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.

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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.

Adventures of LadyButt

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Most of you who follow my Facebook page are familiar with the story of Ladybutt. She’s a feral cat who was adopted from the Humane Society Barn Cat program by a local farm. When that farm closed we took her in. Her name was LadyBug at that time but over the last few years she’s earned her new name. LadyButt is still semi-feral, and some days she is sweet and purrs for attention, some days she attacks without provocation. Her mood depends on the way the wind is blowing, the day of the week and the flip of a coin from what we’ve been able to determine.

Lately, we’ve been having a little problem with LadyButt getting locked in the hay barn. The first time it happened I found her during morning chores and I really gave Hubs some grief about leaving the cat locked in the barn all night. Then he found her in there again that evening and gave me grief for leaving her there after my morning chores. In the marriage game point scale we were tied in a dead heat 1-1 and the pressure was on. The next day we were both super careful  about making sure she was out of the way and no where near the hay area before we closed up the barn, but we still found her inside again. Obviously, the only answer was that she had found a way to magically teleport herself into the barn but couldn’t get back out. Barns are tricky like that. Hubs decided he needed to put in a cat door so that after she did her Houdini trick disappearing into the barn she could just walk out the kitty door in style. Easy peasy, right? Except he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

Today was the topper. Hubs wasn’t home to do evening chores so I did them when I got home. I was trying to get the horses fed and stuff the hay bags for tomorrow and I heard LadyButt yelling. I yelled back, “the barn door is open, come on out.” but she didn’t. After listening to her yowl in obvious distress I started getting worried that she had fallen in between the bales of hay and gotten wedged in place. I stopped what I was doing and went digging around the hay but couldn’t find her. She was pretty much constantly meowing for help at this time and I was more than concerned. I shut off the farm truck so that I would be able to hear what direction she yelling from. At first it sounded like she was in the woods down below the chicken yard and I started walking that way. As I crossed the driveway I heard her again, but behind me. I turned and looked up and low and behold…..she was on the roof of the barn! She had really outdone herself this time.

Grumbling to myself the whole time about how these things only happen when Hubs isn’t around, I went looking for a ladder. We have a ridiculous number of ladders on the farm but somehow I couldn’t find any of them, save for a rickety old ladder that was in the dump pile. Still grumbling, I climbed the ladder to go rescue the Houdini cat. By the time I got to the second rung from the very top of the ladder it was listing a little bit, causing me to feel like I was trying to balance on a teeter totter. I called out to her and she ran over to see me. She seemed pretty excited to be getting rescued but she was apparently a bit irritated too. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to scoop up and carry a half-wild and more than slightly annoyed cat all the while balancing on a swaying ladder and of course, not fall off, she lost all pretense of patience and took a few swipes at me for keeping her waiting. I jerked back trying to avoid getting scratched and that’s when the ladder gave up even pretending to do the job and started drunkenly swaying side to side, worse than when I try to country line dance. I figure I needed to act quickly (before I could chicken out) so I made a mad grab for the cat and scurried down the ladder before she could freak out and start dismembering me with her razor blade claws. With self preservation high on my priorities, I’m pretty sure we broke the sound barrier in our rush down the ladder. Once on the ground I set her loose…..only to have her to run back into the hay barn and burrow into the hay. So now you know a bit more about LadyButt and can probably understand how she earned her name.  *sigh* Hubs had better get that cat door in ASAP.

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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.

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. 🙂

What I learned about Homesteading from Gilligan’s Island

Let’s just jump into the most pressing question…were the castaways on Gilligan’s Island preppers or homesteaders? I mean that’s the burning question right? I know there is a lot of cross over between the groups, but let’s take a hard look at the facts. I’m pretty sure that if they had known that they would be stranded on an island for years and years they would have done some things differently. If they had thought to prepare for the unexpected they probably would have packed a little differently (like maybe a life raft)….. In fact we may have labeled them as preppers if they had had the forethought to prepare for this event.

However, they didn’t prepare and yet they did remarkable well with that they had on hand, so instead we’ll call them homesteaders. Granted the Howells and Ginger packed an amazing amount of clothing and miscellaneous items for a three hour cruise, the professor had mad skills with a coconut and bamboo inventions and they did have incredible luck with needed items washing up on the beach, but hey let’s not begrudge them their good fortune. After all, they did learn to up-cycle items they had on hand and items they found locally to make huts, beds, clothes and even more amazingly, washing machines, coconut phones, radios, lie detector machines, ovens to bake all those coconut pies, bicycles, pedal cars… the list goes on and on. With their inventions and homesteader ingenuity they were able to survive big game hunters, vitamin C deficiency, vampire bats, gangsters, head hunters, radioactive seeds and a whole collection of other oddball visitors to the island. Pretty amazing if you ask me! Heck if we had left them there a few more years they probably would have created an alternative fuel source from coconut and bamboo and solved our world’s fossil fuel pollution problem, but alas, they were rescued. What we can learn from them is to celebrate their creativity  and ingenuity by recognizing some of the most important homesteader traits:

1)      Work as a team, even when one of them does something so stupid you want to vote them off the island…Oops! Wrong show.

2)      Never give up, even when the natural glue source you find and use to repair the boat dissolves and you are stranded once again….or in any other discouraging situation.

3)      Finally, remember that nothing is impossible with some imagination. After all, if the professor can invent a lie detector machine out of bamboo and a ship’s horn you can surely create something to solve whatever dilemma you might be facing.