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Monday, May 11, 2015


I always prepare my does from the time they're very young by letting them eat Chaffhaye on the milk stand when I'm trimming feet, or brushing them, or just letting them get used to the idea of jumping on the stanchion.  While there, I run my hands all over them, including belly, thigh, and future udder, sometimes even gently massaging those tiny teats.  Nevertheless, sometimes first fresheners just don't "get it", true even if preliminary work has been done.  They may dance or kick, and for my part, I don't enjoy holding one leg up while I try to milk with the other hand. It becomes even more critical when they "graduate" to the milking machine.

This year, I had two first fresheners that I had to hobble, one because she would bring her hind legs far forward and crouch down, and the other because she started to kick.  I've seen a few different types of hobbles, but these two setups work for me. Both use a nylon curb strap for a horse's bridle for each leg.  These are easily found in any tack shop or online wherever they sell horse supplies.  I keep them snug, but not tight.

The first has the hobbles attached from the back

Removeable hobbles can easily be hooked to the stanchion and attached to the legs.

A view from the back

My other stanchion is much longer and wider, so I put an screweye just about at leg length on either side.  The setup also allows for a lengthener if necessary.  This one isn't quite as good as the other, since the doe can still step forward, instead of keeping her legs under her, but it does keep the legs down, and not allow kicking.

This setup works for a longer stanchion.  I used a screweye instead of a hook.

The MOST CRUCIAL thing about using these hobbles is to make sure they've been removed before letting the doe off the stanchion.  The best outcome is the stanchion falls over, but a worse one would be the doe on the floor with her hind legs on the stanchion--not a pretty situation at all.

The two does in the photos needed the hobbles for a short time, but they seem to be fine now. The longest I've ever had to hobble a doe was 2 months.  These two took 4 weeks and 2 weeks respectively.  Dolly, the Sable, took longer because as soon as I touched her udder, she'd step forward and crouch.  Now she stands square, just as if she had the hobbles on.  In fact, I didn't have to move her feet when I hobbled her for these photos. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Farewell to Cassie

It's been an interesting spring, watching the kids nursing on any doe in range, and the does!  My goodness!  They hardly notice what kids are latched on.  This may be all to the good, eventually, since yesterday I sold Cassie, and she'll be leaving soon.  I have mixed feelings, of course.  She was the first Sable born to Crooked Shade Farm, the proof that Leah carries color.  But I have too many goats, way too many, and it's time to cut back.  Cassie's a beautiful doe, but I'm slowly working my way toward an all purebred herd.  Whether that will include Sables remains to be seen, but eventually I want to get down to four does.

Her bucklings will be bottle babies now, and I was concerned that with Cassie gone, I might not have enough milk, but I think there'll be plenty.  Dandy is producing more than enough for her kids, and she nurses half the others anyway, as does Dolly.  The only one that seems to walk off is D'Arcy, and it shows in her production.

I'll miss Cassie, and I do wish I'd had a doe from her, but she produced a stunning buckling this year.  She's going to a wonderful home out on Islesboro--she'll be an Island Goat! How romantic!  And, she'll be hand milked, which I think is better for her. 

Farewell, my sweet Cassiopiea!  May your star always rise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

More kids

          Violet kidded Saturday, twins (of course), a doe and a buck.  That makes 5 and 5 so far.  The doeling is a black sundgau with the same wry tail as her sire.  Hopefully that will disappear, as did the other kid's wry tail.  The other is--no surprise--a caped Sable, just like his sire.  Mime certainly does stamp his offspring. 

          Since Violet is leased out, I didn't get to see them until the next day, and after Stake Conference, off I went, camera in hand.  They were outside, learning how to jump and run--and not always succeeding. I love watching new kids, they're so full of themselves, so full of life, so curious and fun to watch.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Milk test

Today is the first milk test.  I'm sure I'm complicating everything far more than necessary (why make it easy, when with just a little effort you can make it really difficult?), but this morning I had all kinds of containers out there in the milking froom:  a strip cup to get the first and last of the milking so I don't miss anything, the container for the milking machine, a pail for pouring all of that into so I can weigh and sample the milk after each doe, a pail to pour all the milk together after sampling, and finally a pail of warm water to wash everything out between does.  Good grief!  Nothing straightforward about it.  I think I need to find out how others do it so I can streamline this a bit.

Cassie, bless her little heart, milked over 8-1/2 lbs and she's just three weeks fresh.  She may not have a "pretty" udder, but she fills the pail. The next in weight was Dandelion, which isn't surprising since her dam, Beatrice, was producing 13 lbs of milk when she was 4 years old.   The next two in order were Dolly and then D'Arcy, neither of which milked as much today, test day, as they did yesterday. 

I find myself wondering if not having their kids will affect their milk production.  Certainly the kids are all screaming their heads off.  They don't like not being with their Mamas.  I'm beginning to see why a lot of people don't dam raise and milk test, too.  They certainly have good appetites.  All 8 kids were fed within 20 minutes, and I have no doubt the next two feedings will be as speedy.  I've learned to let them out two at a time to feed, then shuffle them into another area before I bring out the next two.  At three weeks old, these critters are a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kids, kids, kids


D’Arcy kidded on Sunday the 22nd.  I thought Cassie would be the one to kid, since she had her front legs elevated and was yawning and stretching.  Her ligaments had been soft earlier, but were firm when I checked them late afternoon and evening.  I had given them both Pulsatilla that morning and put hay down in the stall to kid on.

About 2:00 in the afternoon, my computer alarm reminded me to clip their tails for kidding.  I ignored it for 15-20 minutes, and when I finally went out, D’Arcy had a kid on the hay, licking it clean, just born, still covered with mucous.  I ran into the house, grabbed some towels, phoned Olivia to tell her there was a kid born and to come over, and by the time I got back to the barn, the second kid had dropped onto the hay.  The first one, a doe, is marked just like Mime; the second looked to be all white, another doe.  Later we could see that she has a small black spot on her left side, but hard to see unless you ruffle her fur.  Two doelings, both lovely, the Sable born about 2:36 and the Saanen born 5-10 minutes later.

 Olivia and Lynne showed up shortly afterward and we all went out to tend to them.  The Sable kid found the teat and latched on; the second didn’t do as well.  Suddenly Lynne or Olivia said, “their ears are hard, is that normal?”  I didn’t think too much of it at first, but when I touched the ears, the moisture of birth was freezing on the ears.  Oh, crap! All I could think of was frostbite if we didn’t act quickly.  Lynne was ahead of me.  She was already packing up the white doeling and sheltering her under her coat. They were both half way to the house when I came along with the Sable doeling. 

After the two kids were warmed, fed, and completely dry, I took first one, then the other, back to the barn.  It had been a couple of hours, and D’Arcy was munching on hay.  She hardly noticed until the Saanen kid started to bleat.  She replied and came over to start nuzzling and licking her.  A while later when she woke up, I brought out the Sable. D’Arcy kept sniffing her and checking her out, as if something weren’t quite right.  She let her nurse when I held her, but wanted to move away.  As time wore on, whenever the Sable kid nursed, D’Arcy would bite her tail or her butt.  I finally took her back to the house.  An hour later, I came for the second.  It’s bitter cold out there, and I wanted them together. I found my Sepia and gave it to D’Arcy, hoping it would change her attitude.  It was too cold for them out there, with a low of around 8° F.  I don’t really mind bottle feeding them, since D’Arcy will be on milk test and they’ll need to be bottle fed on test day. 

The next morning I repeated the Sepia once.  By afternoon she was letting the Sable doeling nurse and by evening she was actively taking care of her..  These are the only kids that have names so far:  Crooked Shade Fanciful, or Fancy Free (haven't quite decided yet) and Crooked Shade Fiona (or Feona).  who is now wearing a turquoise collar to tell her apart from the other white kids.


I spent most of the wee hours of the night of the 24th getting up every hour to check Dandelion, who thankfully did not kid in the middle of the frigid night. A small show of blood to let me know things were starting to happen had me worried that she was going to kid right away, but—sweet girl!—she held of until late morning.
I was quite exhausted, but didn't dare take a nap. Every time I went out there, Dandy looked at me quizzically, as it to say, "What are you doing here again? Do you think I can't do this without you?"  Ah!  but when they finally came, she was glad to have me there, looking at me pleadingly.  A first time mom who didn’t know what it was all about.
A buckling was born at 11:10, a doeling at 11:22, both completely white.  This is the doe that looked so skinny a couple of weeks ago, but she plumped out the last week or so. She had twins hiding in there, but I don't know how. 

Dandy’s a wonderful mother, right from the start. She licked and cleaned them, took care of them, pushed them toward her udder, fussed over them.  No rejection on her part!  When I took them in for the night, because it was much too cold still to leave them out, she was upset, and both relieved and ecstatic when I returned them the next morning—after 10:00, when the temperature had risen above 20°.

Dolly’s experience as a first freshener was traumatic, to say the least.  After watching her pass a lot of fluid and goo, watching for over an hour, and seeing that she was not progressing at all, I called the vet—who confirmed that yes, I had to go in and see what the obstacle was.  After feeling with just my fingers, all I could find was a nose. Normal birthing position is feet first, nose afterward.  I had to reposition the kid, whose head was presenting without legs.  It took a while, but finally got one front leg pulled forward.  I just couldn’t find the second, I wasn’t sure whether Ii was feeling his leg or the second kid’s, but by now poor Dolly was screaming so loud and pushing so hard, that I gently pulled that one leg to tilt the shoulders and she finally got him pushed out.  Less than 3 minutes later she stood, and the doeling followed, sliding easily onto the thick hay..  minutes after the first. I gave her 1M Arnica for the birth trauma. About 30 min later I followed that with  1M Aconite.  She was in shock, staring straight ahead, and didn’t want anything to do with her kids. She refused to   clean them off, or even sniff them, turning her back when I moved them in front of her.

After an hour of her rejection, I milked her out to feed the colostrum. The  kids’ suck reflexes weren’t well developed, perhaps from being in the birth canal so long--2 hours or more.  I took them inside to feed them.  My friend Kim came over to help me tube them, but thankfully, that wasn’t necessary; instead, she showed me another technique that went a lot more quickly than what I’d been doing.  After 6 hours they had suck reflexes (thank goodness) and with the last bottle they each took about 3-1/2 oz.

When I returned to the barn, she had passed one placenta.  Hours later I was sure the other was retained.  Strain as she would, membranes dragging on the ground, nothing happened.  Membranes were hanging out  She wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink, didn’t want to be touched or handled in any way.

After giving 2 or 3 homeopathic remedies, I repertorized and Cantharis and Bellis were confirmed. I'd already given her Bellis with little result.  I gave her a handful of white willow bark for pain, about a cup of Raspberry leaf/Nettle/Squawvine tea (syringed it down her) to tone her uterus, and finally gave her a dose of homeopathic Cantharis to expel the placenta. Within 10 minutes of the Cantharis, she started to eat, walked over to her water, but only looked at it. Still, it was promising, the first time she’d shown any interest in water at all.  The next morning, her water bucket was down 3 inches, both kids were nursing and the placenta was passed and nowhere to be found, apparently eaten. Dolly was looking perky, swelling had gone down, she was making mil --which was pretty hard for her to do before since she wasn't drinking anything.  I’m sure the herbals helped, but the dramatic change after the Cantharis is what makes me love homeopathy.  When it’s the right remedy, there’s no doubt.

          Cassie was the easiest of all. She had shown a little goo, but was not in any discomfort that I could see. Still, Shawn and I both kept an eye on her.  Not closely enough, though, as when we went out to treat Dolly, she had two bucks in the hay, one a sundgau, one black caped.  They weighed 7 lbs and 6 lbs respectively a few hours after birth. 

She had them so quickly that it came as a complete surprise.  We arrived seconds after the second had been delivered, his foot still inside her.  Shawn had checked on her only an hour before, and I an hour before that, she didn’t show any signs of impending labor, but goats just live for the pleasure of doing their own thing.

I stopped only long enough to towel the second kid and then let her take over again. Once she had completed that, she turned and started eating the placenta.  I let her.  In the wild, or with no one around, she’d do it anyway, and I thought, “Maybe she needs it.  Maybe it contains nutrients her body craves after kidding.”  Cassie’s a second time freshener, so I didn’t feel that I had to hold her hand, as it were, and she didn’t disappoint me.  I milked about 6 cups of colostrum after her kids nursed.  That went into the freezer for times of need.  Her kids got short shrift, though.  They had to wait for pictures.

So now kidding season is done for a while.   Beatrice and Leah aren’t due until May, so I have plenty of time to regroup and just enjoy these babies.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A right to food?

One of our state representatives has proposed a new amendment to the Constitution of Maine.  From LD 783:  

Constitution, Art. I, §25 is enacted to read:

 Section 25. Right to food. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to
food and to acquire food for that individual's own nourishment and sustenance by
hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase
from sources of that individual's own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible
for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed

I find this amendment problematic as written.  No one has a right to food, unless they have procured it honestly themselves.  No one has a right to never be hungry. They have a natural right to grow food, to buy it, to barter it, but unless the laws of nature have changed, and there will never be a bad growing season, there will never be a teamsters strike, there will never be a famine, in other words unless there will never be circumstances that limit the food supply, then there is no right to food any more than there is a right to health. We have a right to seek after these things without being infringed upon, but as soon as you say someone has a right to food, you're saying they have a right to take from someone whom they perceive has more than they. It's a complete abrogation of property rights, and without property rights, there are no rights at all.

The amendment is not a recognition of an unalienable (i.e. God-given) right; it actually would establish a right that didn't exist before. It's another entitlement. Human nature being what it is, there will always be those who would say, "I have a right to food, therefore give me yours because you have more than I do." It will make no difference that you worked your butt off to grow it or otherwise obtain it, it will be theirs, and the amendment will lend credence to their demands. Are all people like that? Definitely not, and I think farmers, particularly small farmers, are the least likely to think like that.  However, unless you have your eyes shut tight, you cannot help but see the results of the entitlement society we now live in.  All those entitlements exist because government has the power to take from some and give to another.  This is not what our country was founded on, but sadly what it has become.

Power comes from the people, but the people cannot rightfully give to the government what they do not have.  Does a person have a right to someone else’s property, including food?  Does a person have a right to demand from their neighbor food, clothing, housing, or any of a number of other needs?  No. Therefore, they cannot rightfully give that power to government.  The voice of the people is not always righteous.  The voice of government is always harsh because government rules by force.  As attributed to George Washington, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquent.  It is force.  Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. ”

I would like to see the first clause struck so that the amendment reads Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to acquire food for that individual's own nourishment and sustenance by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase from sources of that individual's own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed.”

One can have the right to seek food without having the right to food itself, because the first is about earning it, and the second is about having it without a lick of work. 

In a compassionate society, and by God’s command, we must help others, but it must always be voluntary.  I often have extra produce from my garden, and I know people who need it.  I don’t sell it to them; I give it to them, and we are both satisfied.  However, if someone came to my garden and demanded my produce, I’d send them packing.  There is a big difference. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Signs of spring

After a long snowy winter and a particularly cold and snow February, hints of spring are appearing here and there.  We still have 4 feet of snow in the yard, but a couple days of thawing and freezing have formed a crust on the snow so that little puppy dog paws don't fall through.  Alas, people do, so snowshoes are still in order if a dog rescue is necessary.  Little dogs just love to wrap themselves around branches and trees.

I've had a bird feeder filled with seed for a couple of months, but for a long time no birds appeared.  They all seemed to have gone into hiding.  The first warm day brought the first birds I'd seen all winter to the feeder. (I say "warm" but that's relative.  Eighteen degrees was warm, after a recording breaking February where the average temperature was 6°F.)  The  Black-Capped Chickadees came out of hiding, and I was delighted to see them. Excited, I put up a window feeder and within hours they were brightening my day close up and personal.

Yesterday I heard the first mating calls, that high, sweet tow-note call that signifies spring.  Not that they aren't chattering, of course, but  for me the sound of "fee-bee" is a true harbinger. A goldfinch also showed up, still in its winter garb. I recognized it only by its bobbing flight. A couple more months and I'll hear "perchcikoree, perchickoree" and see flashes of yellow everywhere.

When I turned on my computer this morning, much to my surprise I had a reminder to turn the clocks ahead tonight.  Tomorrow is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time!  Could it be?  Is the winter that far advanced?  I have two minds about Daylight Savings Time.  On the one hand, I'm glad for the extra time at the end of the day.  On the other hand, I think Maine, especially the eastern part, should be in the Atlantic Time Zone.  Come summer, the first light appears a little after 4:00 in the morning.  If it weren't for DST, it would be 3:00. What are we doing in the Eastern Time Zone this far east?  Government hasn't asked my opinion, of course, but there you have it.

This is an old house, and we have what my grandmother always called "seed flies", little flies that hibernate in the wood and appear when it warms.  I try not to think too closely about that.  They're a nuisance, and as the year wears on they'll be every more of a nuisance, but their first appearance does signify warmer days.

Four of my does are due in about two weeks.    It looks like I'll have to treat them with sulphur over the next two weeks, because they're scratching.  Lice are common in late winter.  I've not had the problem before but it looks like I have it now.  Flowers of sulphur, both internally and externally, should bring that to a halt.

And they're forming udders.  Not a lot, but enough to notice.  When the does get their grain and Chaffhaye ration in the evening, I take time to get them used to being handled.  That diminished the chances of dances on the milkstand, and also allows me to note changes.  As I watch them walking around, I do a little guessing game with myself:  Will D'Arcy have twins? Will her kids be polled? Fingers crossed.

Pretty D'Arcy
D'Arcy from the back.  She looks pretty wide from this angle.

Dandy is narrower than the rest, will she have only one? 

Dandelion is looking narrower than the rest.

Cassie fooled me last year and had only one.  Is she really fat enough to be carrying two?

Could that be two for Cassie?
What about Dolly?  Does she look that wide because she's carrying twins or is it just that she's smaller than the others?
They're all getting wider as time goes on.  Dolly is no exception.

This year will be the first time I'm putting my herd on milk test.  That means all the kids will have to learn to take a bottle so they don't go hungry on test day.  More work for me, but better for them if they should leave earlier than weaning, too.  It also means it's time to set up the milking machine, check the pulsator, ensure that everything is working properly so that there are no surprises when I begin milking again. 

Life on a farm is very satisfying. This is the way life is supposed to be.