Treestar Farm

Our Goats Live in the Lap of Luxury

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Working on a NEW milking machine!

I'm very excited about a new project I'm working on with Tom Clavette, the man who purchased Tinkerbell and Electra from us last year. He took my suggestion for a simple hand powered milker to make milking these girls easier and ran with it.

We are now working on perfecting his invention, thereby filling a huge gap in the home milking machine market; that between flimsy, temperamental hand powered systems and the still expensive scaled down versions of commercial electric systems. This is what happens when a NASCAR car chief and a goat farmer who has tried every system out there put their heads together!

Our milking machine is powered by the smallest electric vacuum pump I've ever seen, has an integrated pressure gauge/pressure relief button for safety, and comes with a foot pedal on/off switch to free up both hands for milking. It will come as a compact unit packed into a carrier, so it can be easily transported. Electrical lines and food grade hoses are long enough to allow for positioning in a customized fashion to accommodate your milking setup, and extension hoses with easy to change connectors will be available. We are going to try to keep the price for the entire system to less than $250.

Our main problem now is naming it, or rather having to stop and pick ourselves up off the floor from laughing every time we come up with another possibility. Options so far include The Milker 500, The Tiny Electric Milking Machine, and The Milk-o-Matic.

Stay tuned for more details and pictures as we make nicer looking prototypes. When it's ready for sale, I'll add a Store tab to our homepage of this website.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Our False Labor Fiasco

Tinkerbell Perched on Doghouse

Tinkerbell Perched on Doghouse

We’re tired, we’re unwashed, we have no babies, but we learned something new. Goats can have false labor. 18 hours worth of it.

Yesterday afternoon, Lisa was reinforcing the lower half of a fence so kids couldn’t walk through it when she noticed an inordinate amount of moaning and groaning going on around her. A quick stroll around the pasture revealed that the first two does starting to bag up, Tinkerbell and Grace, were having contractions. Tinker bell’s were clearly stronger and her ligaments were also pretty mushy, although not gone.

Fencing was dropped, and when Tink finally finished a really long contraction she was coaxed into the kidding pen. Equipment preparations in the barn ensued, texts were sent to friends desperate to see a goat give birth, and Lisa made a mad dash to the house to check due dates. Tink was 1 -2 weeks early, but heck, maybe with three bucks to keep track of Lisa made a mistake. Then the vigil began.

Ann, a friend who has been trying to witness a delivery for a year, soon arrived and stayed for the duration, taking turns sitting in the kidding pen with Tink. During the first few hours no fewer than SEVEN more people came to view the blessed event, either to learn in order to be prepared for their own goats, to instruct children in the wonders of nature, or to bring food to the famished midwives. Left alone at about 11 PM Lisa and Ann decided to put her mother Jessie in with Tink and to continue to monitor by camera from the house.

Until about 8 the next morning, Tink continued to have frequent contractions, and although they were irregular, most were long and clearly uncomfortable. Sometimes she would remain standing, but most of the time she pawed a nest in her bedding and laid down until it finished. In between contractions she would get up, move around, eat, and sleep. We can report this with confidence because while Ann tried mostly unsuccessfully to sleep, Lisa set the alarm for one-hour intervals, which was largely unnecessary because every bleat through the smart phone monitor woke her up anyway. At 2 AM Lisa made a trip to the barn to check for progress in person, check Grace (who had stopped contracting), and swap out Jessie (whose mother’s patience was wearing thin) for Tink’s friend Snowball. No discharge, no expulsion of mucus plug, no nothing except more contractions.

When they staggered out to the barn the next morning Lisa and Ann found Snowball head butting Tink over the small amount of remaining feed and Tink standing at the pen door hollering to be let out. No more contractions, so we let her out and she ran straight to the hay feeder and proceeded to chow down.

As it happened, Lisa had to take our first kid Pinkie to the veterinarian that morning to be disbudded. Taking the opportunity to get a (free) curbside consult while dropping her off, Lisa described the situation and was advised to “go in” and check Tink’s cervix to make sure she wasn’t dilated, which would mean there was a problem. Lisa came home and read more about false labor in goats (12-24 hours of irregular contractions with no evidence of cervical dilation, usually occurring well before a due date); everyone stated that checking the cervix was necessary. Unfortunately by this time Ann had left, but being the true friend that she is, she returned and assisted with the vaginal exam that ended up being performed next to the hay feeder. Hint: warming the Betadine and surgical lubricant in a pail of very warm water went a long way towards gaining Tink’s cooperation. Verdict: cervix still closed. Whew! The only harm done was the loss of a night’s sleep and some embarrassment on Lisa’s part for calling everyone to the barn on a false alarm.

Oh well, at least we’ve had a dry run for the true event in a week or two. One that we will undoubtedly miss entirely.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Helicopter Parenting?

I think I've just seen the goat equivalent of helicopter parenting. It was time to get Sara and Pinkie out of the kidding pen, but Sara refused to go into the intermediate nursery corral, even with Pinkie in it hollering her head off. Knowing how fiercely protective Sara is, I let them out with the other does (no dogs) in the small barn pasture. Once Pinkie was done initially exploring sun, grass, mud, snow, and wind she started bouncing around approaching all the other goats. And one by one Sara walked up and head-butted them all!
I went to the store and when I got back, no surprise, Sara was standing guard at the barn door with Pinkie inside and everyone else outside. This is just what she did last year because obviously the barn is intended to shelter her children and no one else.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our First Kid of 2016!

Our first kid arrived here at TreeStar Farm on January 20th.

We're beginning to think there might be something to this planned breeding of goats and keeping track of dates (as opposed to just running a buck with the girls and saying "yippee" whenever babies arrive). That afternoon Sara wouldn't join the rest of the herd when they moved away from the barn to a nice, tasty, new round bale of hay in the back pasture. Then she had something that looked suspiciously like a contraction. After some quick math on fingers, we put her in the kidding pen and ran inside to check dates. Turns out if she conceived the first day she was with Frankie, today would be Day #150 (her due date)! About an hour later she presented us with our first kid of the season, a solid white blue eyed doeling.

We usually don't name goats unless we know they will be retained, but this one was practically broadcasting what her name should be: Pinkie. Sara is our one unregistered goat, a Saanen, and Pinkie's sire is a Mini Nubian, making her a Mini Snubian (at least in this household).

I'm still saying yippee!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Down Home at TreeStar Farm

This blog is named in honor of my parents, who moved from suburban Detroit to rural Howell, MI in 1977 when they were about the same age I was when I started my farm--mid-50s. They bought 5 acres of land with a huge barn and a 150 year old farmhouse on it, which they proceeded to gut and refurbish, all while putting four children though college. I learned about raising chickens and many other things from their experience.

I was jealous at the time because while I was slogging through college and medical school, they were living my dream. Later I was able to be grateful that I got to share it with them, and to know that my opportunity would come when the time was right.

For about a year Dad put together a newsletter that he sent out periodically to us kids and probably some other relatives. This was pre-internet, so it was typed out, copied, and sent out via snail mail. He called it Down Home and it was a wonderful way to share the daily ups and downs, the joys and problems that went along with rural living. I loved it and was crushed when he stopped putting it out.

Here's to you Mom and Dad.