|Madi and Lilly|
She's a homeschooling student in the seventh grade, but she has already accomplished as much, if not more than most adults.
She makes cheese, of course:
We love making mozzarella, muenster, cheddar, chevre, and farmstead. We like to add our own herbs to some of the cheese from my brother's garden, especially basil. One of my favorite things is when my mom and I make the fresh mozzarella, slice it, coat it with our own Italian breading, fry it a bit in olive oil and then eat it! Yum! One of my favorites! Scrump-dill-ie-ish-ous!
She also spins yarn and weaves, breeds rabbits, cans jams and jellies and raises her own herd of goats! She will soon be selling some of her products in her family's new business:
I do have a bit of other news as well. Its very exciting and the rest of why we've been so busy. My family has been looking to "grow" our adventures into a business venture. My older sister is about to graduate from college in the spring with an ag degree. My mom and nana have a yarn shop that they are going to expand into a fiber mill. Our neighbors are going to be moving (I will miss them) and we are going to buy their place to put our business which will offer Pennsylvania products that we will be producing! Guess what one of the items we will be offering? CHEESE! I'm so very excited and can't wait. So now, I'll really be milking out my 4-H projects won't I?
We first met Madi (via e-mail) when she entered our 35th Anniversary Essay Contest last December. At that time, she had just begun to raise a few goats and they seemed to be her beloved pets. In the months since then, however, she has had to deal with some real challenges and now she is working very hard to maintain her herd.
I'll just take this interview in chronological order so you can see for yourself what has transpired. It began with her essay:
Why Did the Goat Cross the Road? To Make Cheese at My Farm.
So I wanted a way to milk out my 4H projects. I was udderly excited to start raising Nubian dairy goats. Ok - I know this all sounds very cheesy so let's stretch our way through my real story.
I have been involved in 4H since I was five. I began as a Dauphin County Pennsylvania 4-H cloverbud and when I turned 8, I was finally able to participate as a full-fledged clover. I love all animals, but I can honestly say that, now at 12 years old, my favorite projects include my rabbits and my goats.
Before beginning my adventure in goats, my mom made me do lots of research on the different breeds. Every morning, she would arrive at her computer to yet a new research paper from me until I finally decided that my favorite breed was the Nubian. I then talked with my vet about the possibility and wouldn't you know it, she had a client who was looking for a new home for several of her does.
The next morning, my mom, brother, and I went to go meet them. I was almost as excited as I would be on Christmas morning as we traveled to begin my new journey. When we arrived, a number of the goats were very shy, but one singled me out. We bonded instantly and then her owner told me her name. I couldn't believe it, but my nickname is Madi and the goat's registered name is also Maddy. She just had to be mine!
Soon, I also discovered Roo. Both of them came home with me that day. Only Maddy was in milk, as Roo hadn't been bred yet. So, we thought, how hard can it be for me to milk one little goat without a milking stand? Well, needless to say, my family spent that night building our own milking stand! We must have done a good job because three years later, we're still using it. Thus began my milking and cheese making venture.
Over the last three years, my herd has grown a bit slowly, but that has worked for me to allow time for me to learn what to do with all the milk. I love making mozzarella cheese because we grow many of our own herbs and add that to the cheese which everyone loves. I've also made Muenster, cheddar, feta, and of course ricotta. My family is working really hard to start selling our products at local farmers markets. We've even been accepted into the PA Preferred Program which promotes local products produced by local farmers. I'd like to think that a lot of where I am today started because of my Nubian goat named Maddy who gives me lots of milk to make great cheese.
That was the situation in December, 2013. Then, in January, Madi went to the Pennsylvania Farm Show and School:
The PA Farm Show is actually an event held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Building. It is the nation's largest indoor agricultural event and it runs for a whole week. It offers opportunities for people to exhibit all their farm commodities, food contests, square dancing contests, educational exhibits, livestock competitions for youth and adults, rodeos, and a whole lot more.
During this event, I competed the first day in the rabbit show. I won best of breed with my own line of satin angoras. The next day, I competed in rabbit showmanship and I won first place. Later that day, I demonstrated for Penn State's agricultural stage about the many uses of rabbits. In the evening, I competed in a fashion show wearing my own designed wool poncho, hand spun & knit fingerless mitts (which came from my rabbits), and a blouse & pants.
Sunday, Jan 5th, I sang in the talent show with my friends (our group was the Wonderstruck 5). On Monday, I showed my market swine, then I volunteered for 4-H in informational booths. Tuesday, I demonstrated spinning & knitting on the rabbit stage.
Wednesday was my favorite day.... Sheep to Shawl day.... I served as a spinner on my team. My team took fleece from my family's Leceister Longwool Sheep, washed it, processed it, dyed it, spun it into yarn, made a practice shawl, and then the day of the event used another fleece from our sheep. We then carded it, spun it and plied it into a 2ply yarn and our weaver wove a shawl. We did it in 2 1/2 hours. Our shawl was then auctioned off and we gave the money to our 4-H club Ronald McDonald House and raised over $1,400)! Wahoo! It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun.
|Madi's Sheep to Shawl team holding their finished shawl|
Thursday, I finally got to show two of my dairy goats. (We are only allowed to show up to two per person.) They did very well. Later, on Thursday, I helped my family bring animals to what is called an "Exceptional Rodeo." It is a private rodeo for kids from unfortunate situations. I volunteered two of my goats, Aurora & Borealis, a few of my bunnies, and my miniature horse named Journey for the event and I was very proud to do it.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I participated in an equine showcase with my mini horse Journey with 15 other girls and their mini's. We set-up an entire show ring with obstacles, jumps, and more where the horses show their skills much like dog agility. I again showed my dairy goats on Friday!
I forgot to mention that I also was awarded the Best In Show award for 4H Food & Nutrition Canned Foods for my jams & jellies. I learned that when I saw them displayed on the hutch my brother made for my mom. He was awarded Best in Show 4-H Engineering award for his hutch. I'm including that picture too.
|Madi's brother made that amazing hutch|
Whew, I was very tired, but proud to have done all of this. We love the farm show and being a big part of it from the opening ceremonies to the closing, its a wonderful event filled with opportunities that I really look forward to.
Then, at the beginning of February, she went to the PA State Rabbit Breeders Convention:
I raise rabbits. I've been doing that since I was 5. I currently raise giant angoras, English angoras, Satin angoras, and French angoras, American fuzzy lops, and Crème D'Argents. The angoras I raise are for fiber since I like to weave, knit, and spin. The fuzzy lops are for fun, and the Creme's are for showing and meat.
The state rabbit breeder's convention is part of PA State Rabbit Breeders Convention. It's held every February. There are youth contests and showing for youth & adults. In the youth contests, we must first submit a written application (very long), compete in judging, a breed identification contest, showmanship, a written test, and an interview. They then announce the winners at a banquet.
They select a king & queen, duke & duchess, prince & princess, lord & lady. Your category is based on your age. For the last two years, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as princess, but this year I aged up into the duchess category. Guess what? I competed against 16 other girls & won. I was so excited, I balled my eyes out, on stage, in front of everyone.
|Madi is front left.|
After the convention she wrote:
I have a few dairy goats that I am expecting to kid any day now! I keep checking, but they're not here yet. I'm glad that they didn't come yet though because it has been very cold. Now we have a lot of snow and more is coming tonight.
My goats still haven't kidded and I'm not sure what they are waiting for! Two of them, Precious & Clover, look like they are going to burst! They've started bagging up during farm show a month ago! Maddie (another of my goats - she came with that name if you remember from my essay) is about to burst as well. The others aren't quite as ready as them.
Guess What!!! Finally, one of my goats kidded! She had twins, one boy and one girl! Their names are Lilly and Willy. Sadly their mom rejected them so now I have two bottle babies that live in my own house. They are just adorable. I've had to bottle feed them around the clock. At least their mom is allowing me to milk her and she's producing a lot of milk which I am using to feed the "kids."
|Lilly and Willy|
I also had one of my angora goats kid. She had the most precious little girl and just loves her. In fact, she didn't lay down at all for hours because she stood there watching the baby's every move. When that baby nurses, the mom actually squats a bit for the baby to reach better and she even lifts her leg out of the way of the baby. Now, if only I could get her to teach "Clover" how it's supposed to be done!
I have more goats to kids and I'm not quite sure what they are waiting for. Two are showing signs of going very soon.
I was able to get pictures of the babies being born, but I'll attach one of them all fluffed up and cute.
Lilly and Willy drink about 15 oz. four times a day. All of my other goats need to be milked twice a day, but right now they are dried up and getting ready to kid! My one goat, Maddie, (came with the name) just had her kid, but sadly he is very weak and can't walk right. His front leg tendons are loose, but should strengthen in the next few days. He was quite large when he was born which contributed to this. I work with him, massage his legs, make sure that he nurses- (his mommy, Maddie, loves him). I made sure that he was given a shot of BoSe (selenium booster for him) and he is getting better every day.
I had another angora goat finally have her baby. Her name is Willow and she had the most precious little girl that I named Ella. Willow has been a fantastic mommy. In fact right after Ella was born, Willow wouldn't take her eyes off her. She is now 4 days old and bouncing everywhere. The best news is that I was able to put Lilly & Willy in with Willow and Ella and they are making friends! They are so adorable. I still give Lilly & Willy bottles 4 times a day, but Willow is teaching them now how to be a goat. I just love Willow.
|Another view of Ella|
One other goat I have is named Whoopie Pie. Today I checked on everyone around when I fed Willy & Lilly and there were no signs of kidding. Two hours later I went back to the barn to do another check and 15 minutes later, Whoopie was giving birth to a beautiful little girl. I'm not sure what I'll name her yet, but her momma loves her too. I just will keep checking on them to make sure that the baby nurses and stays warm.
|Whoopie Pie and her baby, Maple|
I still have one more goat to go and her name is Precious. She looks like she is going to pop any minute now! I feel so blessed to have been able to see and help with all the deliveries of my goat's babies! What a wonderful life!
Right now I have sixteen goats (Four angora goats, four nubian goats, and seven kids). But the vet came last Friday and I asked her why three of my goats got lumps on their jaw-line right before kidding. She said that we would have to lance the lumps and test the fluid inside. Unfortunately, the tests just came back and I learned that they have CL (caseous lymphadenitis) and that is very contagious and not a good thing to have in your herd. We think that it came from the last goat I added to my herd. She was to be clean, but wasn't. I have no way of knowing for sure and the blood tests to check for it, according to my vet, can actually give false readings. Of course it happened to my three best goats (Precious, Whoopie Pie, and my first dairy goat Maddie) for milking or showing.
I had to pull all the kids and have been bottle feeding them ever since. When I cleaned the wounds from lancing on my dairy goats, I had to take every precaution as the fluid can even be contagious to humans. When we were finished with them, we had to burn all the tools and I had to isolate all three of my girls until the tests came. I was very sad when I got the news on Monday as they had to be put down.
Now I am bottle feeding all the babies as the only milking doe I have left is Clover and that is Lilly & Willy's mom. You know her story as she rejected them the day they were born. Do you have any idea how much time is involved in bottle feeding all these babies? Well, I have to unfreeze milk, sanitize bottles, fill bottles, heat bottles, feed bottles, wash bottles, and repeat! Whew! My days are going very fast right now. The babies are worth it though and having them has made it a little easier to accept what has happened.
So far the babies are ok because I separated them from the moms as the illness is passed through the fluid in the abscess. Since I took all precautions, the babies should be ok. Also, as they get a little bit older, I will be vaccinating them for it.
Also, Precious did have twin boys! Sadly, she rejected them, goooooooooo figure! right now they are living in my garage and they drink a bottle four to five times a day....... Good thing they're cute! I named them Meteor & Eclipse.
|Meteor, Maple and Spidey|
Well, all the babies are growing. Clover is still not a fan of her babies, but she is producing a lot of milk every day. Right now, I'm not using it though for my cheese making, instead, I have been using it to top off the bottles for all the babies.
They are growing, jumping, getting out of their pen, and I just love them all! In fact, they're all staying here! I love them all too much to part with any of them. I did wether three of the boys. My best friend, Cami, who loves animals, but doesn't have any at her house, has adopted one of them so she can show him at our 4-H fair. (she's always wanted to do that). I'm going to show his brother. I kept the one, Spidey in tact to help rebuild my herd. I'm almost finished with the vaccinating and then I hope to add an older doe that my vet recommended from one of her clients farms.
The girls of course will stay here and I likely won't breed them until next year unless they grow enough before fall breeding time. I like to give them enough time to properly grow before I breed them. Little Ella - the angora baby, is just beautiful. Her momma has been wonderful.
Well, time to go do the night time bottles.
|Lilly and Willy|