Sunday, July 21, 2013

End of an era

Star in fall 2009
There was never an Antiquity Oaks without Moonshine Acres Starlett Moment *D, my first milk goat, until Saturday. Mike came inside to tell me that he found her in the corner of the goat shelter, looking as if she were peacefully sleeping. It was not a huge shock because we've noticed for the past six weeks that she has been moving more slowly, spending more time lying down in the pasture alone, rather than grazing with the herd.

Star with her triplet doelings in 2008
Even though I pronounced Star retired in 2008, it is hard to imagine our homestead without her. She's been here since the beginning. I had put a deposit on her and an unrelated doeling when we still lived in the suburbs, shortly after we had found this place we now call home. While we were waiting to close on this property, Star needed to raise her kids until they were old enough to wean.

It's ironic that I originally was not interested in her because I thought she was ugly. While many people love spotted goats, I preferred the solid colors. But when her owner told me that she would probably have a good milk supply because she was nursing triplets, I was sold. I could overlook all of those ugly spots if this goat could supply us with fresh goat milk, which I intended to use to make "goat cheese." At that time, I had no idea that goat milk could be used to make anything other than the cheese that I was soon to learn was more correctly called chévre.

The picture of Star on Patty Putnam's website when she was for sale
We brought Star home on Mother's Day in 2002, and I put her on a milkstand that Mike had made using a picture I found on the internet. The head gate was far too high and too big for a Nigerian, so he had to make some last minute adjustments to keep her head in place. But milking her was another adventure. She had been nursing babies since she freshened, so she was not happy when I put my hands on her teats with the intention of taking her milk. She kicked over the bucket and glared at me. For years, I joked, "How many city slickers does it take to milk a goat?" The answer was four -- two to sweet talk her and try to convince her to eat her grain, one to hold her hind legs and keep her from kicking over the bucket, and one to actually extract the milk.

Within a week her milkstand etiquette had improved considerably, and I could milk her by myself, although it took me a long time, and I knew I wasn't getting all of the milk. Each day that first week, I got less and less milk, but luckily my technique improved quickly enough for her supply to rebound, and for several months, she supplied us with a quart of milk a day, the standard quantity for Nigerians usually quoted in books and articles. In spite of all my novice mistakes -- some too embarrassing to share -- she survived, and for the first few years, she was our best milk goat.

Star's great granddaughter Agnes
with Star's spots and long teats
Star was a great homestead goat, but not one that was outstanding in the show ring or the milk pail or even as a brood doe. She had nice, long teats that forever spoiled me and became the benchmark against which I would forever judge all other milkers. She'd peak at about half a gallon a day and then sustain a long lactation, milking for twelve months when she was six years old. I always hoped she would give us a daughter that was as awesome as she was, and even though my definition of awesome was far less demanding a decade ago than it is today, her daughters were always terribly disappointing. In the greatest of ironies, however, her sons did throw remarkably good daughters. Like many novices who don't have a clue about breeding, I kept a couple of bucks early on, and somehow I got incredibly lucky. One of Star's sons, John Adams, sired ARMCH Antiquity Oaks Carmen *D VG. Another son, Mercury, sired Antiquity Oaks Anne Bronte 4*D VG, an excellent milker (with her grandma's long teats) who gave birth to AOF Agnes Grey 5*D, one of my favorite milk goats today, no doubt because she has her great-grandmother's long teats.

Antiquity Oaks LogoStar has always been a big part of everything that is Antiquity Oaks. She is the goat in the farm logo. My daughter reminded me today that when I first started making and selling goat milk soap, my labels read, "Milk by Star and Dancy; Soap by Deborah." Back then, it never occurred to me that Star wouldn't be with me forever.

When Coco died this spring after giving birth to quintuplets, I was heart-broken, not only because she was gone but because of the way she died. I always pictured my goats retiring out here and then living a few more years relaxing in our green pastures and enjoying life with their daughters and granddaughters. And I am grateful that is what happened with Star. I don't suppose I could ask for anything more.


Alissa said...

This is sad to hear Star passed away. We have Big Dipper which is the baby standing in the picture with Star from the triplets born. Sorry for your loss.

12Paws said...

So very sorry! Of course, you know that both of your souls are forever intertwined and as your cherish your memories you'll know the joy of giving one of God's creatures love & nurture. Be blessed!

Spinners End Farm said...

Sorry Deborah. Nice that she has left you with so many wonderful memories.


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