Posted by: The Swiss Frau | April 13, 2012

Welcome to the Farm!

Welcome to Swiss Frau Farm. We have been on this farm for 7 years and we are continuing our improvement plan on the farm. In the first few years we re-designed the interior of the lower level of the barn to accommodate a herd of goats, offer pens for kids, kidding, loafing areas for adult goats and a parlor for milking. Plumbing has been added in the milk house, new glass block windows and some new doors were built. Also the entire lower level was tuck pointed and whitewashed. A new steel roof was put on the barn in the last few years.  I also renovated a section of the machine shed, replacing all the doors and a window and built pens for our bucks.  In 2014 we had the entire farm re-wired and now it is modern and safe. We have made many changes and there are many more things we would like to do with the farm. This last year has been about restoring the original house on the property from the 1850’s. We moved the soap business into this building December of 2014. This is our 10th year raising dairy goats and our 4th year in the goat’s milk soap and honey business. IMGP3161IMGP3147buckling 004buckling 006Both sides of the parlor. Robbi puts the goats in the stands each milking and takes them back again. At the far end of the barn in this last picture is a large loafing area with access to the outside for the goats.

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March is kidding season.

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Posted by: The Swiss Frau | June 27, 2017

Spring into Summer

Summer has arrived. Spring was really interesting. Baby goats, the open house, then a lot of mysteriously sick goats which are all recovered now.

We had 6 babies born. Only one of the births was a classic birth. The other two were troublesome but all survived and with good veterinarians all was well. Three females and 3 males. Two girls will go to a new home soon. One boy will stay so we have a few goats for sale yet.

Three days after our open house the youngest kid was diagnosed with sore mouth. This is a highly contagious virus that is transmittable to people as well as sheep and goats. Even though all the guests had to step in a boot bath and wash hands this virus still was transmitted to the most vulnerable. It was a long four and a half weeks of isolating this kid, washing everything constantly. I went through 3 hazmat suits, 600 gloves and many containers of lysol wipes. The kid was isolated for the entire time and did not get to socialize with the other kids, jump and play or snuggle. This virus is like shingles, produces scabs and often results in serious secondary infections. The virus lives 12 years in the scabs so you can imagine what the clean up was like around the kid’s crate and then disposing of the bedding.  So glad this chapter is over now. He is a healthy kid and has learned to climb and play.

The incident has caused me to rethink the annual open house. We are probably not going to have guests in our barn anymore and restrict goat viewing to over the fence. Bio security is a difficult thing to put into practice and as diligent as we were we fell short of having guests don coveralls which is not even possible. It was a learning experience.

The goats are loafing in the barn most of the time in the fans. It is cool and comfortable and they are not bothered by insect pests in the barn. On cool or windy days they go out to forage in the pasture. They always have a choice but they love the barn.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | March 3, 2017

SWITZERLAND!

I will be in Switzerland March 4th to the 13th if anyone needs to order soap I can take orders when I get back. Sorry for any inconvenience. Dan will be at the regular winter market in Oconomowoc on Sundays however.

I will be traveling and visiting goat dairies and many places in Switzerland with my oldest daughter and seeing old friends. Jenni

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | February 8, 2017

Common Misconceptions About Goats

Every time I see something on TV or get asked questions about goats at farmer’s markets I think about writing about some of the common misconceptions.

The most common question: Is it true goats eat anything? No, it is not true. I tell my seminar attendees that a well fed goat won’t eat “anything”. They are even fussy about hay. They prefer alfalfa or good quality grass hay and if it smells “off” or a little mildewed they won’t eat it. BUT a starving goat will eat anything. They will eat all the bark off of the trees, they will eat whatever is there. The result of a hungry goat without good hay is that they could potentially die eating the wrong things. This is where the misconception comes from. A well cared for goat that is content and fed regularly and fed quality hay and minerals will generally not be interested in anything that is bad for them.

Goats love to play with things in their mouths. This can lead to problems. We never leave a bucket hook or bucket snap in a stall when we empty buckets. They can and have gotten fish hooked on a bucket hook. They also can open most gates or unscrew things with their clever mouths.

Goats smell bad: Only breeding bucks smell bad and not everyone thinks it is a bad smell. The smell is only during the rutting season. It can start in September and is usually over with by February or March. The rest of the year they smell normal. Female goats don’t have an odor.

Goat’s milk tastes bad: If you have purchased goat’s milk from a store then yes, it most likely will taste bad. Fresh farm milk will taste no different than regular whole cow’s milk. An FFA group did a taste test with my milk and store bought cow’s milk and those farm kids couldn’t detect the goat’s milk.

You don’t need fences, just tie the goat out:  This is one of the most tragic ideas and is so common. I will never sell a goat to anyone who will even think about doing this. Let me tell you what happens when a goat is tied out. It becomes vulnerable. It is bait for any dog. A dog can kill a goat in seconds and it can’t run away. Very cruel. I know two people who told me stories of goat owners whose tied out goats were attacked by ground bees and one died and the other barely survived. Imagine not being able to run away from bees. Shoulder and leg injuries are common in tied out goats who get tangled.

Goats are dirty: A goat loves cleanliness. It won’t purposely even step in anything dirty given a choice. I have seen my goats step over a puddle on the floor. They love clean bedding and will start rolling around in a freshly cleaned pen. It is very rare when milking that I would find any mud on teats and udders. Somehow they manage to keep themselves free of mud. Their droppings are dry and a well bedded goat will always be clean. It would never bed down in a dirty spot if it has a choice.

Goats are hardy and easy to keep:Yes, and no.Some breeds are hardier than others. Goats need a well educated and qualified owner. They aren’t disposable. Every goat deserves a knowledgeable owner. Goats hate a draft, snow and rain, they need good shelter. Goats need yearly vaccinations, quality feed, good fresh water, a vet that really knows goats, excellent fencing, just to name some of the basic things. Goats need a steady and stress free life. Stress will kill a goat as sure as a disease or accident. Goats need owners that are vigilant, observant, and well educated. I offer at least 2 free goat seminars a year. All the basics are covered and it is a good way to find out if goats are for you. I prefer to sell goats to those who have come to my seminar.

Seminars offered each fall. Times are flexible. They usually are a morning with a potluck lunch, good fellowship and opportunity to see demonstrations. Send me a message if you can think of any other goat misconceptions or have a goat question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | January 25, 2017

Old World Herman Center

I love the idea of time travel. I have experienced a type of time travel several times in my life. Once when I was at the church that Dan’s Irish ancestors built at West Ridge near Waukon Iowa. There was an old church hall that had been unchanged for probably a century. Walking into that old hall gave me a feeling of time travel. It was almost an intoxicating feeling to walk into a place locked in time. Another time I was in Madison at the Gay Feather Fabric store on Williamson Street.  That store used to be Hans Sewing Center where my mother took us many times. She learned her trade of repairing sewing machines through Hans. Hans and Irene Neuenschwander were our dear friends and mother’s strong connection to Switzerland and her culture.  This store remains unchanged and I time traveled a bit there. Virginia who rents the store  said the upstairs apartment was virtually unchanged since I was a small child and if I wanted to I could go up the stairs. What I remembered the most about going up the stairs as a kid was that there was a drawing hanging at the top. As I climbed those same stairs 50 years later I had that intoxicating feeling of time travel. There at the top of the stairs was a faded spot where that picture hung. I used to stand in front of that picture and study it every time we were visiting. It was a magnificent pencil drawing portrait done in Switzerland. It was actually part of what inspired me to be an artist. After that experience I wrote Hans’s son and he still has the drawing and sent me a photo of it.

I have had a rare opportunity to experience some of what Herman Center must have been like at the turn of the century and before. Our farm was originally the Hildebrandt farm. Emma Hildebrandt was born in the little homestead house in 1873 where her grandparents, parents and siblings lived in three rooms. Emma grew up to marry Franz Zerbel. Now Franz was the youngest son of one of a well known land owner in Dodge County. He lived about a mile away at the Zerbel homestead. When Franz and Emma married they lived at the Zerbel homestead but eventually and for reasons not completely known Franz traded his family farm for the Hildebrandt farm. So now Emma was right back here in the little homestead house she was born in and her parents and grandparents moved to the Zerbel home nearby. Now my farm is not only known as the Hildebrandt farm but also as the Zerbel farm and same with the Zerbel farm nearby.  Seven generations later there are still Hildebrants in the house that was owned by Franz Zerbel before the trade. These two farms are integrally related. Their histories are forever entwined.

When we bought this farm we knew little to nothing about it’s history. Little by little the neighbors mentioned things but only enough to spark more interest. Our farm is a triangle piece of land. This is new since the 1980’s. It was divided to make Hwy. P not have a sharp right angle. Now it divides the original property and made our plot of land. Herman Center once had a thriving general store/post office, a cheese factory and a school. All of this was just kitty corner from our farm. Earl Hildebrandt has many photos of our farm, Herman Center, the Zerbels and many other records of life on our two farms. He is a good historian and he and his wife have been wonderful hosts as they have given us a very good glimpse into what life was like on both of our farms. This was my time travel experience. I have walked through the barns, seen the work horse stalls, the beautifully restored historical home, stood where the straw was stacked after threshing and photographed the hatch marks carved into the barn beams by the German builders. (the photo is upside down)img_0466-1

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Hildebrandt farm. Note the straw stack.

 

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This is the Hildebrandt home which is on the National Historic Registry of homes

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Our house shortly after it was built in 1908. The windmill provided water for the reservoir in our basement which provided water for the house.

To sum up my time travel experience I want to tell you about Clarence, Edwin and Ella. They were the children of Emma and Franz Zerbel. They farmed our farm their whole lives. They were serious farmers and worked hard and enjoyed the experience. Below is Clarence working in the same field that Dan makes hay in every year. A different photo shows standing water there which we still have most of the time in the spring. This photo brings me to say that this farm is still a busy place and we are privileged to carry on the simplicity and tradition that makes the farm a living and historic place. The products of our farm, honey, soap, hay, milk, eggs are nothing new, just a carrying on of life on a great farm. We walk the same paths, open the same doors,touch the same latches,  fill the same hay mows, farm the same fields, sleep in the same house. We live with the memories and experiences of those who came before even if we didn’t know them. It is all here. We are time traveling in their footsteps. In essence we fell into an old world and it is lovely. God is good.

clarence

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | December 16, 2016

Time for Painting

Only one event left and it may get snowed out. Sunday Oconomowoc Winter Market was canceled last week and this one may be snowy too. So, there has been a week of not having to rush too much and more time for my favorite activity.  Monday I began taking pictures around the farm looking for everyday scenes which would translate into small watercolors that I can use on new labels. The first was a picture I took of the geese in the snow. These geese are a trio. They have been married for 12 years and are still going strong. The white goose is the gander. His name is Peregrine which means Pilgrim. His wives are named Priscilla and Prudence, but don’t ask me which is which. They are rare heritage Pilgrim farm geese. I bought them to use to train Indigo to herd. They were very good for that but now are retired. geese-001

The second photo I took this week was of a Barred Rock hen that was sitting in the doorway when I went out to feed them. I couldn’t resist taking a picture and was excited to make a watercolor. Below is the finished product. Rosemary, Cardamom, Honey is a wonderful new soap. It has a nice blend of both scents and is spicy sweet. The scent is subtle but wonderful in the shower. It is a premium priced soap due to the expense of the cardamom essential oil. But it is worth it.

The other new soap with the same label is Eucalyptus, Lemon, Honey. It was inspired by several customers who asked on numerous occasions for a Eucalyptus soap and I went two steps better and added Litsea Cubeba which is a lemony essential oil and our own honey. soap-boxes-2soap-boxes-3

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Last year I found a lovely pitcher and wash bowl on a stand at an antique store. I had been looking for a long time and this one was just what I was looking for. I use it in the summer markets sometimes so customers can wash their hands and try out the soap. The watercolor is set with our daughter’s bedroom wall paper for the background. She says the painting reminds her of Anne of Green Gables. I thought it was perfect for the shaving bars. shaving-bar-001

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This week spent painting and looking at the farm in a more whimsical way has been so rejuvenating and encouraging. Art has always been important to me. I knew in 5th grade I would be an artist and have had a number of jobs in that field. How amazing to fit art into real farm life and integrate it into the soap making. I am constantly aware that all activities that happens on this farm are all related and part of one piece of the fabric of my life.  From goats to milk to hay to soap to art! That is a blessing!

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas. Jenni

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | March 20, 2016

kid pics 2016

Robbi trying to lure the kids close so he can meet them. He loves to press himself against the pen and let the kids pull on his hair. Below, two of the four kids

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | March 20, 2016

Zero to Sixty in Twenty Four Hours

Early spring is quiet here. The soap business is not in full swing yet and inventory is good so there wasn’t a huge flurry of soap making. I used the time to rest and prepare for the kids to arrive. I repaired doors in the barn, went over my kidding kit and replaced items used up last year. Spruced up the pen the kids will reside in and made sure the kidding pen was ready. I also bought a new infrared camera for the kidding pen. In the past I kept a night light on so my regular camera could see the doe in the pen and the doe was always disturbed by that light. Now it is dark and private at night but I can see very clearly. I cleaned the window in the kid pen so the sun can shine in. The pen is a lovely whitewashed large straw filled playground complete with things to climb on and a dog house for the kids to cuddle up in if it is cold.

All in all these things did not amount to being overly busy. I knew the minute kidding started it would be crazy busy and it was. March 16th, Suri my Toggenburg/Saanen cross had a quick and easy labor and delivered a doeling and a buckling. Suri is pure white, her kids were perfectly marked Toggenburgs. Very dark brown, normal sized and very vigorous. This is where it gets busy. Dairies hand raise the babies so I had to milk the mother’s colostrum, heat treat it, then feed it back to the kids. There are bottles to prepare, kids to teach to drink from a bottle, mother to learn to go to the milking parlor and be milked with a machine. Suri had no problem and was fine with me raising her babies. She was more interested in hay and grain. She milked a lot from the first milking and her babies were more than satisfied with what she provided. So each morning I got up early and went to the barn and milked the new mother so that I had her milk heat treated in time to feed the kids. It takes an hour plus to heat treat the milk. Then I went back down and milked the other goats, fed them and put them outside for the day, then back out to feed the kids.

Two days later on March 18th it was the same story all over again. Tasha delivered a buckling and a doeling very easily. They were purebred Toggenburgs and were also very beautiful, equal sized and very healthy. They were identical to the first two except that each one had a floppy ear, which will right itself in a day or two. This mother wouldn’t let down her milk and it didn’t matter what I did she wouldn’t relax. I was able to get 4 ounces of colostrum so that each kid could get a little. The next time was a little better and then by the third milking she relaxed, chewed her cud and let it all go nicely. She is producing like a champ. Colostrum is only absorbed in the first twenty fours so getting as much as you can into the kids is critical to their future health and there are no substitutes other than frozen colostrum from past kiddings.

There is a lot to keep track of, a lot to do each day with three feedings and tempering milk (130 degrees for one hour). Soon the colostrum will be replaced with milk and then all I have to do is pasteurize which is much faster and easier. Each kid gets it’s own mothers milk and all she can produce in the first days. The mother’s seem comforted by being near their babies and seeing them get fed.

Well the kidding pen is clean and awaiting the next kidding in May. The kid pen will have to be thoroughly cleaned each week to keep the kids healthy. Eventually they will learn to drink from a nipple bucket so I won’t have to individually bottle feed each one and no kid will have to wait it’s turn to get a bottle. I can sit back for a few moments and watch the kids on the camera from the house playing in their pen.

Thank you to Michelle, Julie and Conleigh for helping with the kidding. Each spent a lot of time here and helped tremendously. Julie and Conleigh are pros who have delivered hundreds of kids and cared for them at their own dairy. Michelle would like her own milking goats and came to help and get a taste of what kidding was like. She brought her new  Border Collie pup who slept through the whole thing. All in all it was a wonderful, joyful week even though it was a flurry of activity and continues to be for the next three months of bottle feeding. Next post I will try to get pictures.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | April 13, 2015

Kidding Season

As I sit in my recliner I can see my small herd of newborns playing and romping in their nursery pen on the remote barn cam. . Three does kidded and each kidded one week apart. So, big Hugo, the first kid has great skill at climbing on top of the dog house they sleep in. The twins, Heidi Beth and Hansi are just learning to climb on top of the house and then yesterday Bluma and Victor’s Berg (Berg means mountain) were added to the mix. Victor’s Berg was the first to appear and he presented in a very unusual way but still made it into the world in good shape. He had one leg back and one forward but the forward leg was staged a ways behind his head so his huge head had to deliver without help until I could get the hoof and work him out. He was huge and then his little sister popped out easily and in proper position. All are doing well and eating well. They are all Saanen/Toggenburg crosses and have all the hybrid vigor one would expect. All are white. Now I am done. Yet the work just begins. Each newborn gets it’s own mothers colostrum, fed back to it. This means heating (tempering) the colostrum to 130 degrees for one hour to destroy any disease that could be transferred. We do not have any of those diseases in our herd but it is still a desired practice. Then after the colostrum has finished and the does milk starts to come there is pasteurizing and feeding. I go through more than a gallon and a half of milk fed to kids each day. One of the new mothers is producing 10 pounds of milk a day. Washing milking equipment, bottles and buckets takes up a big part of my day. What used to take 45 minutes a day now takes a few hours each milking. Goat kids get three bottles a day for the first month, then two, then one until weaning at the end of three months or more.

This Saturday 4/18/15 we are having an open house at the farm from 1-4. If you are reading this the week of the open house you are welcome to come visit us. We will have goat cheeses made from our fresh goat’s milk, crackers, refreshments and soap on sale. Baby goats will be featured! Come and visit us.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | April 3, 2015

The April Fools Chicken

Playing  jokes on April Fools Day is sometimes fun, but I usually forget to play any.  My youngest daughter fed the new baby goat and I had her believing she had to burp the kid. Other than that I was too busy.  In the evening it was so lovely out and it gets dark so much later now that I didn’t get the chickens in and count them before the sun went down. After milking I went to the coop and shut the door and started counting hens. No matter how many times I counted it was only 23 and should have been 24. So, I went back to the house and got a head lamp and started hunting for the lost hen. We have only had a predator get a chicken once and that was a hawk in daylight. Other than that they have a good safe environment. After a long hunt in all the buildings and surrounding areas I gave it up for the night.

In the morning I got up early and was determined to be out by the coop when the sun came up to see if she was outside and had just not made it back before dark the night before. No hen. So, I did the same hunt again I had done the night before. Finally I gave it up. Dan was leaving for work and he prayed out loud, “Lord help Jenni find her hen.”  Then I went out to do the goose and chicken chores. Each day they get a 5 gallon bucket of water and I grabbed one of two buckets side by side in the chicken yard. One was upright and one was upside down. I grabbed the upside down bucket and there sitting on an egg under the bucket was my hen. She was no worse for the night trapped under a bucket. I had walked past her so many times looking for her and at one point had heard scratching. She must have been standing on the rim of the bucket and it flipped over on her. So that was a good way to start the day after April Fools Day and it only got better. Later that afternoon about 2:00 my pretty little doe Bethi delivered twin white kids, a girl and a boy. They are named Heidi Beth and Hansi. They joined a half brother Hugo. It was a fun day.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | January 7, 2015

Animals and the Cold Weather

I often get asked about how the animals do when it is very cold. We are blessed with a barn that is about 32 degrees when it is below zero outside. The goat’s bodies add to the warmth but also the thick stone walls and the position of the barn help a lot. The west side is underground and the east side gets the sun for the morning, the south side gets the sun most of the day. In the last few days the goats have been indoors and all the doors are shut tightly. Because the barn is large and it only has 14 goats it is not humid but comfortable. But the comfort of the goats is in the details. Lots of dry bedding morning and evening, heated water to encourage all to drink a lot of water, especially the pregnant goats, plentiful good hay, probably more than normal when it is cold.

Fortress like walls of the barn DSCN4859 Milking does coming to the gate to greet me

DSCN4858Lots of good hay

Baby Suri on this very cold day

The birds keep warm too. The chickens have a heat lamp and the geese get a fresh layer of hay or straw each time I check on them. Both groups have heated water.

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I keep warm in the soap house with the new wood stove.

DSCN4847DSCN4876Hope you are all keeping warm. The cold brings many challenges on the farm but I think all the animals are at least comfortable, well fed and have better than average shelter.

Happy New Year

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