This blog post was written by Bend Soap Company co-owner, Marilee Johnson.
Fall is such a glorious season! The vibrant colors of the trees, abundant harvests, hayrides, apple picking, canning, school supplies, Maple Sugar, and, of course… Breeding season! What’s not to love? LOL!
Actually, my love of Fall goes all the way back to my childhood days on the farm, where I grew up in the rural Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. Yes... New York is more than just a big city! In fact, the majority of the state is made up of rolling hills, lakes, mountains, rivers, orchards and farms. I was fortunate to grow up in a gorgeous New England area, in a small town called Saranac (go Chiefs!) on a little 30-acre hobby farm on a hill.
Our big farmhouse! (Who can guess who's on the lawn mower?)
Our huge garden!
If you look at a map, Saranac is in the North Eastern corner of the state, about an hour from the French-Canadian border and a half hour from Lake Champlain, the expansive “6th Great Lake” that separates New York from Vermont. Just writing this brings back so many memories… I could write a whole blog post on my hometown! (A big “Hey Ya’ll!” to my family and friends back there! Hopefully someday soon I’ll get to take the whole family back to my old stomping grounds and show them everything from Niagara Falls to Lake Placid where the winter olympics were. I’m getting so excited!)
Alright, now back to Fall, the season named for the changing colors of the leaves that soon fall from the branches of the non-evergreen trees. Have you ever seen pictures of October in Upstate New York? Oh my! The Fall colors on the trees are absolutely breathtaking with their crimson reds, vibrant oranges, and lemony yellows. It’s a sight to behold that people from all over the world travel to experience. And, with the fall of so many beautiful deciduous leaves, comes mountains of fun; I loved going for hikes in the tall woods with my feet shuffling through the leaves as the orange light of Fall bursts through the barren limbs above!
That's me on the tractor! My Dad and my three sisters were baling hay the old-fashioned way.
Vienna and Royal Johnson.
Harvesting is another part of Fall that makes this a fun season. If you’re spunky enough to get out there in the Spring to plant, then this is the time when God’s bounty is ready in abundance to pluck each day. There’s nothing more fulfilling than harvesting the fruit of your labor. The round green pumpkins are turning their deep oranges, letting us know that they are ready to pick. The apple trees have boughs heavy laden with green, yellow and red apples in the orchards. The corn’s ears are bursting and the stalks are ready to be used in decorations. The hay is all put up and it's time for hayrides and bonfires. And the maple syrup is being gathered and turned into maple sugar. Yum!
And on the farm we live on here in Bend, Oregon, we’ve begun to experience much of this fabulous season as well (except the maple syrup and sugar, of course) and we’re in the final days of harvest as the frosts steal away any more from the summer growth. The kids have brought in the zucchini and beans like crazy, and we even had a small little harvest of corn.
The trees turned their beautiful colors and the hay was put up for the second time this year. Our extended Bend Soap Company family celebrated together and we had a nostalgic bonfire and hayride to start the season off right!
After all the summer chores and outdoor work projects are done, we’ll retreat from the colder days to the indoors where we’ll bust out the school books, be creative with papers, pencils, paint and instruments (not at the same time!) We’ll get the globe out and learn history and geography and all sorts of good things.
And, since we have goats, there’s another seasonal activity that is part of Fall on this farm: breeding time! There are lots of lessons to be learned from the simple living of farm life, including the lessons of reproduction and the bringing forth of new life. If you’ve ever wondered how or when to tell your children about the birds and the bees, God’s natural creation has a way of bringing it to them simply!
The buck or “billy goat” is the male goat and the dams or “does” are the females. The billy goat goes into something called his “rut” once a year in the Fall. This is the only time he is able to breed (pass his seed) and it ensures that the kids will be born in the late Winter to early Spring, giving them the best opportunity for survival. When the billy is in the “rut”, his hormones have him all primed to show forth his studliness to the does. He gets quite a smell goin’ (by means rather not mentioned) and thinks he is ALL THAT! And let me tell you, if he had a mirror, his strutting would be a performance!
"If you’ve ever wondered how or when to tell your children about the birds and the bees, God’s natural creation has a way of bringing it to them simply!"
We put the billy goats in with the does when in the Fall and he “covers” the does that are in heat. The does cycle approximately every three weeks and when they’re ready for copulation/conception, they act very interested in the billy goat. The two have their moment together and voilà — goat kids will most likely be on their way in the Spring! A doe will carry her new kid or kids for 40 weeks or 5 months. We typically like our goats to kid in Spring, so we don’t let the billy in until late October or November. I’ve heard of goats kidding as early as January but that would be a very cold time of year for this area, so we prefer a little later.
And Finally, Answers to a Few of the Most Popular Questions We Get About Our Goats
Q: How often do you breed your goats?
Our goats are bred each year which helps us collect a good amount of milk outside of the daily amount given to their babies. Does that give birth in the Spring are bred that same Fall. When the does kid (deliver their babies), their milk production kicks back in which is called a “freshening.” If the does are not bred, their milk supply will slowly dwindle down over time.
Q: How much does your herd of goats grow each year?
Considering that each doe typically has between two and three babies each, our herd grows significantly each year. A herd can easily triple in size in five months! That growth has been great for us here at Bend Soap Company since we’ve needed more and more good milk does to produce milk for our growing operation here. The does born in the Spring that we choose to keep will be bred in the Fall (does can reach puberty anywhere between 4-12 months of age, depending on the breed) and those that we choose not to keep will be sold.
Q: What happens to the boy goats?
The bucks are used for many things, including weed abatement. Because of the digestion in the stomach of the goat, they can devour not only the weed itself, but they can actually digest the seeds so they cannot replant! Cattle farmers will often bring in a herd of goats to “de-weed” their pasture and turn it back into grazing land for their cows.” Goats also make wonderful pets and companions for other animals such as horses.
Q: Q: Do the does have to be pregnant to produce milk?
Our goats are extremely important to us, so we take extra measures to make sure they are being treated with top notch care all year round. While goats do not have to be pregnant to produce milk, we make sure that pregnant goats are not milked in the months leading up to their due dates so that they can rest and have plenty of milk for their little ones. We believe that happy, healthy goats produce great milk so we treat our goats ike part of the family!
Come Meet Our Goats for Yourself!
We are thankful for Fall and all of the changes it brings. The Bend Soap Company farm is ready for this glorious season!And don’t forget: If you’re ever in the Central Oregon area, stop by for a Farm Tour! We’ll show you around our facility, introduce you to our goats, and give you a free travel size bar of our goat milk soap! Learn more details about our tours by clicking here.