Blue blue blue blue Chrstmas?

 It's been the driest start to a winter season in almost 50 years.
 Our area has received only 4.3 inches of snow -- 18 inches below average -- and most of that melted on unusually warm days.
 Spring Lake is frozen and one intrepid fisherperson has a hut out on the ice, 
but it just doesn't seem very Christmassy yet about a week away from the 25th.
 The Farmers are mostly concerned about next year's clover hay crop, which could suffer in a drought. 
The Weather Service, though, is still predicting above average snows in this La Nina year.  And the last time the area had an even slower start to winter (3 inches of snow through Dec 11 in 1962), the later months made up with 45.4 inches the rest of the season.
 We hope the snow and "well below normal temperatures" (also still predicted) don't wait till March, when oodles of cute goat babies are due to arrive.  
 JuJu (here trying to extricate herself from the hammock) is finally weaned, bred and incubating one or more Topper offspring.
 She still likes to hang out with her mom -- and eat what little snow remains.
 Alba also traveled to Kettle River for a romantic interlude with
 the devilishly handsome Topper
 as the local herd cheered from the sidelines.
 It was a chance to catch up with Alba's daughter Crema and granddaughter Carmella
 along with other daughter Rosa and her girls.
 With her fuzzy face, Lily is ready for the real cold if it ever gets here.
 Kara-Kahl Awe Baby is the latest addition to the Split Rock Farm family.
 Mr. T recently entertained some does visiting from Washburn, Wisconsin:
 and Sunlight.
 The girls seemed to enjoy their stay, but didn't show much interest in Mr. T.
 They were much more excited about eating his hay.
 Sunlight was especially coy; she showed no signs of estrus until the morning she was due to leave.
 Having been successfully bred (we hope), they hopped into the Goatmobile
 for the trip back to Cheeseweaselstan.
 Mr. T still hasn't adjusted to the end of breeding season; he keeps checking out the ladies' pasture in hopes of more visitors.
 A local church wanted to "borrow" some of the girls for a living Nativity scene, but Barb declined.  They would be too vulnerable to well meaning but overly rambunctious children
 and likely to embarrass themselves by nibbling on Baby Jesus.
 In non-goat animal activity, Steve continues to put his English degrees to good use by cleaning poopy dog kennels Sunday mornings at Friends of Animals Humane Society.
 He also edits the shelter's newsletter
 and wrote the holiday appeal letter.
 Barb made over 400 bars of soap for the holiday gift-giving season. 
 On Dec 15 she packed up her Duluth soap orders
 and took in her last delivery of milk, cheese and yogurt for her Duluth customers (who also got a complimentary baggy of delicious goat milk fudge).  After another delivery or two to customers in Cloquet, she will be done for this year's milking season -- and resting up for a very busy spring, with all five does set to produce babies and rivers of milk in 2012.
 Christmas lights give the Farm a festive seasonal air, despite the paucity of snow.
Bubba and the goats join the Farmers in wishing everyone a happy holiday season and wonderful new year.


Extended Autumn

 We've been enjoying an unusually prolonged fall.
 Seasonal colors began to appear in mid-September
 and then peaked in October
 making for gorgeous walks around the Farm
 down Red Oak Lane
 and Spring Lake Road
 to the lake
 and back again.
The prolonged mild weather also made for pleasant walks
 through nearby Jay Cooke State Park. 
By November the landscape had turned more monochromatic
 but still spectacular
 especially in the early morning light. 
 We got our first real snow on Nov. 10th
 but it was a mere dusting compared with 
the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard (Nov 11-12), which killed 49 people in Minnesota,
[Minnesota Historical Society photo]
or the 1991 Halloween blizzard (Oct 31-Nov 3), which trapped us in our Duluth house for several days.
[Bob King/Duluth News-Tribune]
 This year's first snow was gone two days later when Barb headed down to St. Paul for the Minnesota Dairy Goat Association conference in 50-degree weather. 
 But the woolly bears are still predicting a harsh winter for us
 as is the National Weather Service.
 Bubba isn't quite sure he's ready yet for winter, especially since the matted fur was shaved off his haunches and tummy and hasn't entirely grown back.
 The goats are prepared, however.  Barb installed new barn doors that will let them out into the pasture when they want but that can be closed against wind and snow.
 With night-time temperatures falling below freezing, we've switched to heated water buckets.
 The main bucket is accessible via openings for goat heads
 but the plug is now well protected after culprit(s) unknown chewed through the electrical cords down to the bare wires.  Fortunately Barb discovered and repaired the damage before anyone could fry herself.
 The girls enjoy getting out while the yard is still snow-free
 grabbing the last leaves off of trees
 and nibbling away at the grape vines and raspberry bushes.
 Autumn is breeding season, and Mr. T has made himself especially attractive to the ladies
 by peeing regularly on his own beard and forelegs.
 He spends a lot of his time looking moonily into the girls' pen.  So far he's had romantic trysts with 
 and Dream -- who looks pregnant even when she's not.
 As soon as Alba is in the mood, she will go visit
the handsome and debonair Topper at friend Laura's Split Rock Farm.
 JuJu will visit Mr. T when she's ready.
 JuJu is currently being weaned, so she stays in her own pen.  But mom Lassi likes to hang out nearby.
 When Mr. T is not entertaining the ladies
 he lavishes his affections
 on a very patient and long-suffering Niblet.
 Santa's busiest elf (aka Barb) has been piling up the curing racks
 with varieties of her famous goat milk soaps
much in demand for Christmas gifts.