Goat Gremlins

Goat Gremlins

This is how it all started.

Last weekend I was trying to address the never ending tasks of cleaning the kitchen. Usually this feels like trying to stop a waterfall with a tea strainer . I mean, how do you clean something that is in constant use?

I digress, as I was saying, I was trying to clean the kitchen and came across a box of stale store bought donuts. I had bought them on a whim and we weren’t impressed. Which is both amazing (since I’m not the pickiest eater) and fantastic (since I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to diet). Anyway, I decided that the goats would probably enjoy these delicacies since they’re slightly less picky than I am.

I grabbed the donut box,  slipped on some shoes and headed out to the goat pasture. As I drew near the gate the goats all came running to see what gifts I came bearing. It took only a single taste from one of the gals before they all figured out I had something that something special that met with their approval. The herd swarmed the gate, pushing and yelling, trying to snatch the treats from my hands before anyone else could get any. I had wanted to evenly distribute the donuts and make sure they all received a share, but I quickly became preoccupied trying to keep track of my fingers and ensuring they didn’t get  snapped up by an overly enthusiastic and hungry  goat. All in all it I was feeling a bit too much like being in a Wal-Mart during a Black Friday sale. A mixture of exciting, kind of terrifying and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

All sweetness and innocence before the donuts.

During all this excitement, and while I was distracted with trying to keep track of the well being of my fingers, I failed to notice that the goats in their drunken, sugar fueled frenzy, were straining the industrial strength farm gate and latch. Without even a hint of remorse or warning the chain gave up any pretense of trying to keep the gate closed and it flew open and directly into me. Thankfully, I still had all my fingers and was able to catch the runaway gate before it caught me fully in the face. However, now I was stuck with a dilemma. There wasn’t enough intact chain to re-secure the gate and if I let go of the gate to go get more chain the goats would make a break for it. I yelled for Hubs….and yelled……and yelled….. Did I mention he’s a bit hard of hearing?

At this point, I recognized the seriousness of my situation. I was all that stood between the hangry goat herd and the lush, overgrown grass and more importantly, the brand new, baby grape leaves in our new vineyard. This was dire indeed.  I threw the rest of the donuts over the fence in hopes of placating the super sugar charged herd and prayed hard that Hubs would hear me. He eventually wandered outside and found me fighting to hold the gate closed. He grabbed some items out of the goat barn, rigged a temporary solution and hurried off to the shop to locate a more substantial chain and latch.

Now that I was relieved from gate duty, I wandered down to the vineyard to catch my breath and appreciate the fact that my precious grape vines had been saved. At least that was the plan, until I heard excited goats yelling what resembled a war cry. I looked up to find the goats had once again broken the temporary latch and were making a mad prison break from their pasture. I ran as fast as my slip on shoes would allow up the hill, shouting threats and obscenities all the way and managed to catch the gate before the entire herd had escaped. I found myself once again yelling for Hubs, and also yelling for the goats to stay away from the vineyard.  Hubs eventually returned and fixed the gate. We rounded up the escapees without too much drama and only minor pruning to the grape vines and secured the gate with a heavier duty chain and latch.

I wish I could say Boomer rounded the goats up during the jail break , but unfortunately he thought they had just come out to play.

The lesson to be learned here is this, much like you should never give a Mogwai water for fear of being overrun with Gremlins (if you don’t get this movie reference you really must watch Gremlins), you should never feed a goat donuts…..unless you have much better behaved goats than my heathens. Because in my case, just as the cute little Mogwai turn into scary gremlins, feeding donuts to my cute and cuddly goats turn them into super strong, sugar frenzied goat gremlins. Lesson learned. Sorry goats, no more donuts for you, from now on we’re in this diet thing together.

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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.

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.

Life on the farm

Red, the Wild Woman of Fable Farms

Ramblings from the farm:
Yesterday we were in a hurry to finish chores and run to town to do some errands. As we took the feed out to the goat pasture we noticed that Red was in season and hanging out at the buck fence. This was a little upsetting since we thought she had been bred last month. *sigh*

Okay, change of plans. Put the feed buckets down, go wrangle up Red (the Wild Woman, who hates to be caught) and put her in the feed lot. Then go grab Crackshot and bring him to the feed lot. We let them have their ‘visit’, which hopefully got the job done this time!

Crackshot wooing the girls

We put the goats back in their perspective pens and went to grab the feed buckets only to discover the dogs decided to clean them out for us. *sigh again* These things seem to happen whenever we’re in a hurry. Anyway, we refilled the buckets and got everyone fed.

You’d think the story would end there right??? Oh no…..that would be too simple. This morning we woke to some lovely ‘gifts’ from the dogs, who’s tummy’s apparently aren’t build to digest goat food. Who knew??? *triple sigh* Thankfully Hubs found most of it and cleaned it before I even knew about it. (Note: that’s true love ladies. A guy who will tackle dog crap first thing in the morning, even before their coffee is a keeper.)

Now Hubs is headed off to get a ton of hay and I need to pack up the soaps that will be shipped Monday. We had hoped that we would have the old hay barn fixed up and ready to store 5-6 tons of hay to get us through the winter but that just hasn’t happened. I’ve learned that basically farming is a lot of careful planning. You make detailed plans with a balanced consideration of your man power, money and time. Then sh*t happens and all those plans get tossed out the window and you improvise.

Fall on the Homestead

Fall is a beautiful time on the homestead. The leaves are changing colors, the air has a crisp quality that begs to be perfumed with wood smoke and hot cider. Fall is also fickled, because as beautiful as it is, there is so much to do that it’s often hard to find time to enjoy the beauty. There’s lots to do before you can put the homestead to bed for the winter. Barns need to be cleaned and prepped for the upcoming cold and wet weather, gardens need to be pulled and planted with a cover crop, animals need to get bred and of course all those half done projects need to get finished up before the weather completely turns nasty.

One of my favorite parts of fall is the bonfires. There’s something primal about them that attracts my inner caveman…or rather, cave-woman. There are few things in my book that can top working hard on the farm all day and then when you are bone weary, lounging on the back of your tailgate while having your dinner. Except maybe catching a little nap, before getting back to work.

If you aren’t familiar with bonfires there are a few things that you should know. The first is to always wear a hat. Trust me your stylist will thank you for not making her create some wild and new post-singed hairstyle. Secondly, if you happen to be a girly tom-boy and enjoy wearing make-up (like me) you should be aware that if you stand too close to the fire the heat will make your mascara melt. If you aren’t going for that ‘one giant  eyelash look’, you probably want to take a step or two backward. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, there is always going to be that one person at the fire that will be a smoke magnet. No matter where they go, despite the direction the wind is blowing, the smoke will magically follow them everywhere. Don’t be that person! Now that you know the basics, kick back, sip some cider and enjoy.

What’s in a Name

weaners 081015 EDITMany times over the years people have asked me how I decided on the name of our farm. I usually just give a short version of the truth or a flippant answer because I don’t know how to answer without sounding totally ‘woo-woo’. But it’s a fair questions so here’s the raw truth. *Feel free to tell me if I’ve crossed over into the world of ‘woo-woo’. During the course of my life I’ve searched for something. I’m not sure what to call it. Some people call it enlightenment, or purpose or wisdom. Personally, I call it the peace that comes with finding your true self. Whatever you call it, I’ve been looking for it. Over the years I’ve found bits and pieces of it, more in some places than others. It’s been a slow journey but a constant one.

 Places where I’ve been most successful at finding myself include, grueling work- when I am physically exhausted my mind is free from the noise of stress and worry and I find quiet. It’s during this quiet that I learn what inner peace and satisfaction feel like; when I’m doing what I love, like farming, there is a sense of gratification and contentment that fills me; and when I am around my animals and nature, I find myself learning from them, bringing me the wisdom that I’m searching for.

People farm for a variety of reasons, maybe it’s to become self-sufficient, provide themselves with food or to give their family a different lifestyle. I farm because it helps me grow as a person. It allows me to have the lifestyle I love and at the same time that it feeds me physically, it feeds my soul as well.

fa·ble

/ˈfābəl/

noun

noun: fable; plural noun: fables

  1. a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.

synonyms: moral tale, tale, parable, allegory

 As a kid I loved fables. They were short stories with animals as characters that taught a value or moral. They were my favorite types of stories. So what does all this have to do with our farm name? The name of my farm describes my journey and our animals’ place in this search. We care for our animals to the best of our abilities and in return we get to learn from them. To be clear, we are a farm, not an animal sanctuary or refuge. But those hard decisions teach us too, along with the joys and fun there is heart wrenching loss and tons of exhausting work . When we moved to a farm I was able to start living my very own fable, one where the animals teach me about life and myself every day. It’s a pretty good life.

The Joys of Cutting a Pasture

me mowing 0615 3 EDITThis is hopefully the last picture….EVER…..of me mowing the front pasture. I’m seriously hoping we get the rest of the fencing done soon and can move some of the goats down here for the summer.

It started off as a cool day and as I climbed into the tractor seat and fired her up the cool breeze hit my face  and I knew it would be perfect mowing weather. Not too hot, so that I melted into a puddle on the tractor seat, but not so cold that I needed to bundle up. As I started making my rows, my eyes swept out over the pasture and I admired the long blanket of grasses swaying in the wind. If the pasture could be compared to a blanket, it was definitely a quilt, complete with large decorative  patches of Shasta daisies and knots of bright, golden dandelions. All in all it was a beautiful  and captivating sight…..for about 10 minutes. Then I remember how mind numbing mowing a pasture can be.

The brush cutting was  incredibly tedious. How tedious you ask? When the highlight of your morning is when your allergy medicine gives up the fight altogether and waves the white flag at the overwhelming pollens, that’s pretty darn tedious. At some point my eyes become a puffy, swollen mess and my continuous sneezing fits left me driving the tractor with my eyes shut.  (Have you ever tried sneezing with your eyes open?? It just doesn’t work!) When I finally could opened my eyes and found myself driving directly in the path of a tree, well that brief thrill was the most excitement I  had the whole morning.

I have to say I was pretty proud of myself for not succumbing to my normal entertainment of mowing crop circles or other designs into the pasture. Instead I amused myself by making a mental list of all the things Hubs had done to irritate me in the past few weeks. During this rather lengthy process Hubs had the poor timing to come out to the pasture to chat. His timing couldn’t have been better, or worse, depending on your perspective.

I started the conversation right off with “I’m super irritated at you.” Hubs was a little taken back, asking, “Me? What did I do? I haven’t even seen you this morning.”  So I explained that I had been thinking about all of his irksome quirks and then proceeded to start down my mental list. To give the man credit, he didn’t even bat an eyelash (a sure sign he’s been married to me for far too long. I prefer to be able to take him by surprise. I’m going to have to up my game). Instead, he stared off into the pasture (probably a million mental miles away) as I listed off his annoying habits. When I was done he quietly asked, “is that all?” (Did I mention the man has the patience of a saint?) To which my retort was, “yup, that’s it….for now, but I still have half a pasture to mow. Give me a little time.”  (Did I mention that NO ONE has ever compared me to a saint?)

I’m pretty sure that the job of finishing the pasture fencing just moved up Hubs’ priority list. 🙂