Friday, March 30, 2007

Redbuds in Bloom

When the redbuds are blooming in Virginia, they create hot pink patches in the woody landscape. Fruit trees are also in bloom. There is an ornamental apricot tree just outside my window. It has deep rose-colored blossoms.

We've had some rain. The fields are greening up and I'm able to begin the pasture rotation for the cows again. I mowed the lawns for the first time this year.

Kidding is winding down and management is getting more under control. It's still a lot of work. The cows have not been slouches, either. We had a new heifer calf the day before yesterday. She is called Blossom. (Yes, she is a dearie.) I was able to lie down on the grass next to her and check her out. She was still too new to be fearful. Momma Cow (Sally) wandered over to make sure I was not molesting her in some way. There are eight new calves in the pasture.

The garden's tilled, but needs to have vegetation raked out before planting. I did manage to get snow peas in the ground.

I've hired a hardworking teenage girl to help out two days a week. Yesterday, we worked on cleaning out stalls for three hours. We're about half done. Every bone in my body hurts.

Catching up with all the farm and house work is the goal this week. There's not much time to write.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vernal Equinox

Today is the first day of Spring. One of the peach trees is blooming.

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chicken TV

Our chicken house is at the base of a hill and the cows are currently in the pasture above.

When I walked into the chicken house yesterday morning, there were cows looking in to each window along the pasture side. Besides the zany chicken antics, I'm sure the grain storage containers were of interest. Well, cows need entertainment as much as anyone.

There are five new calves. Forage is a little hard to get at this time of the year, although the recent rains are encouraging grass growth. I think I'm actually seeing the pastures greening up more each day.

The kidding is going swimmingly, as you can see by the list to the right. I'm running out of barn space and W names! If someone doesn't come up with more female names, there are going to start to be some really goofy ones in the list soon. HELP!

This is the season of iodine-stained fingers; of tired farmers; of nasty ganders; of daffodils; of eggs and calves and kids... Hurrah for Spring and for Chicken TV!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


We're moving right along with the kidding season. Most of the births are routine and the goat mothers do a good job of taking care of their kids. Once in a while, however, we have a little drama.

On the fifth, last Monday, I did the usual routine of taking care of the goats. One of the Boer goats had a nice, big single buckling and it wasn't hard to set her up in the old barn. I went to the new nursery and when I got finished there I just did a visual check of the rest of the herd outside. There was a young doe about as high up on the hill as she could be crying in pain. This was her first birth and it became obvious to me when I looked at the two legs coming out, that this was a breech birth but that the baby was positioned with head down. I sat down on the ground and helped pull the baby out, as it was obvious to me that she couldn't do it herself. (Naturally just as we got to the end, working with her contractions, my cell phone rang in my coat pocket. I didn't answer.)

The baby was wet and there was a cold wind blowing. The little mother had no clue about what was happening and didn't seem to know that this was her baby. I sheltered the baby as well as I could; I didn't have a towel or anything to dry it off with. Rather than walking down the hill and back up again, I decided to try to get them both into the closest barn. Ursula -- the new mother -- didn't want to come, so she kept laying down. The baby was slippery and I was worried about dropping her. It was quite an effort to get them both down. I put the baby into my warming crib, which has gotten a lot of use this season. It is a deep trough with hay, a towel, and a safe heatlamp.

For a day or so, Ursula didn't do much at all with the baby. She licked it a little, but had no milk production at all. I freeze colostrum each year for this sort of scenario and used a baby bottle to give little Wilma some nutrition.

A young fellow named Jason came over that evening and helped nurse Wilma. He also helped feed the mothers and rake out stalls. If he or his wife sees this, I want him to know that Ursula's milk came in late yesterday and baby Wilma is doing fine. Ursula's mothering instincts have kicked in and the two seem devoted to one another.

This morning, we have another single female birth. I named her Wanda.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Goatz iz da kraziest peoplez

Saturday afternoon was mild and sunny. The majority of the goat herd was in the near pasture laying on the grass in the sun. Harvey Llama was in their midst -- a sure sign that more births are imminent. I thought it was a good idea to let the six new mama goats out to get some air.

Come on, girls -- it’ll do you good to get out. The babies will be safe and sound in the nursery barn.
"Oh, no, ma’am! We’re fine here. We don’t want to leave our little bybies for a minute! "

Look, I know you girls are getting cabin fever. Goats normally leave their babies during the day while they graze. I’ve done this before.
"Pleeeeeze don’t make us go!"

It’ll be all right. I’ll go with you, I said, picking up the broom and shooing them out the door.

"Hay, this is our old barn! Look, everything’s just the same as it was. ‘And this is our pasture, and our water buckets… Oh, Ah declare! There’s mah mama, mah sistah and auntie and mah last year’s bybie!" (These are SW Virginia goats.)

I sat on the hill while the herd reunited with the girls. There was a lot of nuzzling and sniffing.

"Mah dear, you're as big as a house, when are you due? Ah’ve got the sweetest twins. They look just like gramma Pearl… "

So, everything was fine. The babies were quiet and safe, so I went on to do some pruning and other work around the farm.

At dinnertime, I expected the moms to be waiting outside the nursery barn. That proved to be wishful thinking. They were in the big barn with the rest of the herd. I grabbed some leads and proceeded to take them across to the nursery.

"What ARE you doin'? We want to stay HERE!"

Are you kidding? (ha) You didn’t want to leave the babies and now you don’t want to go back to them?

"Bybies? What bybies? We don’t know nothing’ ’bout birthin’ no bybies, Miz Scahlet! What do they look like?"

They look like little white puppies with brown markings. Of course you remember them.
"No we don’t! We’re not goin', and you can’t make us! We’ll fall down on the ground and you’ll have to drag us to that barn! Pleeeeze, Miz Scahlet, don’t make us go! "

I escorted each the few yards to the green barn and shoved them in the door.

"Oh, yes! Now we remember! Aren’t they cute? ‘And they DO look like little white puppies. Can we have our supper now?"
I wish they'd stop calling me Miss Scarlet.
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Friday, March 02, 2007

Holding Pattern

We're at fourteen baby goats and holding as I write this. It's a lot easier to take care of fourteen than forty, so this may be a good time to make a little report for those who are interested.

The five star maternity hotel still has a couple of empty stalls. Each mother has a private space for herself and her babies. They have all settled in.

In the morning, I feed each mother then open the gates and let all out to explore. The babies play, practicing their sideways dance steps and four-footed hopping. The radio is tuned to a classic music station and it often seems they are dancing to the rhythms of whatever music is playing.

As I rake out the spaces, they -- just like human kids -- seem to say, "Oh, boy, a dirtpile! Let's climb it!"

They go to that with gusto and look for other opportunities to test their skills, climbing up on concrete steps and looking for cavelike spaces under tables and behind the refrigerator.

As I fill water buckets and hay racks, I must step carefully as some of the triplets who have received supplemental bottles think that I surely have milk in my legs. They keep trying to figure out where it is. One baby sucked my fingers this morning, eventually deciding that they are utterly useless! They look right, but nothing comes out.

I then sprinkle pine shavings on wet floors and provide extra waste hay for clean bedding. Next, the does are placed back in their individual spaces and babies matched up, using the information written on their paper collars. They are tired out by then, and find cozy napping places. When I leave, all is calm, clean and quiet.