A handful of our American Alpines have wattles, those two rather attractive furred protuberances on her neck. You are familiar with turkey and chicken wattles, those flaps of skin dangling from their lower jaws. Several bird species have wattles, and male wattles are clearly larger than female wattles. Not so in goats. Wattles are more common in dairy goat breeds than other goat breeds and seem to be heritable as a dominant trait, so that a mother with wattles is likely to have kids with wattles. They are usually on the neck, but can show up elsewhere, such as up by a goat's ears, and are the same size in males and females.
What are they for? Delightfully, there's no good answer. They may have an association with tonsils, the lymphoid tissue that is a first line of defense against infection. Goats have six different types of tonsils. However, goat wattles don't seem to contain specialized cells. Show breeders may remove them without harming a kid. Goat science has explored a connection between having wattles and higher milk production, but we don't see this effect on the farm.
The Chinese New Year next month ushers in the Year of the Monkey. Our 2015 Year of the Goat brought us a herd in excellent health, even more fertile pastures, and re-roofed and ventilated barns. We gained our farm manager, Mark. We lost people we loved, but we have deep, happy memories and we celebrated their lives together. And there's new life to come. Adriana's Farm Baby will have a sister. And two hundred kids arrive in spring as ever. So, for us, it's another Year of the Goats - and Llamas.
It's quite miserable outside, but that's a good thing. We need to take the time to cocoon, since there's only a month until kidding season begins. The trees are bare and there's mud underfoot, but the pasture is a deep green, thanks to the rain. Satisfyingly, the fertilizer and organic manure spread in November will be going to work, making the spring grass even more nutritious.
Romantically, we've held two January weddings, both on days of winter sunshine, with a bonfire and sheepskin and felted throws in the upper barn.
Sweet-smelling straw, felted throws and wedding music in her barn
The Secret Garden is just as magical late in the year as it is in summer, dramatic with seedheads and shadows. Anna and Nate's November wedding skies were beautiful, fading into a spectacular sunset over the fields.
The wedding arbor of pink and maroon hydrangeas, ferns and eucalyptus
We decorated the Upper Barn with milk churns of curly willow from the creek, sunflowers and candlelight
Karolynne Meyer, floral designer and stylist, echoed her wedding arbor colors with peach and maroon bouquets, wrist corsages and boutonnieres for the wedding partyA glamorous pink evening lightHarley Farms lavender chèvreKale and avocado salad with persimmon and farm pearsGoat cheese ravioli with brown butter and sageLocal duck with farm quince jelly, greens and a yam and pumpkin mashPink Lady apple dumplings with goat milk caramelHarley Farms lemon cheesecakeCongratulations, Anna and Nate. May your life together overflow with love and glamorous evenings
I have always wanted a bonfire night. Growing up, we always had a village bonfire on the night of the Fifth, with fireworks, a guy to burn, potatoes wrapped in foil roasting in the fire, and sticky parkin cake. It's traditional!
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the Queen!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!
Guy Fawkes Night is the Fifth of November. The British commemorate the failed assassination plot of 1605 to blow up King James I at the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament with bonfires across the country. Guy Fawkes, the conspirator who was to light the fuse, was betrayed in the nick of time and convicted of treason. Every British village makes guys to burn on our November Fifth bonfires. Thank you to the amazing Heather Gibbons for this year's 18-feet tall effigy!
Our Bonfire Night dinner table in the Upper Barn looking serene in the late afternoon
Dinner was autumnal comfort food, with soup, spicy macaroni cheese, and beef stew with garlic smashed potatoes
Sweet things traditionally served on Guy Fawkes Night. Parkin (top) is a light gingerbread. Toffee apples are compulsory
Despite last week's shower, the fields are dry. We couldn't build the enormous bonfire of our dreams, just a warming fire
It's been a weekend of spectacular skies and starry nights, culminating in the red moon of Sunday night. An auspicious weekend for a weddingKarolynne Meyer styles the secret garden arbor with farm sunflowers and soft green amaranthusOnly trying to helpThe bride is seconds awaylooking gorgeous with Karolynne's cream and green bouquetTanya and James's reception was back at the farmWe recommend Laura and Anton. Their playing was beautifully atmosphericCantaloupe with our chèvre and our habanero jellySea bass dusted with our fish rubCongratulations Tanya and James. May all your skies be clear