Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Goats 2.0

I awoke at 5:45 this morning, ready to get my morning chores done and onto the tasks of the day. Em had snuggled in bed beside me as she often does when her dad is out of town. She is just a week away from her thirteenth birthday, how time flies. I lay for a minute and listened to her gentle breath, a sharp contrast from Steve’s heavy snores. I stepped outside into 45 degree weather to fed and water the animals then headed up to the garden to get some hoeing done.

A thick cloud hung over the mountain and dropped down into the valley below. It has rained for the past two days now. The air was heavy with moisture. Drops of dew lined up from one end of the clothesline to the other and covered every blade of grass. This was a good morning to hoe the garden. As I set to work, I could hear the lonely cry of a train in the distance; amazing since the nearest tracks are two towns away. I could hear it steadily chug along, working its way across town toward its destination, the moan of the whistle slicing through the thick cloud. I steadily worked my way through the garden as well, leaving small piles of grass, dirt and weeds behind me.

As I hoed around a tomato plant, I unearthed a fork. Yet another piece of history from the old mining shack that once stood where my garden is. God must have known how much I dislike weeding my garden; He gave me the pleasure of unearthing artifacts along the way. It sure makes the job more fun. I picked up the fork and turned it over in my hand. I stood for a minute contemplating its past. If only I had the ability to give voice to inanimate objects. I wonder who it had the privilege of nourishing. I picture it setting beside a tin plate and cup on a primitive table, next to a fire that heats the meal about to be eaten. Could it have belonged to a family or perhaps a miner and those who worked along side him? Undoubtedly it silently took in conversation about the weather, the joys of a successful hunt and the sorrows of a loved one lost to illness or accident. I’ll never know the secrets it guards, but it will take a place in my growing collection, another piece of the unknown history and the unknown people that walked the very spot I do.

As I work, the new goats gently m-a-a-a-a-a in the background, hoping I’ll come spend some time with them. I feel like such a sissy farmer at times, I don’t have a tractor yet and I cry when my animals die. Last Thursday I lost Piglet to bloat. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, she was fine when I went to check on them at 3:30 and by 5 she was dead. I saw her on her side and ran down the hill to the pen. Her tongue was out and her face was cold to the touch. I covered her nose with my hand, hoping for the slightest of breath. But it was too late, she was gone. I yelled to Em to grab a knife. Too late to tube her or insert a trocar and cannula, I at least hoped that I could save her baby. Unfortunately, that also was not to be. The doeling was all black with a white blaze down her face and long white ears. She looked like a Nubian cross. I sat and cried, waves of failure washing over me as I held her lifeless body in my arms. It all happened so quickly. I felt the hot tears roll down my face and tasted their saltiness. Unable to bear the thought of her being eaten by coyotes, I grabbed a shovel and buried her, covering her grave with stones to keep the animals out. Although I should have, I couldn’t bring myself to dress Piglet out and put the meat in the freezer, so we took the 4-wheeler and hauled her carcass up over the ridge. Steve said he wouldn’t eat it, not 100% certain of what killed her, but nature will gladly take care of that.

Not one to give in to setbacks, yesterday the kids and I went to the goat dairy and got two replacements. Tigeris is Alpine Saanen cross and ready to drop her kids at any moment. Cheddar is Nubian Saanen cross and was one of the dairy’s top milkers last year. However she didn’t catch this year and they only breed once a year so wont spend the money to feed her for a whole year while out of production. I hope to get her bred this fall. Being the computer guy he is, Steve refers to the new ones as “Goats 2.0”. He commented that every time he leaves town, I get more animals. I think he is glad to be coming home tomorrow.


Tigris, my alpine saanen cross. Every time I see her, I think Sound Of Music, "...High on a hill was a lonely goat yodel ay, yodel ay, yodel ay, he hooo."

Cheddar, my nubian saanen cross

The fork I found in my garden

The clothesline wet with dew

The broody hen hatched out 6 chicks last week. I love how they pop out of her feathers and can hide equally fast.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Old Man Winter

Old man winter is attempting to hold on as long as he can. We awoke to a couple inches of snow this morning. As I lay in my warm bed contemplating getting up, I could see a sliver of white peeking into the room through the small crack between the window and the blinds. I arose and peered out to see a steadily-falling wet snow had covered every rock, tree and blade of grass on the mountain. As beautiful as it was, I wish old man winter would relinquish his grip and let spring dress the mountain in all her fine splendor. It is mid May after all.

Thanks to a hefty gust, the Quonset hut I had setting behind the chicken coop was resting upside down in the creek. I tried to drag it back up and out, but kept sliding back down the slippery bank; mud mixed with snow caked onto my jeans as I slid down time and time again. The cold wet snow was still falling, making my hair wet and chilling me to the bone. I gave up, figuring I need a little mechanical help. I’ll hook it up to the truck and pull it out in a couple days once things have dried up a bit. What was I thinking? The banks are a good 15 feet high there. Easy in, not so easy out.

Steve took the day off and we headed into town to run some errands. I had a contract job to do and a Craigslist item to pick up. Steve had an interview to conduct, so I hit a couple of thrifts while he was busy with that. I’m happy with my recent Craigslist find, a Ralph Lauren, King-sized feather bed. Did I mention Free? I have one, but the kids usually fight over it come November; so now we have solved that problem. “It belonged to my ex.” she explained, the pain evident in her eyes as they peeked out between her long wispy bangs. “He moved out and didn’t take it along, I want it gone.” Happy to help unload a bad memory while simultaneously gaining a feather bed, I loaded it in the back of the jeep and we drove off to the next errand.

After several more stops it was mid-afternoon and we headed home. The snow had mostly melted, making the road up the mountain a soupy mess. The mud was a good 6 inches deep in spots, had we not had 4WD we would never have made it up. It was a little unnerving as we slipped and slid around, knowing that in several places, just four or five feet away, was the edge of the road and a 200 foot drop. We made it safely home safely.

I tossed the feather bed in the cow tank with some homemade laundry soap and a small amount of bleach. I’m sure bleach is not the greatest thing for feathers, but I would just feel gross sleeping on or under it if I didn’t. I got out my antique laundry plunger and began plunging away. Steve came out with the camera and snapped a picture. He laughed when I asked “What’s with the camera? You act like you’ve never seen me do laundry before.” I thought it was heavy before I put it in the water…it was virtually impossible to get out of the tank once it was washed. Em and I wrestled it out inch by inch, wringing the water out as we went. It’s still sitting in the laundry basket draining. I’ll hang it on the line as soon as I can lift it!

Cleaning the feather bed. I don't look too happy about it. Intense concentration!

Some of my homemade laundry soap. Finely ground soap from the bars I made several months back mixed with a little borax

We had a brilliant, full double rainbow over the house, but I couldn't seem to capture it all in a picture. It stretched from one horizon to the other.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Work, Work, Work

The weekend was spent working around the place. We walked the driveway hoeing and digging out Russian, Milk and Canadian Thistles, and Wooly Mullein along the edges. Its a half mile down and back. Originally, mullein was brought over from Europe by early settlers. It was used as a medicinal herb in the treatment of cough and diarrhea. As thick as they are around here, I think I’ll pass on the medicinal benefits. Unfortunately, the tiny seeds can germinate after lying dormant for many decades, so I guess we’re in for an annual chore. I will choose to look on the bright side; at least I have the comfort of knowing I’ll be well stocked if I ever run into a problem that way. Ok well, once I figure out what to do with it.

The does are fattening up on all the grass and weeds. Clover was quite scrawny, but now has a belly almost equal to Piglet’s. They have nearly cleared the front yard. Later this week they will be moved to the area around the septic field; lots of nice lush growth there as well. The goats seem to be keeping the eagles away. I had read they would in an on-line article, but was skeptical. Hmm, guess they may be right. Since they’ve moved in, I’ve only seen an eagle once and it was just passing by at a high altitude.

The chicks have adjusted well to the move to the big house. The hens seem to be leaving them well enough alone at this point. I’ve been introducing them to the hens for the past couple of weeks, so I think they will do well together. I did provide them a hiding place in the coop so they can feel secure when they need to. They spent half the day yesterday hiding out there peeking around the corner on occasion to size up the scary big guys running around them. But finally they came out and wandered around enjoying the grass and a few early bugs. Today they have really become curious about life outside the coop and have expanded their range. My broody hen seems to be doing well. The other hens continue to lay eggs in her next box, causing her difficulties in setting on them all at once. I’ve pulled a few more eggs out from under her that were unnumbered, being laid after she started setting. She has been good to let me reach under her and check a few of them. She mostly squawks a low growl and acts like she may peck if I linger. Hopefully she will have a successful hatch. I figure they should hatch around the 17th. Tonight I’ll be getting the new chicks back from the one of the kindergarten classes. They hatched out 26. I still don’t know how many hatched from the other class.

I decided to take my chances and plant my sweet corn, carrots and Zucchini today. Even though our official frost date is May 30th, the 15 day forecast puts us above freezing every night, so I figure I’ll take my chances. The carrots can take a light frost, and I can always water and cover the others if the weather looks sketchy. It’s supposed to rain later today, so I figured it would be good to get it in the ground and get a nice rain on it. Oh how I love the taste of home grown sweet corn. I’m planting four and a half 35’ rows of Kandy King Hybrid. At two ears per plant that’s 300 ears or 75 meals. I may need to get another freezer! I decided April 1st to quit grocery shopping and prepare meals from our stash for a while to make room for fall’s harvest and processed broilers. I’ve only made a small dent in my pantry so far, but my budget appreciates it.

Josh and his friend Cory moved the trailer up from along the driveway to behind the coop. It was a building trailer left by the previous owner and will make a nice place for a horse. It has a “tack shed” side with a window and enough room for equipment as well as many bales of hay. The other side will easily accommodate a horse. Now to jack it up, unbolt it from the trailer, and position it on a foundation and slab. That is a future project.

Peas popping up in the garden.

Getting ready to plant a row of corn. Potatoes are off to the right. Still waiting for those to show.

Two of the babies that moved out to the coop over the weekend. Both are half Araucana.
The broody hen. A bit unhpappy after I stole a few mislaid eggs from under her. She kinda looked like she was counting them.

My roo, a beautiful Rhode Island Red.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Lawnmowers

Josh had prom last Friday night. He looked so handsome in his tux. He forgot to bring the camera along to the pre-prom photo session at one of the guy’s homes, so I had to check out this friends’ MySpace pages to see pictures of him and his date. But, he had a great time and won a blockbuster gift pack at the after-party. He was sick again this year. Last year he had a 103 temp, but went anyway. This year it was just some cold symptoms.

I picked up two pregnant does Sunday. Milking goats, woohoo! Clover is a 2 year old tan-colored Alpine Spanish cross. Although I doubt she is a true Spanish cross as I understand Spanish are pretty hard to come by. People often refer to mixes as Spanish, so she is probably more like a Heinz 57. Piglet is a 1.5 year old white Alpine Saanen cross. Piglet is due maybe early July, Clover probably a month later. Either way, I see goat milk, cheese and soap in our future! I told Rachael they are my new lawnmowers. I had to revise that to mulching mowers when I brought one into the house to show her via Skype and it "mulched" on the floor. She thought it was hysterical, I did not. I have an 8x8 pen I move around the place and allow them to graze down the grass & weeds during the day. So far they are doing a great job!

I fixed up a pen in the coop for them to use at night. I think the hens have finally adjusted. Its definitely confined quarters, but the gal I bought them from insisted they like that. She had dog igloos in her sheep run and she said they sleep 3 or more to an igloo, so I guess they must. I need to cut a hole in the side wall and put a door in there so they can access the pen without waking though the hens’ area. Everyone will be happier the day that happens. They have a spot about 4x7 inside and a fenced run about 16x27 on the outside with a 4x4 doghouse so they have a choice of homes. They get locked up safe from the lions at night.

I’ve been selling eggs and processed broilers. It’ll be a nice little bit of income for my efforts. Once I’ve covered feed costs over the past year and the coop and the fencing, and….sigh. The eggs I donated to the kindergarten classes are hatching. From what I understand they have had a good hatch rate. Guess its time to move the latest babies out of the garage and into the coop to make room for more. I also had a hen go broody and she is setting on a clutch of 13 eggs. She is one I hatched out last summer. The nest box has 15 holes, but the hens all seem to prefer the box she is setting in, so her clutch has been growing. I finally got wise and numbered the eggs when she was off the nest. Now I know if there are extras and can pull them before they begin to develop. As it is, I will have to pull the incubator out and finish off those that were laid later in the house. Hopefully I can slip them under her at night after they hatch and she will take them as her own. Hopefully!

Well, the peas are up as is the spinach. Good thing they can survive a frost, as it has decided to snow. And it came down fast and furious. Wednesday it was 76 at our place Thursday they were forecasting 7-15” here. I hope its winter’s last hurrah. I never thought it would stick, but it did, we got about 5 inches on the ground total. Hopfully it will melt today.

Josh ready for prom

Piglet. My Alpine Sanaan cross.

Clover. My Alpine Spanish cross.

Nice picture of the snowfall. Ironically, this is the wagon I use in my garden.