Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baby goats, baby chicks, and shirtless in March

It's never boring on a farm – especially at birthing time. My goat Gracie surprised me by going into labor this week - one week earlier than expected. I was quite unprepared logistically and emotionally. I turn into a psycho nervous wreck when my goats give birth. Things can go wrong, animals can die. It has never happened to my goats, but we certainly have had our share of complications: animals stuck in the birth canal, mothers not bonding with their babies, breech kids... Last year was traumatizing for all of us when my goat Coco had trouble giving birth, and we had to “go in” and pull out her babies. I never wanted to experience that kind of birth again.
Alas, it happened again this year. Gracie didn't progress, meaning that she had contractions and was leaking the amber gooey discharge that is a sign of impending birth, but nothing happened. And nothing happened for hours, except she was getting tired. Finally, I decided to call my neighbor Linda who has smaller hands than I do, and who pulled out Coco's babies last year.  Linda also happens to have a beautiful sense of humor and buddha-like calmness, which really helps in tense situations.  With the assistance of another wonderful neighbor (Rich), and after sanitizing our hands, Linda stuck her hand up the screaming goat to feel around in the uterus. She pulled out three kids – one boy, one girl, and one dead, quite undeveloped fetus. Although I was sad to see a stillborn goat, I was relieved that the other two were healthy and hearty.
Gracie is a wonderful mother. She cleaned them up, fussed over them and nursed them right away.

First thing in the morning, when I realized that Gracie was in labor, Eva waited with me in the barn for an hour, excitedly anticipating new goat babies.  Gracie kept licking Eva, which tickled her pink.
Gracie kept coming to me, nuzzling and asking for help.
Here is the first-born, or should I say first-pulled - a handsome, strong buckling.  Eva is excited!
The girl, groggy from her entrance into this world, but strong and healthy.
Taking a drink from the mama's teat, with me holding it for her, while taking a picture at the same time...
I was worried about her, because “going in” can introduce bad bacteria into her uterus and start an infection, which could kill her. She only passed part of her placenta so far, and the rest is dangling unattractively and increasingly smellingly from her rear end. I spent hours on the computer researching this phenomenon, which got me into a very worried, frenzied mood, but a call to the vet assured me that the placenta can take up to four days to detach (although this is rare), and that I don't have to give her antibiotics, since she is not running a fever.  Gracie is eating, drinking, walking and acting fine, so I will try to be hopeful and not so obsessive about … obsessing. It's hard to stay calm and centered in the face of potentially losing my favorite goat.  I raised and bottle fed her from infancy, and she has been a high producer. When she was in labor, she wanted to be close to me all the time, and even draped herself over my lap, burying her face in my neck. I do love that goat!

Here is the whole herd together the day after the birth.  The babies are already climbing and jumping.  Or trying to.
Little visitors can be intimidated by the goats at first, but warm up quickly.
In a way, I am glad that my goat surprised me with her labor.  In past years, I sometimes pitched my tent in the barn when I knew that a goat was getting close to starting labor.  This makes for an interesting experience when we have typical Northwest weather in March and the rain is drumming loudly on the metal barn roof!

The weather this spring has been absolutely amazing.  Yesterday felt like summer, with temperatures soaring to over 70 in the sun!  While I spent my day fretting over the baby goats and Gracie's placenta problem, Steve went about his afternoon shirtless.  Here he is spinning Eva on the trampoline, to her utter delight and with loud screams of "Again! Again!" when he tried to take a break from spinning his heavy kid through the air.

Our lives have been filled with babies and kids: our own, the goats, and baby chicks.  We share them with our neighbors, because it is convenient to share the work load and cost of feed, and because they give us lots of eggs, and there is enough for all of us.  Here are the baby chicks, who live inside under a heat lamp.

We love raising chickens for our own eggs.  Have you ever eaten an organic egg from chickens happily raised on fresh pasture?  You crack an egg open, and its yolk is bright orange, standing up by itself in the bowl.  It is a marvel to behold, and it tastes soooo good.  Here are our girls hard at work.  We also just added two guinnea hens, who the boys insist on calling "turkens", because they look like a mix between turkeys and chickens.

Personally, I think that these "turkens" are incredible ugly but interesting in a way, because they look so prehistoric.
The brown eggs are from the chickens, the white ones from our ducks.
I will leave you with images of our lovely spring.  My family in Germany tells me that they are still gripped by winter, so I hope they are not getting too jealous seeing these pictures.  Here is Steve helping with cleaning out the goat barn.

An elk herd on our commute down valley - a common sight.

Fiddle lessons on the front porch.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter egg festivities and hail

As Equinox has come and gone, spring is teasing us. She invites robins onto our lawn (I counted 45 pecking on the grass this morning), but she also asks snow to join the party. As sun breaks through, snow gently falls. Not enough to stick, mind you, but enough to remind us that winter still hasn't said Goodbye. In fact, as I am writing this blog entry right now, hail started pelting down, and everything is covered with tiny ice balls!
It went from this, with just a few hail balls...

to this, with the whole ground covered, in less than ten minutes...

Hail is starting to fall.
Eva has never seen this stuff.
What better day than to prepare for Easter? We were in full Easter egg mode today: blowing out and decorating eggs, boiling and coloring eggs with natural dyes, and making signs that say “Happy Easter!”.

The blowing-out-eggs part was very entertaining to watch. Steve, ever the handyman, used his drill to scramble the inside of the egg, which was supposed to help the egg white and yolk to exit easier. Then, he charged the boys with blowing out the liquid stuff with a syringe. After watching that for a while, I suggested to just prick a hole in the shell, and then to blow it out the old fashioned way, like my mother used to do. It worked marvelously, and the boys were really into it!

First, make a holes in the egg, one on top, one on bottom.
Then watch the pro use his power tools.  The offspring looks very skeptical.
Then the offspring copies Dad.
Now comes the syringe part.
This is truly a family affair.  It's complicated business, this.  Notice Eva is wearing a ballet dress for the occasion.
Heck, let's do away with the power tools!  Lungs are old fashioned power tools!

While we waited for the now empty eggs to dry in front of the wood stove, Kai whipped up some Challa bread, all by himself. It's a great bread for spreading butter and honey or home made jam on it, and the dough uses lots of excess duck eggs. Here is a picture that represents our day: dough rising in front of the wood stove, while the blown out egg shells are drying, in the midst of newly planted seeds waiting to germinate. And do you notice all the lovely dust under the wood stove?

While the bread is rising, we decorate the blown out eggs, who had a chance to dry by now.  Even Eva gets to paint her own!

Why not hang our beautiful easter eggs from the kitchen lamp, so we can look at them at every meal?

Earlier in the day, the kids were inspired by all the robins.  So they got out our bird reference books and started drawing pictures of birds that visit us often.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Our first 5 k race!

On Saturday, my family (except little Eva) ran a 5 k Saint Patty's day race at Challenger Ridge Vineyards in Concrete. The boys showed up jazzed and ready to have fun, but I was sick to my stomach with nervousness and anxiety, since I have never ran a 5 k race before. I used to compete at 100 meter sprints, but that was almost 25 years ago. That's a quarter of a decade! And this race was 3.1 miles of running with some serious, professional-looking runners, decked out in expensive running gear. Us Sahlin's showed up in hillbilly hand knit hats and fleeces.

We are still laughing... The race hasn't started yet.
Ever so helpful, Steve lets me stretch my nervous legs on his back.
My goal for this race was to finish it, and not to walk, but run, if humanly possible. The plan was to start nice and easy, so we wouldn't burn out, with Kai and Lukas by my side. However, many of the runners shot out the starting line like torpedos (including my husband Steve), and I got confused on how fast I should run in this herd. It doesn't help that I am terribly competitive. I knew from the start that I was in trouble, because I hated seeing people in front of me, and I loathed hearing people behind me. As I tried to match my steps to my breathing, the only rhythm I could discern in my head was the thought of “shit, shit, shit”. After three quarters of a mile, instead of “shit, shit, shit” being the only thought in my head, it was now joined by “This race was such a bad idea”.

After a mile, a girl about 12 years old passed us. I felt Kai bristling a few steps ahead of me. He was like a race horse, not wanting to be beaten by a –gasp– girl. So I told him to go ahead and take off, and he did. He left me, as usual, in the proverbial dust.
Just before the turnaround point of 1.5 mile, I managed to relax. I started smiling and waving at the people who already turned around, or at people who I passed. It was a fascinating character study. Some people returned my smiles and clearly were having fun, while some wouldn't even react to me, or blatantly ignored me. Are we having fun yet?
After about two miles, Lukas asked if he could pull ahead. I let him. It was wonderful to watch him blast ahead of me and pass several adults. The last three quarters of a mile were very hard! All I wanted to do was walk, but I didn't allow myself to do it. I really wanted to finish this race strong, and I managed to sprint the last 100 yards, to the cheering and applause of my boys.
And here is the miracle of it: I finished in 27 minutes, which is a pretty good time for a beginner. Steve finished in 22 minutes, Kai in 24, and Lukas in 26.

Steve finishes.
Kai finishes next.
Way to kick a heart aneurysm's ass, Lukas!
And here Mama hobbles in.

We couldn't have done this without our dear friend Andrea and her daughter Vija (Eva's best friend).  Andrea took care of Eva and waited with the two little girls at the finish line, waving cheerleading pompoms and taking pictures. We look happy, albeit tired, yes?

If Lukas and I look like we want to throw up, it's probably because we wanted to throw up.
My little cheerleader!

Are we proud?  Hell yes!  Are my knees hurting?  Oh yeah.  Will we do it again?  You bet!

After our run, we went for a walk with Andrea and Vija, just to cool down, and just to spend a little bit more time with our precious friends.

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