Monday, December 3, 2012

Crockpot Candy

December Greetings!
My, my, my, lots has happened on the Homestead since my last post, (most of which I don't remember!), the most recent being our trip into town yesterday to see the orthopedic surgeon.  Yup, my husband wrenched his ankle and took a dive down the stairs at work last week. After an initial inconclusive x-ray at the walk-in clinic, the final prognosis from the orthopedic surgeon is another week off of work and six weeks in an orthopedic boot while the tendons and ligaments heal.

Other fun stuff we've done in the past two weeks include:
*Taking down the fish filtration system to allow access to the Pineapple House / Seedling Room

* Built a new water system in the greenhouse
* Took Dixie to the vet

* Made bullets

* Fed honeybees (an ongoing task through the winter)
* Began making holiday gifts

My plan today was to post pictures and a recipe for Crockpot Candy - what I'd REALLY like to do is to post a gift idea each day for the next 10 days or so, but understanding that I have completely overbooked myself, we'll just have to see how that goes. The other glitch, aside from realistic time constraints, is that I have used up all my alotted free web space. Because I am as far from a computer geek as they come, it may take a day or so before I can get this worked out, so today, no pictures. Yesterday I fought with it, spending more time on the computer than was reasonable.  Did you know that if you delete photos (trying to free up space to be able to post blog pictures) from Picasa, an on-line photo editing and storage service, not only are the photos deleted from the service, but also from external hard drives connected to your computer? Right now I'm quietly freaking out.

Oh, another really cool thing we've done here at Homestead Life is to create a new group on Facebook. It's called HOMEMADE HOMESTEAD LIFE, - a place to showcase items, crafts, products and services to redirect a portion of our spending from giant corporations and overseas companies to local artists, tradesmen and craftsman. Do you bake? Make quilts, clean houses? weld? We all give gifts and need things from time to time - especially during this season. I encourage you to come join us to help support and promote one another and finance friends and neighbors.  Look us up and see what you think!

OK, Pictures are back (had to buy extra google space) so without further adieu...


1 16 oz container unsalted dry roasted peanuts
1 16 oz container salted peanuts (can also be dry roasted)
4 oz German Chocolate squares *
12 oz (2 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips
24 oz white chocolate bar *

Place ingredients in crockpot in order listed
Set on low for 2 hours
Stir and spoon onto wax paper
Let cool

* German Chocolate Squares substitute: 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/3 cup sugar, 3 TBS vegetable shortening
* I only use one white chocolate bar
* This year I made the mistake of cooking on high instead of low. To help the chocolate melt I added about 1/2 cup peanut butter to the mix. OMG'sh it was wonderful!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

(the BEST) Banana Bread Recipe

I know you probably have your own favorite banana bread recipe, most bakers do and will generally defend theirs as being the best, but that's only because they haven't tried this one yet.
Each year, after volunteering at the Ironman triathlon, (you can read about that HERE ) we are blessed with an overabundance of bananas. Not wanting them to go to waste I spend the next few days baking loaves of bread and trays and trays of muffins. I did this while the kids homeschooled around it all.

I had never even thought of freezing them - DUH! This year I made bread, muffins and also added dehydrated chips and Nana Puddin (I so dislike that name!) to the list. Here's the BEST Banana Bread Recipe I've found so far:


1 1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonaise
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup mashed banana (2-3 bananas)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine:                                       In  Another Bowl Mix Together:
Flours                                                Mayonnaise
Baking soda                                       Sugar
Salt                                                    Bananas
set aside

Combine all  ingredients and pour into a greased and floured bread pan or muffin tin
Bake at 350 degrees
1 hour - bread
20 minutes - muffins

 Simple, easy. moist and delicious! My kind of recipe!

PS I just started  a Facebook group called HOMEMADE HOMESTEAD LIFE.  It's a place where members can post things that they make, services they offer or go to get creative ideas and gifts. My hope is to encourage one another to buy locally or from small businesses and indiviuals rather than huge congolerates. Come join us and let's turn this economy around!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crappy Things Happen on the Homestead Too

I don't want to write this. I'm only doing it because sometimes it sounds like everything is always wonderful here, and for the most part it is. New life abounds. Baby chicks peeping, beautiful baby goats being born, the garden growing new plants, buildings being constructed, horses contentedly munching hay, attempts being made to one day have a calf and milking cow on the farm... Life is beautiful...almost always. But as we all know, --it happens. It's never all roses, peace, love and happiness. There's also pain, heartache and sorrow. That's the way life is.  That's the way Homestead Life is too.

   Tuesday afternoon, around 1:00, Brindle had twin bucklings. I knew the previous day that she was ready to kid so I moved her into the birthing pen to let her get settled. I kept a close eye on her but walked away for a few minutes and missed the birth of the first baby. He was licked clean and almost dry when I got back, nice and big and healthy. There was no placenta on the ground so I assumed another was still coming. A few minutes later she birthed baby number two.

Wow! I'm in awe. It's such an amazing experience.  I've only watched two other births on the farm. Generally it happens so quickly and quietly that, for the most part, they go unnoticed. Many kids are born at night and are there to greet us first thing in the morning, but lately I've been keeping track of birthing dates and indicative signs so I'm becoming more aware and watchful. Though his mom would have, I immediately pulled the sticky, thin placental cover off the newborn's face so he could breath right away, and then his mom, Brindle, cleaned him up. I stayed with the two babies and made sure they were both nursing and that their mom was lactating, and all seemed fine.

  Three years ago, two dogs came onto our property during the night and began killing our goats. That's a another blog I have yet to write, but during this rampage, Brindle's ears were torn off and she suffered other massive wounds, one of which damaged her milk bag and teats. A teat canal was severed leaving her with only one working teat to nurse her babies, but I assumed and noticed that they both were taking turns suckling so I wasn't concerned.

To be perfectly honest with you, my initial reaction when I saw that they were both boys was disappointment. Billy goats are undesirable in that they are much more difficult to sell.  We have 8 bucks from this past spring that we have yet to sell and it's becoming critical that we do. They're beautiful, healthy, dehorned, bottle raised and friendly goats, but they cost quite a bit to feed and we have no need for them here on our farm.  We already have three breeders to keep our bloodlines pure, and, as endearing and sweet as they are, it's time for them to go! I'm afraid we'll have to take them to auction very soon.  I'm not sure why I have such a dislike for livestock auctions - I've never even been to one, but I would never buy an animal from an auction, and I dread having to bring my hand raised babies to one. Which is kind of funny because,  to be grotesquely honest with you, when I saw that the two new kids were both boys I was reminded of an article I read, in a  Homesteading How To Encyclopedia, written by a woman who stated that becuse boy goats were so undesirable on a farm, the best thing to do would be to euthanize them immediately after birth. She was quite graphic in her details which I won't go into, but for a (very) brief second the thought crossed my mind. Perhaps in a hard-core, survivalist world this would be a viable option, but upon returning a little later in the day and spending time with these snuggly tiny newborn kids, I was smitten and dismissed this cruel idea instantly. Besides, there was the ethical question of how wrong is it to purposefully breed animals to obtain a desired sex and kill the other? Nope, couldn't do it. Now, on the other hand, I am perfectly fine with the idea of killing and butchering a full grown male goat to eat,  but I couldn't purposely take the life of an infant unless it was a mercy killing. And even in that situation, Bob would have to do it.

   Yesterday, Wednesday afternoon, my friend Kira came over and we spent some time holding and loving on the babies.

 I checked their mom again and began to be a little concerned that Brindle was not producing enough milk to sustain both babies so I decided that I would begin supplemental bottle feeding the next day.  My husband had brought all that day's milk in to town to sell so I planned to milk in the morning and bring the fresh, warm milk to feed the boys. Because Brindle would not be producing enough milk to warrant my milking her, it would behoove us both to share the feeding responsibility. With any other nanny goat we would typically leave the babies on the mom for the first day or so and then separate them if we were going to bottle feed. The sooner we take the babies away the less traumatic it is for everyone. With the last few kiddings I had decided that bottle feeding was just too time consuming so we left the babies with the moms all day and then separated them at night.  That way I could milk the nannies first thing in the morning, and have milk for us to drink and make cheese, and yet there was still plenty for the babies to suckle all day long.  What I found though, was that the kids who stayed with and nursed on their moms wound up becoming skiddish and shy, while all the bottle fed babies were friendly and sweet and desired human attention, making them much more charming and easy to sell. I'll probably re-think the bottle feeding decision.

This morning before leaving for work, while I was with Dixie, our Belgian draft horse, soaking her foot, Bob took a bottle over to feed the babies. He found that they had both died during the night. I was absolutely shocked and couldn't believe that it could be so! Surely he was mistaken. Could it possibly happen that fast? How could they die so fast? They were fine last night. I had tucked them away in a warm place with their mom, knowing I would feed them in the morning.  I ran over and tried to will them to life thinking maybe it wasn't too late.  They hadn't been gone long. Bob thinks they starved to death. I'm heartbroken.  Was there something I could have done when I first got up two hours earlier? It was dark outside and they were quiet when I finished milking at 5:00am so I assumed they were sleeping, and I waited for Bob to go out with me.  Maybe if I had started feeding them yesterday... Self blame - it's not a good thing and it can't change anything.

I learned a painful lesson today, that newborn babies need food, and sufficient amounts right away. I would have never thought death from starvation could happen so quickly. I know now for next time.  Thankfully it won't be for several more months.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In The Past 10 Days...

Have you ever been so overwhelmed that you just shut down? That's where I'm at right now. Self-imposed, of course, but I haven't been able to pull it together since the Ironman. The other night my husband came home from work and there were about 5 loads of unfolded laundry on the chair, 2 cases of bananas, 1 case of oranges, grapes, boxes of cups, football paraphanalia, honey boxes stacked, waiting to be spun, banana bread in the oven, 2 dehydrators running, soap curing on the kitchen counters, and every other table top or flat surface piled high with soap wrapping material: scrapbook papers, scissors, ribbons, tape, stickers, cellophane...  When he walked in the door I was sitting at the computer. I smiled sweetly and said, "Hi honey, leave me alone I'm playing Spider Solitaire." Bob has a great sense of humor and he gets me. We both looked at each other and started to laugh. But that's how I felt. Leave it alone and maybe it will go away while I pretend it's not there.

Since Ironman, here are some of the things we've been doing around the Homestead:

Banana Breads and Muffins
Dehydrated Banana Chips

Pineapple House Addition
New Peeps
OH NO! Not again!
Loaded a total of 270 bales!
Made and debuted my homemade goat milk soaps
In individual homemade packaging
And many other variuos assorted things that I have absolutely no recollectioon of unless I take a picture! The holidays are quickly approaching which is weighing heavily on my mind because, as if all this is not enough, I've decided that this year I will not only make all our holiday cards, but any gift that I give as well. Again, self-imposed (with a little help from our lack of finances!)
The good news is, I'm coming back to life and starting to dig out. The bananas are gone - every one of them used, the kitchen table is visible, the laundry is slowly receeding, the pineapples are in their new digs (but have yet to be planted in the ground), Dixie is going to the vet for an X-ray on Friday, the family holiday card prototype is made and I have Christmas music playing to set the mood. I'm coming out of this slump.

But then yesterday...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Florida Ironman 2012

For the past 5 years or so we've been in charge of a Run Station for the Florida Ironman, typically held the first Saturday in November.  If you're not familiar with Ironman, it is an incredible athletic event in which 2500 men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes swim in the open Gulf waters 2.4 miles, then hop on bicycles and ride 112 miles after which they run a marathon - 26.2 miles. Our Boy Scout Troop mans a Run Aid Station 3 miles from the finish line, handing out water, poweraid, cola, ice, fruit and carbohydrate snacks, while cheering on these amazing athletes. It is absolutely an inspiring event to be a part of, but it entails a lot of work as well and makes for a very long, exhausting day!
  We begin setting up our Run Station at 9:00am. We share a moving truck with another station, filled with tables, cases of water, electrolyte drinks, banana, oranges, grapes, power bars, first aid kits, broth, trash cans, liners, sponges and drinking cups, which we work together to unload. Most years, at this same time, the ice truck arrives. In the past we would unload hundreds of pounds of bagged ice by hand bucket brigade style, but more recently they've begun to use a motorized lift car to move a pallet of ice at a time.

We bring Boy Scout dining flies - large canopies to cover our tables and provide some shade, and then we set up our Aid station.
 The athletes hit the water at 7:00am and we expect our first runner to pass by us at approximately 1:30. He generally leads the pack by 20-30 minutes. This is the first runner and winner of Ironman 2012..

Once the athletes begin arriving it gets crazy! For the next 5 or 6 hours we pass out drinks as fast as we can! The temperature was quite warm this race - in the 80's, so a good part of the water was used to douse their bodies to help them cool down as well as to drink. I know our volunteers went home soaked also - water, powerade and cups fly everywhere!
  This year we had a skeleton crew. We couldn't have done it without one of them, and they were the best! The Ironman organization reccommends that we have 50 volunteers on hand at the Aid station throughout the day, but with our scout troop, sometimes it's hard to judge how many will actually show up.  This race we had about twenty helpers during the entire 16 hours or so from setup to breakdown. Some came and went but the majority of our volunteers were there for the duration.
One of the most challanging and yet amusing aspects of the race is the contest for the best Aid Station. There is a $750. prize at stake for the Run Station with the best theme and who keeps their station cleanest and I'm determined to win it for our troop every year. And so we have. Some of our themes throughout the years have been:

Scout Troop 321
M*A*S*H Unit 321
Clown School 321
Santa's Workshop 321
This year we almost didn't participate. I was feeling overwhelmed and unable to come up with an easy, (and cheap) recognizable theme, and honestly didn't want the responsibility this year, but late in the game, one of our scout dads came up with a great idea to have a tailgate party. He sold it to me and I bit. I have no idea how he possibly convinced me - I think I've seen ONE football game in my entire life, have never been to a tailgate party, and don't even know the names of our college and state teams. I don't even know if there is a state football team! When it comes to sports I am totally clueless, so obviously I had some great help!  I found a few team shirts at Goodwill - my go-to store for themed attire, my daughter painted posters, my son's school loaned us footballs and jerseys, and we brought a huge grill and had burgers, hot dogs and chicken cooking all day, which probably drove the runners crazy! But I think the winning aspect of our station, and we DID win, was that we had all the scores posted for all the football games being played that day. AND, we had a TV airing the Florida / Alabama game that night.  I was shocked to see how many runners either stopped to watch the game or called out for other team scores. Here they were, competeing in the most arduuous physical race of all, three miles from the finish line (or 13 - they run the circuit twice), after having already swam and biked, yet they could not only still talk, which I find awesome in itself, but that they're such fans of a particular football team that they're willing to stop their race to watch. Unbelievable!
This was our Run Station this year:

A huge thank-you to those of you who came out to support our troop and the athletes!  And honestly, as much fun as it is to dress up, decorate and win the prize, the real thrill of the day is being there for the runners - handing them drinks, cheering them on, keeping the area picked up so they don't have to stumble through the drinking cups they drop. These hard core men and women are amazing. They have come so far and trained and subjected their bodies to the limit of physical exertion and, when they arrive at our Run Station, they are almost within sight of the finish - only a mere three miles more to go.  So many of them are so thankful and express it to us along their way. They are polite and take the time to say please and thank-you. These athletes come from all over the world and from all walks of life, and as tired and sore as I am at the end of  the day handing out drinks for 9 or so hours, I can't begin to imagine how they must feel at the end of the race - or the next morning. They truly are Ironmen.

There was one story this year that deserves more honor than just a mention here on this blog, and it was one that occurred while I wasn't there:

It was after 11pm when we saw the vehicle with the flashing lights signaling the last runner. She came by and didn't want anything (only to finish within the time limit) so we packed up our gear, loaded the truck and prepared to take it back to the warehouse to unload. Bob would drive the truck and I would follow to bring him back to the run station to pick up our second vehicle and passengers who would stay until we returned.  Just as we were leaving, another volunteer drove up to inform us that there was still one more runner on the course and would be arriving shortly. We had already packed everything for the night, but it was decided that Bob and I would leave as planned and those staying behind would put together something for the final runner. It was an "unofficial" runner - one who would not be able to make the finish line in the allotted time, yet who chose to continue the race regardless. While we were gone, this athlete made it to our station and then he collapsed. He had just celebrated his 70th birthday 3 days ago and was running his very last Ironman. He had come this far but was no longer able to continue due to sheer exhaustion. Thankfully one of our men at the station was a CPR instructor and there to assist if necessary. An ambulance was called and the very last athlete on the course was taken away for medical attention. To think that he had made it that far and was so close to completing the race was heartbreaking.
The next day Bob and I slept late and spent most of the remainder of the day working out the aches and pains as we kept busy on the farm, thinking of those Ironmen and women and how they must feel today!  That evening we were treated to a wonderful dinner outdoors for all the volunteers, and our Run Station was  awarded the first place prize, which was an absolute thrill, but the very best part of the night was the fact that, sitting at the table next to ours, was the 70 year young athlete who had collapsed the night before so close to the finish line, who had the determination and fortitude to compete in this intense test of physical strength and mental will, even for much, much younger men. And yet, here he was, surrounded by his family, happy and smiling - one of the few racers present to honor the volunteers.
In my opinion, this man was the winner of  the race!

I happened to go online this morning and saw that Ironman 2013 sold out in record time - ONE MINUTE!  Just wait until they see our theme for next year!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Virginia Snow

I hate cold weather. I'm not particularly fond of really hot temperatures either, but I can tolerate the heat better than I can the cold.

Years ago our travels took us to Virginia and I was completely thrilled with the prospect of experiencing winter and the possibility of snow with my children. 
Ah, the sweet memories I had of my childhood winters in N.J.; the glorious early morning sound of the fire station whistle blast signaling school closure due to snow, opening the drapes to a sparkling, pristine carpet of white, racing across the street to go sleigh riding with my best friend Sue, ice skating at night, snowball fights, forts and snowmen, steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows.... deep sigh.
I was so excited I could hardly wait.

  We were renting a tiny two bedroom house in the woods while we looked for our own piece of property or farm when we experienced our first Virginia snow.

 It was glorious! Bob built the kids homemade sleds and we spent hours playing in the winter wonderland.

But, it wasn't long before the fun ended and the real cold began. When we got our first $300. electric bill we realized that there was only baseboard heat in our little shack and no insulation on the house, so we decided to turn off the heat. Instead, we used a  catalytic heater attached to the top of a propane cylinder to warm ourselves. It was a fine line between carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia and it was then that I decided that I no longer liked the cold.
Now, this is how I see myself in the cold:

And this is one of the reasons why today we live in Florida.
Nevertheless, this morning's temperatures were in the low 40's with north winds blowing, chilling down the house, and tonight is expected to drop to the mid to low 30's, so I lit the first fire of the season.

Don't you love the smell of a wood fire burning?!
As lovely as our fireplace is, I've found that the warm air does not circulate very well.  I spent too much of the day camped out right next to it last winter so this year we've decided to warm the rest of the house with this....

The weather forecast is calling for a warming trend for the rest of this week, bringing our temperatures back to near 80 degrees by the weekend. Good. That will give Bob time to finish building the pineapple house and cut a hole in the ceiling and roof of our home to set up the new little cast iron, wood burning stove in time for the next cold front.
Hopefully, it will also give us nice, warm weather for our all-day Ironman Run Station on Saturday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This is Wrong!

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I started another blog. On dial up internet. Understandably, it didn't last long. Today I was reminded of that blog and I'm stealing an entry because it was too good to pass up - especially at this time of year.

“This is wrong!”  That’s what my husband says. The boys and I are rolling on the floor laughing! Here’s how it begins:   

     And this is how it ends....

I just couldn't resist. I have a feeling our Boy Scout troop will get a real kick out of this!

Here's how to make it:


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (12 ounce) package vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 3 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 ounce) package tootsie rolls


  1. Prepare cake mixes and bake according to package directions (any size pan).
  2. Prepare pudding according to package directions and chill until ready to assemble.
  3. Crumble sandwich cookies in small batches in a food processor, scraping often. Set aside all but 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup add a few drops of green food coloring and mix.
  4. When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble them into a large bowl. Toss with 1/2 of the  cookie crumbs, and the chilled pudding. You probably won’t need all of the pudding, you want the cake to be just moist, not soggy.
  5. Line kitty litter box with the kitty litter liner. Put cake mixture into box.
  6. Put half of the unwrapped tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until softened. Shape the ends so that they are no longer blunt, and curve the tootsie rolls slightly. Bury tootsie rolls randomly in the cake and sprinkle with half of the remaining cookie crumbs. Sprinkle a small amount of the green colored cookie crumbs lightly over the top.
  7. Heat 3 or 4 of the tootsie rolls in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle lightly with some of the green cookie crumbs. Heat the remaining tootsie rolls until pliable and shape as before. Spread all but one randomly over top of cake mixture. Sprinkle with any remaining cookie crumbs. Hang the remaining tootsie roll over side of litter box and sprinkle with a few green cookie crumbs. Serve with the pooper scooper for a gross Halloween dessert.
As if the cake weren't enough, my son made another snack tray to go with it.

 EEWWW!  (Peanut Butter, mini marshmallows and popsicle sticks)

As you can see, the Kitty Litter Cake was a hit!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cooler Weather Coming!

Except for an unusual cold spell a week ago, for a while now our temperatures here in Florida have been in the 80's during the day and in the high 50's /60's during the night which is pretty typical for this time of year, though I do have memories of many a balmy, hot end of October. This is lovely! I've been spending time outdoors gardening, and yesterday I went riding with my daughter- it was her first time riding with me and we had a great time together -  except for the brief time that Dixie unexpectedly turned tail and took off for home with Jessica hanging on!  We switched horses back at the barn and everything went well after that.
  This morning I pulled up the weather and saw that the projected forecast for Sunday night is a low of  41 degrees. BBRR. Not pleasant for pineapples! Pineapples grow best in temperatures between 65 and 95. Though they can survive a freeze, temperatures below 40  can cause their leaves to become significantly damaged, resulting in poor growth or dying off altogether. I looked at the forecast again and then I noticed that the low for Monday night is said to be 32 DEGREES!  Oh my gosh, that's FREEZING! Do you know what that means?? That means that Bob is going to be a busy boy today and tomorrow!  It means that he has to build the entire "pineapplehouse" before the freeze prediction.  This is what it looks like right now:

Hopefully, by Sunday night it will have a whole new look!  It also means that I'm going to be busy planting all the pineapples in the ground. It seems silly to drag all the pots of plants into the new addition without permanently planting them.  Not to mention that the %#^@* chickens discovered the fruit this past week and ate the entire pineapple, skin and all!  I came home to find the top of  a pineapple plant lying in the driveway. Initially I thought a chicken must have uprooted a new transplant, but then I saw that the fruit had been broken off the stalk and every part, save the very top had been devoured -and  it was the biggest pineapple we'd grown yet. As I looked around I saw another and another... The dang chickens had eaten every one. Some were larger than this:

So now it's even more imperative that we house all our plants - not only to keep them from freezing, but to keep them safe from the chickens!  Sometimes the cost of having free-range chickens is more than the price of the eggs!
I'm off now, to feed the billies, water gardens and trees and begin to prepare for frost.
I'm also thinking of friends and family in the Northeast as Hurricane Sandy heads their way. 

Be Safe. Be Prepared.

Oh, and speaking of cooler weather coming... Yesterday, while Jess and I were out riding we came upon a cleanup crew in the park cutting up and stacking downed trees. As we primarily use our fireplace to heat our home in winter I asked what they planned to do with the wood. Back from our ride an hour later, the two of us loaded the pile into our truck.  Ah, the favor of God!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Goat Day!

What a ride! Just like a mechanical bull: Get On, Turn On and HANG ON!

This past Saturday was Goat Day in NW Florida. It was our first experience with this annual festival put on by the local Rotary Club, and until the previous Monday, we had no idea that we would even be involved, so you can imagine what a week of preparation it was!

  It all began over a year ago when a friend suggested we bring our goats to Goat Day. She said that the goats that were there the previous year were few and left much to be desired. She said it was very disappointing and thought that our goats would be a fabulous addition.  Later, another friend mentioned that she too, had been to Goat Day and had to ask someone, "Where are the goats?" That year there were none.  My understanding is, that for the past 20 years there has been a celebrated Goat Day Festival in Blountstown, Florida, but actual real-life goats have seldom been on display for this event.  I put the idea on the back burner and left it there for quite some time.

  This year, two weeks before Goat Day,  I began to try to contact the Rotary Club to find out more information - yes, I had waited until the very last minute, as is typical, but eventually I had the scoop and we were invited to bring our flock and participate in the festivities. Having never attended this celebration before, I had no idea what to expect, so the day before the show Bob and I went to the fairgrounds to see where we would be located and how best to prepare. I had envisioned a few small pens crammed up against bandstand bleachers, as we had been told that we would be right next to the stage, so I was more than pleasantly surprised with what we found when we arrived.  The setup was way beyond our expectations! The large, 40ft X 20ft tent was being set up, center-stage, giving us plenty of attention and shade throughout the day, and shortly thereafter a crew of workers came to build the goat pens to our specifications.  We had them put together three pens: a large area for a petting zoo, and two smaller areas for the milking goats and the sale bucklings. Those were located at the back of the tent so that towards the front we could pass out samples of fresh, cold milk, delicious homemade chevre cheese and goat milk soap, a hobby I've just recently become enamored with.

The day before the show was a blur. Bob had already worked a 40 hour week outside of the farm, and now it was a race to build a portable, yet sturdy milking stand, shop for last minute necessary items, procure and load the horse trailer and pickup truck with all the necessary equipment: tables, chairs,  feed troughs, hay, milking machine, buckets, hoses, power cords, tools (to complete unfinished jobs), display items, ice chests, food stuffs, etc. etc. We were up until 10:30 or so packing and preparing and were not finished when we finally called it a day and collapsed, exhausted.  The next morning we were up at 2:30am to slug down a quick cup of coffee and finish loading last minute items and goats.  Thankfully a good friend came to help and stayed throughout the day. Another friend joined us at the park, and I'm telling you, we couldn't have done it without them!  The goats loaded relatively easily, we aired up the trailer tires and were on the road by 6:00.

  This was the first time we'd ever taken our animals off the farm.  It was our first public show and our first visit to Goat Day, so we had no idea what to expect. The doors opened at 8:00 and the crowds grew as the day progressed. It was a combination Goat Day and Pioneer Day with a small 4H show and Horse Drill Team exposition and lots of vendors! Unfortunately, we were kept so busy there was no time to walk about and see the rest of the park and exhibits. I saw only the inside of our tent. I would have liked to explore and take pictures of the different events.  Next year we'll be better prepared.

 I thank God for our helpers!
Crystal met us at the fairgrounds and immediately got to work setting up tables, filling feed bins, and doing anything else she could to help.

 She was superb at greeting guests and offering samples of goat milk and cheese.  Most of the visitors to our booth had never tasted either and were a bit hesitant to try, but a sweet smile and a little encouragement from Crystal, and most all walked away with a whole new outlook and appreciation for these delicious and wholesome foods!

Darby saved us and showed up at our house at 3:30 am to help load the truck and entice the goats into the trailer. We brought approx. 25 goats with us; a variety of Nubian and Saanen milk goats, 7 month old Nubian bucklings, and small Nigerian Pygmy Goats perfect for the petting zoo.

Once the vehicles were unloaded, the goats settled in their pens and the booth was set up she arranged a beautiful display of handmade goat milk soaps to sell. Several months ago Darby helped me to achieve a longstanding dream of learning to make soap. I had researched, read, and watched videos, but she gave me the hands-on confidence I needed to begin, and now it's become a passion of mine.

Darby stayed the whole day, meeting and greeting, and handling wonderfully a task I've found I'm not very gifted at - selling the soaps.

Bob was the entertainer (and builder, and brawn, and mastermind...) Two days before this affair he began building a heavy duty milking stand so that we could give milking demonstrations throughout the day. Once the trucks were unloaded, the goats were penned and we three girls were arranging everything, Bob set to work running electricity and hoses, and then finished the construction of the stand. It was definitely last minute, but perfect timing!
 He held the major jobs of overseeing the children in the petting area, and setting up and administrating the milking game -

A race to see who could milk their little cups full the fastest! Too fun! The kids loved it!

At 1:00 I gave a soapmaking demonstration. I cut the mixing time in half to hold interest so the soap was quite soupy and messy later during transport, but after a night in the fridge I was quite surprised to find that it turned out perfectly!
I also milked goats periodically. I was relieved to find that even with all the newness and commotion of  the fair - with  gospel music groups playing on the bandstand just behind us and a continual wave of people coming and going, not to mention a brand new milking stand that they'd never been up on, my milkers did just fine and jumped right up to be milked - and get their pelletized feed, which they love!  I was also a little concerned that they might not be as anxious to be fed on the stand since they been offered handfuls of feed all day long.

Truly, that was the hit of the day -  the petting zoo where children and parents could go in and interact with the goats.  Bob was there to oversee and be sure no ears were pulled, no  toes were stepped on, nor any of the goats terrorized by the little darlings. I think the goats enjoyed the attention and had as much fun as the kids did!

Goat Day ended at 4:00.  It had been a beautiful, sunny, fall day - a complete success!  We met lots of wonderful people, shared over 9 gallons of  milk and many containers of cheese, sold a good amount of soap, passed out blog cards, and brought smiles to the faces of  a multitude of children.
We gave it our all and we were whipped when it was over!
  My only regret was not taking more pictures.  There were a few things we'd do differently, but it was a great experience and now we'll be better prepared to do it up even bigger NEXT YEAR!

If you happened to be there this year I'd love to hear from you, and even if you didn't, we appreciate your comments, suggestions and ideas.