The alarm rings at 5:30 a.m. (Why does the bed feel so good when you just wake up?)
Like many homes early in the morning, we let our dogs out, grab a bite to eat and check the news. First order of the day to is warm the goat milk bottles for this year’s 20+ kids awaiting their breakfast. While waiting, we prep the milking machine, hoses and wash bucket and head out to the barn. A baby goat sees us coming….greeting us loudly, he alerts his brothers, sisters and cousins that breakfast has arrived. They pour out of the barn into their exercise pen in a joyous ear-piercing chorus letting us know just how much they want their bottles. For giggles, you’ll find the audio file on Facebook!
I set the bottle racks up in the pen, make sure each kid finds a nipple for themselves and that no-one is left out. Sometimes it means untangling necks and legs as they climb over one another in search of an available bottle, their enthusiasm getting in the way of their organization.
Steve heads inside the barn and sets up the milking machine and prepares a hearty breakfast for the girls of a special grain, mixes in their probiotic, extra black sunflower seeds as a treat and sometimes a dollop of kelp meal or shredded beet pulp. This mix is set aside for all the junior and any senior does who are not lactacting and don’t need milking. Each milking goat is called by name to come to the gate and take her turn on the stand. She is fed a slightly different mix and allowed to eat all she wants while Steve milks her, first with the machine and then he finishes her off by hand, making sure the udder is completely empty. He also checks the udder on each doe for any lumps or warmth that could mean trouble is brewing. Goats can get mastitis just like a nursing human mother can, so a wary eye is kept on udder health. After each girl finishes her bowl, she jumps down, heads back to the herd and the gate is opened for the next doe (who knows her place in line and is waiting, albeit impatiently).
A slightly different diet, higher in hay, less in grain is set out for the “boys”….our breeding bucks. Water buckets are emptied, cleaned with vinegar and refilled. (goats will not drink cloudy or dirty water). A quick visual overview of the herd is taken to make sure everyone is bright-eyed and healthy. This is where it pays to know your goats and what behavior is ‘typical’ for them. Like your own children, you will know if something is amiss.
This whole process takes approximately 90 minutes morning and night. We head back to the house to refill baby bottles, clean the milking equipment and process the gallons of milk. At this time of year, most all the milk goes back into the baby bottles, but once they are weaned, we begin freezing the milk and filling the four large chest freezers. This will be our supply when the does are dried up in the fall and re-bred for next year’s kids.
After cleanup is complete, Steve heads out to continue building the new farm store. Our employee, Bonnie arrives at 8 pm to unmold, cut, stamp and store soap in the curing room. She checks weight and pH and hardness, recording all data in log books. She moves the aged bars into the sale drawers which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours. Together we fill molds with raw soap, churning out 550+ bars in an afternoon. Eight different scents spread out over 24 large logs.
I turn my attention to the computer to check orders received overnight. We print, fill the orders, pack the box and prepare shipping. Respond to customers, wholesale inquiries, order raw materials, check the show calendar (where are we headed next?). We have a show this coming weekend, so open the trailer, check the inventory, refill the soap boxes and anything else that is low. Kristen arrives and works part-time to help with financial paperwork and help us with monthly reporting.
Lunchtime already? Baby bottle time AGAIN . We deliver them to the screeching hoard who are SO happy to see us. When tummies are full, head back to the house with the empties, cleaning them thoroughly (this time of year the water bill is high) and refill for the evening meal. Grab a sandwich, answer phone calls and voicemails and recheck email.
Leah arrives to help pump the recently made goat milk lotion into bottles. Bonnie helps with labeling and storage. Steve pops his head in letting us know he is headed to the hardware store for plumbing and electrical parts.
Around 4:30 to 5:00 pm, we start wrapping up production for the day and prepping for the next day’s product production. The Goat Milk Soap is one business and the management of successful show/breeding goats is an entirely different business, so everyday is two businesses in one. It is certainly never boring as every day is different!
Steve and I break for dinner. If I was efficient, something is stewing in the crock pot. If not, time to figure it out. Eat, watch the news and head back to the barn with the baby bottles for dinner. We repeat the whole milking process just the same as we did that morning. We take a few minutes each evening to work with the babies, handling, leading, training to the feeding stand, and “setting up” (or teaching them to stand and behave for the show ring).
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”. We love this quote and it reflects our life. The work is hard, the days are long but we are fortunate to do what we enjoy. We are blessed with wonderful, dedicated customers, great family & friends and blessings bestowed by the Good Lord. We are gratified to be able to create products that genuinely help people. Thank you for your support