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As you know, or may have guessed, we raise dairy goats here. Dairy goats make milk. Some of us like to know how well our goats are doing their job. We have the ability through the Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) of tracking that. It involves monthly weighing and sample testing. If you have goats that milk a lot within their 310 day lactation, you need a verification test by someone who does not test your herd on a regular basis. And by a lot, I mean a goat that milks 3000 pounds or more, which roughly translates to 375 gallons or better. Yes, there are goats that can do that and even more.

Don and Judi Hoy are the founders of Lucky Star Farms in Port Angeles. They, with help from John Ricks and their son Chris, raise some gorgeous LaMancha dairy goats there. Not only are the girls beautiful, but they work hard to put the milk in the pail. This year, two of their milkers are projected to make it onto the Top Ten list. This list has nothing to David Letterman. It has everything to do with the elite honor of having your goats milk more than anyone else in the nation. Kinda cool.

What does this have to do with me? I am their verification tester. I don’t do this as often as I used to, since it involves a lot of driving and/or overnight stays. With the family, I just don’t choose to go off and leave them for the weekends as much anymore. I do make an exception here.

I love to go to Port Angeles. They have so much to see and do, that for a day, I can entertain myself, sans 4 year old! There are other towns like Sequim and Port Townsend, if I want to venture out a little farther. You see, I leave here between 2:30 and 3AM to arrive there at 5:30 for the first test. Then I have 12 hours to kill/fill before the second test. In the past, I have had a leisurely breakfast at Mickey D’s while reading the local paper and plotting out my day. As a quilter and certified fabric junkie, it always involves a stop at the local fabric places. I scope out the local listings for any good movies I’d like to see, then pick out a fun little place for lunch. There are usually plenty of little shops to poke into as well. Not this year.

I was having a cup of tea with Judi, and discussing the finer points of how short LaMancha ears really should be, when she asked me what my plans for the day were. I told her I was planning on heading into downtown, poke through the stores, and scope out the quilt shop I had found down there last year. She informed me that Quilted Strait was no longer there. I thought “How sad, the economy got another one.” I was wrong! They had moved East, to Port Gamble, and were about an hour away. Judi’s mom, who works there a day or two a week, confirmed that the store was indeed open on Sunday from 11 to 5PM.

Port Gamble is a historic town that was built on the lumber industry. They are in the process of restoring and mildly renovating the existing buildings. Port Gamble is inviting businesses to inhabit these buildings. She let me see photos from the blog and I was hooked! The effect is fantastic. Judi decided that since I was willing to go, she would take the day off from farm chores, like prepping the equipment for the State Fair, and we would make the trek to Port Gamble. Somehow she roped John into driving us, although I think he walked into it willingly. Now, I did feel horribly guilty. I know how much work goes into getting ready for the fairs. I have been there and done that. We left poor Don home clipping goats, and the equipment wasn’t getting painted. I want it to be clear, I did not ask them, bribe them, or cajole them in any manner to go with me. So if the stuff doesn’t get painted, it is NOT my fault! Sorry about the clipping Don, you did a fabulous job of it though.

Off we went! This is what you see from the outside. This used to be the carriage house for the hotel. Check out her blog here for more photos and the story that goes with it. I didn’t ask permission to take photos inside ’cause I was shopping, so you will just have to go there yourself to see the beautiful quilts hanging from the exposed beam rafters. They had a huge selection of fabrics from Asian prints to wool, including a fabulous wall of batiks. I did find some wool to felt for Em’s Raggedy Anne’s heart, nose, and shoes. I also found a few other little tidbits just for fun. If I didn’t have hay to put into the barn this week, I might have splurged a bit more. As it was, my control slipped enough that I came out with this:

After working up an appetite in the quilt shop we headed around the end of town towards the General Store. Inside was a gift shop, espresso bar, ice cream shop and cafe. We popped into the cafe for lunch. Judi ordered a plate of Garlic-Blue Cheese fries. Thankfully we all ate some, so everybody would have the same breath on the ride home. The fries were quite tasty. We figure that somebody had a plate of garlic fries and hot wings, then started dipping the fries into the blue cheese dressing, thus was born this taste treat. The food was good too. Judi’s ruben and John’s grilled ham & cheese both looked great. My bowl of black bean soup with mango chutney was quite tasty.

I picked up a shot glass for my honey who was home with the little Miss and the marshmallow caramels. We poked through the antique shop/junk store. I found a basket of vintage hankies but none that had to come home with me. We did refrain from entering the book store, since we didn’t have THAT much time before we had to head back. We stopped at the produce market and I picked up a couple of apples, while Judi picked up some fruits and veggies for the rest of the week. It turned out to be a lovely day trip.

John drove us back to the farm were we enjoyed freshly grilled hamburgers with Don, Chris, and Judi’s mom, Barbara. It was a great way to end the day.

I finished off the second test and packed up to head home. Their regular tester would wrap up the final test in the morning. I met her on the way home, and delivered the paperwork and samples. I managed to make it home and into bed by 11PM. It was pretty much a strait shot from the car to the bed. I think next time, I’m gonna need to schedule in a nap!

I’ve already penciled in next year’s VT! Perhaps I can make a weekend of it and I’ll bring my honey along. Wait, there is fabric shopping involved, maybe not.

This is the last county fair I have on my schedule for the year. I have visited quite a few of them this year. Each one has their own special appeal. This one has some of the greatest variety of animals and food we have seen this year.

We have taken to packing our own lunch, as the cost of food would have put a serious dent in the budget with this many fairs over the summer. Some of them tend to rely heavily on the fried foods, and at our ages, we don’t need any help with cholesterol!

This fair had some unusual animals in attendance. The first was this display of parrots and other birds that are typically made into house pets. If I remember correctly, this was a bird rescue/sanctuary. She was selling hand made toys for the birds. These birds were really cool. I don’t want to own one, mind you, but I might enjoy playing with one. The red fellow was absolutely fascinated with the camera. They have quite the reach with the beak if they want to explore something. The others were just as happy to watch us from the perch.

We also toured the barns with the more standard farm animals. This fair has some really nice accommodations for the animals of different species. I’d like to see a bigger goat barn, but I might be a bit prejudiced in that area. The pens for the Llamas were very nice, and so were the llamas. This one had a sign on the stall inviting you to pet him on the neck if he was standing at the gate. The Miss Em took him up on it, and pronounced him “Very soft ” and a “Nice llama”.

Thanks Dad for lifting me up!

One of our last stops before I headed back to judge the show was the poultry barn. My daughter has the strange ability to irritate the roosters just by being in their presence. She was walking by and looking into the cages, and the roosters would fluff up and make aggressive challenge charges at the cages. I was watching to see if she was poking at them or something, but no, “just looking with my eyes” as she says.

It amazes me what they remember and pull out from what you say. That phrase came from me telling her, probably repeatedly, that “We look with our eyes and not with our hands.”

We didn’t stay too long in the chicken house. We then went to see the waterfowl & large poultry section. I found the kind of ducks that I will allow my husband to have if he “must” have ducks on the farm.

Any duck that looks like he should belong to a “Hair Club for Men” commercial gone horribly wrong has a home on my farm. I also like his sooty gray color.

We did have another run it with the Little Miss and the geese. One of the big ones was trying to bite or chew through the chicken wire and was clawing at the fence while raising a huge honking ruckus while she was looking at them. I did mention to it that I had a nice recipe for roasted goose and did the words foi gras mean anything. It was still trying to get through the fencing as we were leaving. I don’t think my daughter has a very bright future as a poultry farmer if this is the way the animals behave in her presence.

The goat show went well. I would have loved to have seen more animals in the show, but the ones I did see were nice. The meat goats looked especially tasty, but that might have been encouraged by the occasional waft of smoke from the BBQ pit across the way.

Here is the next installment of the Christmas version of the Around the World Quilting Bee.

The Little Miss has been known to help me when I am shopping at the fabric store.  I usually let her pick a fat quarter or some little craft out of the dollar bin. This snowman print is one of her finds. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it at the time she picked them out last fall. I thought I might make Nanna some coasters or something since she has quite the collection of snowmen.

It has since found a home in Trashalou’s block. The background of this block is covered in silver sparkles. I wasn’t sure if they would hold on for the long haul, but they made it through the pre-wash, so I have hopes they may last a few more. The light blue pieces are actually dimensional. They are squares that have been folded into quarters and then have the two raw edges sewn into the seams. It is kind of a fun element to add. It also makes this block a little different than the other Christmas Star block that Trash has in her collection of blocks.

Her quilt is now winging it’s way to San Jose. I am awaiting the next batch.

I added a new county to my list of fairs I have judged. One of these days I’ll have to get out the state map that is divided by county and figure out how many I have actually done so far.

In any case, the fair is held in the town of Menlo, WA. Nice little spot if you can find it. Apparently our version of TomTom didn’t think that area of Washington State was necessary to label. It had streets, but the town name would not come up. We had found it on the “old fashioned” paper maps. Funny enough, we left those at home. Ooooops!

So we kind of missed the cut off for Highway 6. I don’t think we actually went by it, but Honey said we did. He was driving and I was trying not to fall asleep. We ended up down near Long Beach, WA and not too far from Astoria, Oregon. Now, if we had just been out for a drive, no problem! It is super lovely, but I needed to be judging a show at 10. At 9:45 we were 40 minutes from where we were supposed to be. Thankfully we pulled into Willapa Wildlife Refuge. They had a bathroom and a map! We made great time back to Menlo, and when I finally had cell coverage, I called the fair office to let them know where we were, and that I was indeed on my way to judge their goats. The show started at 10:30 not so bad. I had actually asked the superintendent if we could start about then when I originally agreed to take the contract. I was going to have to stop and pick up my sister to keep an eye on the little Miss while I was judging. That detour was going to add about 30 minute or so to the trip. Since I was already getting up at 4:30, I thought I’d ask for a delay in show time instead of getting up even earlier.

Now, my sister did some really fantastic research on this little town. Apparently the founder of Menlo did not want to be buried, nor cremated. So, he had himself pickled in a vat of whiskey. He may have been the first, but I am sure not the last. If I remember correctly, she also said that Pacific Co. had the oldest county fair in the state. Sadly my sister was not able to go with us at the last minute. She had a job interview, which was “interesting”, but did not produce the desired results of landing her a new job.

After our visit to Menlo, WA, we headed north on Highway 101 to Westport. While we were stopped at a road construction waylay, I hopped out and grabbed the camera. There was some beautiful scenery, and of course, I had placed the camera in the waaay back of the car. Most of what we saw after I had the camera was trees, and they go by in a blur for the camera. I was able to get a few of the rivers and bays that make up the estuary area.

I don’t want to hear about how this photo looks like the water should be draining out the edge. I KNOW. It was one of the few that wasn’t blurry or have part of the window edge or my husband’s face in it. 60 mile-per-hour photography is not my best style.

When we left Menlo it was in the high 80s by the time we hit Westport the fog had rolled in and we were glad that we had thrown in a few light jackets. It had dropped more than 20 degrees from one place to the other. By the time we reached home, it was back into the low 80s. Crazy weather we have here.

We had a nice early dinner in Westport while we watched the charter boats unload their passengers with their respective catches for the day. Some of those guys caught some really nice salmon.

We tootled on home in time to do evening chores at both farms. It was actually a really nice day out. We might have to try that kind of trip more often.

Some more catching up:

I have been doing some work at the local micro-dairy. The owner has taken a job off of the farm and needed some help. Since I needed some hay money, I can milk & feed livestock, and the commute was fabulous, I jumped at the chance.

She has graciously taught me how to make cheese in the process. Yes, on purpose, not just from letting the milk sit in the can overnight! They were pretty much just practice runs so I could see how the equipment worked and get the process down. But still, it was fun and it tasted good. By the way, I am NOT a “funky” cheese eater. My milk and cheese will not have that pungent quality that some goat products have. I know I am probably speaking blasphemy to the cheese connoiseurs out there, but I don’t care.  I know what that smell/taste is, and IF I wanted that flavor in my mouth, I’d go kiss a buck in rut. WE have perfectly yummy tasting milk that makes fine cheese and scrumptious ice cream. I am sorry if the funky stuff is all that you can buy  in the store or have been able to taste, I truly am.

Enough ranting! Back to the cheese!

That up there was Joy, one of her LaMancha milkers. Joy is a sweetie, but the other girls like to pick on her, so I thought I’d give her a little web time on the blog. (The LaManchas have naturally really short ears. They were not cut off.) The goats come in one side, get milked, and go out the other. Pretty efficient and orderly, as long as everybody cooperates.

Then the milk goes in to the pasteurizer where is cooks at 145F degrees for 30 minutes. Then the culture goes in. This is where you decide what kind of cheese you will make. Different cultures give you different cheeses. After the cultures start to get happy, the rennet goes in. This is the stuff that sets up the curds and whey. For this cheese you let it sit over night in the vat with a cold water bath circulating around the outside of the liner to keep it cool.

The next morning, or 8 hours later if you made an early morning batch, you can lift the lid and find this. (It is a lot like firm Jello pudding floating in a puddle of juice.)

Gently dip out the curd into a cheesecloth-lined colander. You fill it up until you can make a nice ball out of it.

Then you tie up the corners with a string, and hang it up to finish draining the whey out. This will take about 24 hours to do properly. You want it dry, but not super crumbly, you don’t really want it still runny either. It isn’t very good on crackers that way. Once it has been properly drained you can add herbs, dried fruits, nuts, or what ever tickles our fancy to it. It is pretty good just plain on a bagel too.

The whey drains into the pans below. The whey can be used again to make a small batch of ricotta, or can be used in baking. One book gave a recipe for making lemonade with it, UGH! I don’t think I can go that far. I do know they dry it and use it in health store protein drinks. You can also feed it to the chickens or pigs, and as a last resort, it makes great plant food.

This is a bit grander of a scale than we make cheese at home. I am working with about a gallon of milk at home instead of 12 to 15 gallons at the dairy. It is fun, and we have enjoyed eating the cheese we make. My wonderful husband even made fresh strawberry gelatto with the milk. That went over VERY well. He has permission to make that again.

One of these days I will try my hand at making soap. I am just a bit worried about the chemicals needed to do it, with the youngest one in the house. Lye is not something I want her to come in contact with. I may send her stay with Nanna for the weekend when I give it a go. I see Christmas presents there!

This is the last block I have to make for the original Around the World Quilting Bee.

I made Jane a variation of a Hidden Star block called Barrel Jump. She loves pink and this said “Happy Summer” to me. It has one more stop before it heads home to her.

I received my quilt back about three weeks ago.I have had a chance to flip through the blocks and admire the handy work, but not much else. I am looking forward to laying them out and deciding on a final layout. I am short a few blocks since a few ladies dropped out. I may make a couple to replace them or who knows. Sadly, I probably won’t get to finish it until September or early October. That is how personal projects seem to go for me.

It think that was Fat Albert’s most famous line, but it is that time of the year again. We trek to our favorite hay grower and pick up bales from the field, very much like we did last year.

The only difference this year is that we only have to move the hay from the trailer into the barn. Not to a pallet, cover it with plastic & a tarp, and move it every time we need to feed. We tend to have a lot of hay loss with the pallet & tarp method. The hay sweats out the little bit of moisture it has left while under the plastic. Then it gets slimy and moldy where the plastic touches the hay bales. Strangely enough the animals do not like to eat the slimy and moldy hay.

While we had eliminated the plastic tarp problem we now had the issue of condensation. If the metal of the building is the only barrier between the the outside cold and the warmer, moister air of the barn, we will have condensation on the inside. If the hay is stacked up against the barn wall, which it is the safest place to stack it, we will have wet hay, leading to slime and mold.

The solution? Sheet the walls with plywood. Well, Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) was cheaper since they currently had a glut of it. The box store had stocked up in advanced of the hurricane season in the south and was not yet needing it. The season hadn’t really started yet, but I guess they were getting their stock secured. I really don’t care why, but it was cheaper and it works.

Several hours later, this is what my dear sweet husband had done. The concrete will not get poured this year. Perhaps I can swing that by next year. We put down a plastic vapor barrier and the pallets to keep the hay up off the ground and allow air flow. We put in 200 bales of orchard grass and the barn is about half full. We have them stacked 8 high and 4 deep. We figure that we can get about 500 bales in and still be able to move around. We are waiting for the pasture to re-grow and we will get our second round of hay in. That should hold us for most of the winter.

From time to time, I am asked to judge goats at the county fairs. I usually enjoy this. I get to see the 4-H & FFA members and their projects in more depth than at the State Fair where they are limited to exhibit just a few animals. I like to work with them to sharpen their showmanship skills.

This experience was not to be one of those times.

The day started at 5. I am not a morning person. My brain does not like to get up at 6:30 so I can get morning chores done at 7. But, 5 it was so I could get chores done in time to get everything together to be at the fairgrounds by 9.

We overestimated the time it would take to travel, so we were 30 minutes early, to be 30 minutes early. This is not usually a problem at most fairs since the exhibitors get there early to muck stalls and get morning chores done before the fairgoers arrive at about 10. The gates were open so we could get in.

Well, at least I could. They sent me a complementary gate pass. One. I did ask when I was on the phone with the person doing the contract sending if it would be possible to buy a ticket to get my husband & daughter in with me. Since Little Missy is under 5 she is free, and yes, you can buy a ticket for your husband to get in at the gate. They forgot to mention that I could not buy tickets until 9 or so. My show started at 9. The girl at the gate was stuck, she wasn’t supposed to let anyone in without a ticket, and she couldn’t sell us one either, as she had no access to the tickets or the register.

I schlepped the 4 year-old and our stuff to the main office and went a round with them about this. Apparently they could not/would not sell me a ticket from the office. One of the ticket ladies had arrived early, and would head down to the gate and sell us one there. After trekking back across the fairgrounds, we got to the booth and something was wrong with the register. The poor woman finally just caved in, took our money, gave us a ticket, and said she’d ring it in when they figured out the problem. We hit the gate and they wouldn’t let my daughter back in. Remember, she had just come out of the fairgrounds with me, is under 5, and FREE! We had to go back to the booth and get a complementary gate pass for her. I am fuming by now.

I stalked across the fairgrounds to the arena, where we set up our chairs and deposited our lunch cooler. We had a some time before the show started, so we cruise out to find the caffeinated nectar of life for my husband. Along the way we see the Master Gardener display garden. It is quite lovely and a quick side trip through this space would be a great way to help me regain my composure before I go critique children on their showmanship skills. As we are admiring the impressive strawberry bed and commenting on the timed soaker hose method of watering, a woman shouts across the space from the recycling/composting area that they aren’t open until 10.

Really. Are you serious?!?! The flowers looked open to me. They weren’t being shy, I could even see stamens and pistils. Nope. No veggies trying to get their leaves teased up just right before the hoards of people came to see them. (I wonder if they use White Rain as a hair spray?) If you don’t want folks in your garden before 10, perhaps you should put up a gate or even a sign. As my daughter says: “We were just looking with our eyes,” and admiring their handy work.

We found a vendor happily willing to sell us coffee before 10 AM and made our way back to the arena. I pulled up a sit down and made some notes to include in a letter to the fair about some things that could use improvement. The family went off to explore the huge tractor display. My child would rather have a JohnDeer or a Kubota than Barbie & Ken. I love her.

9AM came and went. There was no show table, no superintendent, no kids, no animals. I would have been worried that we were in the wrong location, but the superintendent pointed this arena out to me as our show site. About 9:30 her daughter came and dropped off some judging contest score cards and a water bottle into one of our chairs and said she would be back with the rest of the stuff.

I am starting to get a real bad feeling about this.

By about 10 there is a table and the tractor has brought in some shavings for a more friendly show surface than the compacted dirt. I am approached by the same daughter and told I need to go to the pens and pick out the animals I want to use for my classes.

WHAT?!?! I am the judge. You bring me the kids in their whites, towing their selected showmanship animal behind them. I put them through their paces and then choose the best. Then you bring out the goats by breed and I arrange them in the order from most correct to least, according to the score card for the respective breed. I do not make up my own classes.

Unless you are constructing a judging contest. Then you create classes for the kids to place. That is NOT my job. I was NOT hired to do that.

I ran their judging contest.

The superintendents have the list of the kids with their ages and the animals they have brought to show. At the conclusion of the contest I waited for the superintendent to call the showmanship classes in. Apparently there was some confusion. They had three kids. One intermediate, one junior, and a primary. The primary isn’t really allowed to show, but at the county level they are often given a class of their own. They were having trouble trying to figure who would show first. I made it simple. They all showed together. Trust me, there wasn’t a lot of difference between them.

A ring steward has a list of the classes and the entrants. They call the classes, check to see that everybody is there, and that things are moving along well. The clerk has a list of the classes and the entrants, and records who places where with what color ribbon. I got to be my own ring steward, but thankfully not the clerk.

My patience was sorely tried on several occasions, and I nearly lost it in the pygmy goat showmanship class. I had two kids that had NO desire to be in the ring. I am still not sure why they were showing goats. I have never been so disappointed. There were some bright spots with some of the kids, but overall there was a lack of information and no training at all. I should have given a clinic instead of evaluating the kids on things they did not know. I tried to instruct them as we went through the maneuvers, but that is not the best way for them to learn.

A high point was that the animals were of decent quality and they had been properly fed and cared for.

By the end of the show I hope that some of the kids had a grasp on what they need to do. I also hope that the superintendent had a better idea of how to run a show.

I have been milking for our neighbor (while she has been working an off-the-farm job. (More on that later.) I was tentatively scheduled to milk, but the show wiped me out. On the way home, I saw that her car was in the drive and hoped that she had gotten home early and could do her evening milk chores. She had an appointment at the Vet for her big Pyranees livestock guardian dog that morning. He had a sore paw and we though he might have gotten something jammed up in it and gotten an infection. I called, she was in tears. She had to put Atty down. He did not have something stuck in his paw. He had bone cancer. The only thing to do to try to stop it was amputate his leg. At his size, a dog can not get around on three legs. There aren’t too many options at that point.

My step-son & I went over and did chores. Nobody should be alone on a day like that.

I don’t think that the day could get over soon enough. It wasn’t even Friday the 13th.

ARRRRGH. I guess we need to have days like that to make us appreciate the other days even more.

I certainly hope that my next show goes better.

I have made some more blocks for the Christmas version of the Around the World Quilting Bee. It seems like more ladies have special requests this go around.

These are the Fat Cats by Darlene Zimmerman. She has a cute Dresden type template that you make these from. I found it on a clearance sale and planned to make a kid quilt with it. Tanya wanted a place mat and the other idea I had was not working, space wise. So this is her place mat from me. She wanted us to use some of the owl fabric in the “block”, so he became a cat toy.

Brioni is also making a set of place mats. She asked us to each make a 6″ tree block. My guess is that she will put several of them together to make the place mats.

Katy asked for red & white pinwheels or stars. I made this dutchman’s puzzle for her. The large red swirls reminded me of looking at a snowflake under a microscope.

Maria also asked for red & white blocks. This one is called Gretsky and I found this great peppermint print. I hope she likes it.

I have one more quilt here to work on for the Christmas swap and then Jane’s block for the original ATWQB. Hers is the last one I have to do for that. I finally received my quilt back. I’ll get photos of it one day and post them so you can see what it looks like all together.

I have been a bit busy, and have let the blogging slide. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. I have been spending time with family and friends who needed my time and so it goes. I’ll try to catch y’all up on things around here.

The little Miss has discovered the joy of running through the sprinkler. At least on the few days that have been warm enough to get out of the polar fleece. She has always been a water baby, so it isn’t too much of a stretch.