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.


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

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | December 29, 2014

1880’s Soap House

photo (8)Most of my life I wanted to live in a different era than the one I was born into. Of course preferably sometime in the past.  When I was a kid my friends and I built elaborate Indian villages complete with tepees, stones for grinding grain and we even had ponies to wage war with. We were practiced at falling from running ponies and shooting homemade bows and arrows. This was a regular past time. Another fun life was when we were pioneers and the neighbor boy who represented the Cavalry would come around blowing his bugle.

My sister and I were pretty sure we were born out of time since our dad was born in 1893. It was not possible to fit in our own generation. My mother was  old world, being raised on a farm in a Monticello, Wisconsin area Swiss community where English was her second language and the old Swiss ways were ever present. Combine the parents’ life experiences and it makes for unique world views of some of their offspring. It is no wonder I ended up on a Swiss goat farm doing things the old fashioned way.

When we bought our farm the real estate agent said the old house on the property should be moved to Old World Wisconsin. A good selling point but not what we had in mind. It was built in the 1880’s sometime. No one knows for sure because no one who witnessed it is alive anymore.  We dubbed it Homestead House. We still don’t know if it was the homestead house or not, or just a summer kitchen, but it does have 3 rooms. One is a large gathering room and the other two are smaller, possibly bedrooms. The multi-pane windows have the original rippled glass which when you look west you see the pine forest with wavy distortion. My favorite view.

We recently restored the building’s foundation and all of the plaster has been expertly repaired. It has a new sub-floor, but still needs new doors. The walls are about a foot thick and the beams that it was made with are 10×10 inches and all hand-hewn. No saws were used for the structure…same as the barn. Before it was restored we used it for storage, an art studio, and I hate to admit it but I raised 50 Jumbo Rock Cornish Hens in it until they got pretty big. I did protect the floor and walls with tarps however so no remnant of chickens would remain. Oh, and a litter of puppies was raised there as well.

After 3 years of soapmaking in the house and a lot of equipment and merchandise, we decided it was time to move the business to the Homestead House, now called the 1880’s Soap House. The biggest obstacle was no heat. We looked at many ways to heat a house that size (small) and finally decided on a wood stove. There was a very good chimney which probably hadn’t been used in many, many years. I have a dear friend who right before Y2K bought a state of the art Amish cook stove. It was a dual purpose stove as it was designed to heat a house as well as for cooking. She sold it to us and after finding a crew of men to help it was moved and installed in the homestead house. It weighs 623 pounds so it was a good thing the foundation was repaired. It works perfectly. I am learning to be a pioneer for real and how to cook with wood. It has an oven and a water reservoir as well as a warming cupboard. It is a lot more fun than the 5 cast iron toy stoves I have in my cupboard. I hate to admit I wanted to try them out with real kindling but in the end decided they were too small and the pots weren’t big enough for any real food. The Amish stove is a dream come true. I use it with some fear and trembling praying all the time “God protect us from a chimney fire.” But so far it has been a wonderful heat source and a learning experience. It is the center of the house, adding charm, warmth and authenticity to an 1880’s Soap House.


Posted by: The Swiss Frau | June 11, 2014

White Washing


Time for renewal. We have had the barn re-wired and actually are still in the process. Two sets of wiring had to be removed, one old, and one was the current wiring that is now replaced. Dan and I have spent a minimum of 20 hours removing “stuff” from the ceiling of the barn. Things such as an iron railing that a manure cart used to ride on. Considering the load it had to carry it was firmly attached and had been for more than a hundred years I would guess. The barn did not have gutters as far as we can determine but the cart would be filled and pushed above the floor to a manure cart and dumped, over and over again. Also on the ceiling were hundreds of nails in the old beams. Who knows why they were there but they made perfect places for barn swallows to hang a nest. They were so rusty and old that most of the time I would only have to bend them a few times and they would break off. All of this to prepare for whitewashing and the next step which will be all new lighting fixtures.

White washing is a very old and respected way to purify a barn. Unfortunately with new pole buildings rapidly taking place of the old stone foundation dairy barns it is not as common anymore. The chemical make up of the white wash and the PH destroy bacteria and encapsulates anything growing or thriving on the walls or ceiling.The PH is unfriendly to parasites.  It is similar to bedding down a pen with barn lime as part of the bedding foundation of lime, shavings, straw. White wash is a form of lime. It is non-toxic and if the goats lick it they won’t get sick. It is also known as Limate. Below are some photos of the process including draping the barn and the finished barn. 2014-06-06 12.54.43

2014-06-06 12.54.55The tub of whitewash takes an hour to prepare. It will take this entire tub to whitewash my barn. In the process it will go a lot of places it shouldn’t as it is being sprayed, like on the floor, but it won’t do any harm and will wear off quickly with all the activity in the barn.

Below is the parlor draped before spraying.

2014-06-06 12.55.142014-06-06 13.01.24-2

2014-06-06 12.55.52

2014-06-06 16.32.21

This is the wall that was the worst wall in the barn. It needed tuck pointing and because it is the wall that is unexposed and underground it looked pretty bad. Above is a before and after.

Once the wash is dry it is hard and shiny. It is as good as paint, but  it is better since it has qualities that paint does not have. In the above photo it is not yet dry and after it dried it got a lot whiter. The last time we had the barn whitewashed was 5 years ago so it was time .

It was a huge chore with a lot of preparation but I am pleased to have such a white clean looking barn. Not bad for a barn that has seen more than a hundred and thirty years of use.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | February 9, 2014

The Goats Know

It does seem that spring is never going to happen. In the barn there are signs too big to ignore that it is just around the corner. Early March means the first does are due to kid. They are getting noticeably large and everyday brings them closer to delivery. It also means they will become fresh does and enter the ranks as valuable milkers. It also means they get their big bells like the rest of the milking goats. As soon as the kids are born the doe gets milked and from that moment on she is part of our milking herd for the next 2-3 years until she kids again. Our breeding plan is to breed only the does that can have what is called an extended lactation. Not all breeds can do this, but so far the Toggenburgs  have been able to go at least 2 years. We have only one Saanen that is milking now and we don’t know how long she will go but I have no doubt she will go another year. The benefits of extended lactations are these: 1. The doe will only have to kid every 2-3 years limiting the number of kids she will produce and the risk to her health. Kidding is the number one cause of death. 2. She will produce the same amount of milk in those 2-3 years that she would have produced if she kidded every year. 3. The doe will produce fewer kids that will have to be sold, or sent for meat. 4. It saves me a lot of extra work and worry.  

Another sign of spring and the reason I think the goats know something we don’t know is that their milk production is rapidly increasing as it would in the spring. Most of the goats held steady at about 4-5 pounds each day in the deep winter and now they are at 6 pounds each and will continue to increase until they reach the 8-14 pound a day mark. 

Days are getting longer. The chickens are laying more eggs. This is the first winter I can remember since having chickens they they were unable to go outside. In a normal winter I would put out straw and they would go out and scratch around but this year not one wants to go outside. 

Having to rest for 5-6 weeks because of the heart surgery during the worst part of the winter was a blessing.  I have been going to the barn now at least once a day, sometimes more, and starting tomorrow will be back to full time milking. My family and a family friend got the farm through during this time. We were blessed to have a very experienced goat herds woman to do the week day morning milking and take care of the birds. My husband, son and daughters all worked so hard to do all the many jobs on the farm while I was house bound. We continued to milk 2 times a day through the winter. It would have been easier to dry up the goats in light of the surgery but then I would have lost 5 valuable milkers that are starting their second or third year of lactation. Three more does will kid this spring and then we will be milking 8 does. Currently my best milker is starting her second year of milking and her daughter will kid at the end of March. I am hoping she has 2 doelings since this line is excellent in production. I will keep these girls if there are any. Last year we had only one doeling born and all the rest were bucklings. We are due for some females I think. 

I will keep you posted on the kidding season. Thank you for reading the blog. Keep looking for signs of spring. 


Posted by: The Swiss Frau | January 8, 2014

A Time of Rest

Hello to those of you who follow my blogspot. Many of you are new as I have gotten a lot of notices lately.

This is very deep winter, time for hibernation and that is what I am trying to do. On January 3rd I had robotic open heart mitral valve repair at Mayo Hospital St. Mary’s in Rochester MN.  Before the surgery I had the usual flurry of activity trying to do all the things I needed to do before I was unable to do them anymore. I built an 8 foot hay feeder, rebuilt a pen, moved goats around for the easiest and safest care possible. I trimmed all the buck’s hooves, wormed them and trimmed all the dry goat’s hooves. Took the milking vacuum pump apart and cleaned it for maximum vacuum and efficiency. Re-did  a walk in closet and organized all my clothes and rebuilt the closet. Cleaned the house and made new pajamas. Bought a bathrobe, slippers and other necessary garments appropriate to recovery. Then there was help to organize for the animals. Made lists, and more lists. My children all played a huge role in this. My youngest daughter, 24, took over the house, laundry, cooking, and dogs. My middle child 28, took over the bucks, geese, chickens and feeding and watering the milking goats. My oldest daughter, a professor of English  by trade took over the milking and the dairy as well as chickens and geese and bucks while her brother is at work. On top of that the Lord provided an incredible experienced herd manager to work for the next 6 weeks or so to continue milking and caring for all the animals. I do not and am not supposed to go to the barn for a while. You can imagine how hard that is for me. I have yet to lay eyes on a goat since I arrived home last night. I am learning to trust people and God with my farm.

The good news is that my heart has been 100% restored to proper function. Not even a drop leaks from the valve and I am recovering just fine. I have cardiac rehab yet and a lot of other hoops to jump through but it will pass.

Those of you who have needed soap you can always call or email and Dan can take it to the post office for you or you can come to the farmer’ market in Oconomowoc this Sunday and again in two weeks. The market is at Oconomowoc Landscape Supply on the corner of Hwy. K and Hwy. 67 N. It runs from 9:30 til 1pm. we have a good inventory left, only a few items are sold out for this season and will be replenished as soon as I can make soap again. I over did it making soap knowing I would not be making soap in January much.

Hope all of you stay safe and warm. Those of you who knew and prayed, thank you so much. Jenni

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | October 16, 2013

It’s a God Thing

Sometimes life is full of surprises. This story has more than one surprise.

A few weeks ago I was looking for a cheap frame for future paintings that I wanted to paint. I usually go to Good Will and look for the largest frames I can find. On that particular day I saw a 24″x36″ frame turned away from me. I turned it around and was shocked to see an original oil painting of an alp house tucked into the mountains. It was $15.00 so I bought it and on the way home stopped at my artist friend Emil’s house to see what he thought about it. He was impressed with it and told me how to clean it. I took it home and carefully cleaned it’s varnished surface and it just popped out with clarity and beauty. He later stopped by to see it clean and said it is worth about $700.00.

The artist’s name was in the corner and the date, 1955, the artist, E. Schanhoff. I couldn’t find that name on the internet related to art in any way. I hung it on the wall and have been enjoying it very much. Today I decided to send a picture of it to my dear friend Ursula in Switzerland. Thinking it might be Swiss and also thinking I might just paint my goats into the picture. She wrote back immediately and said it is not Swiss but it is a scene from the Dolomite mountain range in Italy. Emil did say he thought the mountains looked like mountains in Italian paintings, however the name is not Italian. So, she said that it is from a place called South Tyrol. But the biggest surprise of all was that she sent a photo of an alp house tucked into the exact landscape with the same mountains in the background. This really made me more curious so I started reading about South Tyrol. It may be considered Italy but the Austrians who live there consider it Austrian. It was taken by Italy after the First World War and they are working on being independent from Italy  preserving their German language and Austrian culture.  This painting was probably done by someone who cared a lot about the setting and the history of South Tyrol.

To learn more look up on Wikipedia Sudtirol or South Tyrol. There is a very good map and explanation of the situation.
images-1                                                                                 The painting and the photo Ursula sent me

Ursula and I have been good friends for 33 years. Our lives have been linked in many ways. My mother was American born Swiss with a  dual citizenship and spoke Swiss German in fact the same dialect as Ursula. Ursula and I share many customs and interests. We traveled to all the regions of Switzerland together with backpacks and I have been to her home twice. The  painting becomes more dear to me as we discovered  the link between me finding it and loving it and her great interest in this very mountain range. She had so hoped to visit it in October so was very amazed that I sent her a photo of the painting of the very place she wanted to be in the same month. The photo above is of an alp house in what appears to be a very similar spot. It makes the painting so valid to me with a history and a story and a connection. This is why I say it is a God thing. How could I find a painting in West Bend at Good Will that is so significant to Ursula and again give us a way to connect? How did this painting get to West Bend? It is even a wonder that I found out the history of the painting with a simple email and a little research.  Now I am unsure about altering the painting at all.  I like it so much more now. In my imagination I walk down the path or imagine calling in the goats to come to the barn for milking. They walk along the fence single file.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | August 27, 2013

Making Cider

photo(3)photo(2)Schmeckt gut!

This is the time of year I love. Yesterday we picked the pears that were still a little green and a bushel and a half of ripe apples. After milking and before we had our breakfast we started pressing the fruit. We caught the cider as it ran out of the press and tasted as often as possible. Oh, how sweet! Then I made bacon and eggs and we had a wonderful farm breakfast washed down with the nectar of pears and apples.

Two years ago on Labor Day weekend I was canning apple sauce with some rather questionable and difficult apples (small) and happened to mention to  Dan how a cider press would allow us to use up all the not so pretty apples and not waste them each year. For cider they certainly don’t have to be perfect. Well, it wasn’t 10 minutes later he had found a cider press on Craigslist in Jefferson and off we went immediately to buy it. It was owned by a very meticulous person who kept it clean and well cared for. It was an old press but solid and dependable and huge. It was made in Lancaster Ohio, probably very, very

I have a very fond memory of my Uncle Alfred,  a very eccentric Swiss man pressing apples in his milk house. The best thing I ever tasted was the cider from the tin cup we caught the cider with.

All of the fond memories related to farming always seem to go back to Uncle Alfred and his lovely Swiss farm in Arena, Wisconsin.  The bells, the cider and the enjoyment of country life.

Posted by: The Swiss Frau | August 4, 2013

Sunday Morning

This Sunday in the barn was a beautiful leisurely time of milking and caring for the goats. I started out the day with letting the chickens and geese out for the day then moved on the the hay mow where I am drying a lot of damp bales of hay. We brought them in damp on purpose to avoid the rain which was just starting. This meant that there were about 100 bales of hay laying around the barn floor, mostly dry and a huge pile of opened up hay to go back into the baler to be re-baled. So I opened up the doors wide, put on the fans, checked a sampling of bales for dryness and moved on to milking goats. It was nice and cool in the downstairs of the barn where I milk. Usually I put the radio on but today it was so perfectly beautiful and peaceful that I left it off. The big barn door was open wide and Robbi was ready to go to work. The barn smelled of new hay and there was a great sense of contentment in the barn this morning as all the goats were well fed and fat and fit looking. So much hay that had been fed out to use up the wettest bales meant there was more than an abundance of good groceries for goats. Milk production is up as well, almost 5 gallons a day up from 4 before the good hay came into the barn.

I had just finished milking and was filling buckets when I heard footsteps in the hay mow. Then I heard a few bales falling on the ancient wooden floor upstairs too. This made no sense. Dan was out of town and my daughter does not go to the barn. There is a staircase leading up to a trap door that works on a pulley going up to the mow. I slowly crept up the stairs and peaked out the open door to see if there was a strange car outside and nothing. Then I surveyed the hay mow. My heart was racing. Suddenly there was a movement at the far end of the mow. What I saw momentarily gave me a scare. There between bales and a big supporting post was a large shaggy beast. I only got a glimpse of it’s back. Then it moved forward and suddenly I realized it was my Tog buck Klaus pushing his way through all the drying bales and then the 2 other boys could be seen as well.

I headed across the maze of drying hay and grabbed Klaus hoping the rest would follow. I was partway to the buck house when Robbi came up the stairs to see what was going on and discovered the bucks out of place. Now you have to understand Robbi has no relationship with these bucks like he has with the does. Last time I tried to bring in the bucks with him was more than a year ago and all they did was turn on him and try to defend themselves so I didn’t use him again with the bucks. Maybe I underestimated my dog. He took one look, rounded up the boys and ran them back into their pen and the bucks were more than happy to oblige this streak of black and white dog police. All I did was open the gate. He did it all too fast for sure, but he knew exactly what to do and that it needed doing without being asked. I have to say I am proud of the speed demon.

The buck run gate has 2 chains locking them in. Both chains were off. They were on when I put them to bed last night. I have 2 chains because they have been known to play with it long enough to unsnap the snap. Apparently they unsnapped 2 chains . Maybe they were out all night on a big toot eating pears and alfalfa or maybe it just happened. They are not talking.

All is well and it is a beautiful day. The hay is nearly all dry and will soon be stacked and order will come back to the hay mow. The bucks are fine and Robbi had a good morning of work.


Posted by: The Swiss Frau | July 16, 2013

Summer on the farm

Things are moving right along here on our little farm. We have a new steel roof on the barn. Bender Builders our of Beaver Dam came and straightened the barn. With that and the new roof the Amish put on the barn should last another 100 years. Bender Builders thought it was built in the 1880’s because of the hand hewn beams.

Also this summer we purchased a used skid loader which makes work easier. We have been using hand carts to haul manure from the beginning and now it is a thing of the past. Also we bought a manure spreader for 30.00 from a friend. We now can take care of our farm’s manure without neighbors hauling it for us.

Farmer’s markets are going very well. We have added some new products which keep me busy producing and packaging.

Another wonderful development is that next year our milk will be purchased to feed fawns at several deer farms. This is a good excuse to breed a few more goats than I would have otherwise.

We have a new Pilgrim gosling. Several hatched but the female is the only one to survive. (Pilgrim geese are a rare and valuable, endangered domestic breed of geese)  She developed angel wing. This is a condition where one or both wings turn out instead of tucking up on the back under the feathers . The young goose looked like a fighter jet with both wings turning out and back. I saw a video on how to splint the wings properly and after 4 days of being taped up the splints were taken off and she was completely normal. This is especially nice as I intended to keep her with the other females and now she won’t be deformed. Not much that one can’t learn on the internet.

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