Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Goats Eat

As I was out with my goats on a sunny late-May morning I was thinking how wonderful it must be to be a goat in West Virginia during spring.  I also was thinking that is wasn't too bad for the goat herder either.  Everywhere you look is goat food and lots of it.  If that were me, I wouldn't know where to start sampling and apparently the goats have the same problem.  As they wandered I thought I'd make a mental note of everything they munched.  They defintitely have their preferences and might spend a few minutes on a multiflora rose but only take a quick bite or two of an elm tree. 

Interestingly, goats cover a lot of ground as they browse, sampling this and that.  They also tend to favor the tips and tender shoots, avoiding the stemmier parts of most plants.  In the sunny open areas they sampled grass, red clover, weeds of various kinds and were most fond of woodland sunflower.  As they moved to the hillside they found multiflora rose, blackberry, raspberry, sumac, alder, hazelnut, and poison ivy.  They soon wandered into the woods to escape the sun and happily munched the leaves of dogwood, hornbeam, maple, ash, elm (not their favorite), oak, beech, willow and pine.  On the way back to the barn they nibbled on the leaves of an old apple tree.

Goats seem to know what they like and need to maintain optimum health.  They also avoid plants that they know are bad for them.  Too bad us humans don't have the same instincts.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Triplets! (or Why We Will Never Be Invited To Another Party)

Saturday was an interesting day.  Don and I were invited to a joint birthday party in town to commence around noon.  Because my husband's and a dear friend's husband's birthday are within a day or two of each other, we decided to have a joint celebration.  Only a few friends were attending and Eve was planning a lovely simple lunch and cake.  An elaborate cake I might add in hindsight.  I was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon since this past week seemed extra hectic with goat babies, gardens and yard work, among other things. 

On Friday I had observed that one of my young does, not quite due to kid, was beginning to show signs of impending birth.  Friday afternoon and evening came and went.  Was this just a false alarm?  Would Annie wait until at least her earliest due date of Sunday or Monday?  Was I going to be taking a very pregnant young goat to a birthday party in town?

By mid-morning Saturday I looked at Annie and I knew she would be kidding within hours.  I called Eve and explained (somewhat frantically and apologetically) that I feared Annie was going to kid and we debated what to do.  After several options were discussed, it was decided to move the party to our farm providing the guests were okay with the last-minute change.  This might be a good time to add that Eve is also a goat person and was very understanding.  I hoped her guests were as understanding.

Within the hour, and another phone call, it was confirmed that the party would travel to our farm and was now somewhat expanded (and slightly delayed) to include a cookout with burgers and dogs as well as Eve's vegetarian dishes and elaborate cake.  This is wonderful!  We can have our party and I can keep an eye on Annie.

Shortly before our guests were scheduled to arrive, I was out on the deck starting to clean up our large charcoal grill that had been sitting all winter.  Don came to the door and yelled "I think Annie is having her kids"!  I ran to the barn and sure enough she was pushing and the bubble containing the kid was in sight.  She delivered a small buckling but it was obvious she wasn't done.  "She's going to have twins" I yelled. "I need another puppy pad and towel!"  The next kid followed quickly and was a large buckling that was three times the size of the first one.  I was helping Annie get the kids dried off and she pushed again and out came a very tiny kid born breech.  I knew she was going to be tough because of the fluid in her lungs, her tiny size and the fact that she was early.  A quick check confirmed that she was a little girl. 

We whisked her into the house and began warming her and I ran out and milked some very thick colostrum from the mother.  It was exactly then the first vehicle of people arrived.  I was dressed in old shorts and I was splattered with iodine, birth fluid and sticky colostrum.  People that know me well might not be surprised at my appearance so I was very happy to see that Eve was among the first arrivals.  Most of the people that were coming were the family of an aquaintence of mine.  In fact it was our dentist.  I know him but not really "crawling around in a stall of birthing fluid" know him.  As the guests entered the house bearing coolers of food and drink, my husband and I had the little doeling on the kitchen counter trying to warm her with our hairdryer and get some colostrum into her with a small syringe since she couldn't suck on a nipple.

While Don, Eve and I tended to the little one, guests set about to chopping, heating food, serving beverages, finding freezer and fridge space, finishing the grill cleaning, setting up outdoor tables, cooking burgers, and generally making themselves at home for which I was very thankful.  At some point I stuck out a sticky hand to introduce myself to the three people I had never met (and likely will never see again!).

After an hour or so we got the babies dry, fed and settled into a cardboard box .  I was able to join the party and had a wonderful time with some very accomodating people and all I had to do was sit and eat. 

Here is a peek at the new kids.

The first-born buckling P-nut.

Annie and her second-born kid that is her clone.  He is staying with his mother.

The last tiny triplet, Gracie, with a milk mustache.

Eve, who is wonderfully understanding, brought her bottle-fed goat-puppy Moonbeam.  It was so cute!   Moonbeam stationed herself next to the box of goat kids and happily entertained herself chewing on their box.  She is a very good goat-puppy and goes out in the grass to potty, well except for that one incident on the chair LOL.
Eve and her 10-day-old doeling Moonbeam.

After it was al over I concluded that this was my kind of party! It will be interesting to see if anyone else feels the same.

Friday, May 3, 2013

What do you see?

I took this picture yesterday and as I looked at it evoked a lot of thoughts.

The first thoughts were of all the work that needed to be done now that it is early May.
1. Finish tilling the garden.
2. Seed things like beans, corn, squash.
3. Put up all the fences that we use to support tomatoes and peppers.  Unfortunately you can't see all the livestock panels that I use for that because they are hidden in the TALL grass.
4. Cut bamboo for bean trellises.
5. Mow the TALL grass, remembering to move the panels so I don't run over them which also reminds me my mower battery is kaput so I need a new one.
6. Change the oil in my ATV since the "change oil" light came on.
7. Get the the fencing put up that is peeking out of that tall grass in the foreground.  Fortunately I am hiring someone to do that this year.  We just cannot handle those 330-foot rolls on the steep hills anymore.
8.  Start spreading the two huge piles of mulch that are in the garden around the broccoli and onions.
9. String the electric fence around the garden now that the livestock panel-chicken wire barricade is up except it needs a few more finishing touches like attaching it firmly to the posts.
10.  Clean the scrap lumber (from our old house that we remodeled) out of the barn loft so it can be used for hay storage now that I have a larger goat herd.  Create an opening for a hay elevator and find a hay elevator.

As I gazed at the photo a bit longer I also saw something else.
1. The sweet shrub and lilac are blooming near the house and I inhale the lilac's sweet scent as I pass near it throughout the day.
2. The lovely pale shades of green of the trees as they leaf out contrasting with the dark green of the grass.
3.  All the great strolls in the woods I have taken these last couple of weeks watching spring unfold.
4. All the work that has been completed already this spring (the garden fence comes to mind the most).
5. My tractor.  I love my tractor.  It hauls things I cannot carry, it mows my meadows and brush where I don't want brush to grow, and it tills our garden. My tractor also reminds me of my 50th birthday with family and friends.  It was my present from my husband.
6. Most of all I see that this is our farm that we have worked so hard to build over the last 16 years or so and the satisfication I feel knowing that when we provide for it and it provides for us.