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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Family pictures

This morning was cool but sunny, and by midday, everyone (that is, all the animals) were out roaming around, at pasture.  Beatrice and the other two goats had called a truce, and they were now allowed to sniff Heartbreak.  By afternoon, they were out in the pasture, having broken out when I wasn't looking, but they were so enjoying themselves that I let them stay.

The horses were resting, though Magic, of course, was interested in everything that was going on around her.

As I headed back to the barn, the geese hissed and honked, protecting the six goslings.  It was amazing to see how they hustled them along, surrounding them, protecting them

Monday, April 26, 2010

First day out

Beatrice has been teaching me.  I tried to get her and her new kid out a couple of days ago, but Bea wasn't having any of it.  I was premature, obviously.  The kid was still learning to use her legs.  Given the opportunity, she took her kid right back to the stall and asked me to close the door.

Yesterday, she decided it was okay to go as far as the barn aisle.  Little Heartbreak was now able to jump and run, and loved exploring, but Bea didn't want her going too far.   I knew that something had shifted when she came out of her stall last night to milk and left her doeling lying comfortably in the stall, no hesitation.

And today, Day 5, was Introduce the Kid to the Herd Day.  Within a few minutes of coming out of the stall, the doeling was hopping onto the milking stanchion, and after Bea was milked, they were out the door and over at the fence, where the other goats were able to check out the kid safely.  An hour later, I let Emily in with them.  Heads butted!  Bea was not going to let Emily near her kid.  It took a couple of hours, but by afternoon, they were hanging out together in the small pasture, Emily keeping a respectful distance, but still close enough to observe.  She eventually decided she'd spent enough time away from the large pasture and asked to go out.

Bea headed back to the barn, where her kid found the horse's round tub was a perfect size for a nap--if only Mom would let her sleep!

Tomorrow, Sanuba gets her turn while Emily stays out.  Slowly but surely, they'll all be integrated into the small herd.  It'll be a bit longer before she's allowed around the horses.  Magic is still too much of a wild thing to trust her with such a small kid.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Babies and babies

It's strange how motherhood can inspire.  Emily and Sanuba are fascinated by Bea's kid.  Bea, of course, hasn't yet let them near her, so I've let them and the horses go out to the pasture and closed the gate behind them.  Bea still won't come out.  She did come as far as the barn door, and little Heartbreak (for that's what she is) jumps and hops everywhere.  What a difference a few days makes!  She's so cute.  It breaks my heart that she's not breeding material.  It always seems worse when it's a doe.  I expect to cull the males. You can only have so many breeding males, but every female is a potential breeder.  This defect is genetic, and a hard decision has to be made eventually.

Beatrice has perked right up in the past few days.  Today she scarfed down a huge quantity of hay, and she's been gobbling any comfrey I offer her.  Carrots and sweet potato?  Yum, yum!  Her milk production is increasing.  Even with the kid nursing, she's giving me 1/2 gallon of milk per day.  It's a real challenge to milk with a kid jumping on and off the stanchion.

And then there are the geese.  One goose has been setting for most of the month, and hatched out 6 goslings the same day Heartbreak was born.  The other goose has been putzing around, laying eggs for two months, and ignoring them.  Every now and then I'd take a few so we didn't have a mountain of goose eggs sitting there, but she just wasn't interested in setting.  Until the first goose hatched those goslings.  Within two days, the other goose was setting.

I watched as the geese headed down to the little farm pond mid-pasture.  One gosline fell into a little hole and couldn't get out.  It wasn't very deep--maybe 6 inches or so, but he's only about 4 inches tall.  What a little trooper!  He kept jumping up until he finally made it to the top, and off they went.

The goats and horses are fascinated with those little balls of fuzz, and ignore all the hissing and wing beating and outstretched necks of the goose and ganders.  They're not like the geese that were on the farm when I was a child.  My grandmother's gander ran at us and bit...hard.  These geese are pikers compared to those.  No horse or goat would have come within yards of the goslings back then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beatrice kidded last night, one little doeling. Actually, one good sized doeling.  I weighed her this afternoon and she weighed nine pounds.

Around 11:30 yesterday, Beatrice wanted to go into her stall.  I let her in, took her out a while later and put her in the kidding stall, but she didn’t want to be there, so I put down fresh bedding in her regular stall and put her back in there.  Then I let the horses and yearlings out, and opened the stall gate for her.  She just looked at me and didn’t move. I closed the gate.  A while later she started moving around.  By 3:00 it was obvious she was going to kid soon.  Her udder was looking much fuller, she had deep cavities in front of her pelvic bones, and her ligaments had softened.   Around 4:30 I was sure she was going to kid in  an hour or less.   

At 6:30 I wondered what was happening, if anything.  She was definitely in labor, but it was slow going. Around that time, she presented a bubble, but it looked like a red bag delivery—red bag instead of grey.  Oh, no!  I went into the house and when I came back, the water had broken--whew!  Maybe it looked red, but not a red-bag delivery (placenta previa).  A while later, I went in the house againwhen I came out, Shawn said she’d pushed out two front feet and a nose.  Now there was nothing.  A few minutes later, I saw a hoof, then nothing.  This went on for the good part of an hour.  I went into the house again and washed my hands thoroughly, then came back out felt shallowly to see if I could feel a malpresentation.  I backed off after 2-3 inches, went back into the house, called two different neighbors with goats—both out. finally drove to my house to get the phone number of someone else.  The phone rang; things still weren’t progressing  I grabbed the phone number, called on the way: no answer.  I was just driving down the lane when the phone rang again.  "Yes?"  Shawn's voice said, “The feet and head are out, and everything’s going fast now.”  I parked the car and ran into the barn; there was the baby on the hay.  She’d been born about 45 seconds before. We checked the time he’d called and it was 8:04.  A strong doeling, she stood within 3 minutes.  And then I saw that she has an undershot jaw.  Parrot mouth. Bummer.
Bea lay down with her kid this afternoon, and though she got up a few times after that, most of her afternoon and evening was spent lying down. She ate alfalfa pellets willingly, and I gave her grain and herbal wormer as well, but she hasn't touched her hay.  I only milked out less than a quart.  The colostrum doesn’t seem as thick as last year, either, and her udder feels full—is it “meaty”?  Yet two other people thought she looked empty.  Baby is nursing well, jumping little hops, and getting stronger. She's cute in spite of her mouth problem.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The joys of electric fencing

I finished it, finally, the electric fence that's been troubling me since the snow melted away.  First there was the zap from the ground wire, with a corresponding lack of jolt from the hot terminal.  Hmm.  Ground pole is too close to the water source.  Move it, buy 14 gauge wire for ground, straighten all the fence wires, and plug it in.  A good charge!  YES!  That, of course, took care of 30 feet of wire, just to the gate.  There was still an entire length of pasture fence to go.

Now came the hard part.  The way the fence was set up previously, the fence line ran just below a little ridge, making a clean fence line almost an impossibility.  Do you know how hard it is to take a mower or string trimmer down an incline?  Neither a fun nor an easy job, particularly in the area where wild raspberries grow thickly.  I determined to move the T-posts to the top of the rise, not only making it easier to trim the fence line, but allowing the goats easy access to one of their favorite foods and my least favorite bramble patch.  That meant, though, that the fence line would no longer be straight.  I had to jog it first to go around a plum tree, and again to encompass the raspberry patch.

Taking my trusty snippers, I lopped down the raspberry canes one by one and threw them in a heap, right on top of the fence wire that I'd taken from the T-posts. Silly me.  I thought laying the wire down where I'd removed it would make it easy to restring.  That may have worked if the raspberry canes hadn't tangled themselves--probably with intent--among the wires.  Of course, there were two kinds of wire, too; 17 gauge electric wire (4 strands) and heavy barbless twisted wire (2 strands).  The wind blew, the rain came, various critters ran through the pile, I walked in and out, and it all became hopelessly entangled.  One by one I removed the wires, cutting here and snipping there, and enlisting the aid of my strong son to wrap up the twisted wire.  For those who don't know, twisted wire is just like barbed wire in thickness and weight, but without the barbs.  It's very heavy, and doesn't want to bend once it's been on a fence for a year or three.  I was very grateful for his help. 

Two days later I moved all the dried canes away from the fence line and proceeded to reset the T-posts and restring the electric wire.  After I'd finished, I looked at the fence with a critical eye, and didn't like the corners.  There had to be a better way to string corners.  As I drove down a local road later that day, I passed a newly erected post and wire fence--and screeched to a stop, ran and looked, and saw exactly what I was looking for, except that they used wood posts rather than T-posts.  No matter, I could adapt the design.

Off I went to my local Aubuchon's Hardware store and there they were, the hard rubber corner insulators I'd been looking for.  I grabbed a package, drove back to the farm, cut them in half, and proceeded to thread the wire through them.  They worked beautifully!  Off I went again and got another package, and a package of wire tensioners as well.  After two more trips (you'd think I would know ahead what I needed, wouldn't you?), I had completed the fence, hooked the wired together, stretched fence tape across the gate to connect the newly completed fence line to the one that tested hot, and plugged in the charger.  Take a breath, check the voltage, and...the moment of truth...5000 volts on all wires.  Hurrah!  Smiling, I let the goats out.  They were still in when I left.

When I returned later, two were in and one was out.  Ah, sweet Sanuba, how did you do that?  Did you jump through the wires and get zapped on the way through?  I grabbed her collar and led her back to the fence.  She fought me a bit, which lent credence to my idea, but when I led her up to the fence and then stopped, she stuck her nose out, touched that hot wire, and jumped straight into the air, letting out a bleat of shock.  I think she knows it's there now.

I was gone all day today, but none of the goats got out.  I love electric fences.  I can hardly wait to do the next one--next week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I've been reading (listening to, really, since it's an audiobook) The Essential Kipling, a collection of some of the shorter works and letters of Rudyard Kipling.  I've loved Kipling since I was young, which is odd, I suppose, since I never read The Jungle Book until I was well into adulthood; but I did like the Just So stories, and many of his stories about those happy scoundrels in India, Private Mulvaney and friends. Mostly I think I was enamored of India and exotic places, and Kipling slaked that thirst for adventure that overtakes me at times.

Rudyard Kipling was a gifted and fascinating man, writing short stories, poems, and novels with equal aplomb.  He was a devoted father and husband, and many of his stories were written for his children.  I'm always surprised to find that a familiar poem is Kipling's (and that I didn't realize it!).  This one is no exception.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scones, scones, wonderful scones

Last night I had a yen for scones.  I could almost taste them...and then I remembered how dry they usually are, and often how heavy.  I've made a lot of scones in my life, and bought quite a few, and the one thing I've always been sure of is that if you don't eat them right away--or sometimes even if you do--they end up dry and hard.

As I said, though, I just had a yen for a good scone, so I googled "best scone recipe", and I believe I found it.  I quickly made some, substituting yogurt cream for sour cream, and heavy cream for milk, and added an egg (quite accidental, that, but it still turned out well), and when the scones cooled, I ended up eating five of them.  They were sooo good, the best I've ever had.  I took some to my mother today, and she love them, and wants the recipe.  Here it is, the Best Scone Recipe in the world!  And did I mention I made scones again tonight?  This time I left out the egg, used cream entirely, and added grated ginger, chopped up crystalized ginger, and a small chopped up Braeburn apple.  Ta Da!  Apple-Ginger scones!  And they are excellent.

That puts me in mind of the salad I came across this week:  Bittersweet Salad with Apples and Dandelion Greens.  The dandelions are just coming up, and they're tender and full of nutrition, not bitter the way they will be in a few weeks.  The dressing is divine, and quite unusual.  I can't say I've ever tasted anything quite like it, but I'll use it for other salads.

I do love this time of year.  So much abundance!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Forsythia, gardens, and goats

The forsythia are in bloom!  I've never seen them come in this early.  It's time to plant peas, and lettuce, and spinach, and onions, and here I am not ready.  Spring always seems to sneak up on me, even when I'm looking for it.  Rural Living Day classes are tomorrow at MOFGA, and perhaps I'll come back with some gardening solutions to my raised bed and low tunnel questions.  By Monday, I need to be planting.  The weather has been unseasonably warm for the past month or more, but it's dropping into the low 50's over the next week.  That's a good thing, because I don't want to see fruit tree blossoms nipped in the bud.

The grass is coming in green and sweet, and the horses and goats are out every day for a few hours.  The two yearling doelings quickly escape, since there's no real fence to stop them, but as long as the barn door is closed so they can't get in and eat the grain, I have no problem with that.  Alas, my mother is concerned about her flowers. 

I worked on the electric fence a couple of days ago, but I still have an electric leak to ground.  I suspect it's because the ground rod is so close to the hydrant.  I need to move it, at least 50 feet away.  Then I need to run the wire and make the fence secure.  I know what my work is for next week.  I have most of the small pasture ready to hook up, and just a little portion to get small wire around so that it's kid-proof.  Time to build a small shelter out there, too.  I have only a couple of weeks before my does kid.  Sanuba is getting very round, and just in the past couple of days!  Beatrice still doesn't look that big, but since she's usually so slab-sided, it's easy to tell she really does have a kid or two in there.  She doesn't look very big from side to side, but she looks deeper, as if her belly is lower to the ground.  If she has more than one kid in there, they must be one on top of the other rather than side by side.  She's only had singles the last two times, and this is her third freshening, so it'll be interesting to see if she has twins.  I checked ligaments tonight, but she's still tight, thank goodness.  Last year she was 10 days early, but hopefully she'll go full term this time.

I'm looking forward to having milk again, and my mother is so looking forward to seeing the kids jumping around.  She'd have them right in the house, given her way!  Ah, spring!  The way life should be!