Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nursing Blog

Nursing school has kept me crazy busy (did I mention I graduate in 97 days 18 hours 2 minutes and 23 seconds?), and I haven't thought about my farm blog in ages, but last night while at an MUSC back to school party bumped into a funny girl with cookies in her purse who writes a blog about cooking in Charleston and I mentioned I had a nursing blog and a farm blog then typed the addresses into her phone for her upon request. I have no idea if she'll remember me tomorrow, let alone visit them, but it got me thinking about my neglected farm blog and I thought I'd drop a note for those of you who probably have no idea I have a nursing blog now. I really just keep it as way to record various experiences of horror and hilarity for posterity, but considering so many of you actually took the time to read about my random farm experiences, thought I'd give you the benefit of the doubt and the link if you wanted to broaden your horizons. There's still lots of grossness and inappropriateness, no worries.

I'm also on Facebook:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Farmlife Revisited

Well. It has been a loooooooooong time since I've posted on here. This is mostly intentional. I find it just too painful to deal with anything regarding the old farm, chickens, and especially goats. Honestly, I never intended to post again or probably even look at my blog, and probably wouldn't have if I didn't finally have something to say. I have had a surprising number of supportive emails and comments from devoted readers of my blog, which to this day I am still in awe that such things even exist. I am incredibly flattered, comforted, and heartened to know that so many people out there really give a crap about what went down on my farm. I have had classmates come to me who stumbled upon my blog from my myspace status, and one girl even said she sat down and read the whole thing in one go and cried for half an hour. I couldn't believe it. It all seems so distant to me now that I sometimes think it could have been a dream, or more appropriately, a nightmare. Don't get me wrong, the first 10 months were probably some of the happiest of my life, but the final few after the dog attack negated any good feelings from the previous.
My brother, Eric, lives there now with his wife and two adolescent boys, William and Kyle. They still have the remaining goats and chickens that I did not sell, namely Tierra, Mumble, and Sable, broken neck and all. I have only seen her once since moving, and she was still small, thin, and with patches of hair falling out. Needless to say it didn't quell the bad mental picture I had of her. Since then, though, my mom reports that she is still the same size she was just after the attack, at about 4-5 months old, but now downright fat and glossy, which does my heart good. I think the trauma of the attack and her broken neck were just too much for her growing body and permanantly stunted her growth. Tierra is doing well, and this is the first year of her life that she has not been bred, which is a welcome change, I'm sure. There is a slight chance that Mumble, the Nigerian Dwarf buck, might have found a way to get at her, but as of yet she's still showing no signs of pregnancy. Mumble is doing well, too, and is the tiniest little buck I have ever seen. He'd probably be worth a fortune with his small size if it weren't for the horn scur he has. But hey, he was my very first disbudding and by all accounts bucks are very difficult to keep from scurring due to their extreme levels of testosterone. Every single girl I disbudded turned out beautifully. Eric has since gotten a pig and a horse, if you can believe that, and though I have yet to meet the horse, I guess she is gargantuan. Eric, a carpenter by trade, has redone the barn and I hear it is quite nice now. My mom tells me the horse goes right into the barn with the goats and Tierra, who is no tiny animal herself, walks right under the horse's belly without even ducking her head. Wow! I didn't know what to be more shocked by, the fact that Tierra is ABLE to walk under the horse's belly or the fact that she WANTS to.

So a couple of people have told me that I should turn my farm blog into a book. While extremely flattered, at the time I laughed it off. But recently I have gotten the writing bug, and I would love to write a book, but unfortunately I have absolutely no imagination, so fiction is out of the question. So that has left me brainstorming for anything in my life interesting enough to even talk about, let alone write about. My escapade as a farmer is one of the stranger things I have done, and now that I am thoroughly submerged in a "normal" city life, every so often, such as while sitting outside my Microbiology classroom at college, somebody will mention that they grew up on a farm and I'll blurt out, "I used to have a farm in Walterboro. I raised milk goats." Inevitably all mouths stop and all eyes turn to me. Here I am, a young woman with what has been recently dubbed "funky red hair", tattoos, and sporting more than my fair share of facial piecings, claiming to have been-there-done-that-goat-farming. I understand their confusion. So I'm thinking about writing a book about it. Or at least attempting to write a book about it. My father wrote five books, something that was brought to my attention only a few years ago, so it could even technically be said that it is in my blood. ;) I know when I was starting out as a farmer, I would have loved to read something like it.

I started it today. I am as of this minute on page TWO, mind you! That would be exactly 845 words into it, and if wikipedia can be trusted, it only takes about 25,000 words to be considered a book. But honestly, if I incorporate the actual blog posts, it puts me at over 51,000 words... suddenly seems a lot more feasible, doesn't it? And that doesn't even include pictures.
Here are a couple of updated family photos, just to keep you all informed that we are still alive and kicking. I recently got accepted to the Medical University of South Carolina (kind of a big deal, apparenlty, who knew Charleston had it's own little Harvard? haha!) and I start nursing school August 17th. I'm thrilled, scared s***less, and overwhelmed at the prospect of juggling 32 hours a week of school, plus a reported 15-20 hours of study time each week, a husband and a kindergartener all at once. Thank goodness the program is only 16 months, so I'll be graduating with a Bachelors Degree next Christmas (2010). The plan is to get my Masters in Midwifery.
I know, he's beautiful! Every time I see this picture all I can say is, yea, that came outta me!
Here's the aforementioned "funky red hair," including new tattoo. Yes, I've gone completely to the dark side and covered my upper back in tattoo ink, dyed my hair an unnatural shade of red, and even got my lip pierced. Blame city livin'! Or finally being old enough to do the things I've always wanted to do and a boss who will let me. (I'm currently working part time as a bookkeeper/assistant to a woman who arranged continuing education for teachers.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Well, the new digital camera finally came so I can post some belated pictures of the aftereffects of what the goats suffered.

Here is a picture of Sable, bent neck and all. Her neck is permanently bent in this position. Its still pretty scabby and scaly looking. She was doing much better until a couple weeks ago when all of a sudden she couldn't walk again. I suspect Lucy head butted her and screwed up her broken neck even more. She's back to walking now, actually more stumbling about like a drunk from a now pinched spinal nerve (thank you, Lucy), but I usually have to help her to her feet. As of last night when I saw Lucy haul off and butt her for no reason as she trying to hide up against the side of the barn, I've decided that when the goats are out when I'm home Lucy will either have to stay shut up in the barn or locked back in the back pasture. Sable needs to be out in the sunshine and fresh air, and Lucy can be the one to pay the consequences.Lucy's face has healed so incredibly that I still just can't believe that's the same goat who's eye we thought was missing and her whole face was covered in blood! Her eye has healed so well that you can barely see the scar on the inside corner anymore.She also had a huge half dollar size hole in her opposite cheek, and that scab just finally fell off last week. You can kinda see it in this shot.When I went out to take pictures of the goats just now and let them out for some fresh air, something sort of strange happened. I was greeted with this just inside the barn door:What on earth?! Then when Louie, who was still half shaved from our last shearing attempt, came walking out of the barn, I didn't even recognize him! All of his remaining long hair has fallen off...TODAY! So now there's half a goat in a pile on the barn floor and another half a goat, namely Louie, walking around looking much smaller and scrawnier. I'm sure its terribly embarrassing for him at the moment, but even his beard is in the process of abandoning him and is currently dangling from his chin. I did no think that Angoras naturally shed their hair... maybe it's from the stress of the attack? Or maybe it's just this first glimpse of South Carolina summer heat that we're feeling and his body was like, "Yea, not gonna be needing THIS anymore!"

Louie shows his battle scars off to full effect. Thats because whole pieces of his ears are missing.Tierra is doing extremely well, and is still in milk for me. Here's a picture of her beautiful udder, scars and all. The dark splotch is a scar from a decent size tear she had from the dog attack. Feel free to take a moment and admire those teats, though, so uniform... so perfectly sized for a human hand...And what blog post would be complete without a picture of my big helper, Jell-O face and all?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Verdict

First let me just say that I am so touched by the outpouring of love and encouragement in response to my last post. Wow. You guys are amazing!

As to the suggestion to get a livestock guardian dog, llama, or donkey: that will not be necessary. Because we are giving up the goat business. But don't freak out yet! I love my goats, as is pretty obvious to anybody who has eyes. They're a blast to have. But. The workload of tending to 11+ goats has definitely been wearing on me over the last few months. I am just one person, and have been drowning in animal related chores. I've realized that FAMILIES farm, not individuals. The workload fell pretty much on me alone, as Dustin is gone until late in the evening after his horrendous commute. Ayden, as helpful as he is, tends to be more of a chore hindrance than a help, as I imagine any 4 year old underfoot would be. Anyway... the new plan right now is that we are going to turn over this farm to my older brother, Eric. He and his family are moving here in the middle of July, and originally had planned to put a house on the lot that we own next door. The plan now is that they will just move into our house, which I have to say, is pretty stinking awesome. They have dreamed of farming probably even longer than I have, and they have boys who can help out, not to mention a stay-at-home parent who can hold down the fort and shoot to kill raiding dogs and predators.

After the massacre happened, the next morning when I opened my eyes, the first thought to cross my mind was, "Maybe we should just move back to town." I was shocked. I mulled over it in silence all day, and when I asked Dustin if he thought that was a good idea he admitted that he did and had actually been fantasizing about it for a couple of months. He did stipulate, though, that he will never be happy living in a city again and would want to find something just outside of town with an acre or two. I was shocked to hear this, since I had pretty much admitted total defeat in my head and had visions of moving back to Charleston and living in an apartment again. Gag! When he went on to tell me that he would like to find a place that we could have "at LEAST 50 chickens" you could have knocked me over with a feather. How the tides have changed! Here I was the one dragging him into the country to run a farm, and he's the one who refuses to give it all up. He said he'd even like to have a couple goats as pets if he could ever manage to talk me into it. What?!!!!

So. I know this probably sounds like me "giving up on our dream" but as Dustin and my mom keep telling me, it's just evolving into something more suitable for our situation. I will probably end up going back to college in Charleston in the fall, and am seriously considering/exploring a career in agriculture, something that I could do to perhaps train/support small local organic agriculture. I am so passionate about all of this that I don't want to lose it as a part of my life. As it is, my brother and his wife plan to grow fruits and veggies, along with chickens and keeping my existing milk goats (I will soon be down to Tierra, Sable, and Mumble, as I have sold Gypsy, Tiny, and soon Louie and Lucy). They agreed to take the milking goats, but the Angoras are understandably a whole other creature and venture. They are very interested in building a commercial-grade kitchen and making and selling canned goods. I have been brainstorming about what I can do to stay involved, and I really enjoy the marketing and processing aspect of farming, so maybe I'll be a creative/marketing genius for them and the smiling face at the farmers market selling their products. Maybe I'll organize a farmer's co-op and get involved in some sort of CSA movement. Maybe I'll find a chicken farm to take over as my day job. Who knows?

As for an update on the surviving goats, well, its good and bad. Everybody is still alive and kicking, which is good. Lucy's scab next to her eye has fallen off after getting huge and infected, and underneath is beautiful clean pink skin, and her eye has been open again for a few days now. Its so strange to see her peering at me with both eyes now! It's even stranger that that has become a strange thing...

Tierra's puncture wounds, udder, and ear are healing nicely, although I notice that she's not giving quite as much milk on the wounded side as the healthy side. That could just be because I was not milking her heavily at first on that side, though, because it was so painful for her. I am down to milking her once a day now, which I will *try* to maintain until July so my Eric can inherit a doe in milk.

Louie had me worried there for a while because he was so depressed. He would not even stand up when I went out to the barn, let alone come outside for some supervised fresh air and sunshine. Neither was he eating very well. This went on for about 2 weeks, then this last weekend I dragged him by his horns up to a standing position and out of the barn and parked him in the sunshine, then closed the barn door after him so he wouldn't simply go back inside. I did this two days in a row, and when Monday morning rolled around and I went out to feed them, he was up and perky and wanting OUT of the barn. So. Never underestimate the power of fresh air and a little sunshine. I try to keep Sable outdoors as much as possible for the same reason, and because the sunshine is so wonderfully antibacterial.

Sable. Sable. Sable. What can I say about her? She's my miracle baby and I am thankful every day that she is even here. Her neck started out so swollen from the puncture wounds that it was bowed, and it has remained that way. These last couple of days I could swear it has gotten worse, since now when I give her a bottle her head is tilted completely to the side, with the side of her face parallel to the ground. She looks a bit like Frankenstein, and the skin on her neck is shaved and lacerated and as of last night, oozing copious amounts of pus. I draped her across my lap and squeezed a tremendous amount out (for those of you, like me, who enjoy popping a good zit feel free to be a little disgustedly jealous here; I'll understand). Today I took her to the vet in Summerville (I called the one vet here in town who treats goats and she hummed and hawed about if she wanted to see her, then finally conceeded that she'd "work her in" next Wednesday, a week from now). I told the wonderful Summerville vet that I've begun to suspect that perhaps her neck is actually broken, and when I got there he winced at the sight of her, as did all his vet techs milling around. He said he wanted to do an x-ray to determine if it was broken or perhaps just a very severe cyst that we could drain. Well, after one look at the first x-ray he confirmed my worst suspicion, her neck is indeed broken. Shattered is really a better description. He took me in and showed me the films and you can see shards of bone protruding along the length of it, with a huge piece floating in the distended lump. It's broken in so many places its really hard to count, let alone figure out how on earth she is alive and fully functional. He even gave me the x-rays on CDd when I asked, and here they are. I've marked it so you can tell what you're looking at, although it's pretty apparent that something is horribly horribly wrong.

You can see from this first one, a side view, how the entire middle of her neck is bowed away from you. I wish I had my digital camera so I can show you what she looks like on the outside, it would make your skin crawl.

This next one is a view from the top.He said that the worst problem at this point are the bone shards, which can cause no end of problems. They have no blood flow, and therefore bacteria can build up and fester and create chronic infections. Or they can protrude and slowly leave her body, or they can even fuse back against her spine, which I believe wold be the safest option. He said arthritis has already set in, which is actually a good thing because it will over time fuse all these broken bits back together and stabilize the break, albeit in a pretty misshapen way. The only thing we could do for her at this point would be surgery to remove the bone fragments, but that is really not an option, nor did he particularly suggest it. As for the infected puncture wounds, I can only hope the infection does not reach down to the bone and will soon clear up on its own. So, only time will tell what fate holds in store for my sweet sweet Sable. I am OK with her being disfigured for life as long as it will not be permanently painful for her, which the vet said it shouldn't be once everything is fused together. The biggest problem will be that her neck does not come close to allowing her to reach the ground to eat, but thankfully goats prefer to browse on bushes and leaves anyway. I am comforted to know that her deformity will not be held against her, though, because Eric knows what she's been through and can appreciate the miracle that she is just for surviving.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Heres the thing: my farm got massacred by dogs two weeks ago while I was at work. They killed and mauled the goats, killed one of my chickens (the rest must have hid in the coop or something), they even killed our cat Ambrose! I came home to a battlefield scattered with bleeding and dying animals, with the occasional corpse to add flair. It was horrible. It completely devastated me. The worst part was calling every vet in town, only to be told that they only treat cats and dogs. So I'm standing over my 2 month old Sable who's neck is ravaged and she's just lying on her side crying and crying, and I can hear air escaping through a hole in her throat, and they wont come do basic first aid because she's not a dog. I screamed and cried and yelled and sobbed, but nobody would help me. So I called the sheriff and animal control, who showed up and looked around and the animal control officer said, "Wow. This is horrible. Let me go get my camera." I said, "Can't we help the ones that are still alive?!!" So she called in and checked and they told her "we don't treat goats" and that the best thing I could do was get a neighbor to put them down for me. After seeing this was not gonna fly, she gave me the names of some vets in neighboring towns, and to make a long story short, I finally found a vet who'd come from Summerville, an hour away. He showed up at about 8 pm, 5 hours after I got home and discovered what had happened. In the meantime, my mom and Dustin had left work and drove an hour from Charleston to come help, and Dustin's parents came to collect Ayden (who was having a grand time finding new dead animals and poking them with a stick- he's the one who found Ambrose). My goat mentor, Casey, drove 45 minutes to come help and showed up with a cooler full of medicines and supplies. Other goat people I'd met showed up, too, families in tow. They helped carry mauled goats from various corners of the property (even Tierra who weighs about 140 lbs!!) into the barn. After it was all said and done, I had 7 remaining goats with various degrees of damage, ranging from Tiny who was the only one completely unscathed, to Lucy who's eye we thought was gone along with a good part of her face, and Sable with the wheezing hole in her neck. Mumble had a bum leg, Tierra's one ear was completely detached from her head on the underside, multiple puncture wounds on her ears and neck, one front leg, and a few good tears on her side and udder. Louie, who I swear was dead when I first found him but must have merely been unconscious, had his ears in shreds with most of the skin just gone and huge chunks missing. He has so much hair it was hard to find wounds under it all, but that also probably protected him to some degree. Lucy's right eye was swollen shut and about a 2 inch diameter chunk of flesh missing around the eye, another hole on the bridge of her nose so that you could see into her sinus cavity, and another hole the size of a silver dollar on her opposite cheek. A dog had obviously been dragging her around by her face. Gypsy, who was missing for the first couple hours, was eventually found under the bushes by my front door, relatively unscathed but for a 2 inch hole on one of her back legs so that you could see the exposed tendon, and one front elbow a raw bloody mess. When the vet finally arrived, he took a look around and said, "Where do I start?" He'd brought his wife, also a vet, and a vet tech to assist, and together they worked on the goats for almost 3 hours, flushing wounds, giving steroids to fight shock, pushing fluids. We all did what we could to help, even getting down and giving injections for them. Amazingly, all the goats were still alive when I went out the next morning. I had to give antibiotic and pain medicine by injection twice a day for 7 days, which for 6 goats comes to a whole lotta injections! Sable had air under her skin from all the puncture wounds, and her entire torso was crinkly to the touch.

So the casualties were all of my Nigerian Dwarves except for Mumble. That means Harmony, Puck, and my sweet sweet silly Poe are all no longer with us. Sahara was still alive when I got home, but by the time the vet got here we all agreed we could not let her suffer any more and let him put her down. I think in the end their size worked against them. I still don't know how Mumble and Tiny were spared, but Mumble obviously got hurt somehow in the process. Perhaps they were hiding in the barn. Who knows?

One of the worst parts about this for me is thinking how the dogs were here until they simply got tired. Nobody stopped them or chased them off. They were here wreaking havoc and killing until they got bored. It makes me want to scream.

I realize now that I simply cannot keep them safe, so I have to get rid of them. The dogs jumped 3 separate fences to get to them, two chain link, and one electric netting. Since it happened I've had to resort to keeping them locked in the barn with the door closed, which goes against everything I believe in. Animals should be free to live as God intended. But, until a couple days ago they would not venture out even if I was sitting outside the barn door to babysit. Most of them did not even get up on their feet for 3 days, and Sable stood on her own after 6. She's my miracle baby. Her neck swelled to 3 times its normal size, but the whole time she ate and drank like a champ. That first day after the attack I tried to give her some milk in a bottle but stopped when I saw it dripping out the hole in her neck. :( Now she's up and venturing outside, although her neck is still curved and very swollen. I've even begun to think that it could possibly be broken. I've already found a new owner for Gypsy, who's coming to get her next weekend. She's going to breed mini-Nubians with her (she raises Nigerian Dwarves- the woman I bought all of mine from). I have a lead on new homes for Tiny and Louie and Lucy, also. My brother will be moving here in July and would like to take Tierra, Sable, and Mumble. So I just have to try to keep them alive and safe until then.

I've had many suggestions from people for ways to trap and kill my neighbors dogs (who I'm sure did this), ranging from hanging fish heads on industrial size treble hooks from a tree, pans of antifreeze, and simply shooting them. I am proud to say that thanks to my other brother, Mike, I now have a shotgun and riffle, and am just itching to use them.

So now we just don't know what our vision for the farm is, and I'm so hurt and disillusioned that I don't even know if this is a direction I want to go in anymore. Ironically, Dustin is the one who says no matter what happens, he wants to own at least 50 chickens and maybe even a couple goats if he could ever talk me into it again. The irony kills me.

But to experience first hand the fact that an entire dream/business venture can be wiped out in 5 hours while you're at work, from something you never could have prevented... it's just too much for me. We were supposed to pick up a livestock guardian dog puppy this month, but honestly, even with one guardian dog against a pack of what was very probably pit bulls (every manly wanna-be in Walterboro owns a pit bull), I most likely would have come home to a dead dog in addition to goats.

So now I'm a-dog-huntin.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Know, I Know...

It's been a LONG time since I've posted. I have good reasons, I assure you. I've been in a bit of a slump, which according to Dr. Seuss is not a nice place to be. And I'll vouch for that. Sad things have happened and I just really don't even want to discuss them. For the first time I've experienced how a farm blog could be a negative thing, when you just really don't feel like sharing bad things that happen on your farm. Every other farmer I know of is not obligated to regurgitate the sad and heartbreaking things that happen on his farm to his customers and friends. So, I'm deciding here and now to go on like none of it ever happened and go back to reporting things as normal.

Does this blog look a little plain to you? Well, to give you a perfect example of how wonderfully crappy my last few weeks have been, I dropped our digital camera into a BLOODY SWAMP. So, no more pictures until tax rebate time when we can buy another one. Which I hopefully will not drop into another BLOODY SWAMP next time. Speaking of which, since when do digital cameras bounce?! Thats what I want to know!

On a happier note, I have 10 brand new chicks in my guest room and at least a few more on the way. I started a new batch of eggs in the incubator 24 days ago, and only 10 have hatched in the last 36 hours. First of all, they're only supposed to take 21 days. So, even though I bought an automatic egg turner and they were all developing beautifully and I was looking forward to a successful hatch rate this time, something has gone a bit awry toward the end and everything's all screwy. I keep forcing myself to concentrate on the healthy happy chicks I have and not dwelling on the 25 other eggs in there that mostly seem to be doing nothing. Reading over this paragraph I'm noticing that maybe this is not much of a happier note afterall. Perhaps I was not ready to post a new blog afterall.

Let me try again: On a truly happy note, the chicks from the last batch are doing wonderfully. I built them an outside miniature chicken tractor (which of course I took many informative and attractive pictures of, only to be lost at the bottom of a BLOODY SWAMP) and they are now outside on grass as God intended. They are HUGE. At six weeks old, I'm already looking for clever ways of integrating them into my existing flock. Especially now that I have at least a *few* new chicks that I would love not to have to build another home for.

Speaking of my flock of chickens, we're down from 16 to a mere 15. Ironically, this is not one of the "bad" happenings, but we did it on purpose. How, you ask? WE ATE THE BAD ROOSTER! My husband's cousin, Jesse, was spending the weekend and woke up early Saturday morning with murder in his eyes and determined to dispatch the bad rooster for me, something I'd been trying to get somebody to do for months. He never outgrew his adolescent hostile antics (the rooster, not Jesse...), and daily pursued his mission to terrorize my 3 year old. Wanna know a good way to get eaten on a farm? Pick on the farmer's baby. Roar! So, we caught him before he left the coop that morning and locked him in a dog crate while we headed off to Wal-mart to get a sharp fillet knife for my part of the proceedings, the lovely eviscerating and what-have-you. Jesse and Dustin sequestered themselves in the chicken coop and quietly and (supposedly) humanely broke his neck like my homesteading book said to do. This is supposed to instantly kill them. So Jesse did it that way. Five times, for good measure. Believing him to be sleeping with the fishes, we took him out to a tree where we had rigged up some twine with a slip knot to hang him from while we plucked him and he bled out. The biggest mistake of this whole fiasco was that we did not have a hatchet, so Jesse spent the next 10 minutes trying to hack his head off with a machete, to little avail. There was a lot of flapping, and we're going to go ahead and believe that was just the nerves firing. I mean, how can a chicken survive being dispatched five times? Needless to say, next time we WILL have a sharp hatchet and a stump and remove the head from the body in one quick go, no question as to how long the suffering went on. Every single blog I've read about people's first time butchering a chicken is a horrible bloody gruesome experience, and ours did not disappoint. We dipped him in boiling water for a few seconds and then proceeded to pluck him, which was the easiest part of the whole thing. He never did bleed out properly, though, probably because the neck was so mangled from Jesse's attempts to remove the head. During the "cleaning," I followed the directions from my homesteading book step by step and that was probably the best executed part of the whole ordeal. We roasted him with Greek potatoes, and the meat was stringy, leathery, and overall quite a challenge to chew properly. I made chicken stock out of what was left and the next day we had a rather yummy meal out of it with home-made egg noodles and carrots. Yummm! I was very surprised to find that butchering a chicken was not nearly as traumatic and horrible as I thought it would be. So I'm thinking that next time with a better means of dispatching, it should be a piece of cake! And yes, we took lots of pictures every step of the way intended for one mother of a blog post, but alas... they too sleep with the fishes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Playing With Dirty Nasty Things

Ayden and I did something a little different yesterday. We made a house for our new bumper crop of home-grown chicken food: mealworms! Dirty nasty little creatures whom I refuse to pick up with my bare hands. Yes, the pretense of farmer is probably blown with that one unfortunate admission. Good thing she didn't put THAT in the newspaper article! As you can see, I even made my child hold the mealworm for the picture.Anyway, I am experimenting with ways to supplement my chickens' feed in a sustainable manner. It is hardly sustainable to pay Joe Blow to grow chicken food for me at outrageous prices, outrageous gas usage, and outrageous use of anti-sustainability farming methods. Some of you might be wondering what on earth I am talking about when I say "sustainable." Wikipedia defines it as,

"Sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to ecosystem health. Two key issues are biophysical (the long-term effects of various practices on soil properties and processes essential for crop productivity) and socio-economic (the long-term ability of farmers to obtain inputs and manage resources such as labor)."

Make sense? A truly sustainable farm makes a perfectly circular cycle: it grows the food to feed the animals, who in turn plow the earth and fertilize the fields as they do so, so the farmer can plant the crops to feed his family and the animals... and the cycle continues. Thats how you truly turn a profit, because when you remove one of those elements, you leave a hole that then needs to be filled, either with commercial animal feed or by adding fertilizer and expending the crude oil to till the land by hand.

So back to the mealworms. If I can offset even 25% of my chickens feed by growing it myself in a very labor INexpensive manner, such as mealworms, then thats a wonderful thing. Just be glad I'm not doing maggots (...yet?). Yea, I said it: maggots. I can't move on here without giving a rundown of how easy THAT is! You take any container with a lid, drill holes in the top, sides, and bottom, place any ol' rotting animal carcass you might have lying around (roadkill, anyone? anyone?), hang it a few feet above the ground, and the flies come and "blow" it with eggs. That means they pump that sucker full as a tick with fly eggs. Then a few days later the eggs hatch, feed on the carcass, then escape through the holes in the bottom in an attempt to go to ground where they will turn into flies and go on to perpetuate their species. Well, when they fall through those holes there is not a soft earthy landing pad, but a sheet of, oh, lets say tin roofing. They fall onto this and get gobbled up by the chickens, who consider this fine dining at its best. Free nutritious chicken food, and you get the added benefit of wiping out an entire generation of flies. Now if I could just talk my husband into letting me pepper our land with rotting animal carcasses...

Now that everybody is sufficiently grossed out by maggots, I can move on to the mealworms and you'll probably like the idea of them so much better that you would not object to curling up on the couch with a mealworm and watching a good chick flick. I raised a small coffee can of mealworms for my iguana when I was in highschool, so I'm not overly riddled by anxiety at the undertaking. I took one of these nifty plastic gray boxes we found behind our favorite gas station, and Ayden and I drilled ventilation holes in the top and sides. I even let Ayden use the drill. Shhhh... don't tell Daddy! Then we poured about 1/2 inch of chicken feed in the bottom for worm food, 2 old potatoes cut in half for food and to add moisture, and then topped the whole concoction with two containers of mealworms purchased at the pet store.
I bought 500 regular mealworms and 100 giant mealworms for $12, roughly the cost of a bag of chicken feed. Unlike chicken feed, though, these little boogers will rapidly multiply. They will go from being these nasty little yellow segmented worms, to nasty little white alien looking cocoon things, to slightly less nasty looking beetles that will lay 500+ eggs which will then turn into 500+ nasty little yellow segmented worms. You get the picture. And what do I have to do? Make sure they have chicken feed, a piece of vegetable or fruit, and thats about it! I'll probably divide them up into a few different bins so that I have various generations ready for consumption.And the best part about it? When it comes time to feed the chickens I don't have to sort or handle the worms at all, just dump it all out and let the hens eat it all, worms, beetles, feed, and potato. Life is sweet. And yes, this is my sweet child posing with a mealworm. *full body shiver*

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Famous Shmamous

So the newspaper article came out. She misspelled my name, but what are you going to do. Everybody does. Even when I ask them 3 times if they for sure wrote it down correctly. Oh, well. I scanned it and here it is below (click to enlarge).Everybody at the library was abuzz with the news, and word even managed to reach Dustin's work in Charleston. Apparently one lady he works with lives in Jacksonboro, about 15 miles away, and brought the article to work where it made the rounds, finally being pinned up on the company bulletin board. He he. Dustin is slightly disturbed... he has this whole thing about keeping his private life private. I guess thats what you get when a young man works in an office setting full of middle aged gossipy women. I've tried to get him to sell some eggs there but he just looks at me in horror. ???

On another subject, I think one of my hens might be growing broody. What do you think?

That would be really great if a few would go broody on me because then I can let them raise their own stinkin' babies rather than have to stink up my guest room with them and pay to run an 85 watt red light 24/7.

The biddies I incubated are doing well and we have only lost one, surprisingly not the deformed one with the gimp leg, either. It was an Ameracauna one (wah!) and for some reason it was just not growing. It was a week old and by then was 1/2 the size of its siblings and just got wimpy and expired the next day. It particularly stinks that it was one of the Easter egg layers, but such is life. The gimp chick is not growing much and has not feathered out half as much as the others, but seems pretty vigorous and whatever it is hanging from its bottom must not have been vital! The picture below was taken when the chicks were not quite a week old. You can already see it's wing feathers coming in. You can see that this one is at least 1/2 Ameracauna because it has green legs.These guys don't waste any time! Here's a group picture of one of the brooders of chicks taken about a week ago. I'll try to post some more recent pictures tomorrow, I promise.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Apparently I'm Gonna Be Famous

Well, as famous as one can get from being featured in the Walterboro newspaper, The Press & Standard.

It all started when I attended a Growing New Farmer's meeting yesterday sponsored by Clemson University. They had an unbelievable turnout, having to scrounge up extra tables and chairs for the latecomers. The first thing on the agenda was to go around the room and introduce ourselves and say what we do and why we were there. There were people from all different walks of life, from old-time farmers looking for a way to get a better price for their product to people who work for conservation programs. When it was my turn, I introduced myself and said that we had bought 12 acres of land in Walterboro 8 months ago and since then have built up a dairy goat herd of 11 and a bunch of chickens, and that everybody thought we were crazy to do this because I swear I'm the only person of my generation that WANTS to be a farmer. Understanding nods and snickers all around. And that now I have more people wanting to buy eggs and milk and cheese from me than I can supply. One of the speakers that I was particularly excited to listen to was a girl my age named Rita, who is not only cool enough to also sport a nose ring, but... SHE'S A FARMER! She has partnered with an older conventional farmer and is revitalizing his farm by teaching him how to grow sustainably and organically, and has succeeded in convincing him that there is a fair priced market for organic produce. They now run a thriving CSA program in which people buy shares of the farm at the beginning of the growing season, then receive a box of vegetables worth $25 every week for 14 weeks. So every week you go to a designated drop location and get your box of veggies, containing whatever happened to be harvested that week.

When I saw Rita walk in the building I was instantly intrigued, as up until then I was at least 20 years younger than anybody else there. Then to hear her get up and speak about her experiences and the fact that she is not only able to farm, but being quite successful at it... well, it just did my heart good. We hooked up after the meeting and swapped phone numbers, and I told her she's going to be my new best friend. She sells a lot of her produce to local restaurants in Charleston, and she said that she could sell as many eggs as I could provide to area restaurants. !!! Up until then I had always assumed that a restaurant would not touch you unless you could consistently provide massive quantities year-round. So now I am even more excited and inspired to go big time with this farming thing. One of the speakers is the head of a pilot program in Charleston called Fresh on the Menu said that he has chefs calling him everyday looking for fresh local meat, dairy, and produce and that he simply cannot find enough local farmers to fill their needs. He flat out said that he could sell anything that any of us could produce to restaurants for a fair price. Meat especially is a rarity, and he said there is a 5 month back order for pork alone.

Anyway, when we took a quick break for refreshments a reporter who was there to cover the meeting came over and said she'd like to interview me "because you're what this is all about. New young farmers!" So this afternoon she came out with her photographer husband and took 2 cameras full of pictures of us and the critters and I told her all about my goals for the farm and how we've gotten as far as we have. Ayden, of course, was being a total terror and was pretty much a brat for the duration because he's started a new school and has yet to take a nap there. Not good. But they were here for about an hour and at one point I made her put her notepad away and hold Tiny, who, unlike Ayden, succeeded in being oh-so-sweet-and-cuddly and well behaved. Typical. I fretted about what a young farmer should wear for an interview, but finally just dressed like myself in a halter top, jeans, and brown rubber boots. Always a winning combination. I don't look like your typical farmer and I don't think I should have to to be credible. Lord knows I make a scene whenever I go into the feed store in full funky young person regalia, but it simply cannot be helped.

She said the article will probably be coming out this Tuesday "unless something exciting happens." :) Maybe I can scan it and post it on here or something. Who knows, maybe I'll finally out-do my little brother who made the front page of the Torrington, Wyoming, newspaper with a huge picture (above the fold!) of him and my dog, Cujo, and their lemonade stand. You can tell lot's goes on in Torrington.

I can't bear to post a blog without a picture, so here's a nice picture of the three of us on a picnic in the woods the other day. As you can see, my child's head is not spinning around nor is he levitating or spewing green vomit, so he had obviously gotten a nap that day. Unlike today. When he did not. And is making us all pay.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Final Head Count

Sorry it took me so long to post, but I have a final head count for my first incubation hatch: 27. Thats out of 40 fertile eggs, which gives me a 67.5% hatch rate, and 70% is considered successful. One one hand the low hatch rate bothers me, makes me feel like a little bit of a failure, but on the other hand, considering what these poor eggs went through during our first incubation attempt, I'm rather pleased than ANY hatched. As my mother so helpfully pointed out, I am only one chick away from a successful hatch rate and the egg that I cracked with the beating heart may have been the one that made it. Greeeeeeeeat.
All but 6 of the eggs hatched within 24 hours of the first one mid-day Saturday, and there was one straggler that hatched late Sunday, but I've since noticed that that one has some problems and probably will not make it. It seems like when the yolk was being absorbed into its abdominal cavity it didn't quite all make it in and it has this weird dried lump thing hanging from where it's umbilical cord should be, and one of its legs is a bit malformed. I'm encouraged by the fact that it was strong enough to go through the ordeal of hatching, so I'm watching it and giving it the benefit of the doubt, although this evening it seems like maybe it is going downhill a little. It would be so easy to let this break my heart but I simply cannot allow that and am looking at the greater scheme of things and keeping in mind that I really don't want sickly animals in my flock, let alone deformed ones. I chipped off a tiny piece of the six eggs that didn't hatch just to make sure there was nothing in there that simply needed a little help, but there was no movement in five of them and the other one expired soon after I helped it hatch. That one also looked like it had the same issues as my little gimp chicken. I have decided in the future that if an egg does not hatch on its own, then I will simply leave the incubator on a couple days to give it a good chance and then discard the eggs sight unseen. I could have lived the rest of my life without seeing a failed chick.

On to more positive things, though, I have 26 very healthy and very active little biddies. They are an interesting mix of colors, with a few looking like purebred Wyandottes (black and white), a few looking just like my Ameracaunas did (tan and dark brown) when they were little, and a healthy smattering of ones that are an interesting mix of the two. For example, there is one pretty little chick that is black but with a bit of chocolate brown right on the top of its head and green legs. :) Ameracuanas have green legs, for any of you who don't know, while Wyandottes, and I imagine most chickens, have orange legs. I have casually spotted at least 5 chicks of all different color mixtures with green legs, so it looks like my Ameracauna rooster has had some play with the ladies after all. The Wyandotte (or as Ayden calls him, "bad") rooster is more dominant and generally rapes and pillages while the white Ameracauna rooster stands back and looks frustrated then jumps on top of the hen as soon as the bad rooster has finished and gives her a little attention of his own. Its quite disturbing. My poor hens.

The chicks have settled into their new brooders and seem very content. I will never brood in a cardboard box with straw ever again. These totes are ingenious. I have them lined with paper towels, and once a day I put a clean layer down, which takes me all of 30 seconds and voila! Clean chick house. The above picture was taken I swear 5 minutes after changing their paper, so don't go thinking I let my babies live in filth even though it may look like it in the picture. White definitely shows everything. I have since divided the chicks equally among the two totes, so they are much less crowded and it does not get dirty quite as quickly. Everybody is eating and drinking like champs, with the exception of my gimp chick. I was just watching one of them eat out of its feeder a few minutes ago and it would peck peck peck in the little feeder hole then scratch at the paper towel under its feet furiously in the typical chicken fashion (left foot left foot right foot right foot) then peck a little more then scratch a little more. It was cracking me up. Its amazing to see their little instincts kick in, and you can just see that chicks little though bubble... "Mmmm.... thats tasty! But for some reason I feel that a quick left left right right scratch is in order..."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

They're A-Hatchin!

When I woke up this morning and saw no chicks wandering around the incubator I was a bit surprised given the amount of chirping we were hearing all last night. Upon closer inspection, though, it was plain to see that there were little tiny pips (cracked holes) in about 5 of the eggs, and bit of chirping was still happening. I got online to try to find out how long it takes a chick to hatch, and it said that the chick pecks the inside of the shell THOUSANDS of times to make that first little pip hole! Wow. Then they rest for 3-8 hours and regain their strength before maneuvering their head to the fat end of the shell and pushing against it with their head until they finally break the egg in two pieces and pop free. It reminds me of that scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when he's wearing the tutu snooping in the mental institution and attempts to hide in a box when he hears somebody coming, and once they're gone he splays out flat on his back with all his limbs sticking straight out and explodes out of the box. Anyway... here's a picture of the eggs this morning with pips.About 2 pm our first chick hatched from one of the brown eggs, of course one back in the far back corner and almost impossible to get a decent shot of. But here's a short video showing just after it has broken the shell and was attempting to free itself.

Here's a picture of it just hatched for any of you who maybe can't get the video to work for some reason.
Right after that one hatched the other eggs must have felt inspired because about three of them nearby started rocking, which is especially strange to see from an egg that hasn't even piped yet. Here's a video of that. ITS ALIIIIIIIIVE!!!!!
You can see in that video the egg with the good sized hole in it, and that chick hatched about 15 minutes after the first one. It just so happened to hatch just when my father-in-law and sister-in-law walked in the door so they got to witness their first chick hatching. :)
Here's Summer, Jesse, and Jerry crowded around the incubator with bated breath.We're currently up to 9 chicks hatched and taking a much deserved rest in the brooder under their red heat lamp, and two more over in the incubator getting ready to break through. There are a half dozen others in there that have pipped, but I worry that all the thrashing around of the new chicks has perhaps messed them up somehow. You're not supposed to turn them 3 days before they hatch so the chicks can get into position. So how does their siblings thrashing and rolling them all over the incubator not hurt them? So I'm now snatching the newly hatched chicks and putting them directly under the heat lamp in the brooder instead of letting them fuzz out in the incubator like the directions say. I had 7 chicks thrashing around in there earlier and it was hours later and they still had not fuzzed out. A little while under the cozy heat lamp, though, and they start looking like real chicks in no time. There were 33 eggs in there this morning, and only about 11 chicks accounted for so far. Hmm. I keep telling myself that I was not expecting them to hatch until tomorrow, so maybe everybody else is still doing OK.
Just so the chickens don't get too cocky thinking this post is all about them, I have to post this cute picture of my sister-in-law, Summer, with Sable the lap goat. Who would have gone on sitting on her lap indefinitely if she had not had to go run off and do an Easter egg hunt with Ayden.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Silly Birdies

I was sitting here playing on the computer and talking to Dustin about something when we both heard a little birdie chirping. I'd been hearing it off and on for the last hour or so but attributed it to a bird outside the window next to me. Looking at it now I see that the window is not even open. Ha ha!

Anyway, Dustin and I heard it again and it seemed really strange since it was dark outside by then, and what bird in its right mind is outside our window chirping in the dark? We both looked at each other and realization dawned at the same time and our eyes got huge and we both looked over in the corner of the room at the incubator. I happened to be sitting on the computer chair backwards and literally knocked it over I got up so fast. Dustin ran for the flashlight so we could get a good look, and I fully expected to see a wet little chick. But there wasn't! All we saw were 33 perfect little brown and green eggs lying on their sides. Then one of them moved a little and we heard it again, a strong little peep! WOW! I've been sitting here being serenaded by a vigorous little chicken embryo still in its shell for the last hour. Amazing. I just looked it up online and it says that peeping can happen anywhere from a few hours to 24 hours before hatching, so we'll be on pins and needles! I half expect to be greeted by a baby chicken or two when I wake up in the morning! I can't wait to see what they look like. I literally feel like I have created life. I gathered the eggs, handling them oh-so-gently with sterile fingers, pampering and codling them for 5 days while I gathered all the soon-to-be sibling eggs from my girls, swore profusely as I alternately cooked and froze them in the incubator the next 20 days, gingerly candling and turning them twice daily, adding water when the humidity reservoirs get low... and now I hear a living breathing creature in there! Amazing. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I've Been Holding Out

So something really pretty fantastic has been going on for 18 days and I have yet to breathe a word about it on my farm blog. I have been remiss in reporting our farmy activities and for that I am sorry. But, on the other hand I spared everyone 18 days of waiting on pins and needles (because I just know you are consumed by things we do here). You see, I bought an incubator and put 45 of my girls' eggs on to incubate and they'll be hatching in only THREE days! I can't believe it. It's been a lifelong dream of mine since I was in kindergarten and my parents set up a small incubator in my classroom at school and we got to watch the baby chickens hatch. I had seen it once before at home, and I remember being very grown up and humble about the whole thing and not pushing my way to the front, thus blocking some poor kids only opportunity to witness such a miracle, even though I was MISSING OUT ON THE MOST FANTASTIC THING IN THE WORLD. Thats some serious self control for a 5 year old, if I do say so myself. Anyway, its something that I've been known to lie in bed at night and fantasizing about doing again some day, only this time having my face pressed up against the glass, even fogging it up I'd be so close. I have got so many people wanting eggs from me that I can't keep up, so I have the perfect excuse to hatch out some more chickens. I'm really excited to see what they will look like, let alone what color eggs they will lay being a mix of Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ameracauna, or purebreds of each. It's like Forrest's box of chocolates, you just don't know what you're gonna get!
It's been a bit of a frustrating journey with this incubator, as the temperature has been all over the place. Dustin says if anything does survive all this, it'll probably have a beak growing out of its back. ;) Chicken eggs are supposed to be incubated at a steady 99.5 degrees, but 12 hours after putting them on, lets just say through a series of unfortunate events, they got cooked at a whopping 104 degrees for a full 9 hours while I was at work. Ahhhh! The book said they are particularly sensitive the first 24 hours because it will literally cook the egg. Obviously, I was very upset, particularly because I had been pampering and gathering and meticulously storing those eggs up for almost a week before putting them on to incubate, keeping them at a steady 50 degrees and turning them twice a day to keep the yolk from settling. I wanted them to hatch on a weekend, so I had to start them on a weekend. So here it is Monday and I don't know if every single one of these 45 eggs is ruined or not, but I could not start another batch for 6 days anyway, so I decided to err on the side of caution and give it until the next weekend to see if anything was still viable. They only incubate for 3 weeks, so within just a few days there is significant growth that can be seen by candling them in a dark room (looking through them with a bright flashlight). This is what it looks like after only 6 days, and you can already see the peep and the network of veins that have formed. So, on about day 4 I tried candling them with little success using a shoe box with a hole in it and a regular 60 watt bulb. It was just enough to illuminate the egg without showing me any details. I was almost certain that the eggs had been ruined anyway, so I thought I'd crack one open and see what was going on in there. I figured I'd know immediately if it was cooked, and even on the off chance it was alive, it's not like it would be ALIVE after only 4 days in the incubator; worst case scenario there would be some little spidery veins. Dustin just happened to be out of town that night, so it was 11 o'clock at night and I was home alone, headed into the kitchen, egg in hand. I broke it into a small bowl, and sure enough, there were the faintest little red lines emanating from the bright orange yolk. I looked closer, and there was a little white mass in the center of the yolk. It was about the size of a pinto bean, and it was slightly curled into a C shape, with the top part of the C being a big thicker than the bottom and it had a little gray dot that I thought must be the beginnings of an eye forming. It only took a second for me to notice something odd in the middle part of the C, and... IT WAS A BEATING HEART!!! OH DEAR GOD!!! I could see it just a pumping away, the tiniest bit of red blood filling its little chambers. I immediately tore my gaze away and covered my mouth with my hand to suppress a gasp. I panicked, my only thought being that I could not bare to watch that little heart stop beating, so I did the first thing that came to mind and ran to the bathroom and flushed it. So here I am, it's almost midnight, and I'm home alone with the newfound knowledge that I am a murderer. A tiny little baby chicken murderer. Short of calling the police or PETA, I just did not know what to do. So I called Dustin and let him comfort me for the next 20 minutes. He assured me it was nothing to feel guilty about, and that better to sacrifice one viable egg than to throw the whole batch out thinking none of them were still viable. Here is a very short video from Purdue University showing what is going on inside the egg on day 3 and that is pretty much exactly what I saw.

So, anyway, life has thankfully moved on since then and I have successfully been candling them with my new awesome-possum super bright LED flashlight that I got from Walmart for $5. I've been tracking their development and most have been coming along just fine. There were about 5 that did not seem to be doing anything, just a large round yolk floating around inside the illuminated egg, but I thought I'd give them as much time as possible before culling them, just in case. It is important to get the non-viable eggs out of there, though, because gases can build up inside of them and they'll explode all over your good eggs, soaking them in deadly bacteria that can penetrate the porous shell and kill the living embryos. It's important to wash you hands before handling the eggs for the same reason. Two nights ago I decided to go ahead and remove the eggs that were obviously not doing anything, along with one egg that had dark lumpy spots where something had obviously been growing and then stopped. When we broke these open (I made Dustin do it with me this time) the first 3 were just normal looking egg yolks, one had a pinprick of red in it, and the 5th one with the dark lumpy spots was a tiny gray curled embryo with large black eyes and looked pretty much just like this. It had obviously quit developing all on its own (I had no hand in this one, I swear!) at least a week ago. I thought it was really fascinating to see what goes on inside the eggs, although Dustin would probably disagree with that statement.

So now they're at 18 days and probably look about like this. I've been turning the eggs twice a day every day to keep the embryo from sticking on one side of the shell and to ensure they get proper exercise, but as of today I can stop turning them because the chicks are getting themselves in position for hatching. Yay! I started with 44 eggs, and after cracking the first one open and the 11 I have had to subsequently cull, I am down to what looks like 33 developing eggs. Thats about a 75% hatch rate so far, and we'll see how many actually successfully make it out of their shells. Keep your fingers crossed! They're due to hatch Sunday.

Ayden and I went to the hardware store yesterday to get all the materials needed to build some state of the art brooders out of $10 Rubbermaid totes from the dollar store. These will be kept in our guest room and the chicks will live here their first few weeks until they feather out, when they'll probably be moved outside to the chicken coop unless I can successfully build them a chicken tractor by then. I'd like to do that so that they can go directly onto the grass and start foraging right way, but still protected from the elements and predators until they're bigger. The totes are lined with paper towels at first so that the chicks can easily determine what is food and what is bedding, and I will later probably switch them over to shredded paper that I get from various offices. Its free and a heck of a way to recycle! They have red heat lamps on them to keep the biddies warm and the red light keeps them from wanting to peck at each other out of boredom. Each tote is reported to be able to hold 25 chicks, but I'll probably divide them up depending on how many hatch. The more room the better, I think. The directions for how to build these nifty little brooders can be found here.

Speaking of chickens, this picture is exactly what it looks like.

A chicken in my laundry room. *this me rolling my eyes*

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Segregation, Silly Kids, and Tierra's Testosterone

We finally got around to building the buck pen this week. Finally. I've literally been losing sleep about it, lying in bed at night with my heart racing thinking about how I've been dropping the ball on separating the boys from the girls. I got away with it for a long time because all the girls were pregnant, but as we all know, thats no longer the case. Right before Harmony kidded (almost 6 weeks ago) I had set 22 t-posts in preparation for putting up permanent fencing. I have posts set to separate off a good sized portion of the goat pen for the bucks to live in (I have to say, one of the roomiest buck pens I've seen yet), a large quarantine pen completely separate from the goat pen, and enough posts set to replace the electric goat netting currently surrounding the goat pen with permanent field fencing. Well, when I set the posts I also talked to my neighbor who said he'd come over and show me how to use his come-along to put the fence up nice and tight. And then he never came. I went over and tried to procure his help more than once, but he was always off fishing or something. Meanwhile, I'm losing sleep envisioning rampant pregnancies and illegitimate kids and single moms having to file for goat-welfare while awaiting their court date to go after goat-child support pending results of a goat-paternity test. After my mother told me she'd read that a goat can go back into heat as early as 3 days after kidding, we knew we had to take matters into our own hands. Sunday Dustin and I went out as soon as Ayden went down for his nap and put the fencing up as tight as we could on our own. I probably would have gone and bought my own come-along and figured it out by myself, but Ace Hardware is closed on Sundays and I would not have Dustin's help until the next weekend and I just couldn't wait any longer. It didn't turn out as badly as I thought it would, and we can always go back and tighten it at a later date. It took us two hours to put up about 65 feet of fencing, and that's with the posts already set. The goats, of course, were a big help.
As you can probably see. Poe, in particular, took the opportunity to avail herself of Dustin's high points. At one point she actually laid down on his back.

Here's a short video I took of her trying to fluff his back like a pillow.

As you can probably see in the background of these photos, many of the goats eagerly entered the "new" area and commenced trying it out. Tierra's girls quickly decided it was prime real estate for sunbathing and settled down for a leisurely nap.When it was all said and done, Louie, Puck, and Lucy were sequestered in their new pen. Lucy, admittedly not a buck, will live with the boys because a) I cannot bare to separate her from her bosom buddy, Louie and b) Because she's a total turd and a kid butter. Angora's breed seasonally and her season is over, and besides, there's always the slight possibility that she's already pregnant, and it wouldn't be a total disaster if Puck managed to breed her anyway. I'd just have a Nigora. :) So here they are, thrilled to be locked off in what you would think is their dungeon. Puck, especially, is broken hearted to leave Sahara's side, whom he cannot decide if she is his mother or his girlfriend. He alternates between trying to nurse from her and mounting her. And I mean, he tries these two avenues of behavior within seconds of each other. Its quite disturbing. So now he stands at the fence and cries and cries for his "mama." I got these two big dog houses for a steal at Petco, on sale for $50 and with a $10 rebate. Woo hoo! It sprinkled last night and Louie and Lucy refused to go in the houses to get out of the rain. I think this is their attempt to be as stoic as Ghandi, showing their displeasure at being kicked out of the spacious barn. This morning they were both distinctly damp, but I'm not going to feel sorry for them. I refuse. Mostly because when I first brought the dog houses into the goat pen, Louie crawled inside before I'd even finished putting it together and laid down and refused to budge for the next half hour. I felt bad that they didn't have any toys in their area yet (*sigh* the picnic table was Louie and Lucy's special place), so I put a pallet in there for them to stand on. As you can see Puck is doing. They also have their own water buck and box for hay, which I'm going to have to continue buying since they won't have free access to the pasture. Although, I left the girls locked in the pen this morning and let the "bucks" out for a turn about the pasture.

Tierra's had an interesting development. She's continued to work on her beard, which I'm proud to say is coming along nicely. She's got quite the Jerry Curl going on. But... I'm afraid all this manliness is taking a tole on her, as she is also begining to display a distinct case of male pattern baldness. Don't believe me? Look for yourself. Go ahead, click on the picture and blow it up for a closer look. Its this dry crusty spot and all of her hair is falling out. I put some bag balm on it the other day for lack of anything better, and now its a soft supple bald spot. Really, though, I wonder if maybe she has ringworm? Anybody got any ideas? Dustin's had ringworm before and we dosed it with tea tree oil and it cleared right up.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Goats Are Prejudice

And I can prove it. I went out to give Tiny her mid-day bottle just now and found everybody passed out in the barn. I had taken them for a field-trip to our empty lot next door full of bushes and green stuff and it must have taken more out of them then I thought. By the way, I'm proud to announce that Tiny, Sable, and Gypsy, the youngest of the bunch, were happily eating newly sprouted green leaves! Thats the first time I've seen them actually do more than thoroughly sniff plant matter. When I found them all asleep in the barn, though, what struck me is how every single breed slept separately. Here's Harmony, her mother Sahara, and soon-to-be herd sire Puck, all curled up together in one of the stalls. Here are the babies (save for Sable who had spotted me and came over begging to be picked up while I took this picture), and you can see that even they keep themselves separate, although I will give them the fact that they're all cuddling with their siblings and that is to be expected.Here's a typical picture of Louie and Lucy cuddling in the yard.Seeing them all like this today got me thinking and I realized I have NEVER seen cuddling between any of the breeds we have. Never. For heaven's sake, Lucy has just now stopped head butting all the Nigerians, some of whom have been here since like December.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Har Har Har

Ok, my husband found this cartoon and it just cracks me up and I had to put it on here for all my fellow bloggers to read. (One of the characters is even a goat!) Click on it to blow it up to full size.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Leftover Night

Well, it's been a while since I've posted and all these interesting photos are just piling up on me so I'm going to blog the equivalent of a "leftover's night" when you go through your fridge and everybody has to eat leftovers for dinner. ;)

First. I noticed Sahara was shedding cashmere (yes, the oober expensive stuff sweaters are made out of) like mad so I went and bought her a brush and commenced to brush her to try to salvage some of it. At first when she saw me coming with the brush she looked at me in horror and ran away. I kept telling her this is going to rock her world but she refused to even entertain the notion. So I ended up locking her in one of the stalls and physically cornering her while holding her collar and commenced brushing. After about 30 seconds she settled down and you could see her little brain working (in the voice of the shark from Finding Nemo) "Ooooooooh.... thats gooooooooooood." Pretty soon I saw her eyes closing and she looked quite dazed by the good feelings flooding her body. I must have brushed her 15 minutes, and she even let me do her belly and tender bits without a bat of her eyelashes. This is a picture of my reward, a nice bit of dirty goat hair. He he. In all fairness, it IS the softest thing I think I have ever felt in my life. Its currently in a ziplock baggie somewhere in the vicinity of the bucket of Lucy's dirty mohair in the chicken coop. Hair does not have a glamorous afterlife here at Gypsy's Dream Farm as of yet. I've been looking into learning to spin my own yarn, but have yet to cross that threshold.

Second. The goats are happy and wonderful, as always. This pretty much goes without saying, but worth mentioning all the same. Here's a picture of the happy little boogers eating their hay outside the other morning. It was just too beautiful a day to let them gorge themselves in the dark barn, so I dragged out some boxes and put a couple pats of hay outside in the sunshine, which everybody appreciated. You can see that Gypsy, only a few weeks old, is already getting interested in the hay. I have yet to see her actually ingest any, but I've seen her gnaw on a huge dry leaf for 10 minutes before giving it up as a hopeless cause. This is Mumble's idea of how one eats hay. Step one: Get as many body parts as possible in the container where the hay resides. Step two: Get in as many goats' way as possible. Step three: Be sure to stink it up with your scent while you're there because goats are VERY particular about their hay. Heaven forbid we should conserve perfectly good hay. Step four: Enjoy.

Third. Speaking of the goats being happy and wonderful, I have totally forgotten to blog about the fact that Tierra decided all on her own to resume nursing her kids. !!!!! When they were about 2 weeks old, I had gone out to milk Tierra one evening so I could turn around and pour the milk in a bottle for her girls, but when I went to milk her her teats were all small and shriveled up. I pretty much panicked and thought she had something horrible like mastitis and what on God's green earth am I going to feed these three hungry kids?! Well, I milked her as best I could and got enough for one bottle from her, less than half what I had gotten that morning. When we let her out of the stanchion and let her babies free from the stall they had been in (you haven't lived until you've tried to milk a cranky goat while three goat babies are on and off and on and off the stanchion, running under her feet, knocking the milk over, sucking on your fingers, your nose, your chin, eating your hair... generally wreaking havoc) we watched Sable and Gypsy, the two bigger babies, run directly over to Tierra, drop to their elbows, and nurse. And Tierra? She just stood there like she'd been nursing her babies all along! So. Mystery solved as to why her udder was empty. Sneaky little boogers. This is a picture showing Gypsy getting her munch on. Tiny, on the other hand, never did get the idea and I am still giving her a bottle of milk replacer formula three times a day, but since I'm no longer having to milk Tierra I really don't mind. I tried for a week straight, twice a day, locking Tierra in the stanchion and forcing Tiny to nurse from her, but she was more interested in my fingers than anything. I swear she thinks the milk comes from me because as long as I was holding the teat to guide it to her mouth she would suck, but the minute I'd let go she stop and follow my hand. *sigh* I finally just gave up.

Fourth. My Grandma Brosius came to visit and got herself a lapful of goat kids, specifically Poe. She is such a little spitfire (Poe, not Grandma, although she's pretty darn spunky for 87!) I cannot describe to you the energy this one little goat has. We gave Grandma a book, a blanket, and plopped her in the middle of the goat pen where she spent the next few hours watching us attempt to give Louie a hair cut. Fifth. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Never shave an Angora if you can humanly afford to pay a professional to do it, that's all I can say. This time I actually bought some decent dog grooming clippers, but even they got so dull after doing one side of him that they pretty well pooped out on us. After a while we ended up putting Louie up in the milking stanchion to keep him still while we worked; we must have been at it 2 hours and you can see what we accomplished. Not a lot. Dustin and I took turns whacking away at it, but its tediously slow going. What a good sport. I mean, just look at this face! And the thing of it is he's actually as sweet natured as he looks. He's Dustin's special boy.The (un)finished product. We're still working up the stamina and emotional strength to keep going on the rest of him. Who knew that Louie had elbows?Dustin and a bag of dirty Louie hair. 'Nuff said.
Sixth. I have an update on Tierra's fourth baby, the little buckling! As you know, my friend Lynn took him off my hands and gave him the TLC he required to make a complete recovery from his rough birth experience. I went to her house last week to see him and I cannot believe how big he is! He's almost as big as Sable and Gypsy, who dwarfed both him and Tiny when they were born! He was only slightly bigger than Tiny and now he's twice her size. When I exclaimed over this Lynn told me she feeds him 4 times a day still (I had cut Tiny back to two by then!). So, I believe she's backed off to three a day and I've upped Tiny back up to three because she could stand to be growing faster. She's happy and healthy and spunky, but her brother has just put her to shame. Lynn has named him Chewy, which I think is adorable. She said it was touch and go with him for a while, and she was getting up every two hours through the night for the first week and force feeding him a bottle. It took him almost a week to stand let alone walk, so we even thought he might have some sort of neurological problem. But, he's definitely rallied and my first glimpse of him he was running full tilt around their goat pen kicking his little back legs out to the side, a flashy move all goat kids seem to master. Here's some pictures of the handsome fella. He's got the sweetest little white moons spots and striking facial markings.
Seventh. Tiny has airplane ears. Well, not all the time, just when she looks up at me adoringly, as if to say, "Wonderful Lady From Whom All Milk Flows, could I perchance bother you for another bottle? Or two? Perhaps some cuddles?"Eighth. What blog post would be complete without some random cute photos of my babies, I ask you?