The first goat on the farm, Ethel, was a French Alpine. She was the only goat for about 8 months and bonded with us to the point that it was almost impossible to leave her alone. She learned to open the back door of our house and recognized our voices on the telephone. It was necessary to get her a friend, although she did not see it that way initially, and it was some time before Liza and Ethel became friends. Ethel died in 1994, and Liza, a strong, healthy grade goat, lived to be 18, the last few years with arthritis in her knees. The breeding of Liza and the milk-laden udders revealed the mysteries inherent in milk to Della, who was forced to milk her when one of her kids died. From that time on, goat milk was a welcome addition to the farm menu in the spring.
We bought two bred Obies (Oberhaslies)
in 1995, and 4 new kids in the spring of 1996. Most of the females
came from those two and Liza. We leased males from several other herds
in Virginia and North Carolina for many years until ‘new genes'
were imported from California. Colleen Monahan (Red Tail Ridge) had
brought semen back from Switzerland and added new blood to the breed
which, having been inbred in the US for 40 years, had developed some
limiting features (comparatively small udders in some of them, for
In 2009 we have 48 goats altogether, and will be milking 30 after all the does have kidded. We initially bred all the does in September, resulting in up to 60 kids arriving in February after the 150 day gestation. This was major work since we usually started hand feeding after one or two weeks on their mother. In 2009 we stagger bred, making kid care more reasonable but resulting in some missed pregnancies. We don‘t breed the does until their second year, though some people do.
Each goat in our sweet herd is named, according to the naming scheme of that year. In 2004 is was Harry, Hermione, and other Harry Potter characters. Following the fantasy story theme, 2005 kids were Will, Torek, Mrs. Beaumont and so forth, of the Phillip Pullman trilogy of dark materials. 2006 was inspired by a visit to Jon’s sister Nancy in Washington state where signposts sprouted wonderful places like Nisqually, Chewela, Sedro-Wooley and Chilliwac. Next came cheese names in 2007, like Cezanne, Degas (our cheeses), cheddar. Monterrey and Jackie were sisters. Ruby, Spessertite, Lapis Lazuli and Malachite headed up the 2008 mineral & gemstone kids and were happy to be joined by “bird goats” Robin, Parakeet and Bofflehead in 2009. The names help to observe the individual personalities of each goat.