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. 


  1. --There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. ~Alfred Wainwright

  2. When you mention the bucks in the back field, it sounds like they are not in a shelter. How does that work?

    1. Oh, a subject for a new post!! Stay tuned :-)