Category Archives: honeymilk farm

how to feed pushy goats

Maybe it’s all the “Dog Whisperer” I’ve been watching, but I recently decided these goats of mine are too pushy.  I need some space around feeding times and I’m tired of Emmie, in particular, charging the gate.  Besides, I’m Head Goat around here!  Those goats ought to be more polite!

When we had two goats, it was easy.  One goat ate in the milking stand (whichever girl was currently lactating) and one ate at the bowl in the stall.  Then we had three goats, but it still worked out pretty well.  The first goat (Lucy, because in the herd, she’s got the top rank) ate on the milking stand, then Fancy got on the milking stand and had her dinner, and Emmie would eat while Fancy was eating—since Emmie is Lucy’s daughter, Lucy doesn’t push Emmy away from her food.  Which is very nice of her, considering Emmie thinks nothing of pushing Lucy away from hers!  Anyway, there was a lot of jumping and pushing, but it still seemed manageable.

But now we have four goats.  And Emmie has reached full size.  How to get the last goat, little Sally, fed without the big goats bullying her out of her food?  With four goats, the pushing and shoving had ramped up like wildfire, goats ramming each other as they waited their turn, jumping on the gate, flopping their hooves over it to ‘hoof’ me when I had my back turned—that’s right, hoof prints on my back.  Yuck!

Emmie says, “I want my dinner and I want it N-N-NOW!

Well, I’ve had enough.  So I did what any good Top Goat does when faced with a goatie challenge.

I got some gear.

The power of the Right Gear is awesome.

These are very short ‘fence ties’ that have a clippy on each end.  There is no reason that they are different lengths, I just got them at different places, what can you do.  Anyway, time for some manners around here! And since the goats aren’t going to do it on their own, I’ll help them with these ties and some strong loops in the walls next to their individual food bowls.  I got this idea from Fiasco Farms (if you have goats, you must visit this site, it is wonderful, and if you click on the link, scroll down to see the photo of all their goats eating).  They have a lot more goats than I do, but each goat gets her own bowl, with her own food.  Makes feeding different goats different amounts, or giving supplements or medications easy, and the goats can’t mob each other or their human.  I’ve been thinking of trying it for a while.  Finally, I did.

The first time however, I was seriously doubtful.  Wouldn’t they just freak out and try to tear themselves free?  Especially since Fancy, our milking girl at the moment, gets about four times the grain ration that the other goats get, thus taking much longer to eat.  Would the other girls wait for her to finish?  It all seemed so unlikely.

But once I put the food in their bowls, very quickly they were all eating. Sally, ready to dart away to avoid being rammed, looking back and forth at the two big goats who were not ramming her.  Then she looked up at me with this perfect expression of puzzlement and surprise and said, “M-a-a?”  Too funny.  If felt the same way.  Like, holy shit!  It’s so quiet in here!

Goats are really smart.  They have figured out the new routine in two days.  “I go to M-m-my Bowl and I get sunflower seeds!  And d-d-dinner!  This r-r-rocks!”  Now, I go into the stall, hook in Lucy and Emmie—I give some sunflower seeds to help sweeten the process for them.  Then I put Fancy on the milking stand (she’s our currently lactating goat), and when all the big goats are secure, I feed them all at once.  Little Sally even gets her own bowl.  Yay!

Peacefully eating goats.  Hallelujah!

I’m telling you, it’s a miracle.  Quiet, orderly mealtimes!  You can even see Fancy, sort of, through the gate up on her milking stand.  I get to milk in peace again!  No more hoof flops, no more hollering, pushy goats, no more ramming the gate or each other.  I can’t believe I waited so long to do this.  After only two days they have even started waiting patiently for everyone to finish.  How cool is that?

This is the way to feed goats.  I am totally convinced.

Could I tie up Sophie and Luc to get them to eat in a more orderly fashion?  Okay, no, probably not…

the worst part of having goats

…is selling the babies.  That’s right, today is the day.  Little Sam is moving on to his new family, in this case, a human family with eight (!!!) kids and a goat family of other minis and a few full size Nubians.  He’s going to get to keep his privates intact and be a daddy goat to some new minis—go Sam, go!  In dairy goat land, boys are not wanted nearly as much as girls, so only a few bucks get to keep their equipment.  I think it will be a great situation for him, but it’s still sad.  Sophie and been crying on and off for most of the day.  Heartbreaking.  And we haven’t even gotten to the part where he drives off, bleating his little heart out, while Fancy, his mom, bleats back.  It’s terrible!

always doubt having goats on this day.

baby goat for sale (sob!)

It’s that time again.  Time to sell the babies.  For now, we’re going to part with our little guy. (The little girl will go a bit later, I think, I’m not sure.  I’m conflicted.)  Here he is:

He simply adores Sophie, can you tell?

He is incredibly friendly and sweet.  Here he is playing his favorite game, pushing his head against Sophie.  His other favorite is sitting on Sophie’s lap and sucking on her hair. Also, humping his little sister, because, you know, boy goats will be boy goats.

He loves to have his throat scratched….

Isn’t he pretty?  Look at these markings.  And those cute little wattles….

This is going to be a hard one to part with, but we’ve got to do it.

kids don’t let kids stand still

I would like to show you a picture of our current crop of adorable baby goats, but they are very difficult to photograph.  Let me show you what I mean:

Baby goats are ALWAYS in motion.  Non-stop, spring-loaded-hooves action.

It’s hilarious to watch them careening around the goat yard, better than tv, we just go out there to watch the show, boing boing boing boing—

Well, there’s one way to get a baby goat to slow down.  Give him a hug.

I think Luc and the little girl goat are dancing…?

birth and death at the yurt

Fancy had her babies!  Two healthy kids, a girl and a boy, and Fancy is doing fine. And Sophie, goat-midwife extraordinaire, was just the best, staying right with Fancy the whole time.

Here she is in the beginning, sitting with Fancy through contractions, waving flies off of her, generally being a sweetie.

After an hour of that, things were getting a bit tiresome, though.  And another hour and I was starting to get worried.  Goat births are usually short, and this is Fancy’s second, so I was expecting things to go more quickly.  Finally, after three hours of mild-ish contractions (at least, she wasn’t showing much discomfort) she starting pushing.  Ah, that’s what we want to see, active labor!  That’s when the clock starts ticking with a goat.  Once active labor starts, you really need to have some kids, or at least be seeing a head, within half an hour or so, or something is wrong.

Next paragraph is a bit graphic, skip if you’d rather.  Anyway, 45 minutes later, nothing.  Oh, I did not want to ‘go in,’ as they call it, but oh well.  Time to find out why this was going so slowly.  Well, first thing that happened was I found one back leg.  Not good.  Not good at all.  I call out to Paul to call the vet, because I can’t find another leg, or a head.  Finally I pop the other sack in there, and that baby starts presenting properly, that is, nose sitting on two front hooves—it’s called ‘diving position’—yeah!  Cancel the vet!  So, that baby comes out (with some tugging) allowing the other one to swing around into position.  A few minutes later, the second one, the one with the previously mentioned back leg, arrived.  Six hours all together, oh my gosh, we were all exhausted.

Here is Sophie, such a trooper, cleaning off babies.  Fancy is licking and cleaning, too.  After her first kidding, she wanted nothing to do with the babies. This time, she went right to work.  Good Mama!

They’re getting all clean and shiny now!  A girl, white with black socks, and a boy, white with brown socks and a brown and white head.

A few hours later Luc came out to see them—he had been too nervous before, but he loved the babies at once, of course.

Yay!  No problems nursing.

Aren’t they adorable?

The main thing with baby goats is to spend a lot of time with them, so they get used to humans.  If they don’t get tamed in this way, they’ll be wild, and not want to be handled when they grow up.  Not good for a dairy goat.  Basically, you hang out with them, sitting for a long while, and let them come to you.  Pretty quickly they want to crawl all over you.  Enough of that and they’ll happily hang with humans the rest of their lives.  In my experience, boding with humans like this does not have to diminish the bond they have with their mom one bit.

I can’t commend Sophie enough for her assistance in all of this.  It matters not a bit that she is six years old.  She’s just a fantastic goat birth assistant, full stop.

But then when we went for a celebratory swim, we found Myrtle the Turtle floating in the pond near our dock, dead. We couldn’t tell anything about why she died, just that she had.  It was incredibly sad to see her like that. We were all upset. As we walked home, Luc said he wished he could forget about Myrtle completely, until I pointed out that then he would have to forget how beautiful she was when she swam, how curious she was about him, watching him from the water for long minutes at a time, and how she had made him laugh.  After a moment, he agreed, he didn’t want to forget those things.  “I think she was a very old turtle, because she was a very big creature.  I think she died from being old.”  I hope he’s right.

When we got home, Luc built several green Myrtles out of legos, giving one to each of us, “in case we were feeling sad about Myrtle dying.”   Then later that night, we were listening to Satie’s Gymnopedie, a slow, graceful piece of piano music (it came up on the ipod shuffle), and Luc said it was sad music, and made him think of Myrtle.  I agree, to the sad part, but even more, the way she looked when she moved through the water.  I asked him if he wanted me to change it, and he thought about it, then said no.  I guess he was doing all right with remembering her by then.

I asked Paul to move Myrtle’s body.  He agreed, although grumbling a little, “I guess I have to handle the gross things?”

“Like putting your hand in Fancy’s private parts up to your wrist?”

Pause.

“I guess I have to handle some of the gross things.”

“Right.  I’ve got the births and you’ve got the deaths.”

“Right.”  And he trudges off to do turtle duty.

Marriage is built on these arrangements.

Good-bye, Myrtle. We’ll miss you.

And welcome, new, unnamed-as-of-yet baby goats!

It’s been a busy few days.

(And, in case you aren’t familiar with Satie, here is a youtube version. It’s a beautiful piece of music, and Luc’s right, it’s just right for Myrtle.)

it doesn’t take a whole lot of water to make a whole lot of difference in your afternoon

It has been so incredibly hot this week.  Heat index (whatever the fuck that means) of a hundred.  Today was a little better, but that only means we didn’t break the triple digits.  Hot.  Hot hot hot hot.

Only one thing to do.

Go swimming!

I’ve written before about our wonderful pond (for example here).  Oh, how I love our pond!  Every time I get in I congratulate Paul and I for buying land with a pond.  Pure geniuses!

But the pond is only one nifty swimming spot we’ve got.  We also have the creek.

Starting at the pond, at one end of our property, there is a little wet-weather creek thing that flows into this, the Big Creek (as we call it) that borders that back end of our property.  The Little Creek is sometimes a few feet across, sometimes just a mud slick, but the Big Creek is maybe ten or fifteen feet across and, depending on the rainfall, can be four feet deep in places.

Translation: plenty of water for small people to have a blast.

There’s even this sandy beach sort of area, perfect for someone to wade into the water, or to build a sand castle.  And a little further back in the picture, you can see where I like to hang out, this wonderfully shady area with a great view of the bend in the creek where the kids like to play, oh my heavens, it’s just a delightful spot.

This is the tree that forms the canopy over my spot—anyone know what kind it is?  The creek is to the right of the photo, down a slope.  Here’s what I see when I’m hanging out under this tree:

You can see how the beavers have been through here, felling trees across the creek, then moving on.  Bobos.  Here is back the other direction, to my left:

The kids splash and fool around—kids adore playing in water!—and even I wade in.  The main thing: it’s fun and we all get cool.  The last few days have been so hot we’ve been going to the creek in the early afternoon, and then the pond later on.

Thank goodness for swimming holes.  During a heat wave like this, a good swimming hole can save your life.

waiting

Fancy, one of our goats, is due to have kids any day now.  She is HUGE.

In case you can’t see it, take a look at her from the front.

Poor baby can barely walk.  Her belly bulges out on either side like a Frank Lloyd Wright house, cantilevered, defying gravity.

I remember that feeling.

A friend of mine just had her second baby (Welcome Eamon! Congratulations Hannah!).  She sent me some pictures of herself, taken a few weeks ago, big as a planet and lovely.  How do we do it?  It’s so ridiculous!

I remember, too, those last days of waiting are full of nothing but thoughts about the coming baby.  If it rains you think, will I have the baby in the rain?  If you eat a sandwich you think, will this be the last thing I eat before I have this baby?  Every twinge, every discomfort—is this the start of labor?

I wonder if Fancy is considering any of these questions?  I doubt it.  This will be her second kidding—that’s what they call it in the goat world.  I like it, as if pregnancy is just a big joke.  (Which it is.)  Just kidding!  Fancy was raised away from her own Momma, which is, perhaps, why she had NO IDEA what was going on with her first kids.  I think she probably thought, Well! That was the biggest, weirdest poop I ever had! Took her awhile to figure out that the babies now on the hay around her, had anything to do with her at all.  Maybe this time she’ll be more clued in.  I hope?

My grandmother told me once that, heading into the hospital, seventeen and in labor with her first—this was the 1940s and she was married but it was a different time—she had no idea how the baby was going to come out.  Seriously!  She said she finally decided, waiting on the gurney for the doctor to arrive, that it must be through her mouth, because that was the only opening she figured big enough for a baby to fit through.  She also said she had spent the last two months locked up in the sweltering house, wishing she could go outside and be in the breeze (no air conditioning back then) but she couldn’t because she was pregnant.  Huh? I said.  Back then, she explained, pregnant ladies didn’t go about, being seen.  It wasn’t proper.  “I was in my confinement,” she said.  “It just wasn’t spoken of.  Things were different then.”

No kidding!

(Ar, ar, ar.)

Poor Fancy is in her confinement, too.  Confined to the ground and a small circle around the hay bin.  She can’t get up on the milking stand to eat her grains anymore so we feed her by hand.  I keep going out to check on her—mostly she lies in the dirt, her little legs sticking out from her belly like she’s a bug on it’s back—but no signs yet.  If you put your hand on her sides, you can feel small hooves and heads moving around in there, fighting for space.  How many has she got in there? We’ll find out soon.

But for now, the waiting.

Emmie, one of the last babies to be born to another of our goats, has no idea that anything is up.  She spends her days springing off the sides of the goat barn (she’s going to tear it down one of these days, I just know it) and playing with her friend Mochi.  Mochi tries to attack and scratch, that’s playing to a cat, and Emmie tries to butt.  Somehow, they get along great.

I wonder what Emmie’ll think of the kids?

See, now I’m doing it and they aren’t even my babies coming.  Stay tuned for a birth report.  Wish Fancy luck and an easy labor….

in which we plant an herb garden

I’ve long wanted a little herb garden—the fantasy of cooking something and stepping outside to pick a handful of fresh herbs to toss in is so appealing, kind of earthy and witchy and delicious.  Last fall I thought the time had come, but my delightful gardener friend, Cathy, warned that spring would be better.  “Instead,” she said, “how about I grow you a bunch of baby plants in my greenhouse all winter and by next spring they’ll be ready to plant?”

Um…Okay!

And wow!  How cool is that?

I took a “Before” picture, I did.  But I have just wasted almost an hour trying to find it, only to conclude that it is AWOL.  If it shows up, I’ll put in here, because really, this is a great example of taking an eyesore and turning it into something pretty.  You see, the proposed herb garden location was on top of the septic tank, which is to say, it was just this pile of red clay (that’s what we’ve got for dirt around here), dumped there by the septic guy and his machinery five years ago.  There was a sharp incline, and weeds, and unfortunately, it was all right in the middle of everything, between the yurt, and the playground, and the goats.  After a couple years, the spot had acquired a variety of volunteers, baby oak trees, thistles, violets, clover, assorted whathaveyou.  It was…in need of some serious attention.

Now, like many couples, Paul and I have this unofficial division of labor thing going, where he does the heavy lifting and I do the daily maintenance.  For example, he builds the goat barn and delivers hay, while I do the daily milking, feeding, and general goatie care.  So, when Cathy made her offer, I asked Paul if he would do a little work on the dirt there, kind of make a bed for the plants, and then I would actually plant them and tend the herbs.  He bought it agreed!  So he moved out the baby oaks, replanting them elsewhere, brought in some actual dirt to mix with our clay, and set to work mixing it.  Go Paul!

The kids, of course, were thrilled. Playing in dirt!  With parental approval!  Whoopee!

Here they are, mixing the dirt in.  You can see the playground in the background.  They love that they have their own kid-sized shovels and even a kid-sized wheelbarrow.

Paul found it at a yard sale.  The kids both get out there and do real work with Paul, for as long as they like, and then they run off and do other things. We don’t have enforced labor chores, and maybe because they are free to come and go, they offer their labor to our projects pretty much every time.  Thanks kids!

Anyway, as the project went on, in typical Paul fashion, he decided to up the scale.  The current ‘bed’ situation was a joke, and he was going to have to add his favorite landscaping solution, a rock retaining wall.  I ask for a towel rack, I get a full-wall, cedar, wainscotting installation.  I ask for a board to be cut in half, I get a built-in desk.  I ask for a pile of dirt, I get a rock retaining wall.  It is Paul’s way.

Here he is, somehow managing to build a rock wall while the kids crawl all over him and it.  But he’s right, a taller wall on one side and a low ‘wall’ on the other side evens out the slope and makes a pretty centerpiece to the yard, where there had been a weedy mass of clay.

Finally, after six months of thinking about it, it was time to plant.  We swung by Cathy’s and picked up our new baby herbs. And…Ta-Da!  Looky!

Oregano, thyme, sage, basil, chives, rosemary, hyssop, lavender, and dill.  I hope I don’t kill them!  Weeding and watering, right?  That’s basically it.  I can do that.  I think.  But isn’t it sweet?  Thank you so much Paul and Cathy!  I can’t wait to see the plants fill out the bed.  And I totally can’t wait to be making some tasty, Greek salad dressing and wander out for a handful of fresh oregano….