Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Milk of Human Kindness

On Friday afternoon, my friend Ginger came over with four of her kids to clean out barn stalls. This was labor bartered for milk buckets. We all pitched in and raked out the maternity barn, all the while playing musical goats to pen them while we cleaned.

The baby goats tend to get under foot, especially the little "ice princess" who was a bottle baby by necessity, as her mother had been in deep shock, having kidded in the extreme cold. The first kid, a buckling, only made it for a day, but the doeling seemed healthy and hungry, so I fed her until her momma's hormones kicked in. When Una was ready and eager to feed her baby, baby was rejecting her, preferring the baby bottle she was used to. She tended to follow me around, believing that there must be milk in my legs somewhere, while her mother followed HER, wanting desperately to nurse her.

I asked Maggie, the goat tender on her family farm, to please sit on the floor and try to get the baby to nurse. My arthritis makes it hard for me to do that.

Meanwhile, we cleaned and cleaned, Patrick hauled cartloads of used hay and sawdust out to the pile. The littlest girls, Rose and Nora, filled buckets with clean sawdust and spread it on the floor after each stall was cleaned out. Clean hay was placed in racks, water buckets were filled. All was clean and dry and mothers matched up with babies for grain feeding before we left.

Maggie was successful in getting the "ice princess" to nurse! Hallelujia! What a revelation to the little goat that a constant supply of perfectly delicious, warm milk was hovering nearby all along.

We moved on to the big barn for a while, and great progress was made. The days spent attending kidding goats had put me behind in the barn cleaning business.

I think the (human) kids actually enjoyed the experience. I know I appreciated the help.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cold: Bitter, Brutal Cold

Cold has been described as brutal and bitter. Sometimes, I think people exaggerate and overuse these expressions. The last two days have actually earned the designation, especially since we're still experiencing the miracle of birth in the goat maternity barn.

Yesterday morning, just as I was finally leaving the maternity barn after attending four mothers who'd kidded overnight, my husband asked me if I'd like to witness yet another miracle in the other barn. I actually watched the birth sac begin to freeze on the emerging head of the newest kid. The young doe was in labor in one of the draftier spots. It was about 10 degrees, with a wind chill of 1 degree F. That is a brutal way to come into the world. I sat down in the hay with a towel which I placed under where the baby was sliding. The doe seemed completely out of it, so I quickly dried the baby off and wrapped it in the towel. We whisked mother and baby to a more sheltered stall, where she had the second kid. Although she glanced over to where they were placed in one of the little kid caves, she never even licked them off. If we hadn't been there, there would have been two frozen newborns on the barn floor.

I think the numbing cold just left her mind numb as well. My hands were numb, as my gloves had gotten wet. The hair dryer we use to warm kids was giving out air which actually felt cold in the barn. Later that afternoon, when they were dry, we wrapped them up and took them to the maternity barn, where does are having to double up due to numbers. Those kids slept in the warming bed overnight. The mother sort of recognizes them today, but they don't quite understand that she has milk for them. They are being bottle fed and all I can do is keep milking and hoping for the best.

I dressed many of the kids in funny little warm-up suits made from woolen socks and fleece last night.

It's 35+ degrees this afternoon, and it feels so much better.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Moving Right Along

We had about five inches of snow on Thursday. Naturally our 2008 goat crop began to arrive on Wednesday afternoon. After carting mothers and babies over to the maternity barn in the frightful cold, I decided that every goat that looked "imminent" was going to be moved over prior to kidding. This plan almost worked.

One of the "imminent" mothers kidded that day in the maternity barn -- happily. There were a couple others who fooled me because they didn't look that far along. We whisked one mother and baby over, warmed the baby and got them settled, attended the others, etc. after getting down through the snow on Thursday. On the way back through the big barn, something made me double check the stall where Harvey was laying. There was afterbirth on the ground. To my amazement, I found the second baby, alive and even somewhat warm, in one of the ATV tires we use in which to place water buckets! I had a towel in my hand, quickly wrapped the baby up, and went back to the maternity barn to warm it up. It's Saturday, and so far, this set of twins has been doing fine with their mother.

Note to self: always trust Harvey! He knows all about goat kids.

That's a lot of drama. Last night, as I was feeding the mothers, one started labor and had a set of twins before I left. I cleaned up her stall and towelled off the babies.

The last batch of "X" kids are doing fine in the big barn with the rest of the herd. They are little monkeys, imitating the others and getting into everything. They even followed the herd on Friday through the snow and got back in one piece.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

January Thaw

Yesterday, I spotted a red fox sunbathing in the hayfield. It quickly realized I was eyeing it through my binoculars. Unlike some other wildlife, which would immediately bolt off in the opposite direction, the fox just stared back boldly. They do this every time. After a minute or so, it trotted off in my direction at an oblique angle, eventually crossing the driveway and going up into the next fenced pasture and up toward the house.

If I'd had a gun and knew how to shoot, I could have shot that fox a hundred times during this little swagger.

Foxes are beautiful animals. I made the mistake of telling workers on the farm not to kill the first pair we saw strolling through the pasture. The next Spring, they killed all my ducks, save one. They didn't even eat all the ducks. Some were left hanging in the fence when they didn't fit nicely through the spaces.

It's been very cold, very warm, and every temperature in-between the past few weeks. We've had a little rain, mostly at night. I hear that Winter is returning with characteristic cold this coming week.

We've had three new calves born since Christmas. In the warm afternoons, they lay on their sides to soak up the sun.

The last batch of goat kids are fat and happy. They've gone out with the herd this past week, successfully following their mommas. They are getting too heavy to pick up and I see that the next bunch are getting ready to be born, so graduation from the maternity barn is imminent.

On three warm days this week, I did Spring cleaning in the barns, managing to wreck my back in the process.

Seeds are ordered. I've also started herbs and perennials in the greenhouse. We installed new fluorescent lights under some of the potting benches. The vegetable garden will be fenced and surrounded with electric wire prior to Spring planting. The post holes are dug.

We are moving along.