Mona and Bessie Come Home

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know that I used to milk Mona – and Bessie was but a babe when I first met her. They are both in the book and Mona graces the cover. That picture of me milking looking all crazed and irritated with wrinkle lines on my forehead? Those wrinkle lines were well deserved because Mona is one tough cookie and my goal there was to get the picture taken before she laid down on the milk stand. So Mona and I go way back.

It was my intent at my little house in the city to buy Mona and Bessie because my friend who owned them needed to sell them. Mona was loud and upset her neighbor and that upset my friend. I realized I couldn’t have Mona at my house upsetting MY neighbors and once I had fallen in love with goats there was no looking back for me. So move I did but unfortunately the house transaction did not go through before Mona and Bessie needed to leave so they went to live with another family on the Peninsula.

I was heartbroken, and so was my friend but life went on. Shortly after we moved here my friend emailed me that Mary was in Greenwood distressing neighbors there so I went and rescued her. And then I went and got another goat briefly to keep Mary company but that goat was not so friendly and she and my son had an altercation so she went back to her former owner and I got Mary’s little wether Starr to keep her company.

Then I got an email that Val (who is Bessie’s sister) and Bell’s were living in Yakima and the lady needed to get rid of them by the weekend so I drove over to Yakima and brought them back. Suddenly no goats had become two goats and two goats had become four goats. Now four goats have become six goats. The goats seem to be increasing in numbers around here nearly as fast as the rabbits. Just wait until spring when each goat has two babies…

It’s been freezing here at night lately, and I’ve had some stern talks with myself when the alarm goes off in the morning. The waters are frozen solid and need to be thawed which entails bringing each one inside the house and running it under warm water. It’s quite a distance from the rabbitry and the poultry yard to the house with an armful of ice blocks. Today the fog never lifted so I could just make out the first ring of trees of the surrounding forest, and the tops of the tallest ones in the cloud cover. It’s quite amazing to live in a place where it can sometimes feel as if you are the only one around.


The chickens mainly stand around with their heads sucked into their bodies like turtles, trying to stay warm.


What was a box of fuzzy day old chicks a matter of weeks ago have become half-grown birds. In the cold they huddle together under the heat lamp, not growing or eating much. Which is why most people don’t start meat birds in October. But this is my year of epic mistakes and experiments. Sooner or later something is bound to be a wild success. I just haven’t hit it right yet.


One other epic failure. While I was in Spokane, my hastily made hoop houses blew over in the wind and the ducks found the winter brassica starts that I got from Cascadian Edibles. All the cabbage and broccoli that was going to be our winter and early spring meals nibbled down to just the cover crop seeds I had scattered.

All the well made plans I had for getting the orchard and garden done this fall, waylayed by kitten-induced bursitis. I’m still hopeful I’ll get the orchard in before Christmas. The garden will just have to wait. In the meantime I’ve got some soft goat ears to nuzzle.

16 Responses to Mona and Bessie Come Home

  1. Thanks for rescuing my goat loves! It’s amazing how three of the goats I loved ended up right in Annette’s farm! We can all see each other again! I do miss having them in my own back yard but this is the next best thing! Welcome home Bessie, and Mona and happy reunion with your sister Val, Bessie!
    Terrie

    • Annette Cottrell

      Terrie did I tell you Val and Bessie stand forever on either side of the fence touching horns? It’s so sweet. I can’t wait until they are no longer quarantined and then they can spend a month realizing that Mona is in charge of everyone and THEN they can all get along as one big happy herd. Goats just love a herd. And I haven’t heard a peep out of either of them yet. It’s amazing how one or two goats can be so loud yet six can be so quiet!

  2. How sweet that the goat family is back united. Sorry about the mishap with the grow tunnel crops. Start some more indoors under lights around the first part of January so they can go into the covered beds in late February to get a jump on spring crops. If you keep the beds covered the soil should remain a few degrees warmer than the unprotected beds and the plants have a good chance of growing and thriving in the protected conditions – even if they did not get the fall start you were hoping for.

    • Annette Cottrell

      Laura thanks for the sage garden advice! I’m just thankful that there is a farm not too far from here that has a winter CSA. I tried to buy veggies at the store and WOW are they bereft! I think I’ll go put an armful of hay on the soil inside the beds to really get them going. xo!

  3. One of my goats ate all of my winter cabbage earlier this fall, so I feel your pain. The only positive was that one of the plants made little, seedling-like shoots from the chewed up base. I transplanted them and have hopes that they will be my newly discoverd perennial broccoli. But this may be a bit pie in the sky, as they look pretty scrawny and tough right now.

    How many of your ladies will be kidding? And at some point, will you break down an get a milking machine?

    • Annette Cottrell

      Sarah right now I have two bred and need to do bloodwork on Mona and Bessie before I can breed them. I plan to breed at least them and was planning to breed Mary but that may have changed now. So I guess I’m changing my mind day to day. The thought of milking four goats is daunting! But then the kicker is getting them done and the other animal chores and inside in time to make lunch and breakfast and get #1 off to school. Fewer milkers sounds better all the time…

  4. Keep your chin up, there’s a lot to be thankful for this year. I go to sleep every night rereading my favorite sections of your book. I recommend it to everyone I meet. :-)

    • Annette Cottrell

      Angela you have no idea how much that means to me! Thank you so much. I try not to check the Amazon reviews (which drive placement and rankings) but it’s hard not to.

  5. Annette,
    I remember when I used to raise birds I kept two sets of water dishes for them. I kept one set where they would get some heat and just exchanged them with the frozen ones.Thawing water dishes is no fun!

    • Annette Cottrell

      Hi Larry, That is what I do for the goats and the chicken water is not such a big deal since I put it in the coop with them at night. The rabbits, however, take forever! So many little tiny water bottles to carry and swap out. It makes me grumpy. Today it was above freezing and wow what a difference in my attitude. The next 10 days though it will freeze solid. Crumbcake. That’s all I have to say.

  6. I have followed you for quite a while now and am just so inspired by what you are doing. My early Christmas present from Mother-in-law arrived in the mail from Amazon yesterday, your Urban Farm Handbook. I have learned so much already in just the first 3 chapters! I realize that your book was mostly written for those of you in the Northwest, which I’m not; but I still wanted it because of all the other useful information in there. The book is awesome and funny! I just read about the food trip towards Monroe that ended up being a ‘pick up the chicks and feed’ trip. Sounds like something I would do. Question for you. Do you have honey bees? Is it hard? Is it worth it? Well I guess that was more than one question. I am trying to convince my husband to let us get some honey bees, however he is quite adamantly against it at the moment. Great Book/Great Site. Keep up the good work. I can’t wait to start getting connected with any type of urban farmers in my area and start doing produce buys. Thanks.
    Debby

    • Annette Cottrell

      Debby – thanks for your kind comment, I really needed it this week!! I tried to write it as a “placeless” resource and not just a regional resource, although the gardening advice is certainly for my area and I would have no clue how to garden in really cold, warm or dry climates.

      I do not have honey bees here yet but I’m getting them this spring, funds permitting. I did have a hive installed on my neighbors property at the last house because my husband also said no (but there are many ways to get to yes, right?)

      I have been bartering for backyard honey and my husband continuously comments on how good it is so that is the first step – acknowledgement that this backyard food is different then what you can buy. The next step is showing them that it is economically feasible and not as time consuming as they think it will be. This has been my so far successful strategy for adding to our backyard foodshed. Good luck working on him!!

  7. This time of year I bring the chicken waterers into the garage at night. They have never frozen when in the garage overnight. Then first thing in the morning I run them out to the chicken yard. This takes far less time than trying to defrost them. When the weather gets extra cold I bring out a hot tea kettle and poor hot water in the brim of the waterer, and then I put some hot water and some feed into a shallow pan to make them a hot cereal. They love it.

    Congrats on the goaties! I’ve only had goat milk once and it was terrible… :( Although I recently had a goat cheese that was wonderful so I’m thinking that it all depends on how they are raised and what they eat. So I want to try it again. I would also LOVE to try sheep milk… Call me crazy, but I keep having dreams of me owning and milking sheep… This is really strange because I use to muck out stalls to afford my horse growing up and they had sheep and I never liked taking care of them… Didn’t have much good experiences with sheep except when I could bottle feed the babies. :) So, the idea of having 3 sheep in my dreams sometimes is almost like a nightmare. :)

    Happy Farming! You are such a great inspiration. Remember what you see as a failure to me is a victory. I don’t have rabbits, ducks, goats, or meat birds. I didn’t get my cover crop in this year. I only have two apple trees. I am sure you get frustrated, but you are leaps and bounds above me. Our minds can always do more than our bodies can keep up with. It’s important to give thanks and appreciate what you have. I know that you do give thanks and appreciate what you have because you say that all the time. Just remember that an oak tree must first be a sapling. :)

    • Annette Cottrell

      Hi Waggie! It’s the rabbit waters that wow take forever and are hard to juggle. Now I see why people just raise meat birds and bunnies in the spring, summer and fall! I have two waters for the meat birds, one for the new pullets, one for the turkeys, one for the chickens and six for bunnies so that’s a lot of trips back and forth! I BET they’d love some hot cereal! I’m sure eventually I will settle on fewer varieties of animals for simplicities sake but right now I’m just seeing what I like and what works in the garden and for the freezer. I love the turkeys, I love the cayuga ducks and I love the goats. Rabbits are easy to raise and easy to process but emotionally the toughest. So we’ll see what happens…

      The goat milk I have tastes so much like cows milk if I didn’t tell you I bet you wouldn’t know! As it ages it gets more flavor and that is where it shines in cheese. It does depend what they eat. The milk is even milder now that they are on alfalfa and less browse. I’ve toyed with the idea of adding sheep too because lamb is so good and I’d love the wool! I looked at angora sheep so maybe once I get the flock stabilized I’ll just do that. Or switch to angora rabbits…something for knitting.

      I love your sapling analogy but right now I’m feeling more like an acorn! Thanks for your kind words!!

  8. Don’t feel too bad about the cabbage and broccoli, we all have our mishaps! I just lost two beautiful Carmello tomato vines full of buds because I foolishly thought the thin plastic I covered them with would be sufficient to protect them from 27 degree weather. At least your brassica (brassici ?) nourished the goats:)

    • Annette Cottrell

      I think I would feel better if it actually were the goats but it was the ducks, and probably the runner ducks who seem to cause all the trouble. The skinniest ones who lay the smallest eggs and are the most annoying. Sadly it will be the cayugas I lose when the racoon comes back or the hawks discover them because the cayugas are the slowest, most laid back and coolest ducks ever.

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