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.


  1. WOW what beautiful weather and BABIES!!

  2. Yes! You guys should come out and visit soon! I will sell the buckling soon, so I hope you can come out before that!

  3. Those goats are incredibly cute!


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