Ferry Landing Farm in Maryland's Calvert County has an animal population of 50 goats, 27 sheep, 67 chickens, one cow and four ducks.
"There used to be five, but the snapping turtle got one," says Mickey Worrell, chatelaine of the 15-acre spread and its only full- time farmer. Her husband, Jerry, commutes to his job as a Navy physicist, returning in time for the evening chores. And their children, 12-year-old Rachel and eight-year-old Brett, go to school most of the year. Now that school's out, however, the kids are full- time farmers, too.
"Rachel, put some hot water on those bottles," calls her mother, who's pulling on boots and preparing to trudge out to the barn for the evening milking and feeding. There are 16 baby goats -- under three months of age -- who are still bottle-fed. The bottles are warmed to about 105 degrees and cool a few degrees by the time they get to the barn.
"Their normal body temperature is higher than a human's," explains Mickey, whose arms are hung with milking pails that clatter together as she leads some visitors to the milking-goat barn. This Sunday, visitors are invited to tour Ferry Landing Farm and a dozen more area farms as part of Maryland's annual Farm Visitation Day. Open- house hours are 1 to 5, but visitors are welcome to stay a little later at Ferry Landing to watch the goats being milked.
"The goats are milked at 6 in the morning and six in the evening," says Rachel, who has a room full of 4-H blue ribbons and trophies to attest to her farm skills. "If they're not milked on time, they won't give as much."
"Hi, girls," calls Mickey, as the residents of the milkers' barn see her coming and the "maaa-ing" intensifies. In a division of labors that might be called sexist, Mickey and Rachel feed and milk the lactating doe goats, while Jerry and Brett take care of the "dry" does and bucks, the sheep and the cow. On the other hand, since the milking takes so long, Jerry often fixes dinner.
"We have four studs here and we try to breed in July, so we'll have babies born in December," says Mickey, opening a stall and letting some eager baby goats out. They're hungry and in a hurry about it, and Mickey only has two hands, so she holds some of the bottles between her legs. But she's still not too distracted to talk about goat raising.
"We bought our first pregnant goat as soon as this house was finished in 1973," she says. "We have Nubians -- those are the ones with the long, droopy ears -- and Saanens, which are white with upright ears. We don't interbreed them intentionally, but Suzibuck and Labibuck here are the results of a clandestine meeting in the beet patch. We get about 12 gallons of milk a day, but it's illegal to sell raw goat's milk. We're not grade A yet because we don't have concrete floor and impervious materials, but we hope to go grade A someday. Then we'll be able to sell the milk to a dairy. Meanwhile, we drink it ourselves and feed it to the animals."
The baby goats have finished their bottles of goat milk, and now it's their mothers' turn to eat a dinner of grain and, at the same time, to replenish the supply of milk. Six at a time, they clamber to the milking stand and, as they eat, Mickey demonstrates the capture-squeeze motion that quickly fills the pails with warm milk.
"This is Trixie," she says, patting said goat on the rump. "She loves to stamp her feet while I'm milking her. How much did Astrid give you, Rachel?"
Recording Astrid's 3.4 pounds on a chart, Mickey explains that records are kept in an effort to increase milk production.
"Marisa here usually only gives about .7 pounds -- that's very little. We give them two lactations. If they don't produce well they're sold or put in the meat group," she says, shrugging at an inevitable fact of farm life. "In the beginning I made my husband promise not to make me eat anything I'd bottle-fed."
Rachel, though only 12, is matter-of-fact about eating the farm's own lamb chops and steaks, but doesn't think she wants to grow up to be a farmer herself.
"A librarian, maybe," she says. "Not a farmer -- you have to get up too early." FARM VISITING
This Sunday from 1 to 5 the following Maryland farms will put out welcome signs. FERRY LANDING FARM, Dunkirk. From the Beltway, follow Route 4 south to Ferry Landing Road, just past Dunkirk District Park. Turn right to the farm sign. Visitors may watch feeding, hoof trimming, clipping, spinning demonstrations and milking. The Calvert County Young Farmers will conduct a two- hour tour of other county farms. Meet at 1:15 pm at the Second District Fire House, south of Prince Frederick on Route 4. U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY DAIRY FARM, 21/4 miles southeast of Fort Meade on Route 175 in Gambrills. WINDOLF FARM, Dawsonville. Take the Route 28 exit off I-270 and head west toward Darnestown. Continue to 16420 Darnestown Road. This is a swine farm. SCHAEFER'S INNSTEAD FARM, Poolesville. Take the Route 28 exit off I-270 and head west toward Darnestown. Bear left on Route 107, White's Ferry Road, and follow it through Poolesville and turn left on Edwards Ferry Road. Farm is at 18020 Edwards Ferry Road. This farm has an orchard and beef cattle. SAVAGE-LEIGH FARM. Exit from I-270 on Maryland Route 118 toward Germantown. Turn right on Klopper Road (Route 117) and left at the top on the hill onto Schaeffer Road. Proceed two miles to farm. This is a dairy farm. SPRINGDALE SOUTH FARM, 18811 New Hampshire Ave., Ashton. This is a sheep farm. SERENDIPITY FARM, Benedict. From the Beltway, take Route 5 south to Hughesville. Turn left on Route 231 and proceed about seven miles. Serendipity raises tobacco, grain, sunflowers, horseradishes, potatoes and sheep. WHITELYN FARM, Hydes. From the Baltimore Beltway takeeExit 27 north. Follow Dulaney Valley Road to Manor Road. This dairy farm is about one mile on the right. BOORDY VINEYARD & LONG GREEN FARM, Hydes. From the Baltimore Beltway, take exit 27 north. Follow Dulaney Valley Road to Manor Road. Turn right on Manor Road, left on Hydes Road and right on Long Green Pike. Farm is about 1/2 mile on the right. This farm produces wine, beef and grain. FARM ANIMAL EXHIBIT. Also in Baltimore County, the Future Farmers of America will display farm animals at Hereford High School. From the Baltimore Beltway take I-83 north to exit 27. Take route 137 east to York Road and turn left to the school.