A close-up (I think this is Nia).
The cows in the fresh grass.
As we have been married for at least a few years, we occasionally get comments or questions about when we are having “kids”.
Well, that time has finally come – and it’s twins!
We picked up twin goat kids from a local farm last week! They were just born in mid-April. Their assigned names are Testarossa and Torino, but we have taken to calling them Tessi and Tori. Tessi has a white spot on her forehead and Tori has a white spot on her side.
Tessi and Tori cuddling together.
In addition to the twins, we also brought their mother along. Her name is Treat (her home farm has been using food themes for many of their names – other goats from that farm include Applesauce, Lasagna, Taffy, Cabbage, and Poptart). That farm is now using car names also, such as Testarossa, Porsche, Audi, Delorean and Prius.
Without their mother, the twins could need bottle feedings every few hours. With their mother present and taking care of them, they need a lot less supervision and help. However, we hope to spend a lot of time with them and play with them frequently so they get used to people and are easier to handle when they grow up.
Goat kids Tessi and Tori with their mother Treat in the background.
Long time readers will recall that we installed a geothermal heating system to replace our old heating oil furnace.
Here are a few more details about the geothermal thermal system and the installation process.
A geothermal heating and cooling system is essentially a heat pump system that uses the relatively constant temperature underground to move heat from one place to another. The systems are also sometimes called ground source heat pumps. In the winter, the system pulls heat from the ground and moves it into the house. In the summer, such a system can move heat from the house to the ground. Because our house does not have air ducts and instead relies on baseboard hot water radiators, our system is currently set up only for heating, though the ground loops and the heat pump can be used for cooling in the future if we make a few changes inside the house.
Our system is a closed loop system – meaning water (plus a type of antifreeze) is circulated in a loop of piping from the house to wells underground and then back up to the house to start the loop over.
The loop piping in the backyard before installation.
Our installers used a specialized German drilling rig that can fit in tighter spaces compared to some truck based drilling rigs. It was able to move right into place in the backyard for drilling.
The specialized German drilling rig.
Both of Harriet’s horns had already broken off before we bought the farm – long time readers will remember that Harriet was one of the 2 original goats that came along with the farm from the prior owners.
However, the prior breaks did not completely stop the horns from continuing to grow. Pieces of each of her horns are still growing slowly. The remnant horn growths are called scurs.
Unfortunately one or her scurs was growing but curving back towards her head and was close to touching her skull. It needed to be cut or removed to prevent the horn from pushing against her skull.
We asked the vet to perform the procedure as we hadn’t previously cut or removed a horn ourselves (though we did deal with the aftermath after another goat broke off a piece of his horn). The vet’s initial plan was to just remove a small portion off the tip of the scur so it wouldn’t be touching her skull. Given Harriet’s advanced age and slow growth of the scur, it would have been unlikely that the horn would grow enough to touch her skull again.
However, not everything goes to plan. While the vet was beginning to cut the tip of the horn, the entire horn scur broke off!
The vet had already numbed Harriet’s head all around the horn so Harriet was not in immediate pain. But we needed a way to seal the horn and stop the bleeding.
Every year for the holidays, I make several varieties of cookies to share at my workplace. The most common are chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
The “secret” recipe I use is actually basically on the back of the bag of chocolate chips with a couple of small modifications.
- Beat 1 cup (2 standard sticks) of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated white sugar until creamy. I prefer to use unsalted, uncultured pasture butter, but other butter works well.
- Beat in 2 large eggs, one at a time, until well blended. I prefer to use farm fresh eggs from free range hens for the extra bright orange egg yolks.
- Add in 2 Tablespoons water and 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract and then blend well. This is a difference from the “traditional” recipe – the traditional only uses 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. For the flour, I sometimes use 1 cup of whole wheat white flour and 1 1/2 cups of normal flour to add a little more chewiness to the structure of the cookies.
- Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture.
- Stir in one normal bag (12 oz) of chocolate chips. For a little more sugary taste, use milk chocolate chips. For a more traditional, use semi-sweet chips. For other options, try mint chocolate chips or other flavors.
- Once the dough is prepared, try to not to eat all of it raw! If you succeed in not eating all of the dough raw, roll the dough into teaspoon size balls and place on a baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. The greater amount of whole wheat flour that you use allows you to space the cookies closer together as the whole wheat flour helps the cookies stay more compact while baking while cookies made with white flour tend to expand a bit more while baking.
- Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 8 or 9 minutes. Note that the traditional recipe calls for 12 to 15 minutes but that makes the cookies too crisp for my liking. Also, at around minute 6 and again when removing them from the oven, I smash down the cookies with a spatula to keep them thin and prevent the middle from fully cooking.
- After a few more minutes on the baking sheet, remove the cookies to cool on wire racks. Usually the cookies are still droopy and some may fall between the wire racks – this is as intended. Once fully cooled (or even before), the cookies will be deliciously soft and ready to eat.
Continue reading for the peppermint candy cane cookie recipe.