Kidding and Snowmageddon

Kidding and Snowmageddon

For those that don’t keep up with our Facebook page, we have been one of Western Washington Snowmageddon victims. We’ve been snowed in for a week now and were without power for 4 days. There were some challenges for sure, such as cooking on the woodstove by candle or flashlight and very cold PTA baths (for those that aren’t familiar with the term….let’s just say the initials represent parts of the body that need addressing sooner than others) but overall we managed ok.

One of the biggest challenges was that kidding season started during the snow storm. Those of you who raise livestock understand all too well that the coldest, wettest and most inhospitable conditions seem to bring on goat labor like nothing else. Thankfully, for the most part, the goats needed little help because assisting by headlamp when your fingers are barely working from the cold makes things difficult. So I was grateful that little help was required…..until yesterday.

Yesterday Ursa let out a scream like she was being tortured, and I guess in a way she was. We arrived in the barn in record time and found her with one hoof out and the kid obviously stuck. We managed to push the hoof back in and fish around to locate both feet and a nose and Ursa thanked us by expelling the kid like she was shooting a rocket out her rear.

Since kidding season is usually pretty uneventful around here and we mistakenly we thought , statistically speaking, we had managed through the only issues we’d have this year. We were wrong. This morning Hubs went out to do chores and yelled in the door that Vessie was kidding. Since birth is rarely quick, in human or animal, I figured I had time for at least one cup of coffee before bundling up to face the cold, but alas that wasn’t meant to be. When Hubs didn’t return I figured I better get outside and help.

Vessie is an excellent mother and usually manages to have her kids external, cleaned and fed before I can even get on scene. This time was different. We arrived to find two kids born, she had apparently started cleaning the first one when the second arrived. It was stillborn and she was stunned. When we got to the barn we tried and tried to revive the baby but nothing worked. At this point Vessie seemed as confused as any first time mom. While we all would have appreciated a minute to process the loss of the baby Mother Nature rarely works that way. Life, as usual, continues on whether or not you are ready and able to keep up. Vessie had stopped cleaning the first kid and stood vaguely stunned when a third baby arrived. We got the 2 healthy babies cleaned, cords tied, trimmed and dipped but the last (and smallest) baby obviously had some fluid still in her lungs. We swung her for a bit but she still sounded a little raspy.  It was concerning. Vessie at this point had awoken from her stupor and was back to be the awesome mom she usually is, cleaning the looking after her two babies.

We made sure they had latched on and were fed the all important colostrum and even gave them a squirt of goat vitamins and nutrients. We cleaned them and placed them in the warming box and then we went into the house for our first cup of coffee while we waited. Sometimes Mother Nature goes against all your best efforts and sometimes she is merciful despite a million things that could go wrong.  Experience has taught us there really doesn’t seem to be a rhythm or reason to these things.

I went out to check the babies a while later and found the Vessie’s first kid up and actively nursing. The smaller kid was in the corner, pushed up against the water bucket, with her head flopped over backward. My heart caught in my mouth and I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. I had so hoped that she would make it. That despite being small, being born in the cold and having a bit of rasp in her breath she would persevere.

 I unlatched the gate and went to gather up the little one. I reached down and picked her up, she was still warm to the touch. I ran my hands over her wondering if maybe I could still resuscitate her when suddenly her eyes popped open and she opened her mouth to let out a surprised yell. I think I might have given off my own yell of surprised mixed with laughter. Apparently she had just been sleeping super deeply, in a position any yoga master would envy and decided the cold water bucket made a better bed friend than the warm heat box.  Goats…..they sure do keep you on your toes. She bounced back quickly, once she (and I) recovered from the surprise- her the surprise of being awaken in a strangers arms and me the surprise of her being alive. When I left the barn she was playing with her sister and romping around the kidding area full of vigor.

I share all of this for two reasons, like Vessie make sure you surround yourself with people who will step up and help when life knocks you a curve ball. Sometimes we just need a minute to catch our breath and since life doesn’t slow down for us at these times make sure you select your tribe based on who will be there when you need them. The other thing is to remember not to  ever give up. Even when people may think you are done and out of the game, you may just be taking a little rest to gather your energy.

Advertisements
And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

You may be looking at the picture and wondering what the heck you’re looking at. Don’t worry you’re in good company, I wondered the exact same thing. Turns out the answer to that question is quite the tale.

I arrived home from work, late in the evening one night last week and stopped at the barn to say hi to the horses, as I usually do. Hubs drove down the hill to the barn and rather than his usual greeting, he started with, “You just missed the show.” This statement always strikes a bit of fear in my heart. It either means I missed something adorably cute that one of the animals did or he narrowly escaped death. There never seems to be any middle ground between these two. In this particular instance it was the latter.


Some of you may remember the very large spool we have in the goat pasture. Hubs brought it home many years ago and it was quite the hair raising adventure getting it across the horse pasture and put the hillside to the goat pasture. The goats have always loved playing on the spool, but alas it’s time in the goat pasture is coming to an end. We’ve decided to repurpose the lower portion of the pasture and so we needed to move the spool (along with a rather large stack of old split rails and a ton + pile of rocks).

With us both working off the farm and only having a few hours each evening of daylight to work by, it took most of a week to get all the wood rails and rocks moved. The last thing to move was the spool. I figured we would get it this weekend when we were both home because the spool has a few of the bottom pieces broken out and won’t roll well  and if it happens to get out of control  on the hillside there’s a fence right below it that I would prefer to keep in one piece and just past the fence is the pond.

Despite my concerns, Hubs decided he could get it done alone.  Inevitably whenever he decides that a two or more person job can be done alone, I picture the little imp that sits on my shoulder whispering into my ear, “grab a beer and watch this!” Sure enough, he proceeded to tell me the tale of how he had wrapped a chain around the spool and begun to drag the spool. Of course we don’t have a 4WD tractor and between the rain slick, mud and the slope of the hill, the tractor started sliding. The new angle between the spool and tractor cause the chain to strain and then break. The chain went flying by and when his life stopped flashing before his eyes he looked back he saw the spool tipped and had started a slow motion, drunken roll down the hill. He watched in equal parts fascination and horror as it continued its ungainly wobbly roll, down the hill toward the fence. Then, just when he was convinced the fence was going to be demolished  the spool, rather miraculously hit a bump in the ground, launching the huge spool several feet in the air, causing it to only graze the fence before landing on the other side. It finished its Olympic worthy rambling downhill journey by rolling into the pond before falling over.

So the answer to the question, “what the heck is that a picture of?” is the spool, sitting in the pond and half covered in brush, half covered in mucky and water. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, farming isn’t for the faint of heart.

Ramblings – January 2019

Farming is a constant learning process. Take today as an example. I learned two things today. The first, is that the cow hooves I buy the dogs to chew smell horrendous!! Seriously, I searched the house high and low convinced that Boomer had an accident. Then  I discovered the smell was coming out of his other end…the end chewing on the cow hoof. Oy!

Second, I discovered I am capable of having some pretty in depth and interesting conversations….with myself. For instance this morning I in the back yard with Boomer, dressed in my pj’s I was encouraging him to do his business before I froze, when I looked up and saw the goats walking along the fence line out towards the woods. I began my good mornings to them, calling out each goat by name. I got through the group and realized someone was missing. I did a quick head count to double check. Yup definitely missing one. Then I realized Beauty was the doe that was missing. She’s the first due to kid and so large that yesterday I joked her belly looks taunt enough to split open and purge the kid in true “Alien” (the movie) fashion. Seriously, look at the size of her! The doe standing slightly behind her is also pregnant and due about a week afterward. I’m not trying to give her a complex or anything but she looks like she’s carrying a full litter!

I gave another good look around the pasture for Beauty, but couldn’t find her. With her coloring, she’s usually pretty easy to spot. Not ready to panic yet, I gave a few yells, calling her name. This usually brings her running or at the very least, she’s yell back to me.  This time I was met with silence. “What ifs” started running rampantly through my head and so began my interesting conversation.

Me: I’m sure it’s nothing. She’s not due for another 11 days.

Also me: Have you seen the size of her? And let’s face it you aren’t the best at recording breeding dates accurately.

Me: That “may” be true but really….11 days! Do you think I could have screwed up the date by 11 days??

Also me: Yes.

Me: That’s mean. Have a little faith!

Also me: How are you going to feel if she’s up there having problems birthing and you didn’t check her because you were sure you couldn’t possibly have screwed up the due date?

Me:   …………..

Apparently, I really know how to push my buttons because I  turned around and hightailed it into the house and shimmied into my farm clothes in record time, racing back outside and heading up to the goat pasture. Fortunately, before I ever got that far Beauty came waddling out of the woods. Once my heart meandered back from my throat to my chest, I looked suspiciously at Beauty, convinced she had done this intentionally. She’s got a great poker face though and gives nothing away.

Yup, farming is a constant learning process, all this excitement and it’s not even lunch time yet. Who needs Hollywood when you’ve got goats.

Farming Lessons & Life Goals

pepper starts 012019Once upon a time I hated pepper plants. They are notoriously slow to get started from seed and no matter how much I babied the seeds they were always weeks behind the other plants. While all my other starts were tall, strong and bursting to get outside and into the sunshine, my pepper plants were always tiny and struggling. It became an annual frustration. I would move them to the best location for light, place a seed mat under them, have a small fan blowing nearby for air circulation, etc… But every year when it came time to move the seedlings outside I would look at my peppers and feel as if I had failed once again. I took to starting them much earlier than the other seeds but I did it with so much frustration, mumblings and complaining the whole time at the extra work and attention they needed.

A few years ago I decided to approach the growing season differently. Rather than trying so hard to get my peppers to go against what is their inherent nature (being slow to start), what if I embraced that trait? Rather than complaining about starting them a couple weeks early, why not start them a full 4 weeks early and do it with a happy heart? After all usually by the beginning of the new year I am itching to get outside. I’m perusing seed catalogs with glee and dreaming of when I can sink my hands into some dirt. So why not start the peppers super early, enjoy playing in the dirt and let the peppers take their sweet, and molasses-like, slow time to reach maturity. It took me a bit to finally stepped outside the box of my normal schedule and routine and try this life shifted without a grudging heart, but once I did….. what a change.

I was able to enjoy having a valid reason for playing in the dirt in the middle of winter and the peppers were finally allowed to follow their natural inclination. Best of all they were ready when the rest of the plants were, standing tall and strong and I didn’t feel like a frustrated failure. Win- win! Wouldn’t life be awesome if this idea could be applied to people? Rather than trying to get people to fit into other’s ideas of what or where they should be in life, we just support and appreciate their individual quirkiness? I love it when farm lessons teach me about life. ❤

Farm Records

thumbnail_img_1936[1]Those of you on my Facebook page have heard me drill over and over again that you must write down accurate breeding dates! Life can get way too busy to try to reply on memory, especially a memory as bad as mine. A few years ago life was kicking my rear end and as we struggled to just stay in the game, we would take the short cut of just moving the girls out with the buck and “letting nature take it’s course”. Of course, the result was that every spring we had no idea when the goats were due to kid and I would be pulling my hair out trying to prepare for the event with no idea when it would occur

This year was better. I actually planned our breeding season methodically and with intent. I was so proud. I kept diligent records of each and every time we exposed a doe to the buck! Because of this diligence we were able to plan our pre-kidding activities with some degree of certainty, and not just making a random guess. It was rather exciting to think I was finally getting my poop in a group (aka getting my sh*t together).  I took this as a sign that we were on track to a better farming year.

So armed with these dates we spent last weekend trimming hooves and giving the goats their vaccinations and supplemental injects that they need 4-6 weeks prior to kidding. We made plans to shave rear ends in two weeks and also to prepare the kidding area, stock up on supplies and give the whole barn a good cleaning. thumbnail_img_2062[1]

While I was out working with the goats I noticed that Beauty and Vessie were both much larger than the other girls. I tried not to stare or mention it to them. I didn’t want to make them self conscience but in fact they looked ready to go at any time. I snapped a picture and even mentioned to Hubs that they both looked like they were starting to bag up already….. but that just wasn’t likely this early from their due date.

This morning on a whim, I opened my records to recheck Beauty’s first potential kidding date (rather than going by my often faulty memory) and discovered it was within 2 days! WTH? Apparently my tired brain had forgotten that first breeding. This kicked us into high gear.  We now need to do all those same things…but much sooner.  I have some serious doubts that they will kid it in two days…they look close but not that close, but we need to be ready regardless.

So other then whining, why am I telling you this? Well, apparently just keeping accurate and detailed records isn’t enough….. you have to go back and check them too. *sigh* Here’s to hoping that next year will go smoother.

Enjoying the Season

47345720_1154511974723742_810125995615977472_n[1]I recently saw this meme on my Facebook feed and it resonated deeply with me. A few years ago we made a conscience effort to try to live with the seasons, rather than fighting against them as I had done most of my life. The result was to feel a sense of peace settle over me.

For most of my life I’ve felt hurried. I was either wishing away the winter so I could get outside and work on projects that I had fallen behind on or I was wishing summer get here quicker so I could finally harvest the garden. Rather than living my life to the fullest and enjoying it, I was actually wishing it away. Being the typical farmer/homesteader I always have a list of to-do projects that are about a mile long. Also being the typical farmer I never seem to get to the bottom of the list. As soon as I cross off an item, 2-3 more get added to the list. It’s the farming version of Sisyphus’s hell. When you also have to take the weather into consideration when planning your projects, meaning you can’t drive fence posts when the ground it too soggy or frozen and roofing repairs needs to happen to structures before the heavy rains hit, planting needs to occur when the temperatures are right for that particular plant, etc… it just adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult task. Trying to coordinate with mother nature, who is a fickled team player at best, can make even the most patient person sizzle with frustration.

thumbnail_IMG_1849[1]I’ve been told that I am incredibly stubborn, but even I had to admit that I would never win in my ongoing war against mother nature. Remember that old saying, “if you can’t beat them join them.” I decided to take it to heart and in an effort to simplify my life I decided to give up the war and join her team. Once I stopped fighting mother nature and aligned myself to her schedule, however wild and unpredictable that may be, I finally felt peace. I stopped feeling as though I was running as fast as I could and still falling behind. Suddenly, I was able to appreciate the present.  I wasn’t late or playing catch up. I was exactly where I was meant to be for that moment.

We were blessed with a abnormally dry and warm fall this year and that helped us get a few lingering summer projects completed, but there are always more that didn’t get done. So when I woke to the hard frost this morning I felt the old apprehension set in for just a moment. I thought about the roof and walls that hadn’t been put on the new temporary shelter, the trees that hadn’t been  planted yet, the gate that hadn’t been hung, the cabbage that I still needed to harvest and so many other things that needed my attention, and then I took a breath. I reminded myself that mother nature and I now played for the same team. Apparently she felt those things could wait and so I took my lead from her. Things would get done whenever they got done and there was nothing I could do to change that timeline. After a sigh of acceptance, I built a fire, set some butter chicken simmering on the stove (with extra garlic of course) and settled in to do some computer work, all while enjoying the best view in the world, because this is exactly where I am meant to be right now.

thumbnail_IMG_1841[1]

 

Firewood that Fights Back

 firewood cropped

It’s still a busy time on the farm, we have almost finished getting the garden cleaned up and put to bed for winter,  the garlic has been planted and is resting and preparing for spring and now we’re working on planting trees. I know most people plant trees and shrubs in the spring but I prefer fall. Planting trees in the fall when the roots have gone dormant allows them to be naturally watered by rain and they have a whole fall and winter to get settled before the stress of growing season. The only downfall is that most nurseries don’t have a great selection at this time of year.

 The other big project is firewood. We try to heat by wood as much as possible. We do this for two reasons, mostly because it’s cheaper but also because wood heat seems to chase the damp chill off my achy joints much better than electric heat. In our rainy winter weather that’s a big deal. Plus, I confess a true love of wood smoke. The hint of wood smoke in the air is one of the most comforting scents I know.

 We had quite a bit of windfall wood from the past couple of years that had fallen in our hillside pastures and we figured this was the year to get it cut  or it would go to rot. Hubs took the tractor and chains and we began the careful work of getting the tractor into the slippery and sloped hills, chaining the logs and then slowly dragging them out of the pasture. This last part was done while we prayed like crazy that the log wouldn’t develop a mind of its own and go rogue, rolling down the hill, taking out fences, shelters or us. fred tractor 1018

Once the logs were brought in from the pasture we began one of the worst chores on the farm, in my humble opinion. The splitting, cutting and stacking. It’s not the backbreaking, never ending labor part I hate, it’s the splinters. It’s like the wood is fighting back with little, invisible weapons of warfare. They get EVERYWHERE! I’m amazed at some of the locations I seem to get them. It is impossible to pick them all out and then there’s the cold shower. I was always taught that heat opens the pores and can allow the splinter to settle further into the skin, so cold was necessary if you have splinters. It’s just adding insult to injury.

 Last weekend I was determined to walk away with fewer splinters. I usually wear heavy pants and boots. I also usually added a windbreaker type jacket (a heavy duty one is just too warm for this work). The material on a windbreaker or rain slicker is usually provides a good barrier to protect from the miniscule needles attempting to take residence on my body. Anyway, I digress, I was determined to up my game and keep myself adopting any orphaned wood products so I wore my usual jeans and boots, two layers on top, covered by the windbreaker (of course) and then, the final touch, was to add latex gloves under my work gloves. The tiny splinters seems to always work their way through the leather gloves and imbed themselves into my palm, fingers and wrists. The latex was long enough to also cover my wrists, a usual splinter magnet, so I was set!

logs for firewood A couple hours into the process my hands and wrists were relatively splinter free. You would think I would be ecstatic….. but I wasn’t. Apparently in my careful wardrobe planning I had neglected one very, very important item. A belt. I was doing what I think city kids call “sagging”. This would have been just been a slight inconvenience, if not for the fact that when I went to hitch up my pants with my leather gloved hands……I apparently was shedding wooden shives down my drawers. You’ve heard of ants in your pants? This was kinda like that. I now had splinters on a part of my body that until this year, had remained unscathed. They were also in an area that I couldn’t remove by myself, giving Hubs and I a whole new relational challenge in the marriage game.

 Anyway, all this to say, I’m definitely going to remember my belt during next year’s firewood work. Also I’m pretty sure I’ll be filled with a tiny amount of vindictive glee, giving me an extra special warmth, as I pitch each log into the fire.

Stay warm my friends.