Pygmy Goats in Alaska

This was taken from the Fall 1976 edition of the National Pygmy Goat Association’s Memo, and was written by my father, Bryan H. Robbins, from our home in Klawock, Alaska.  A while ago, I invited my mother to write about her education as part of the 48th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.  I thought it would be interesting to share my dad’s writings with my readers, too!

In the remote rural villages of Alaska, milk comes only in a box or can, unless of course you have a homestead and can raise goats.  Our 3/4 acre family homestead in a coastal village in southeast Alaska had some small livestock, but no fresh milk supply for our children.  I was convinced that goats were the perfect answer for our place.  The goats we needed had to be very efficient milkers or very small   and not eat very much as dairy-mixed grain (or any feed) cost about $16.00 per hundred plus an additional nickel a pound freight to Klawock.  High Alaskan prices are usually attributed to the high cost of freight.  No live freight though, could be shipped on our weekly freighter.  Whatever type of goat we got had to be small enough to put aboard a small airplane that is our lifeline to the outside world.  In fact, all of our farm animals [chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, and pigs] to date have been flown to our homestead.

Countryside & Small Stock Journal’s pygmy goat news and pygmy goat advertisers started me thinking, investigating, and writing about pygmy goats.  The pygmy seemed an answer to our small milking needs.  The pygmy, being small, could browse efficiently on our rainforest brush, needing only small amounts of daily grain.  Best of all, adult animals could be shipped by air, thus saving us a year of growing out a kid of dairy breed.

We soon found our girl: a beautiful, full-belted, two-year-old doe named Fatima.  She was shipped to us from the Kings Valley Animal Family in Oregon, but we would have to wait until spring before our own “herd sire” would come to Alaska.

Our goat experiences began with a good laugh over a panic-stricken pilot who flew our pygmy from the Ketchikan airport to Klawock.  The pilot had never heard a goat bleat and after taking off for Klawock, our goat started to cry.  The poor man thought her crying was the stall warning of the aircraft signaling an imminent crash landing.

Having only one goat on the homestead can be a real problem too.  Fatima would cry by the hour for company.  A five foot fence didn’t contain her, except when her horns were caught in it, which was nearly all the time.  She also thought that she was a person and shuld live in our house with us.  Whenever she got out of her pen, she would butt the front door wanting to come in for a visit.  If we weren’t home, she would go next door to the neighbors and cry on their porch.  When they opened their door, she would run inside and sit on their couch.  We had to get her proper company before the following Spring.   Soon, we were able to locate another two-year-old doe and arranged to have her bred before being shipped to us.  The second doe, Graycie, flew in by mail plane a short time later.  Soon things began to settle down at the homestead and stay in the barnyard.

Graycie was a beautiful agouti and definitely in a family way when she arrived.  She continued to grow in size as her term progressed, to the point of reminding us of a burro with a full pack.  One of the neighbors said he was going to make her a “wide load” sign to wear.  There was good reason for that wide load she was carrying.  In August, she presented us with four fo the cutest little kids we had ever seen.  She had a perfect set: two does and two bucks.

Oh! now we had fresh milk, too, not much, but so fresh.  It was sweet and nutty in flavor and not at all like what comes out of a box or a can.  It was our children’s first whole fresh milk too.

Two months later our buck arrived and our doe was rebred.  I continued milking her for a total of five months until she got down to a cup of milk per milking.  Then she was dried off to prepare for her next kidding.  I was only expecting twins this time, but when her time arrived I sat with her all day and night because she had such a difficult delivery before.  I sat with her around the clock; since there were no further symptoms, I went to bed.   She delivered again–four kids.   But alas, without assistance, two were lost.  With Graycie’s multiple births, it won’t be long before we have a large herd of pygmies in Alaska.

Does the pygmy have a place on a modern homestead?  Yes, I believe she does – in a greater capacity than just a pet.  A year and a half has not been sufficient time to make an accurate evaluation of the pygmy in comparison to other goats; but for us, the pygmy has filled a void that no other animal could  have provided.  They pygmy has given us milkk and companionship, and the hope for a future cash crop to aid our homestead economics.  I’m sure that isolated Alaskans and other homesteaders could take advantage of the cutest, most affectionate and newest goat there is…The American Pygmy Goat.

© Bryan H. Robbins, April 1976
Used with permission.
Submitted for the 53rd Carnival of Genealogy.
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Pygmy Goats in Alaska

This was taken from the Fall 1976 edition of the National Pygmy Goat Association’s Memo, and was written by my father, Bryan H. Robbins, from our home in Klawock, Alaska. A while ago, I invited my mother to write about her education as part of the 48th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. I thought it would be interesting to share my dad’s writings with my readers, too!

In the remote rural villages of Alaska, milk comes only in a box or can, unless of course you have a homestead and can raise goats. Our 3/4 acre family homestead in a coastal village in southeast Alaska had some small livestock, but no fresh milk supply for our children. I was convinced that goats were the perfect answer for our place. The goats we needed had to be very efficient milkers or very small and not eat very much as dairy-mixed grain (or any feed) cost about $16.00 per hundred plus an additional nickel a pound freight to Klawock. High Alaskan prices are usually attributed to the high cost of freight. No live freight though, could be shipped on our weekly freighter. Whatever type of goat we got had to be small enough to put aboard a small airplane that is our lifeline to the outside world. In fact, all of our farm animals [chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, and pigs] to date have been flown to our homestead.

Countryside & Small Stock Journal’s pygmy goat news and pygmy goat advertisers started me thinking, investigating, and writing about pygmy goats. The pygmy seemed an answer to our small milking needs. The pygmy, being small, could browse efficiently on our rainforest brush, needing only small amounts of daily grain. Best of all, adult animals could be shipped by air, thus saving us a year of growing out a kid of dairy breed.

We soon found our girl: a beautiful, full-belted, two-year-old doe named Fatima. She was shipped to us from the Kings Valley Animal Family in Oregon, but we would have to wait until spring before our own “herd sire” would come to Alaska.

Our goat experiences began with a good laugh over a panic-stricken pilot who flew our pygmy from the Ketchikan airport to Klawock. The pilot had never heard a goat bleat and after taking off for Klawock, our goat started to cry. The poor man thought her crying was the stall warning of the aircraft signaling an imminent crash landing.

Having only one goat on the homestead can be a real problem too. Fatima would cry by the hour for company. A five foot fence didn’t contain her, except when her horns were caught in it, which was nearly all the time. She also thought that she was a person and shuld live in our house with us. Whenever she got out of her pen, she would butt the front door wanting to come in for a visit. If we weren’t home, she would go next door to the neighbors and cry on their porch. When they opened their door, she would run inside and sit on their couch. We had to get her proper company before the following Spring. Soon, we were able to locate another two-year-old doe and arranged to have her bred before being shipped to us. The second doe, Graycie, flew in by mail plane a short time later. Soon things began to settle down at the homestead and stay in the barnyard.

Graycie was a beautiful agouti and definitely in a family way when she arrived. She continued to grow in size as her term progressed, to the point of reminding us of a burro with a full pack. One of the neighbors said he was going to make her a “wide load” sign to wear. There was good reason for that wide load she was carrying. In August, she presented us with four fo the cutest little kids we had ever seen. She had a perfect set: two does and two bucks.

Oh! now we had fresh milk, too, not much, but so fresh. It was sweet and nutty in flavor and not at all like what comes out of a box or a can. It was our children’s first whole fresh milk too.

Two months later our buck arrived and our doe was rebred. I continued milking her for a total of five months until she got down to a cup of milk per milking. Then she was dried off to prepare for her next kidding. I was only expecting twins this time, but when her time arrived I sat with her all day and night because she had such a difficult delivery before. I sat with her around the clock; since there were no further symptoms, I went to bed. She delivered again–four kids. But alas, without assistance, two were lost. With Graycie’s multiple births, it won’t be long before we have a large herd of pygmies in Alaska.

Does the pygmy have a place on a modern homestead? Yes, I believe she does – in a greater capacity than just a pet. A year and a half has not been sufficient time to make an accurate evaluation of the pygmy in comparison to other goats; but for us, the pygmy has filled a void that no other animal could have provided. They pygmy has given us milkk and companionship, and the hope for a future cash crop to aid our homestead economics. I’m sure that isolated Alaskans and other homesteaders could take advantage of the cutest, most affectionate and newest goat there is…The American Pygmy Goat.

© Bryan H. Robbins, April 1976
Used with permission.
Submitted for the 53rd Carnival of Genealogy.

1967 Model No. 1



Source: Robbins, Miriam Joy. Birth Announcement. Created March 1967 by Faith Valk Robbins. Original pasted in baby book of Miriam Joy Robbins in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

It’s no surprise that my parents came up with this clever birth announcement for their first model of little Robbinses. You have to understand that Robbinses have been working on cars probably as long as they’ve been invented. My great-grandfather was a chauffeur before he joined the Army in WWI. In fact, that’s how he met my great-grandmother…he was driving the hearse for her grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather was working in the automotive repair business when he enlisted in WW2, and after he was discharged from the Army Air Corps, he started Robbins Body Shop in Coopersville, Ottawa Co., Michigan. His father and brothers helped out, and his sons–my dad and uncle–grew up learning how to repair cars; not just body work, but engine work as well. In 1967, when my parents were living in Kodiak, Alaska and assisting in missions work there, both of them worked for a tire shop to bring in much-needed income; dad worked in the shop and mom did the bookkeeping.


(before)

While they were expecting me, my parents took a ride one evening on the mountain road to the ski resort. Mom was getting rather large with me and decided to wear her seat belt, just to see if it would still fit (these were the days before retractable seat belts; remember them?). They hit some ice on the road and ended up rolling their 1958 Lincoln Continental down the side of the mountain. Fortunately, the only injury sustained was a cut on Mom’s knee from some glass as she exited the vehicle when it was all over. I guess I didn’t like that bumpy ride, because Mom said I kicked all night long, so she knew I was okay (and probably protesting!). They made their way walking to the ski lodge and spent the night. The phone at the lodge only worked sporadically, and no one knew where my parents were, so some excitement was stirred up among their friends until they were found!


(after)

You can see they were in need of a new vehicle. They researched what they wanted and ended up with a pile of car folders and advertisements. One of them got the idea that these would make great birth announcements, so back to the dealer they went to get more brochures!

They eventually purchased a 1967 Chevy full-sized sedan. They had it all: a new baby, a new car–and shortly after–a new residence and jobs, when they transferred to Fairbanks from Kodiak to begin work with The Salvation Army.

Source: 1958 Lincoln Continental and 1967 Chevrolet sedan. Photographs. Originals affixed in “Our Memories” Scrapbook (1965 – 1970) in the possession of Bryan and Faith (Valk) Robbins, Colville, Washington. 2008.

1967 Model No. 1



Source: Robbins, Miriam Joy. Birth Announcement. Created March 1967 by Faith Valk Robbins. Original pasted in baby book of Miriam Joy Robbins in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

It’s no surprise that my parents came up with this clever birth announcement for their first model of little Robbinses. You have to understand that Robbinses have been working on cars probably as long as they’ve been invented. My great-grandfather was a chauffeur before he joined the Army in WWI. In fact, that’s how he met my great-grandmother…he was driving the hearse for her grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather was working in the automotive repair business when he enlisted in WW2, and after he was discharged from the Army Air Corps, he started Robbins Body Shop in Coopersville, Ottawa Co., Michigan. His father and brothers helped out, and his sons–my dad and uncle–grew up learning how to repair cars; not just body work, but engine work as well. In 1967, when my parents were living in Kodiak, Alaska and assisting in missions work there, both of them worked for a tire shop to bring in much-needed income; dad worked in the shop and mom did the bookkeeping.


(before)

While they were expecting me, my parents took a ride one evening on the mountain road to the ski resort. Mom was getting rather large with me and decided to wear her seat belt, just to see if it would still fit (these were the days before retractable seat belts; remember them?). They hit some ice on the road and ended up rolling their 1958 Lincoln Continental down the side of the mountain. Fortunately, the only injury sustained was a cut on Mom’s knee from some glass as she exited the vehicle when it was all over. I guess I didn’t like that bumpy ride, because Mom said I kicked all night long, so she knew I was okay (and probably protesting!). They made their way walking to the ski lodge and spent the night. The phone at the lodge only worked sporadically, and no one knew where my parents were, so some excitement was stirred up among their friends until they were found!


(after)

You can see they were in need of a new vehicle. They researched what they wanted and ended up with a pile of car folders and advertisements. One of them got the idea that these would make great birth announcements, so back to the dealer they went to get more brochures!

They eventually purchased a 1967 Chevy full-sized sedan. They had it all: a new baby, a new car–and shortly after–a new residence and jobs, when they transferred to Fairbanks from Kodiak to begin work with The Salvation Army.

Source: 1958 Lincoln Continental and 1967 Chevrolet sedan. Photographs. Originals affixed in “Our Memories” Scrapbook (1965 – 1970) in the possession of Bryan and Faith (Valk) Robbins, Colville, Washington. 2008.

Alaskan Russian Foods

As many of my readers are aware, I was born and grew up in Alaska, living in five different communities. The “city” where I was born was Kodiak, on Kodiak Island, where the Russian influence can still be felt in the culture, religious practices, and surnames of the Native Alaskans living there. While Kodiak is near the top of the Aleutian chain of islands creating the Southwest panhandle of the state, the Southeast panhandle–where I spent most of my childhood–also felt Russia’s hand and can be seen in the architecture of the old Russian Orthodox churches in Sitka (the capital under Russia) and Juneau (the current state capital). However, the Native Alaskans of the Southeast panhandle were more religiously influenced by the Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran, and Salvation Army churches.

Russian Church, Kodiak, Alaska

St. Michael’s Cathedral, Sitka, Alaska

(For more views of beautiful Russian Orthodox churches
in Alaska–onion domes and all–click
here.)

Two wonderful Russian dishes I remember eating as a child were pirok and kulich. Pirok is a fish pie that my mother would make as a simple, filling main dish, using canned or fresh Alaskan salmon. It is especially tasty topped with a tomato-based cocktail sauce, such as what you would eat with shrimp. Kulich is also known as Russian Easter bread, and is a delicious treat, made sweet from candied fruit and heavy with many eggs (made of course, to celebrate the end of Lent and self-denial). Dad was usually the one who made kulich, and our favorite way to eat it was lightly toasted with lots of butter! In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to haul out my breadmaker and make a loaf this weekend to eat with Easter breakfast!

I believe the following recipe is from Alaskan Cookbook for Homesteader or Gourmet by Bess Cleveland; Berkeley, California: Howell-North Books, 1960.


PIROK
Pastry for double-crust pie
2 c. cooked rice
1 onion
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 can salmon or 1 lb. fresh salmon, deboned
salt and pepper to taste

Line pie with pastry. When steaming rice, add 1 chopped onion. When done, mix with canned salmon, including juice. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put 1/2 rice and fish misture in unbaked pie shell. Press quartered hard-boiled eggs into mixture, top off balance of rice and fish. Cover with piecrust, seal edges well and cut steam vents. Bake 1/2 hour (1 hour for fresh salmon) or until well browned. [A temperature is not given; I cook mine at about 425° F.] This is a dish brought to Alaska by the early Russian colonists, and was first made with salt salmon.

Traditionally, the kulich dough was braided, then baked. However, when Dad made this, he would bake it just as he and Mom did our sourdough-raisin bread: in greased coffee cans, creating a nice round load, easily sliced and able to fit into a standard toaster. While the sourdough-raisin bread, which was our everyday bread, was made in two-pound coffee cans, the kulich, more of a dessert than a sandwich bread, was usually baked in one-pound cans. I am adapting my Mr. Coffee bread-maker’s recipe for a one-pound dried-mixed fruit bread, which yields a similar result.

KULICH

1 egg plus enough water to equal 1 c.
2 c. + 1 T. bread flour
1/2 t. salt
2 T. honey
1 T. dry milk
1/2 c. bran cereal
1/2 c. chopped candied mixed fruit
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. yeast

Place ingredients into your breadmaker according to its suggested guidelines and use the Whole-Loaf (as opposed to Dough) Sweet Bake setting (setting 8 on Mr. Coffee breadmaker). Yield: 1 one-pound loaf.

Alaskan Russian Foods

As many of my readers are aware, I was born and grew up in Alaska, living in five different communities. The “city” where I was born was Kodiak, on Kodiak Island, where the Russian influence can still be felt in the culture, religious practices, and surnames of the Native Alaskans living there. While Kodiak is near the top of the Aleutian chain of islands creating the Southwest panhandle of the state, the Southeast panhandle–where I spent most of my childhood–also felt Russia’s hand and can be seen in the architecture of the old Russian Orthodox churches in Sitka (the capital under Russia) and Juneau (the current state capital). However, the Native Alaskans of the Southeast panhandle were more religiously influenced by the Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran, and Salvation Army churches.

Russian Church, Kodiak, Alaska

St. Michael’s Cathedral, Sitka, Alaska

(For more views of beautiful Russian Orthodox churches
in Alaska–onion domes and all–click
here.)

Two wonderful Russian dishes I remember eating as a child were pirok and kulich. Pirok is a fish pie that my mother would make as a simple, filling main dish, using canned or fresh Alaskan salmon. It is especially tasty topped with a tomato-based cocktail sauce, such as what you would eat with shrimp. Kulich is also known as Russian Easter bread, and is a delicious treat, made sweet from candied fruit and heavy with many eggs (made of course, to celebrate the end of Lent and self-denial). Dad was usually the one who made kulich, and our favorite way to eat it was lightly toasted with lots of butter! In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to haul out my breadmaker and make a loaf this weekend to eat with Easter breakfast!

I believe the following recipe is from Alaskan Cookbook for Homesteader or Gourmet by Bess Cleveland; Berkeley, California: Howell-North Books, 1960.


PIROK
Pastry for double-crust pie
2 c. cooked rice
1 onion
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 can salmon or 1 lb. fresh salmon, deboned
salt and pepper to taste

Line pie with pastry. When steaming rice, add 1 chopped onion. When done, mix with canned salmon, including juice. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put 1/2 rice and fish misture in unbaked pie shell. Press quartered hard-boiled eggs into mixture, top off balance of rice and fish. Cover with piecrust, seal edges well and cut steam vents. Bake 1/2 hour (1 hour for fresh salmon) or until well browned. [A temperature is not given; I cook mine at about 425° F.] This is a dish brought to Alaska by the early Russian colonists, and was first made with salt salmon.

Traditionally, the kulich dough was braided, then baked. However, when Dad made this, he would bake it just as he and Mom did our sourdough-raisin bread: in greased coffee cans, creating a nice round load, easily sliced and able to fit into a standard toaster. While the sourdough-raisin bread, which was our everyday bread, was made in two-pound coffee cans, the kulich, more of a dessert than a sandwich bread, was usually baked in one-pound cans. I am adapting my Mr. Coffee bread-maker’s recipe for a one-pound dried-mixed fruit bread, which yields a similar result.

KULICH

1 egg plus enough water to equal 1 c.
2 c. + 1 T. bread flour
1/2 t. salt
2 T. honey
1 T. dry milk
1/2 c. bran cereal
1/2 c. chopped candied mixed fruit
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. yeast

Place ingredients into your breadmaker according to its suggested guidelines and use the Whole-Loaf (as opposed to Dough) Sweet Bake setting (setting 8 on Mr. Coffee breadmaker). Yield: 1 one-pound loaf.

Advent Memories No. 16: Christmas at School

Christmas at School
What did you do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?

I’ve already shared how Santa came to my childhood hometown of Klawock, Alaska on his Cessna from Ketchikan, but before he arrived, we students had been busy decorating our classroom. Every classroom had a tree, which was gaily decorated with lights, ornaments, and red-and-green paper chains (no political correctness and sanitized holidays in those days!). The ornaments were often pictures we had cut out, colored and covered with glitter, hung on the tree with yarn or unbent paper clips. As the school custodian, there was nothing Dad hated more than glitter! Those little metallic bits would have drops of glue on them before accidentally getting brushed to the floor, laid with those rubber-backed carpet tiles. No matter how well he vacuumed during the holidays, the carpet would be littered with glue-encrusted bits of glitter that never really came free as they embedded themselves in the fibers. But we kids never worried our little heads about that! We listened to Mitch Miller and Alvin and the Chipmunks sing Christmas songs on the record player, and I remember our teacher getting out a book of classic Christmas songs and teaching us The Twelve Days of Christmas, as we giggled our way through what seemed to us very silly lyrics.

Every year, there was a Christmas play–or actually a series of plays–usually based on a theme, performed by each classroom. One year, it was old classic tales, with “The Bremen Town Musicians” and “Bartholomew and His 500 hats.” I think our class did “Puss in Boots.” Another year, each class did a play based on a Christmas song. I was the title character in our Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer skit. Someone was very clever, and took old, clean, dry bleach bottles, cut a large hole in one side, painted them brown, colored the lid end black and somehow added eyes and antlers. This was a “hat” that each of the reindeer actors wore. My “nose” was a red plastic Kool-aid mug, I think, that was taped on to the lid end. I also narrated the Frosty the Snowman play for another class that year. Still another year (I think this was 1973 – second grade) we acted out fairy tales. Our class performed Little Red Riding Hood, and I was the star. I loved acting and being the center of attention, probably not helped any by being an only child for the first seven years of my life! The reason I was given many starring and narrating roles was probably because 1) I was a good reader and could memorize my lines quickly; and 2) I wasn’t bashful onstage and didn’t mind speaking in front of an audience, which is not the Native way. Most of the students in my classes were naturally shy and soft-spoken.

The plays were first performed in the ANB/ANS hall until the school district built a gymnasium that had a stage at one end. Unfortunately, the only photograph I have is the following, which I believe was Christmas 1971 (Kindergarten). I am the smallest one in the front row dressed in a native Tlinget dress with two salmon on the front, because a group of us had performed a native dance just before our class sang a carol. We must have been singing “Jingle Bells,” because many of us have hand-held sleigh bells. It was either this year or the following year when each class presented a different country in the “Christmas Around the World” theme. The finale of that particular evening was a piñata that was broken. How we students scrambled to grab the candy that fell! Believe me, it was a free-for-all!


This post is a part of the “Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories” meme created by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Click on their names for the list of topics. To see what others have written, go here.