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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Of trees and trucks and puppy dogs

Yesterday, after returning Bella to the herd, I took my remaining vehicle, my Dodge diesel pickup truck, and ran a few errands, figuring I'd be back in less than an hour.  My truck is, uh...quirky, to say the least.  I have to disconnect the negative battery terminals on the dual batteries when I park it for any length of time and plug in an engine block heater during the cold winter months, or it just won't start.  There's a short somewhere, but we sure haven't been able to find it.  My radio has always had a mind of its own, working well in the summer, and usually being pretty much non-functional during the winter.  I suspect they're related, but have you ever tried to track down an electrical short in a vehicle?  I threw my hands in the air a long time ago.

First stop, pick up a discarded, unsprayed, untreated Christmas tree in Belfast. The goats love fir and pine and they are wonderful vermifuges, allowing me to forego any other wormer while they have a steady supply.  I  turned off the truck, hopped out and loaded the tree, hopped back into the truck, turned the key..and the truck wouldn't start.  Stunned, I popped the hood, opened it, and made sure the negative cables were secure, wiggling them as I did so.  Back in the truck and turn the key.  RrrrRrrrRrrr.  It made a valiant attempt to start but just couldn't make it.  I repeated my actions.  Still nothing.  I called Shawn, hoping he was still in Belfast.  He was, and would be along in a bit.

My truck doesn't have a great heater at the best of times, and definitely not on a bitter cold day.  Did I mention it was only about 10°?  Aaargh! It was too darn cold to sit in that truck!  After a few more minutes, I got out again, played with the cables one more time, and God answered my prayer.  The truck started right up.  After closing the hood and calling my son once again to let him know all was well,

I went to my next stop, wondering if I should just head home instead.  I found myself rushing, as if being quick could prevent problems with the truck.  Uh uh, that wasn't going to help, so I took a deep breath and continued getting the few items I needed, but at a more leisurely pace.  Of course, the truck started up fine, proving to me that it was, after all, just a loose connection and I didn't have to fret myself about it.  So at my next and last stop, I left the truck running while I ran in and out in under four minutes, proving that I don't listen to myself. 
Chowing down on a new tree.
This area is becoming a tree cemetery.

The goats were happy to see the trees I threw out to them, and I was happy to be home.

Today, Saturday, dawned bright and snowy, fine stuff that dusts everything to remind us that it's winter, but it was warmer, in the high 20's, and Zoë happily romped out to the barn with me.  I left the goats in their stalls while I filled the under-barn feeders.  Slowly it dawned on my that Zoë was nowhere to be seen.  I called her.  No Zoë.  I hastily opened the stall doors to release the goats, and headed out the big barn doors.  Where could she have gone?  No tracks.

She must have flown over the snow, because her tracks didn't begin for a good 50 feet.  As I suspect, they headed out across the pasture, through the far gate into the far pasture...and disappeared again.
View from the paddock.  Zoë was in the woods waaay across the pasture.
Frantically I called her, and finally, FINALLY, I saw her running toward me from the woods across the way.  I wanted to throttle her but instead kept calling and encouraging her to come, "Good girl! What a good dog! Come on, puppy!  What a good puppy dog!"  I scooped her up into my arms, petted and praised her some more while she wriggled with delight, and started back to the house.

There's nothing like hunting dog genes to make a dog disobedient.  Zoë must have sniffed out 14 different scents on the way back, and every one of them served to distract her attention from me.

Around the gate
And off to the other side
Wait! I smell something over here!
Huh?  You calling me?

There's something down there...
Did you ever see such a beautiful terrier hole?

So many delicious smells!

Almost home, but Zoë's still looking across the far field.

Maybe we don't need that half mile walk to the mailbox today. I think we're good already.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Nobella the noble and lovely

The nice thing about winter is that I have time to do things that just aren't in the schedule during the summer, like write this blog. Winter brings with it its own joys and challenges.

Wednesday it snowed, and it snowed all day.  Wednesday was the first day of "heat watch" for Bella.  I looked at the snow, prayed that I would see no tail wagging, and as the day progressed and the snow kept falling, I decided if she came into heat, I'd wait for the next cycle, if there is one.  February, after all, is a bit late in the season.  She was pretty loud that day, but no other signs of heat, and when I put them all to bed, I was thankful that Bella hadn't shown any physical signs yet.

Thursday dawned cloudy but warm--warm for January, anyway--and the snow started melted a bit.  I checked on Bella in the morning, at noon, and around 3:00, at which time I gave the backup crew the news that, no, today was not the day.  At 7:00 I went out to the barn to fill the hay feeders and give the goats their grain.  In came Bella, tail just a-flaggin'.  She was cozying up to Leah, who swung her head in aggrieved irritation; forgetting or ignoring the fact that Violet and Beatrice butted her every time she came close.  Oh! the joys of goat heats!  Their personalities change, and the only thing on their mind is getting rid of the itch. 

I called the backup crew again and told them we were on for the morning.  Now, I'm always a little concerned about waiting, because a doe stays in heat only 12-48 hours, and I know of a few that were even harder to catch, for their heats lasted only 6 hours, sometimes less.  The there's always the possibility that the transport itself can end the cycle.

Today dawned clear, cold, and bright.  Bella exited the stall with her tail flagging almost constantly.  When Charles got there with his Goatmobile, we packed her in, left the care of my mother to my son, and off we went.  Could the timing be more perfect?  It was very cold, true, but the sun was shining, the roads were clear, and the doe was in a standing heat.

We separated Ike from the herd, brought him into a separate area, and introduced him to Bella.  It was love at first sight, and when we left a half hour later, they called to each other plaintively.  She's bred, covered twice, and I can only hope that timing being so perfect on all other accounts, she'll present me with Sable kids in June.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bella in the herd

Bella was integrated more quickly than any other goat I’ve ever brought into my herd.  I usually wait a week or two to let them get to know the others through the gate, and to quarantine them in case they have parasites that could be passed on.  In this case, I saw where she lived, saw the health of the herd, knew when she'd last been wormed, and I transported her myself so I know she didn’t get chilled.

She was alone the first and second day, but was so upset and lonely that on the third afternoon I introduced her to Cassie, she being the youngest, friendliest, and probably the lowest on the totem pole.  It was so funny to watch!  Cassie reared up on  her hind legs, came back down, stretched forth her neck and touched noses with Bella.  Then she did it again, several times, as if to say, “Back off, you!  I’ll wipe up the floor with you if you try to hurt me.  Uh…are you friendly?” 

Within minutes they were fine together, and I left Cassie with her the rest of the afternoon and all night long.  Next day, since they had done so well, I introduced Leah, who is next on the pecking order.   
Leah tends to be a bit skittish, and I’m sure she was happy to be the established herd member, and therefore had a chance to be one up on this Newcomer, this Invader.  She and Bella went at it a bit more than Cassie’s introduction, but all in all it was all for show.  Occasionally Leah remembered that Bella was an intruder, but there was nothing serious about the head tossing and half-rears and head pushings that occurred. Mostly the three just ate hay and hung out, complaining loudly that they had to stay in. They stayed together for the next two days; then, the serious introductions began. 

Violet often stays apart from the rest of the herd.  Even so, I would call her Second in Command.  She’s more aggressive than Leah, and bullies her when she takes it into her head.  I removed Leah and Cassie, and brought Violet into the stall.  YeeHah!  The head butting was serious this time, and went on for at least 15 minutes, but since Bella had room to avoid her, I wasn’t concerned about leaving Violet.   Once things had settled down a bit, I brought Cassie back in.  Cassie is the peacemaker.  She’s so young and eager to get along with everyone, that she has a calming influence.  Violet was her companion when she was tiny, so they get along well.

Two days later, when all seemed to be settled, I let everyone out.  Now Beatrice was the only one left, and I wanted Bella to have plenty of room.  She surprised me.  Beatrice walked over stiffly…and Leah immediately gave way.  Not one rear, not one head butt.  Beatrice is boss and Bella knew it.  Bea didn’t immediately accept her, of course, and swung her head at her now and then, but for the most part, Bella was ignored, deigned too little of a threat to consider.
The three Sables.  It's hard to see Bella behind Violet, but she's there.
Time to scratch.
I won’t say that Bella is fully integrated into the herd.  She’s still a newcomer, and still lowest on goat hierarchy.  However, she comes and goes with the others during the day, and she and Cassie are stalled separately at night.  For now, I think that’s the best way to give her a break and still let her find her place in the herd.  That safe time will be especially important after she’s bred next week.
Beatrice, Bella, Cassie, and Leah.  Violet's at the hay.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The coming of Nobella

 The day had arrived where I would be free to drive to New Hampshire and pick up my new doe, a Sable doe with new bloodlines for my herd.  Flick’s-Acres BH Nobella was the raffle doe at the ADGA convention in 2011, won by a teenaged girl whose family raises Toggenbergs.  They wanted her in a Sable herd, where her kids would not be grades.  Because I had posted some messages about Sables on the ADGA District 1 News forum, they knew I was a Sable breeder, and asked if I wanted her.  Of course!  What a wonderful opportunity, and in the greatness of their hearts, the family gave me the doe, now a long yearling.

The back of my car was bedded down with hay, laid over a tarp that covered the flat area in the back of my Goatmobile—a 1995 Toyota Camry wagon.  I left my house at 6:45  and met my friend Maria at 7:00.  Maria was my navigator and copilot, and my relief driver if needed.  I was sure I’d need a second driver after having gotten to bed way too late, and getting up earlier than usual.  Have you ever noticed that the one sure way to get a short night’s sleep is to need and plan on a long night’s sleep?  It always takes longer than anticipated to make everything ready for the morning. 

After a prayer for safekeeping, we filled the tires with air—they were all low!—and made our journey southward.  It was a long drive, but there’s something about having a friend along, conversing and laughing and catching up on old news, that makes the miles fly by.  I blessed Maria’s presence many times during that journey.  It’s so much easier to have a second person looking at maps and directions than trying to drive and navigate at the same time.

We arrived in Westchester around 1:00 and picked up my new doe.  She’s a skittish little thing and an escape artist, they told me.  They were right!  We pulled over a short time after we left their farm to shorten Bella’s lead, as she was very close to climbing into the back seat.  As I opened the hatch to my car, quick as a wink she was out.  If I hadn’t tied her to the hand rest, she’d have been gone.  Whew!  Needless to say, I didn’t make that mistake again.

A few hours later, only 45 minutes from home, my car died.  Aaargh!  But you know, the location was perfect:  10 minutes from my sister’s house, and after towing the car to his garage, my brother-in-law packed us all into his pickup, goat and all, and drove us home.  I was in the back seat with Bella, and every time she tried to stand up, I soothed her and kept her down.  When we got to the farm, Bella jumped out…..and relieved herself.  Ah!  Timing! It’s everything.

Bella got the big stall with the 2 round bales in it.  She was a bit lonely, but settled in very well.  In the morning, she’ll go into the stall where she can have contact with the others.  I hope she has a restful night.