Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fencing - Update

In a previous post I talked about our project to fence a new area for the goats.

Goat browse area.
We started putting up wire a couple of weeks ago on a nice January day. We already had put up most of the posts except for a few extra gate posts we added as we went along.
We fenced in an area next to the house that will be a place where goat kids can play in a large grassy area.  There is access to the larger goat field and the big goats can help keep it mowed in the summer.     

Using ATV with come-a-long to stretch wire.


Kid play area.

Hauling wire on ATVs.

I'm ecstatic to report that our fencing project was completed on January 31, well ahead of our plan to get it done this spring.  There are still a few odds and ends to do and we need to make a few simple livestock panel gates but as soon as a bit of food starts to grow in a month or two, the goats will have a nice area to browse.  Now I can start on my shed conversion and hopefully have their barn finished this spring.  Yippee!

To celebrate, we spent a few minutes sitting on the porch gazing at our completed fence.  Don had a special beer and I indulged in an Ale8-1 which I have been reserving for a VERY special occasion.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Heidi, The Great Pyrenees Puppy - Week 4

Heidi is 10 weeks old now and is beginning to grow legs which means she can RUN.  Fortunately she mostly runs to me and not away from me.  I moved her for a few days into the main goat barn with the adult does while the weather was dry and mild so she could explore the larger yard.  She mostly explored ways to escape.  She is still small enough to squeeze through gaps in board fencing as well as through the wire stays in the fence.  I think she's decided she likes her small pen where she spent her early weeks because I would usually find her near her old pen.  One of the more interesting escapes was kind of a reverse escape.  Somehow she manged to get herself out of the new pen and back INTO her old pen that had all the gates closed.  This pen is the one we use for the Nigerian kids which are TINY and I still haven't figured out how she got back in.  We returned from working on some fencing and she was happily playing by herself in her pen.

Heidi is learning to "hang out" with me when I'm working with the goats.  I was trimming feet and Heidi would lie close by and watch.  Yes, that is poor Celia wedged up against the wall while I trim her front foot. Heidi did try to help a few times but by pushing her away, she got the idea and seemed content to lie and watch.

The goats are still teaching her a bit about respect, especially Celia our Mini-LaMancha.  I think it is more of a game at this point because I often see them chewing on a tree branch together.

Heidi is walking nicely on a leash now and is learning cues such as sitting at a heel position when I stop walking and also sitting "near" the front when she comes to me.  I think leash walking is a great way to emphasis to Heidi that I am the alpha figure above her.  By walking on a leash she has no choice, at least while she is still small, to go where I go.  I noticed today that this is beginning to pay off when I tried to get her in a "down" position from a sitting position.  She willingly let me place her in a "down" without fighting me.  Previously it was a small battle.  Because this is a breed that likes to assume the role of alpha, I take this as a small victory since alpha dogs don't willingly like to placed in subordinate positions.

I love puppies of this age.  They seem so willing to please and try so hard.  I have no doubt though that all this will change in another few months when she enters that pre-adolescent period where puppies seem to LOVE to exercise their independence. For now though, she enjoys our "training" time because she is the center of attention.

During her resting time when the goats are in the barn, she hangs out by the goat door so she can easily monitor who comes and goes.

Heidi also went back to the vet this past week for a second round of puppy shots and a visit with the staff.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shed Junkie

All farms seem to have their share of sheds.  Sheds can encompass just about anything that has a roof and mostly keeps the weather off  its contents. A real estate agent told me not long ago that everybody wants sheds and barns but nobody wants to pay extra for them when they buy a place.  Sheds have great value but maybe are not appreciated until you have a farm and no place to put equipment, firewood or animals.

I love sheds.  I think I have spearheaded the building of some kind of a shed every year we have lived here.  I also have a tendency to appropriate them for MY stuff.

Original woodshed
 When we bought our current farm it had a building across from the house that was being used as a wood shed. Judging by the items we would occasionally dredge up from the dirt floor, it had been used as a garage and a place to work on mechanical stuff.  We continued to use it for several years as a woodshed and copperhead habitat.  Because we stored a year's worth of firewood, we added a little bump out on to it.

"Moose Lodge" and  "Trixie's Place"

When we got Moose, our Italian Spinone, we needed a kennel for times when he had to stay home. So, we added a dog run to the woodshed and called it "the Moose Lodge". A couple of years later we added a female Spinone and needed a separate place for her so we added an adjoining run and called it "Trixie's Place".  When we decided we needed a little place to store some "stuff" we added another section next to the dog run.  This became known as the "Veranda" because it overlooked our waterfall and was a pleasant place to sit, until we put up walls for more storage.

Old barn with attached tractor shed.
We have a nice old barn, but over the years prior to our living here,  farm animals have had the effect of lowering the floor so that you climbed up, and then sort of fell inside it.  Since we had no animals at the time we decided it would be good storage for mowers and tillers. We put a floor in it and turned it into a big storage shed.  The loft became storage for renovation treasures that "we" couldn't bear to throw away after deconstructing our house.  Until recently it was also full of dried gourds.  When I got a tractor it needed a home so we added on to the barn so that the tractor could live under cover with it's fellow power equipment.

Old shed next to the garden.

We also have an old shed just outside the garden.  It leans a bit but has a nice skylight.  It has been around a while and has probably seen various uses over the years.   At some point it was a blacksmith shop as evidenced by bits and pieces of coal embedded in the dirt floor.  It still houses an impressive supply of scrap iron including some old railroad track and railroad spikes.   We use it mainly to store garden tools and our Stahlman tool-handle collection.  The previous owner apparently used it mostly as a place to store used motor oil.

New and improved goat barn.

All was well and good with the sheds but then I, with Don's support, decided to get dairy goats.  That's when everything changed and my shed take-over began.  The copperheads were evicted from the old woodshed along with the firewood.  The dogs were now able to share quarters so one dog run was reconfigured, enclosed a bit and turned into goat housing.  Because goats don't like rain, the open "run" areas were covered by a roof.  A "kid pen" for the impending goat babies was added on to the now sprawling complex.  No wonder sheds are under appreciated.  My goat "barn" is very functional but looks a bit bizarre.

The old barn with its ground-level floor was now begging to be used for hay storage.  We cleaned the stuff out of one side and filled it with hay.  The loft, unfortunately, is not useable for hay because there is no way to get it up there and besides, it is still full of lumber and "treasures".

"Buck Palace" under construction.

Once it was clear we were committed to keeping goats, we needed a place for the bucks to live.  We decided to build the Grand Poobah of all sheds on our farm in a big field out past the barn.  We started construction on the "Buck Palace" and while we were building we thought we might as well make additional storage space, primarily for tractor implements and things that would no longer fit in the barn.

Buck Palace Complex
Not surprisingly, it was added onto the following year so we could store some rough cut lumber.  Then we added two more barn areas so that we could separate animals if needed.  Now it mostly stores bucks and more hay.

Sometime during all this we built a chicken coop in the corner of the veggie garden.  When I decided chickens weren't working as planned, the chicken coop became, as you might have guessed, additional hay storage which by now has taken over two bays in the back field, half of the barn and now the chicken coop.  As a good faith gesture, however, I have offered to relinquish my grasp on the chicken coop so it can be used as a garden shed.  I feel I must confess that I did this so that the ex-blacksmithing shed next to the garden that WAS the garden shed could be retrofitted as a goat barn since it is so handy to the area we are currently fencing.  That will be this year's shed project.

I think the only shed on our farm that has remained true to its original purpose is the 4-wheeler shed we built a few years ago...as long as you overlook the stack of lumber along one wall.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Heidi, The Great Pyrenees Puppy - Week 3

Our Pyrenees turned 9 weeks old this weekend. There is not a lot new to report this week.  It is amazing though how much she has grown in 3 weeks, both in size and attitude.  She has gained 6 pounds since we got her and she now weighs 20 pounds.  She is still living with the goats and is getting a bit bolder with them.  She spends more time in close proximity to them and the goats are getting used to her as well.

My Mini-La Mancha has butted her into the fence a time or two but Heidi seems to be unfazed.  I think they are all learning their boundaries and tolerances.
Their favorite activity together is chewing tree branches.

Heidi has reclaimed the dog house and she will often lie in it to observe the goats.  We have also turned off the heat lamp because Heidi was starting to avoid it.  That may have a lot to do with the unusually warm January weather but her coat is getting very heavy as well.  She still has her Heidi hole although I had to make it a bit bigger so she can squeeze through.  Fortunately the goats haven't tried using the larger opening.

Heidi's litter sister owned by other family members came over to play this week.  It was fun to see them together.  Dixie was a bit shy since she was on unfamiliar turf.  I'm sure Heidi will be the same way when she goes to visit Dixie.   Heidi is a bit bigger than her sister and will probably end up being the larger adult.

We still spend daily quality time together playing and grooming.  Heidi is able to walk farther now so our daily leash walks are covering a bit more territory.  We visit the bucks in the back field every day so she can see that they belong in her territory.  She no longer pulls on the leash and only lags when there is a situation she is not familiar with such as crossing small creeks.  I think she has to think about it first.  She is learning to sit to be petted.  That hasn't prevented those big front paws from waving around but she seems to be making an effort to control herself and refraining from jumping up.  I'm pleased that she seems willing to go "back to work" willingly when our play time is over.

I also let her play briefly with our other 4 dogs.  I want her to know they belong here.  Here she is with our Spinone, Mr. Moose Tracks.  So far she is an awesome puppy.  We'll see what the next week brings!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


We are and have been in the process of fencing an area above our garden and house for a goat "pasture". This project started last fall and is continuing on this winter.  I hope to have it ready for the girls by "spring" whenever that may be.  It could be today since it was 60 degrees. The fenced area-to-be is more of a weed, brush, and tree area but I wasn't sure what to call that.  Scrub hillside might be the best descriptor.
Installing fence on our farm is a slow process, partly because Don and I do it, but mostly because the land where we want the goats is steep hillside. It isn't very easy to use mechanical anything to help.  With baby steps, we press ever onward toward our goal, doing one small section at a time.  Because rolls of field fencing are 4 feet tall, 330 feet long and heavier than I care to imagine, it must be put up in sections that we can carry to our posts located in various places on the hillside.  That generally means lengths of 100 feet or less.

Last October I had our fencing materials delivered by Southern States while they could still get their truck up our road.  The delivery included a couple of rolls of fencing and a lot of steel posts.  I bought 4x4 posts and concrete mix for the corners, gates and intermediate posts at the hardware store.  The intermediate wood posts allow us to keep our runs under 100 feet.  If we lived in an ideal world, all the posts would be wood.  However it would be well into the next century before we could hand dig all those post holes.  Using metal t-posts makes the process so much faster and seems to work fine for our goats.  We diligently installed all our posts in the fall and had planned to wait for the weather to break in late winter to start running the wire.  Except that is January 22 and we were tired of waiting for the bad weather to break because it never really arrived. So, on a balmy day in January we decided to begin.

In anticipation of the good weather today, I went out yesterday and measured all the fence runs, made a drawing of our planned area then calculated the lengths to cut from each large roll.  Kind of a cut-list for wire.  

Today we went out to the back field where I hauled the large rolls of wire with my tractor last October.  I had positioned the wire rolls so that we could unroll them across the open field to the required length.  We started unrolling the roll and measured off the first section we wanted to put up, which was 90 feet, cut it and rolled it back up to put in the truck to take back to our work area.

We carried the roll to the starting post.  We tied one end of the fence to the end post and began to unroll the wire, using bungee cords and baling twine to hold it against the intermediate posts so it didn't flop over.  

When we got to the end, we secured a come-a-long to the wire and secured the other end to another post and gently tightened the wire.  We stapled the wire to the end posts and used zip ties to temporarily secure the wire to each post.  

I say temporary but my buck pen has been held together with zip ties and baling twine for a couple years now.  Anyway I PLAN to go along and fasten it securely with wire which will also tighten it a bit more.  We managed to get 2 of 9 sections up today and I'm feeling a lot better about the prospects of having a goat pasture by spring, even that is today.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Path of Most Resistance

Some people may think that living on a small farm near a small town in a small state might give one the feeling like they're in some kind of rut.  I prefer to think of it as a well worn track with ample opportunities to go crashing off into the woods to find  your own path, knowing that you can return to the main trail whenever you want to.  We moved back to WV to live the "simple" life.  Little did we know.   Our little 7-sided home nestled into our 67 acre valley was located miles from the mailbox down at the "hard road" and we had visions of daily strolls to pick up our mail and observe nature along the way.  Did I mention that nature has pretty steep hills and lots of creek crossings around here?

The cold, wet March weather that almost got  the best of us during our move from Kentucky, soon erupted into a hot, dry April.  There was so much to do on our little homestead this first summer!  We added more raised beds to our  hillside vegetable garden, built a little shed to put things in, documented wild flowers growing in the steep ravines, cut firewood for the winter and bought another farm.  What?  We just moved to this house!  So much for strolling to the mail box.

Our new farm, a couple of miles from our house in the woods, was more open, had a bit of useable land, a wonderful old barn and a waterfall.  It also had mountains of trash and junk on that useable land and a dilapidated house that we sort of "failed to consider".   Mostly what I remember about the house was the snake slithering down the stairway.   But it has a waterfall!  Getting to the point we could actually move to our new farm turned out to be one of those side trails that consumed our daily life for 5 years.  We tore much of the old house down and slowly rebuilt it.  We cleaned up junk piles.  Most evenings were spent with "how to" books trying to figure out  "now exactly what pitch does that drain pipe need to be?" or "how does that 3-way light switch work again?"  Some skills required a bit of personal instruction such as "who knew you could remove an entire wall with a circular saw?"

Just as we had one foot back on the main trail and were living in our "new" house (note: having a kitchen isn't REALLY necessary) I ventured into the wonderful wacky world of rental real estate.  Small houses in town at the time were very inexpensive and I had a theory.  Spend cash on a house, finance the tractor I want, use the rent to pay for the tractor and voila! you have a house AND a tractor.  If one house is good,  two must be better.  Why waste all those great renovation skills that we just spent time learning?  Let me just say that crawling around in the mud under a house to repair leaking pipes is an excellent reason to consider putting those skills to other uses.

Over the next year things finally settled into a fairly calm routine. The house was mostly finished and I was to the point of saying "who needs trim anyway?"   At least we had a great kitchen.  By now Don had his woodworking shop where he spent his idle hours carving spoons and exploring rustic furniture construction.  And I was fortunate enough to get a Spinone, a wonderful pointing breed from Italy.  "I want to show my dog" were the six most dreaded words I could have uttered to my poor hubby.  Don however, now used to my diversions, happily went along.  Due to technical difficulties with my first Spinone, I just had to get another one to show.  I enjoyed it so much that a third Spinone just "came along" .  We dabbled successfully in conformation, hunt testing and obedience.  Then gas prices went sky high and we basically stopped showing.  We all returned to the farm to live the "simple life" - again.  Wrong.

Now that we were home more, Don and I began spending more time in the shop (mostly in winter) making  rustic furniture.  As our skill and inventory grew we explored retail sales outlets, craft fairs and a did few gallery shows.  I managed to set up a website.  It became a business.  Not simple.  We were also in the "locavore" and self-sufficieny modes.  I decided that a good addition to our homestead would be a home dairy.  I could hear the muffled cries: "you can buy milk at the store!!!" as I went crashing off into the woods again.  However,  I did pause long enough to confer with all involved parties as to the committment involved in home milk production.  Soon we bought two Nubian goat kids.  We had second thoughts so we sold them a year later.  I got depressed.  Don found me in our little barn sniffing hay.  I had fallen in love with goats and wanted more.  Fast forward a couple of years and we now have a milking machine, another website, and a herd of 11 dairy goats, soon to increase exponentially by the looks of the pregnant girls.

On occasion, the woods would reach out and yank us off of the well worn path.   These were  mainly land ownership, mineral rights and gas-well drilling issues.  Although we are both geologists by profession, the prospect of having wells drilled on your property where you own mineral rights, as well as property where you don't own your mineral rights, was not something we anticipated.  As a result, much time was spent getting up to speed on this aspect of land ownership in WV.  

As we discovered over the past 15 years, living the simple life isn't all that simple.  So, anyone care to come along for a hike?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The six seasons

One thing about living on farm in rural West Virginia is that one experiences first hand and intimately the changing of the seasons.  West Virginia is situated in a temperate climate so we have four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.


They all have their good and bad points when left to their own ways.  However, we also have two other seasons, Flood and Mud, that just can’t seem to leave the meteorological seasons well enough alone.   Flood and Mud have a tendency to scamper willy-nilly among the four seasons like mischievous teenage boys, each wreaking their own brand of havoc.  One never knows when they might appear on the farm.  In late March they often show up together, with Flood generally leading the way for an acute bout of Mud that lasts until the growing season arrives and the excess water is transpired into the air by trees and other plants.  Sometimes Flood prefers to create havoc single handedly, especially in summer, doing his thing in a sudden toad-strangling gully washer and then quickly moving on.  Excess water either soaks into the ground to be sucked back out again or it runs off the hard, dry ground, leaving us with clogged culverts and washed out creek crossings.  Mud seldom makes an appearance and must be on vacation after working overtime all spring.  

Some years, Mud hangs out with his good buddy Old Man Winter.  This year they seem to have an extended collaborative project going.  Nearly every morning, Old Man Winter secretly does his thing in the dark and freezes the ground hard as a rock.  He sometimes goes to the trouble of trying to preserve his handiwork with a covering of snow.  But Mud, the persistent bugger he is, swoops in about noon with his pal Spring, who brings temperatures not befitting the month of January to undo that all Winter accomplished overnight. 

But when Mud REALLY shines is after Old Man winter has really set in during the entire month of February, decides he has had enough, and then moves on.  For then, you get that truly special gooey, greasy mud that only appears when the ground, now  frozen at depth, begins to thaw.  This is the boot-sucking, gravel-swallowing kind of mud that anyone who has clay soils knows very well.  It is the season of 4- wheel drives, muck boots and gravel trucks.  

For some reason fall is mostly left to fend for itself and are generally free of the two pesky interlopers.  I guess we all deserve a break sometime.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Heidi, The Great Pyrenees Puppy - Week 2

Last week I started documenting the development of our Pyrenees puppy.  She is 8 weeks old now. Once mature, her primary role on our farm will be guarding our goats.  For now she is a typical puppy with the attention span of a gnat. 

She has been living in the barn with three of my young goats all this week. but she has been spending more time outside in the small yard with the goats.  Sometimes she will bark at them and offer to play.  For this behavior she is snubbed by the goats.                                                                           

We were starting to work on crate training during her brief stint as a house dog so I moved a crate in to her "Heidi hole" and arranged some hay bales next to the crate so that she has no choice but to sleep in it. I also feed her and give treats in her crate. Her heat lamp provides warmth in the rear of the crate. This worked very well for several days then one evening Don went to check on her and she was lying on top of the hay bale. I’m beginning to think I pamper this puppy too much.  However, after she has been out in the snow I see her curled up in her crate basking in the warmth of the lamp so I think I’ll leave it a while longer. Accepting a crate is important so that she can be transported to the vet and training class.                 

Heidi is much more mobile and coordinated this week and has grown noticeably.  She has also discovered the large dog house in the yard. She thought It WAS a safe place to observe goings-on until the goats decided that if the dog wants the dog house then we want it more.  Prior to the puppy moving in, the goats never set one hoof in that dog house. They always spent their time on top of it.  When I last looked the goats were taking turns lying in the dog house. Heidi made a feeble attempt to retake the house but to no avail. 

I let Heidi mingle with the adult does for brief supervised periods on a couple of mild afternoons and she explored their larger yard. Last week, when I carried the puppy into the doe yard, my herd queen stood and trembled from head to hoof.  Interestingly, she doesn't seem bothered by my four other large dogs but this armload of fur set her off. This week she began to accept the existence of the puppy and eventually stopped trembling when the puppy was nearby. She never took her eyes off Heidi though. After all it is the herd queen’s responsibility to monitor the goings on around the herd and Tenny does a good job of that.

 Heidi also discovered that she is small enough to easily walk through the wires in the field fencing.  She found her way around the backside of the barn through the yard and made a bee-line back into her "Heidi hole".  Smart dog!  I guess she needs to grow a bit more before I can put her in that yard but at her current rate it won't take more than a week or two!

I spent more time researching the pros and cons of socializing livestock guardians. Some recommend a hand’s off approach and others recommend as much socializing as possible.  Because one of Heidi’s roles will be as a companion, we don't want to risk having a dog that is people shy. We also have adults and children that come to our farm to see the goat kids. For these reasons, we decided to enroll her in a Canine Good Citizen class starting in March when she will be 4 months old.  We concluded that we would rather have an over-socialized dog patrolling the farm rather than one who might be fearful of strangers or worse, perceive them as a threat. A properly socialized Pyrenees should be able to "read" people and determine their intent. Even then, Heidi should primarily function as a deterrent by her mere presence and not by aggression.

Every day I take Heidi out of the goat yard for her "quality time". Because she is so young much of this time is spent playing and cuddling.  Because she left the litter at 6 weeks, I was concerned about her not learning to "play nice" from her siblings and mother so one thing we are working on is making sure she doesn't use teeth. If she touches skin with her teeth I squeal loudly and shun her, much as a sibling puppy would.  It is amazing how well this works. One of her favorite things is to play with her giant ball.

We also practice walking on a 20-foot lead with me holding the other end of the rope. This accustoms her to a having a lead attached to her collar. For now she willingly follows me. We explored the workshop this week and learned about cats, well at least the one cat that didn't hide. We also went on a short walk to visit the bucks in our back pasture. I am also working on grooming by brushing her, filing her toe nails, and looking in her mouth. Because she will be such a large dog, I am encouraging her to sit (notice I didn't say teach) while being petted. I also routinely take her food and treats away from her then give them back. I want her to learn that I control all food and treats and am the alpha of the family (don’t tell Don). I definitely don't want a food-aggressive 100 pound dog. 

When I return her to the goat yard, she never cries or whimpers. She accepts that this is her "place".  As she matures, my hope is that she can relax and have a bit of down-time when she is with me. At other times hopefully she will know she is on duty.  Even Pyrenees need a break sometimes.  Only time will tell if this works.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Morning Chores

I love to be outdoors.  It is a good thing too.  We have 11 goats that require me to be up and at 'em at least twice a day, EVERY day.  Rain, shine, snow, sleet, hail, in sickness and in health...oh wait that's the other commitment.  Anyway you get the idea.

Each season has its high points and draw backs.  It happens to be January now and until this morning it has been fairly mild for the season.  This morning was a typical snowy, blowy January day and a far cry from yesterday when it was calm and near 50 degrees.  Drastic changes are hard on us humans but even harder on animals.  Goats do well in the cold but need to be protected from the elements such as driving snow and fierce winds.  Normally my animals do fine in a three-sided shed open to the South.  Too much time in enclosed barns can lead to respiratory issues from poor ventilation.  Well let me tell you lack of ventilation wasn't  an issue this morning even after I spent yesterday afternoon hanging tarps, rubber mats and attaching cardboard to everything for the duration of this storm.   Now I'm the first to admit that if I lived in Alaska or the northern plains I would not have animals, no way-no how.  The fierce condtions that they contend with would keep me firmly planted inside  with my coffee cup wishing fervently for spring.  In WV however, winter weather is generally just something to prepare for accordingly and go on about one's business.

So it is with doing daily chores in cold conditions.  Once daylight arrives, I begin  my version of "dress for success".  This generally means lots of layers. I usually wear blue jeans, two shirts and a hooded sweatshirt with a knit "toboggan" on my head under the hood.  Over that I wear my quilted coveralls and on days like this morning I wear a weatherproof storm jacket.   I also wear insulated boots with heavy socks. The only drawback to this outfit is that I can barely move but at least I won't freeze to death.

Our goat barn is about three giant steps from my backdoor mud/utility room where I keep buckets and goat gear.  There is also  hose bib with hot and cold water.  My goats  always get hot water on cold days.  A few does in particular are always waiting for their steaming bucket.  Just like we like our hot coffee, they like warm-to-hot water and it helps to them to maintain their body temperature.  Nothing's too good for the goats and they let you know it!  I exchange  the rock-hard buckets for the steaming ones and this morning I notice a foreign body (literally) encaspulated in ice.  It is a dead mouse.  Not as exciting as finding a wooly mammoth but it makes an interesting addition to the morning routine.  After I break out the mouse-sicle, I take the bucket inside to thaw.  This one might get an extra scrubbing. 

I supply fresh water for both pens and check hay to make sure that there is plenty in their mangers.  Hay is the goat's fuel for their internal furnace  Bacterial digestion of fiber in the rumen generates internal heat  so I make sure there is plenty of fiber to go around.  

The goats on the other hand, only have one thing on their minds and that is their morning grain ration.  I dip out a bucket of sweet feed (mostly oats and corn mixed with dried  molassass)  and add to it some dehydrated alfalfa pellets and a small scoop of black oil sunflower seeds.  I fill their feeder with grain and separate my herd queen (aka boss goat) so that she won't hog it all.  For dessert after breakfast they get kelp meal, dried yeast and a refill of their loose mineral mix. Some would say sweet feet IS dessert but I'd also rather have my dessert before dinner so  I grab a small handful of sweet feed for myself, and chew on it while doing remaining chores.  It is pleasantly sweet and crunchy, oat hulls and the occasional plant stem not withstanding.  I tidy up their sleeping platforms since they are not hesitant to pee and poop where they sleep and make sure they have a dry, bedded place to spend the day since there is no way these goats will set foot outdoors today. In fact I think one of them got up during the night and closed their barn door, or maybe it was just the wind, but it was open when I left them last night.  

After all is cleaned,  I take my filled wheelbarrow down to the veggie garden to my mountainous pile of soon-to-be-composted goat poop. 

After sliding back up the hill from the garden,  I check on my Pyrenees puppy that is in an adjacent pen for the night and she is out in the snow, as in out-of-her-pen out in the snow.  She is now big and agile enough to get above the chicken wire along the bottom of the fence but still small enough to wiggle through the livestock panel openings.  She's fine, but for my peace of mind I lock her inside the barn.  That fix can wait until tomorrow.

With the does taken care of, I fill a couple of gallon jugs to carry out to the bucks in our back field.  Nothing unusual happening back there but as usual they are happy to have liquid water, a taste of grain and some fresh hay.  

By the time I'm finished, I'm usually sweating under all my clothes.  I come in and try to get out of all those heavy garments asap. By now, my hubby has breakfast nearly ready.  Dear, sweet, wonderful man.  Today we're having toasted home-made raisin bread (he loves his bread machine), fried apples and scrambled eggs.  When late afternoon arrives I pretty much repeat the above sequence except I come in and have dinner instead of breakfast and I usually I have to cook it.  

I think the opportunity to experience all that nature throws at us is one reason I love "farming" and goats so much.  More often than not, once I get dressed and see what the outdoors has to offer on any particular day I am a much happier person and am glad that I'm  not huddled indoors next to my coffee cup.  There's time for that during the rest of the morning. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


These are two of my Nigerian Dwarf does, Zippity Do-Dah on the left and Ginger on the right.  They look relatively normal. Granted, this was before their first pregnancy.

This is a picture of the same does in Jan 2012 and they are 3 months pregnant which means they are approximately two months away from delivering their kids. Not so normal.  Last year these two does each had  triplets.  This year I think they may be going to have a entire herd.