For the love of kids
The peacocks may strut, the roosters may crow, but for now, Justyne McCoy can burrow under the pillows and sleep a little later.
For her goats are in the breeding season and there will be no more milking chores until spring.
At 11, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Justyne has been raising goats for three years, and it's all the result of a 4-H project that grew.
"We started with a mom and a baby three years ago," Justyne said. "We were up to 25 goats by last summer."
As she talks, Daisy, a black and white goat, nuzzles up to Justyne. Moulon, a tan and white goat, perches on a ramp nearby, watching the action through the honey-colored slits in her eyes. Justyne calls to the other eight does in the barnyard by name, and one by one, they approach, shyly letting Justyne wrap her arms around them.
They know her well, from their days in the milking barn.
For the past year and a half, Justyne and her mother have milked the goats twice a day, starting the first milking session at 5:30 a.m., and returning in the afternoon for another session.
It was a relief this time to let the goats dry out, Justyne said. She was tired of milking them, she said.
But her customers who bought the milk appreciated her labors. Fortunately for them, the McCoys still have two freezers full of goat milk left.
Surprisingly, her biggest buyer is Judy Michaelis, a soapmaker from DeSoto.
"Judy comes here with a cooler and buys seven or eight gallons of frozen milk at a time," said Roxane McCoy, Justyne's mother.
Michaelis said she always adds goat milk to her soap, using canned or dried milk if fresh isn't available.
"The goat milk gives my soap additional qualities it wouldn't have otherwise," Michaelis said. "It makes the lather fuller and creamier. Also, people say that your skin will absorb some of the vitamins and minerals that are in the goat milk."
A half quart of goat milk makes one batch, or about 30 bars of soap. On a good day, Michaelis said she can make four batches of soap. She markets the soap through gift shops such as Back Porch Friends in Tonganoxie, at craft shows and on her website, www.sunrisesoap.com.
As for Justyne's hobby that evolved into a business, Michaelis said, "I think it's great it's wonderful that she has something at her home that she can do and market the byproduct from it."
Another buyer of goat millk is an area llama raiser who gives the milk to her newborn llamas when the mothers don't feed them.
A popular snack at the McCoy's family is a cheese spread made from goat milk. Roxane McCoy said the milk is boiled with lemon juice, then strained through cheese cloth until the whey is drained out, then mixed with flavors.
Some of the goats are sold to be butchered. Roxane McCoy said that goat meat tastes similar to deer, but is more mild.
Even today, Roxane McCoy marvels at how their lives have come to revolve around raising the goats.
"If someone had told me three years ago that we'd be milking and raising goats, I'd have told them they were crazy," she said.
Roxane McCoy said she's glad Justyne has continued to raise goats.
"I love the animals, too," she said.
She tells of keeping newborn goats in playpens in their basement during the winter, of hiring people to come to the 10-acre farm east of Tonganoxie to care for the goats when the family went on vacation, and of trying to keep the bucks separated from the does.
As she speaks, Justyne kneels in the barnyard, her arms wrapped around the neck of Daisy.
She appreciates her mother's help in the project, she said. And from the way she hugs her goats, it's obvious that Justyne loves them.
"But I would rather have raised horses or market steers," she said.
Her mother reminds her that cows wouldn't be as lovable as the goats, and besides, since they don't have a truck or trailer, getting them to the fair would have been difficult.
Mother and daughter laugh as they recall the first time they took a goat to the fair transporting it in the backseat of their compact car.
Justyne laughed and said,
"But, if I'd have had a horse or a market steer, I wouldn't have had a way to get it to the fair unless I rode it there."