Monthly Archives: December 2018

Sputnik the Service Goat

I’ve gotta show off the new trick I taught Sputnik. He hasn’t got it down perfectly yet, but he’s getting there! We worked on it sporadically for two weeks in early December before I got too busy to practice any more, but Sputnik is such a quick study that he didn’t need practice. He remembered very well when we tried it again yesterday!

I think this will come in very handy when I want to sit down for lunch on the trail. I have this trick knee that sometimes refuses to support my weight. As long as I’ve got my “service goat” around now I’ll never be stuck on the ground again!

Disclaimer: I DO NOT recommend training a goat to do this unless he is full-grown with a solid background in trick training. Pulling on a goat’s horns can make him aggressive and/or headshy. Never train a young goat to do this while he’s still figuring out his role with people. It’s important to stay safe!

Christmas vacation

For the first time since 2003, we had family for Christmas! Phil and I usually spend a quiet Christmas at home by ourselves, but this year Phil’s parents came to stay for a few days. It was great fun except that I came down hard with a very bad cold a few days before they arrived. I lost my voice and never got it back until after they left. Phil started coming down with the crud on Christmas Eve and is still recovering. But at least we didn’t give it to his parents!

We made a gingerbread house. I’ve since snacked on part of the roof, but I suspect the goats will eat most of it.

Santa visited us Christmas morning! Phil’s dad, Jim, has been growing his whiskers so Phil lent him the Santa suit so he could really play the part.

Naughty Phil! I’ll bet he gets coal in his stocking!

“I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus…”

Dusty and I got a new bridle, breastcollar and saddle blanket. Jet’s things have been retired. He was so special it was too hard to put his tack on a new horse, and Dusty needed her own style. Doesn’t she look pretty in turquoise?

Jim and Finn share a moment.

Christmas Eve Characters

Got some fun Christmas eve photos this morning. Phil and I hauled in a load of firewood the other day and Finn claimed it. Look how proud he is! You’d think he cut these trees down and loaded them in the truck all by himself!

Tigerlily is only a month along and she’s already picking fights with everyone, including a pine tree. I thought this was blood on her face at first, but it turned out to be red tree bark dust. (Phew!)

I wasn’t trying to get pictures of Penny, but she kept mugging for the camera. What a cutie!

Goat Milk Caramels

I’ve been trying some new recipes this Christmas season to make use of all the yummy goat milk we’ve been getting. I don’t usually have two goats in milk this time of year, so we are quite fortunate to have the abundance!

I tried and failed several times to make eggnog before I managed to make a perfect batch, but I finally made some last week that turned Phil into a convert. He’s always disliked eggnog, but the stuff I made for a party last weekend was light, fluffy, and gently flavored. Phil loved it, and I have to admit it was the best eggnog I’ve ever had either. This will become a regular part of our Christmas tradition from here out.

The next experiment was a recipe for caramel candy that I found on a goat website. I tried it early in December and met with complete disaster. I never could get it up to 250*, yet I still managed to burn it to the bottom of my saucepan. So I bought a better saucepan with a heavier bottom and a non-stick ceramic surface and tried again.

This time I achieved almost complete success! I got impatient at some point and turned the burner up too much and scorched a little of the candy to the bottom of the pan, but not like I did last time. There was no acrid burning smell in the kitchen, and the caramel got up to 250* right after that so I was able to remove it from the burner and pour off the good stuff before the burnt stuff had time to turn black and flake off into the rest.

I was cutting the sheet of caramel into smaller pieces when it suddenly cracked under the knife and half of it flew off the counter and shattered on the floor. I had just swept the floor earlier that day so it looked unscathed; nevertheless, I know where my feet go when they aren’t on the kitchen floor, so the candy seemed a bit suspicious even if it wasn’t wearing any hairballs. So I washed the pieces in the sink and laid them out on some wax paper to dry. The half that stayed on the counter got cut into neat squares without any drama and looks beautiful in addition to tasting good. The half that got a bath looks a little sorry but the flavor is unaffected. If no one else wants to eat it that’s ok. I’ll make the sacrifice.

I’m getting over a cold right now and I have the attendant laryngitis that always seems to plague me after I get sick. This candy works just as well as the throat lozenges I’ve been popping, and it tastes a whole lot better! So if all the caramel disappears in short order and the family starts to wonder, I’ll tell them it’s not because I’m greedy–I’m using it for medicinal purposes. Oh yeah, and half of it went on the floor–no one wants to eat that.

Beulah Yule Goats!

I swear the Beulah parade and Yule Log Festival get better every year! Last night Phil and I took Finn and Sputnik to Beulah for the annual parade of lights. Phil dressed as Santa Claus and I was the elf. We used our big, pretty carriage this year so Santa was able to sit in the back seat where he could wave and throw candy while I sat in the front seat and drove. Phil bought some LED light strips to stick on the bottom of the carriage and we set them to red and green. They glowed off the pavement and looked spectacular. We strung a few lights over the rest of it as well. I wish I could someday get a really good photo of our Christmas parade get-up, but they never come out.

Finn and Sputnik were wonderful. They walked nicely together without pulling at the bits or see-sawing. I love having a carriage with brakes. There’s a long, steep hill at the end of the parade and without brakes the goats would have had a rough time holding back such a heavy carriage and Phil and I would have had to get out and walk. But with brakes to help them hold back the load, Phil and I could both stay seated! The only thing that startled Finn and Sputnik was the laser lights. They balked briefly when they saw the bright green lights buzzing over the pavement at their feet, but with just a bit of encouragement they walked on and had no more trouble. Good boys!

Afterwards Phil and I went to one of the local establishments for some free hot chocolate and they had a beautiful Yule Log cake on the table! It was an amazing piece of artwork–almost too good to eat–but we did anyway. It had merengue mushrooms growing out of the chocolate bark!

Next day was the Yule Log Festival, and Phil and I loaded the boys in the pickup truck and got there nice and early so we could find a place to park. It was chilly so they were grateful to have blankets for the trip.

We harnessed them up in anticipation of helping drag back the Yule Log. Both wore jingle bells on their collars for a festive sound.

Last year’s Yule Log, waiting to light the Yule Fire.

Father Christmas came over to greet the goats.

Sputnik was a champ. He put up with a lot of kids today and only got flinchy near the end of the day. This little boy was gentle and kind, but he was a bit persistent and eventually pushed Sputnik past his tolerance level. I told him to go pet Finn instead. At one point I looked over and saw Finn standing with his head down and his eyes closed as three kids hugged him and buried their hands in his fur. He looked absolutely blissful.

Then the head Woodsman gave us the rules, the trumpet sounded, and we were off!

Sputnik and I search the woods for the elusive Yule Log.

Finn says, “Is this it? Is this the Yule Log?”

“I think I ate it!”

“Halueb!!!” The Yule Log was found and we were nowhere near it. But we joined the jolly crowd to help pull it back to the lodge. Finn and Sputnik had the honor of pulling at the front of the line this year!

The boys didn’t just pull–they pulled HARD! There were a few times when I thought Sputnik was going to pull me over and drag me as well as the Yule Log. It wasn’t until we started uphill that he settled down for a steady pull.

It’s blurry, but there’s the Yule Log with the lucky finder and his friends riding on it.

This little boy was the proud finder of the Yule Log.

He helped cut a piece off the end to take home as a souvenir of his big day.

Afterwards we had wassail and cookies. We shared quite a few cookies with the goats. Finn’s favorite part of the Yule Log Festival is getting fawned over by hundreds of strangers who come every year for the express purpose of adoring him. Sputnik’s favorite part is COOKIES. “Gimme cookies!! Gimme cookies NOW!! Nom! Nom! Nom!”

Merry Christmas!

Guess who brought in our Christmas tree this afternoon? Yep, Finn was the hero and dragged this puppy all the way from the far end of our property. I usually had my horse Jet drag the tree home for us, but since I lost Jet last July we decided to take Finn. I did have Finn and Sputnik pull our tree back two years ago, but that was kind of wild and a lot more work than handling just one animal. So Finn got to volunteer. He did a great job! He would stop from time to time to let us know that the tree was getting heavy with snow, but as soon as Phil shook it out, Finn was ready to go again. Good boy!