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Friday, October 16, 2015

Zoë on the farm

Zoë, my Fox Terrier loves to be outside, wants to have the freedom to run, but will take off if not watched.  Rather than leave her in the house or in the fenced in yard, I've been making a concerted effort to take her with me everywhere I can and just keep an eagle eye on her. 

Zoë loves having newborn kids in the house, sniffs and licks them, and tries to play with them, right up to when they learn how to play in their very goaty way--by heat butting.

Obviously, she's become very leery of older goats (meaning, anything bigger than her) so, when she sees them coming, she goes the other way.

Wednesday I took her with me when I saw the goats in the orchard. I knew I'd shut them out of there, but they've figured out how to go through the woods, up the gully, and into the orchard to eat the apples. As I walked over to the goats, hoping to move them to the other pasture, Zoë explored.  It wasn't long before Beatrice, my herd queen, noticed a little white dog sniffing around and rolling on the ground. Before long, all the others had noticed her, too, and went to investigate. So there was Bea, heading curiously but purposefully toward that dog spot, and it became comical when she reached out her nose to sniff her.  By that time, more goats were curious and were heading her way.  Zoë, of course, headed back to the barn--with all the goats following. 

 Who needs a herd dog? I have a Pied Piper instead.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Putting the bucks together

Big day today--I thought. After 5 days, I thought it was time to put the bucks together, and I was apprehensive. As usual, I worried for nothing. They postured for about 5 minutes, and then all was well. The biggest thing turned out to be the new buck trying to mount my little guy, Fabian, as if he were a doe. Even that didn't last more than 5 minutes. I thought he was going to be timid, as he is with people, but nope! He told Set in no uncertain terms to BACK OFF. And my big buck, Mime, just calmly put him in his place and walked away.
Last I looked they were all sniffing each other over. I'm sure Set is much happier having company, and I'm happier releasing a stall back to the does so they don't have to sleep in the aisleway.

By this evening, the only thing I noticed was that the usual two were in the buck house and Set was outside. Since there was a light rain, I brought them all in a little early. Once in, all was well. They settled down to munching on hay and boy talk.

Life is good.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Common Ground Country Fair

      I had to make a decision:  go to the Farmington goat show and compete, a one day commitment, or go to the Common Ground Country Fair and be there for three days.  I opted for the Common Ground Fair.  On Thursday September 24th, I loaded 2 adults and 2 kids, all Sables, into the back of the Toyota Camry Wagon and off we went.  I had been there on Wednesday, preparing the pen, bringing hay, grain, chair so I could sit down occasionally during the weekend, and feeders. They settled in well, and I left, confident that the volunteers would watch over them.

       The next morning I arrived at 7:30, unloaded a few things I'd forgotten, and then found a spot in the parking lot.  I was amazed!  The fair didn't open until 9:00, but the parking lot was already filling up.  It felt good to show my exhibitor's pass and walk past the long lines. When I got to my goats, I felt even better; they were calm and settled in, interested in everything that was going on, and getting along with each other (happily for Fedra, the newest addition to the herd).  I gave them grain and Chaffhaye, changed their water, filled their hay bags, and waited for the rush.

     We were next to Tramps-Rest goats.  Charlie Hopkins has three breeds of goats, all the Swiss breeds: Toggenburgs, Saanens, and Oberhasli.  My Sables completed the lineup of Swiss breeds, though technically they are colored Saanens, not a separate breed at all.

I love Charlie's sense of humor.  His sign says "Furtha, Maine" and when someone asks where that is, he replies "Oh, it's just a little furtha down the road."

Oberhasli and polled Saanen does

Saanen does
Toggenberg does

     And rush it was!  Busloads of students from schools in the area, all wanting to pet all the goats.  Of course, the CGCF staff had put up signs that said "Fingers look like carrots!  Do not touch the animals.)  Well...that may be true for some animals (I certainly wouldn't stick my hand near a pig), but goats don't have upper teeth, and though they nibble on clothes, papers, and anything else that's close by, they're not generally biting animals, so I allowed the children to stroke and pet them.

     Fedra was the poster girl for Sables, schmoozing at the gate from the beginning, though occasionally the crowds would thin and she'd head for the back to rest.  Being the center of attention is exhausting work!

Time for a rest

Dolly stood in the center of the stall, interested in everything, but still not wanting to venture forth. Occasionally she'd stretch forth her neck, just barely touching someone's outstretched hand, but she just couldn't quite bring herself to do more.

Hannah stayed at the back of the stall relaxing for a while, gradually coming closer and closer, nibbling on hay near the gate, or lying just out of reach, until noonish, when she just couldn't ignore the attention Fedra was getting.  She butted Fedra out of the way so she could get her share.  Fascination?  Well, she was fascinated by everything that was happening, but couldn't bring herself to do more than watch.

Day 2 saw Fedra and Hannah competing for attention, but by the afternoon, Dolly had gotten braver.  I fed them all some apple pieces and that was the cue for Dolly to abandon her fear and (cautiously) take pieces from others' hands.  Fascination occasionally came to the gate, but always looking to her dam (Dolly) for reassurance.  Olivia, my helper, ran interference for Fedra.  When Dolly and Hannah ran her off, Olivia would just take her out and let her get personal attention.  So there!  Fedra really was the hit of the Sables.  The biggest problem was that she was ready to wander around and say hello to everyone.

Fedra on the outside
 Charlie gave milking demonstrations during the fair, and I gave some hoof trimming demonstrations.  I'm sure the milking demos were much more fun, since they were hands-on.  The children loved them! And Charlie's goats are old pros at the fair, having been there before and knowing the routine.

Day 3 was slower and quieter, still lots of people, but not nearly as hectic as the previous two days.  I do believe my goats had a good time!  They were engaged, friendly, and got into the whole fair atmosphere, loving the attention, ooh's and ah's, and even looking for people during the lulls, just like Charlie's old pros.



Charlie's old pros

After trekking in from the public parking lots for 2 days, I discovered that there was a parking area just for livestock exhibitors close by, an easy walk.  Ha!  I should have asked sooner.  At least I was able to park there the last day, making it a lot easier to pack up my goats and go home.  They had a lot to tell the others when we got back to the barn.  I can just imaging the conversations:  "And then this little girl came over...  And you should have seen..."

The fair was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.  I may just do it again next year.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


     Yesterday I brought Fedra, Violet's doeling, home.  She's been with Violet at Shivering Stars Farm in Plymouth.  Violet changed owners in June, but Heather graciously agreed to keep Fedra until weaning time.

     She's a little lonely, but you can sure tell her mother is the herd queen.  She doesn't back down at all.  She's been sniffing noses with everyone through the stall gate, and last night she shared a stall with Dolly and Fascination.  Today the three and Hannah were together in the paddock area until about 4:00, then I let the whole herd into the orchard, where they raced to the downed apples.  Yum!

     Normally, I wouldn't introduce anyone new this quickly, but Common Ground Fair is coming up and the four will be penned together for the weekend, as they demonstrate for everyone what Sables look like.  And of course, I know the herd she came from and the care she got, so no unwelcome surprises in the offing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The open gate

Goats are wonderful. Just when you think you know what they're going to do, they fool you.

Yesterday evening, around dusk, I drove the tractor out the gate from the pasture.  The goats were in, so I didn't bother with the gate, figuring I'd get it the next morning.  Well...I forgot about it and let the does out for their respite time.  About two hours later, I walked out to the barn, glanced at the gate, and with a sinking feeling,  saw that it was wide open.  Somewhat perturbed,and a little abashed, I looked around.  Where were they?  Garden?  Nope.  Lawn?  Nope. Pasture? No, not there either.

I carefully closed the gate as I scrutinized the area.  Then I saw them, under the barn, sauntering and gazing in my direction.

I am still astonished.  My does take great delight in escaping from the pasture at every opportunity.  Why didn't they notice the open gate?  Was the challenge gone?  I chuckled to myself.  Who can figure out goats?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bringing it all up to date

     Wow!  I can't believe it's been so long since I posted.  Since then, we have three new kids, all purebred Saanens.

Neptune's Fantasy
     Beatrice kidded with one doeling on May 8th, which I promptly named Neptune's Fantasy.  She's very correct, and will probably be on her way to Pennsylvania by early August.
Fantasy Greenears after tattooing.

     Leah had two kids, a doe and a buck, on May 23rd.  I was undecided about going to the HOMDGA Spring Show in Windsor, but Leah made the decision for me.  She was in full labor early morning, and quickly gave birth.
Franz, aka "Frankie".  Dandelion is in the background.

Fleur de Lys, eating from her perch.
Frankie, Fantasy, and Fleur.

All three kids were immediately separated from their CAE+ dams and are bottle fed on a combination of raw goat milk from negative does and raw cow milk.  Leah's doeling, Fleur de Lys, will stay, and the buckling, Franz, is for sale--but will not be wethered if he doesn't sell quickly.  He's too nice to be a pet or meat, and his bloodlines are valuable.

 The two wethers, Euan and Dewey, have been sold, since I don't need to keep them as company for Mime.  In the meantime, I have three Sable bucklings sharing his space.  And what a space it now is!  A neighbor took down some fencing and asked if I could use it.  Could I!  With the help of the Mormon missionaries, the buck pasture has now been doubled, and includes a lot of browse.  They're in goat heaven.   As soon as I open the gate in the morning, they come running out and head for the trees and undergrowth.   It's amazing how quickly goats can clear the understory.  Where before it was hard to see beyond the closest trees, now I can see where they are during the day. 

Fabian under the trees

French Mime (Frenchie) clearing the undergrowth

In the afternoon, they usually move out to the more open area, but there's still browse on the edges.
Fabian still likes the browse, even if everyone else is eating grass.

And Finn McCool is so tired that he lies down to eat.

Finn McCool, Frenchie, and dear old dad on the right.

Grit-N-Moxie (Mime) and Fabian

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.