Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Goat babies! The birth story told from a few different perspectives.

"Howdy. My name is Dandelion. Please don't ask why my humans named a black goat after a yellow flower. It's not important. What IS supremely important is that I am in labor. I will have babies soon.

If you accuse me of sporting a deer-in-the-headlight-look, I ask you this: how would you look like if labor pains gripped you? And what about the size of my poor, swollen udder? Do you think THAT is painless? I assure you: it's tender as hell. 

Excuse me for showing my lady parts here, but you lose all sense of modesty once labor hits.

I'm closing my eyes not because I'm sleeping. No, no! It's because this frigging hurts, and I'm concentrating.

The woman below is called Corina, and she is my human. I like her because she feeds me every day, and she talks softly to me (except when I chew on her clothes). She even sings to me when she milks me. Yeah, she's alright.

Especially right now. I really like having her around to comfort me when it feels like my insides are being ripped open."

"Hi guys, Corina here! Dandelion finally decided it was time to give birth! Yippie! All the waiting is over, and my sweet goat is getting down to business.

I checked on her all day long, but never really saw any contractions. I knew she was close-ish to giving birth because her udder was HUGE, and she was concentrating. Around lunch time, I checked on her, and I saw her pushing. PUSHING! All my other goats have had plenty of discharge before they start pushing babies out, so it did catch me by surprise a little.

But then Dandelion stopped pushing and ate some hay.

I brought my lunch into the barn. After finishing my soup, Dandy pushed again. See how considerate she is, letting me finish eating? She pushed in earnest, and two feet appeared - a good thing, because it means the baby was in the correct position. I helped by gently pulling on the baby's legs with her contractions, as my six-year-old daughter Eva looked on. This part is hardest for the goat. The head and the shoulder have to come out, and they are big, and the goat screams. 


Eva: "I am NEVER EVER having babies!!!"

Dandelion: "Me neither!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Very soon, the slippery, wet bundle of goat baby is born. It's a girl! I present her to Mama goat to lick, and I clean the baby's nose and mouth of mucous with a paper towel."

Dandelion: "Wowser! I'm glad that's over. Awwww, look at my beautiful baby. It has my eyes! It has her Dad's nose. And the ears? What the heck? I know ya'll always make fun of my ears, because I am a Lamancha goat, and everyone always says we don't have ears. We DO have ears, thank you very much, but they are just small.

But look at my baby's ears! They are a mix between mine and their Dad's super long Boer goat ears.

Ohhh, I'm in love. Let me lick this precious baby."

Corina: "I need more paper towels."

Eva: "There's slime everywhere. I better help clean up this baby. Mom says it needs to be dry. It's so cute! I want to keep it. Mom, we won't eat it, will we?"

Corina: "I need more paper towels!"

Dandelion: "This little human child sure is excitable. Do I need to head butt her?"

While Dandelion is busy licking her baby, Eva and I help her dry it off with paper towels. Five minutes after being born, the baby stands on wobbly legs.

Baby #1: "Is there any milk around here somewhere? Weeeehhhh, I was standing, but my legs aren't working that good yet. Maybe a wee sip of milk would help with that? Let's stand up again. Weeeehhhh!"

As I help the baby find the teat, she suckles, her tail furiously swishing back and forth.

This stimulates more contractions.

Dandelion: "Ohhh no, not again. I feel like pushing! Gaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!"

Oh, look! Another little girl! She looks like an Oreo cookie!

The babies are born, dried off, and now we are helping them nurse properly. Colostrum is very important for the newborns, since it contains lots of good antibodies and nutrients.  

Baby #1: "That milk is making me sleeeeeeepy."

My (human) children and I agree: It's time to cuddle with the babies. 

Eva (6 yrs): "Listen, people. I was the one drying off the slimy stuff. I was there from the beginning. These babies are mine. Hands off. They belong to ME."

Lukas (11 yrs): "I think we'll name them Caramel and Oreo."

Kai (13): "Yeah, they are cute and all, but don't show this picture of me to my friends on Facebook. It's a little un-cool. Although... there's a girl I like, and she really loves goats. Well... Maybe we can leak this to Facebook, after all!"

Corina (me): "I need more paper towels!"

"Anyway, there you have it. I say me and Papa Boer goat did a good job, wouldn't you? My babies are feisty little girls. I sure feel protective of 'em. In fact, I did head butt that little human kid today. She was crawling around on the barn floor with my babies, making squealing noises, so I thought I'd teach her a lesson. Gave her a bloody lip and made her cry. But she has to learn, that one. Be gentle with my babies, is all I can say.

Ain't they pretty?"

Bye for now! Stop by and visit my beautiful kids. But don't be too rough, otherwise I'll head butt you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why my stomach flu was a really good thing

A few days ago, I had the worst stomach flu of my life. I will spare you the details, but I can tell you it was not pretty. Feverish and fighting the urge to throw up, I managed to drag myself to the goat barn three times that day so I could check on Miss Dandelion, my very, very pregnant goat whose due date came and went. I take pride in never having missed a birth in over a decade of raising many goats, and gosh-darn it, the flu wouldn't keep me from missing that one.

Alas - nothing. Dandelion's bulging sides are getting bigger, and she is getting more and more uncomfortable. I might have to pitch the tent in the barn tonight so I can assist her when the time comes.

You would look grump, too, if you were that pregnant.
I'm watching the goats for signs of labor. Don't you know, Corina? A watched pot never boils, and a watched goat never gives birth.
The upside of this flu was that it slowed me down. Typically an uber-productive type A German workaholic, I get a lot done in a day. However, ever since the flu, I've sat on the couch or outside on a picnic chair, reading.

The day after the flu felled me was so beautiful and sunny, I parked myself under the dogwood tree and watched my industrious family. The small ones built a platform in the dogwood tree, where they perched, sang, snacked, swung and hung from.

My industrious husband (I didn't marry a slacker, that's for sure) worked around the yard, repairing a pole shed that had been damaged by a big hemlock in a windstorm, weeding garlic that's poking its green shoots out of the soil, and helping set up a fence for the ducks. This was the first time we let them out of their electric fence to free range, but we still need to keep them from visiting with the neighbors' ducks by installing a smaller fence.

One of the most amusing things that day was watching puppy Raka with the ducks. She's new to ducks, and she would looooooove to chase them, but she is, of course, not allowed to. 

And then there's the Raka-and-the-chicks-show, which made me laugh so hard, my poor abs (already sore from throwing up) hurt. The pup presses her nose agains the chicken wire, and the chicks come up to her and try to pick at her teeth. I'm not making this up. It's a comedy show, that one.

Besides the fact that I haven't eaten any real food (just broth) in almost three days, life is good. Flowers are appearing almost overnight. Let me leave you with images around our yard.

What made you laugh this week? Leave a comment in the section below so we can share the joy!

Friday, March 25, 2016

After the equinox

So much has been bursting forth here on our homestead.  A much anticipated bursting forth will be the arrival of our baby goats.  I'm trudging back and forth between the house and goat barn multiple times a day to check on the pregnant mamas.  Soon, very soon!  (I bet one of the reasons they are not giving birth yet is because they are freaked out by me lingering and watching their rear ends like a stalker).

Spring surely is coming, although last week we woke up to this:

And then it melts, and we get this:

We have three new ducks! They are my favorite: Ancona ducks, an endangered heritage breed, pretty as can be and industrious in the egg-laying department. Although our ducks usually free-range, these ones shall be locked up inside the electric fence until they know that WE are their new home. Hopefully, this fence will deter the bobcats and raccoons who like to dine on our poultry and waterfowl.  

We get our electric fences from Premier fencing, and it works wonderfully (as long as the ducks are inside it, and it's energized). This is the fence we use.

I'm a contributor to Grow Northwest Magazine, and next month they will publish my article on how to raise ducks.  (This month, my article is about how to smoke bacon without nitrates.  Grab a copy if you are local, or check it out online.)

We moved our baby chicks outside into the chicken tractor. These fluffballs are growing rapidly, and they love scratching in the grass, protected by their big, bad-ass chicken tractor.

One of my very successful friends who is a pro at blogging and running an inspiring business and regularly gets featured in big publications keeps telling me I should get my face into my blog posts more - cute portraits with baby animals and shot with a really good camera. I agree with her.  However, whenever I attempt to do this I realize that

a) I don't have a fancy camera but just my good ole' i-phone
b) the baby animals always choose the photo-op to poop on me
c) I look wrinkly, usually wear non-sexy Carhart clothing and manure-stained boots, and don't look at all like a Martha Stewart-worthy subject

Yup, there's chicken poop in my hands.
Oh well.  Fame will have to wait until I get a good camera and a better wardrobe.

I started more cold-hardy seeds this week. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, lettuce, swiss chard, peas, spinach... They're all up already, growing under their grow lights or in the greenhouse. I can't wait for fresh veggies straight from the garden!  

Puppy Raka has her nose in everything, of course.

Whenever there is a sun break (a rare occurrence), we go for a walk or hang out by the river. Raka adds an element of danger to these outings. Relaxing in the sand is no longer possible, lest one finds oneself covered with wet puppy slobber, or worse, experiences her razor sharp teeth.

Talking of rivers: Steve has been working his butt off bringing home the bacon (monetarily speaking, not pig-wise), so when he allowed himself a rare half day off, he took our inflatable kayak down the Skagit river to try it out. He thinks it's safer and more stable than a canoe. Here he goes.

I will leave you with images (and a one-minute mini movie) of us picking nettles. I'm working on materials for another online course, and nettles will be on the menu. For this movie, we headed into the forest, picked nettles (while Raka was in the way, of course), and I baked a loaf of beautiful bread to spread the nettle pesto on. 

What are you up to now that it's spring time?