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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Anniversaries and the Farm Life

Anniversaries and the Farm Life

It’s our anniversary weekend and so like many people we’ve been making plans on how to pack the day full of things that we enjoy. For some people that may mean, fancy dinners and expensive gifts, but for us it means spending the day working on the farm. Yes, our anniversary sounds a lot like every other day on the farm, but I truly believe the best life is one you don’t need a vacation from. Our anniversary happened to fall on World Naked Gardening Day but we decided the best gift we could give ourselves (and our neighbors) was to bypass this celebration. So we dressed appropriately and headed out to enjoy our day.

Hubs managed to finish the repairs to the chicken coop courtyard. Last winter we had an unprecedented snowfall and after almost 40 inches in a few days the metal netting gave up the ghost. Since then the chickens have been complaining that they need a coop remodel and the regularly visiting raccoons have been echoing their sentiment, so it was a top priority.

While Hubs was busy working with our feathered friends, I was planting in the high tunnel. It was a beautiful sunny day and Hubs was commenting on how the breeze felt so good…..I of course, got to enjoy none of that inside the high tunnel. Instead I was roasting! It was at least 20 degrees hotter inside the high tunnel than outside and with no breeze to give me reprieve. It was tempting to go back on my agreement with Hubs and join the naked gardening followers, but I refrained. As much as I love playing in the dirt I was so glad when I finished up inside the tunnel. Then it was on to the next project.

The goats needed some pedicures so I headed off to trim goat hooves. Nothing like trimming feet while Berry the Buck blows rumen scented sweet nothings in my ear. During this time I discovered spring really had arrived….because I got my first, second and third mosquito bite of the year. *sigh* If any of you are long time followers of the page you’ll probably remember (because I whine about this every year mercilessly) that the mosquitos LOVE me. I’m usually covered in at least a dozen bites at any given time during spring and summer. I’ve also discovered that I apparently have particularly tasty elbows since the bites seem to be focused in that area. Over years of trying different things, the only one that has worked to reduce the itch and give me some relief is After Bite. I’ve learned to always have a tube or two of it handy.

We had just had 9 tons of 3 man rocks delivered to work on a landscape project and we were excited to pull out the tractor and get to work setting them in place. I know, I know, some of you may be asking yourself how this sounds like a fun anniversary but for years we have focused on making the farm livable (it was quite a mess when we got it) and also making it functional. We didn’t have the time, energy or money to make it pretty. It simply wasn’t an option. So to finally get to work on these optional projects felt like a treat.

We ended the evening with a homecooked meal and a glass of my favorite wine….and then we took turns rubbing each other’s back with this modern day version of dad’s old Ben Gay. Apparently we aren’t as young as we used to be, but all in all it was a fantastic day and we wouldn’t chose to spend it any other way.

*Note: some of you will notice that I have links to some of our favorite products. After spending years answering emails or Facebook messages asking me where I find the products I mentioned in my blog or posts I finally decided to try being an Amazon Affiliate. This lets me link right to the product and if you decide to buy from the link I get a little commission. Win-win. I hope this helps us both. Thanks! ~M

Disclosure: Fable Farms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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.

Ramblings: Heart Attack Farming Style

I was working from home, minding my own business when I suddenly heard a loud commotion coming from the goat pasture out behind the house. I went to the window and took a peek out. The goats had all run for the safety of their barn and the dogs were frantically running back and forth on the perimeter fence in that area. I watched for a bit to see if I was needed but nothing else appeared out of the ordinary so I turned to head back to my computer and the awaiting pile of work. As I was turning away my eyes happened to fall on a lump leaned against the fence. Upon closer look, I discovered the lump turned was one of my goats, sprawled against the fence, eyes closed and not moving. I yelled to her, “hey Sadie….”, nothing. I clapped my hands and whistled, hoping against hope that she was just resting, but there was no response. The rest of the goats had all run off in a panic and Sadie wasn’t moving. This wasn’t good.

My heart was in my throat as I ran for some shoes and raced out back. As soon as I was within eyesight of the pasture I started yelling for the goats. The entire herd rushed over to greet me at the gate, except Sadie. By now I was muttering under my breath as I opened the gate and made my way across the pasture. My mutters went something like this, “oh crap, please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, oh crap!”. There might have also been a few, “What the *%#*!” mixed in for good measure. All I could think was that if I got there in time and she wasn’t dead, I would somehow be able to save her (apparently, I have a totally misplaced sense of confidence in my vetting abilities). My mind was racing with possibilities, did something get through the fence and attack her? Is that what sent the herd running and the dogs barking? She’s one of the friendliest girls and I could see her being more trusting of predators, but could it really have happened so quickly when I was only a few hundred yards away?

 As I stumbled down the hillside in Hub’s shoes (they were the closest ones to the door and the first pair I grabbed in my hurry) I continued yelling, whistling and clapping my hands, but not even an ear twitched. By now, sensing my anxiety, the dogs had given up on whatever held their fascination at the perimeter fence and sat just outside the goat fence that Sadie was leaning on, watching with some concern. I reached her and gave her a quick visual once over. There were no signs of trauma. No blood on the ground or on Sadie. I started wondering if she had a heart attack or choked. I gently nudged her in her ribs. But got no reaction. Nothing. Damn! Sighing heavily and facing my fears, I leaned down to roll her over so I could thoroughly inspect her and figure out what had happened. As I placed my hands on her head and shoulder to roll her over, Sadie opened her eyes, lifted her head a tiny bit and gave me a look of utter disgust. I nearly fell over from surprise, but caught myself and instead just sat down rather ungracefully in the dirt. Apparently when Sadie sleeps, she REALLY sleeps and nothing is going to wake her until she is ready. Not barking dogs, the herd running off in a panic, me yelling, whistling, screaming and clapping, or even a nudge or two to the ribs. To be honest, after recovering from my initial heart attack, my first coherent thought was to be a bit jealous of how soundly Sadie can sleep.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, a problem that apparently doesn’t bother Sadie in the slightest.

 By this time the rest of the herd had wandered down the hillside to see what all the fun was about. The dogs were still looking at me with puzzlement, as if they didn’t get the joke, and Sadie had wandered off, looking backward long enough to shoot me the stink eye capture in this picture.  As anyone with goats will tell you, they have tons of personality and can communicate their feelings quite effectively. Unlike the other goats she wasn’t happy to see me, in fact she didn’t seem at all appreciative of my efforts to save her life. It fact, it was clear that she was downright irritated that I interrupted her restful beauty sleep.

I took another minute or two to rest my racing heart before the other goats trying to climb in my lap, forced me back on my feet. Thanks Sadie for helping me get the old pumper thumping this morning.  I’m the first to admit that farming has a lot of heartache and loss, it also has a lot of mini- eart attacks, anxiety and downright comical moments.  I’m so glad this moment turned out to be one of the latter.

Sadie 101518

When Life Attacks on a Farm

The week started with a bang and hasn’t slowed down yet.  Let’s see, my first indication that life was planning to mutiny against me was when I sat sipping my coffee and getting ready to call my mom on Sunday morning. It was a peaceful morning and I had settled down next to the open window , enjoying the whiff of the fresh morning air. Then a sudden racket broke my tranquil moment.

 Apparently Crack Shot had gotten his horns stuck in the fence. He’s never done that before and he was crackshot 0116bawling like a baby. I yelled for him to hold his horses and I would be right out. With a sigh, I set down my coffee, grabbed some shoes and went out. I wandered out in my PJ’s thinking it wouldn’t take me but a minute to free his horns, however just as I was getting close I saw him give a giant heave trying to free himself, unfortunately it backfired and I saw the fence act as a slingshot, whipping his body around. When he landed with a hard thud I was horrified to see that he looked like something out of a bad horror movie. His head faced one way and his body another. Since he wasn’t related to anything in the owl family I was convinced he had broken his neck. I ran into the pasture double time and was so relieved to see him breathing. However, with the odd angle he was contorted into his breathing was labored. I tried to free his horns but he had somehow woven them into both the layer of cattle panels AND the fence. I tried to calm him down and then ran for tools. Of course the tools I needed were going to be in the shop on the other end of the property. I grabbed keys on my way past the house, jumped into the jeep and broke the land speed record getting to the shop. I rooted around until I found the giant bolt cutters and a crow bar and raced back up the house. I went into the pasture and began the task of trying to position the giant bolt cutters between the two layers of fence while Karma was playfully head butting me the whole while. I felt like I was suffering from multiple personalities as I gently coo-ed to Crack Shot trying to keep him calm and then turning slightly and yelling for Karma to ‘”knock it the heck off!” I freed him fairly quickly and he jumped up and shook as if brushing off the whole event  and he was even sweet to me for about a whole minute.  I sat back trying to get my heart back into to somewhat of a normal rhythm,  covered in sweat, my pajamas splattered in  mud and other things and thought that this was my allotment of excitement for the entire week…… I was wrong.  I was just getting started.

 The next morning as I was doing chores in my usual pre-coffee stupor I kept thinking I heard LadyButt crying. I went back and checked the chicken coop, thinking I had locked her inside, but didn’t see her. I checked the hay storage and didn’t see her….and then I looked up. From my last incident, I knew what this meant, and I was right. She had somehow gotten up on top the barn roof and was stuck. What proceeded was pretty much an exact duplicate of the blog I wrote earlier this year (see: Adventures of LadyButt  )

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LadyButt in all her fierce glory.

 At this point I should have seen the writing on the wall and known that the week was cursed. A smart move would have been to wrap everything that would hold still in bubble wrap, fortify my coffee with a healthy slug of Bailey’s Irish Cream (or a shot of whiskey)and hunker down.  But I’ve never claimed to be particularly smart. So we decided to tempt the fates and take the hay truck and  pick up a load of local grass. As we were driving around the field, tossing bales of hay up into the back of the flatbed we must have hit a high spot. I say that because as we were getting ready to leave the field Hubs looks over at me and says mildly, “the brakes are feeling a little spongy”. This is never a good thing to hear, especially not when you’re away from home and hauling. I thought I did the appropriate thing and just ignored him. I have a theory that  if you ignore things then they won’t really happen. We got out of the field and then Hubs crawled under the truck and saw the brake fluid happily running out of the back brake line. Apparently we had tore open part of the brake line when we hit the high spot. Damn, another theory blown.  I wish I could say I was surprised but really the way things were going, I kind of expected it, losing our brakes, getting hit by lightening, I mean something was going to happen.  Hubs examined the damage and pronounced it un-repairable with the tools we had with us. He used a wrench to pinch the line shut as best he could, and the guy who’s field we were in gave us a couple bottles of brake fluid. We topped off the reservoir and we headed off for home with a wish and a prayer. It was a quiet,  white knuckle drive and Hubs mostly relied on downshifting, avoiding the brakes all together,

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Unloading a truck load of hay from last fall.

when possible.  Thankfully, we were able to make it home without any other major incidents. By Wednesday and Thursday I had learned my lesson. I was in full on survival mode and just doing what was necessary. Those days eked by with no loss of life or limb.  Sheesh, some weeks are just more exciting than others. I always wonder if this is some type of cosmic payback for something I did  in my wild and crazy teen years. If so I probably have quite a few more of these weeks coming to me. But that’s ok, even with everything going sideways I’m still so blessed to get to live this amazing life.

 Confession: I wrote this post on Tuesday night but didn’t want to post until I was fairly sure I was going to survive the rest of the week.  I still have a day to go but I’m taking the gamble and posting. Wish me luck.

Noxious and Poisonous Weeds

It’s that time of year again, the time when I need to get out to the do some pasture management.  I try to go walk the pastures at the beginning of spring and again partway through summer to pull any noxious or poisonous weeds. Ok so technically spring started months ago, but as usual I’m playing catch up.

This year my biggest foe is the foxglove. It’s popping up everywhere! We have the tansy pretty much under control but the foxglove decided I needed another challenge in my life. Both of these plants are considered toxic, but to be honest I’ve seen the goats nibble on them and they’re still kicking. Now before I start getting hate mail, let me say I do my best to pull the poisonous plants but am I going to get all of them? No. Not even close. I can however pull them before the foxglove seeds and make sure that it’s not the most prevalent thing growing in my pasture. My goats mostly avoid the toxic plants but I see no reason to make it easy for them. If the goats really want to eat it they’re going to have to hunt for it.

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Years ago I took a master goat class and I remember some guy saying he didn’t worry about poisonous plants because goats could tell what was poisonous and what wasn’t. I listened to this in disbelief as he slurped down his diet soda and munched on his Cheetos. Dude, we’re supposed to be the enlightened species and most people don’t eat avoid stuff that’s bad for us but you expect the goats to do better?

Finally, after working in the pasture for a few hours, I went back out to battle the blackberries. I get lots of people messaging me saying to let the goats eat the blackberries and I wish I could. Our little farm backs up to 3500+ acres of forest and until I get the perimeter fence up, letting the goats loose to chow down on blackberries is just not a good idea if I want to get them back in the pasture at any point in the near future. So, until the fencing is done I will continue to battle blackberries by hand and occasionally pull out a goat or two to help. Karma is a favorite for this because she’s convinced she’s really a dog and follows me around the farm as if she had an invisible leash connecting us. Which occasionally makes the other ‘real dogs’ a bit jealous. But that’s a tail (pun intended) for another day.

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Murphy must have felt that Karma was getting a bit too much of my attention.