Friday, February 11, 2011

A Love Story

The beginning of this story is a decision to purchase a dozen Muscovy ducklings summer before last.  I got that many so I could pick out a few to keep as they matured into their colors.  I ended up keeping four out of the original group, and I hatched two from eggs I ordered on E-bay.  That left me with three drakes and three hens.  They got along well, and suddenly, in the 2010 January blizzard, the girls started laying.  Not only did they start laying, they started brooding.  Successfully.

Midsummer of 2010, the population was around 40 large, healthy Muscovy ducks.  So the decision was made to rehome all of them.  Fine in theory.  Two of them escaped the transport crates.  One left after a few days (I live on the creek). 

Poor Ducky Duck was the lone duck.  He would spend hours talking to his reflection in the truck bumpers and any shiny surface.  He made friends with the turkey hen.  He stayed close to home.  Lately, the truck's been on loan more, and so we installed a mirror for Ducky.  Oh, he spent hours looking at himself and talking to the mirror duck.  Every once in a while he'd walk around to look behind the mirror to see where the rest of the duck was. 

Yesterday, he got the miracle he'd been praying for.  Waddling across the yard up from the creek he came, stopping to look over his shoulder at the lovely duck hen that was following him.  What?  A duck hen?  Yes, a beautiful Muscovy duck hen, with the same markings as our lost duck from last year.  I don't know if she's the actual one...I was pretty sure the one that left was a drake.

Nevertheless, we have named her Valentine.  She is not as wild as a truly wild duck, and will come to eat and come and sit with Ducky near his mirror.  Today he showed her the garage, where most of the broody ducks would sit on their clutches.  He showed her all the spots where mama puts feed for him, and his special water dish that Neil keeps washed and filled for him. 

If ducks pray, Ducky has spent the last six months praying for a friend, fervently, with great dignity, and with infinite perseverance.  If ducks pray, their prayers are answered, too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Walk with Me

Heading for the upper pasture gate
Today one of my friends, on hearing it was time for chores, said, "I wish I could walk with you!"  So, come and walk with me.  It is tending over from mid to late afternoon, and the goats become a little restless, eager for their evening routines to start.  Warm boots, gloves, a barn-proof, and for today, weather-proof jacket, a clean and scalded milk bucket and half gallon jar for receiving milk. 

Gear donned and tools prepared, it's out the door with the junior Livestock Guardian Dog who still has play time rather than work time during milking.  First stop is to set the milking equipment ready and pick up the feed buckets, then down to the brooder shed where the feed is kept.  Two buckets, filled with a mix of "super goat" feed blended with calf feed for more energy in the cold and dairy pellets for milk production are prepared for the two small herds.  In the upper pasture, where the mamas and babies are housed along with the half grown wether and the small pregnant doe, and the "nanny" nanny goat who cuddles everyone's babies while they're busy, there are 5 feed stations.  The turkey gets a scoop of feed at evening feeding, too.  The girls rush back and forth to see if there's something "better" in the next dish, then settle down to eat. 

There are two stops to get eggs on this side.  The first is in the bantam house, where the girls go into the tiny "broody hen" house inside to lay eggs even when there's no one broody.  The second is in the old coop that the goats share with a few birds that still hang out there.  A handful of green, brown, blue and white eggs are the harvest.  I stash them in the round, oak wythe egg basket I made years ago from a white oak split in this very county, strips riven by hand and laced into the old traditional pattern, and head back to feed the girls in the second pasture.

Next we drop off the empty bucket and pick up the second filled one and head into the lower field.  The girls are eager to be fed.  There are 7 stations here for feed, and the goats push each other more here than on the upper side, so the littler ones run back and forth from station to station.  There is plenty for everyone, and enough stations that all are fed, but they think they might miss out.  Today because of the rain, sleet, and slush, we use inside feeding stations for them except for the few that the goats insist are "ALWAYS" the feed stations and MUST have something in them.  They eat the feed quickly enough that the weather doesn't affect it, then run for cover.

Now it's time to pick up the milking equipment and call Nightfall, the little cou clair (black and gray) Nigerian doe who is the first milker.  She pokes her head out of the warm barn, sees the milk bucket, and comes running.  I open the gates through to the lower pasture and she runs in, eager to challenge any of the big goats that think they might be in a higher herd position than she is.  In her eyes, she is the queen of the whole herd, and she will take on even the giant Saanen/LaMancha doe that is herd queen in the lower pasture.  Her advantage is that, even tiny, she still has horns, and she knows how to use them.  Separating them like they were fussing kindergartners, I usher Nightfall into the milk barn.  There is no need to tie her on the stand, but she does not want me to start milking until I have clipped the milk stand lead to her collar.  It's just the way it's done, she says, and she won't settle to milk unless I do it.  She dives into her private portion of feed after she checks to make sure I am sitting down beside her with the silver milk pail, and then she sighs with pleasure as her udders are relieved. 

She milks a pint and then I unclip her and she hops down, ready for a drink and to return to her own pasture.  When we go to the door, Spring is ready to come in, because she knows she is NEXT.  I let her in to clean up the feed left on the milkstand tray while I stash Nightfall back in her pasture.

Spring is a big girl, an easy milker.  She is near the end of her milk cycle so she just gives me a little over a quart each day on a once-a-day milking.  When she is newly freshened, she needs to be milked 2 times a day, and she would prefer 3, as she gives so much milk her udders are very tight.  After I've refilled the feed bin for her, she is happy to stand and be milked until she's empty.  Then she can stay to finish the last of her feed, as she's the last of the two I have to milk today and there's no hurry.  Come on Spring, it's time to go now.  No, the food is gone, it's time to go.  Reluctantly, she gets down from the milk stand and goes back out to the pasture to check the community feeding stations to see what's left there.

After each milking the milk is poured from the pail through a fine strainer to take out miscellaneous hairs and hay bits into a half gallon jar.  On the way to the house, there are two stops, one to give the puppy some milk in her bowl, and the other to pour out a little for the outside cat, who often comes and perches on the half-door of the milk shed to watch milking, counting the minutes until she gets her snack.  Once the feed buckets are put up and the milk stored in the fridge, work is done for now and it's time to poke up the woodstove and sit down and put your feet up and visit with friends.

Thanks for your company!  Come again another day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life and Peace

Farm Morning
Today is a lovely day, even though tomorrow is supposed to bring us fierce weather again.  Solly and Seuss' (the Sultan chicken pair) new mommy is home, and the eggs they laid her before she went on vacation are chirping!  They should hatch soon.  Solly and Seuss will be able to go home on Thursday.  We've taken in a pair of black otter mini-rex rabbits for a season, until their owner can come and get them.  They are beautiful, and the perfect rabbit for people who want a pet. Their fur is super silky.
Song, Seranade (Nubian/Alpines) and Raindeer (Nigerian Dwarf)

In the world of goats, there are new babies to see.  Hildy's girls, Song and Seranade, are growing quickly.  They run swift as river water and leap and play with abandon.  Their new daddy has not yet been to see them.  He'd better hurry, or I won't want to let them go!  I love their mother.

And Fawn had her babies!  A lovely cou claire doeling and a light brown buckling, Snowflake and Raindeer.  They are tiny, perfect, and entertaining.
Snowflake.  She's mine!
Raindeer and Fawn
Girls smell so good!

We lost Chelle, the hen turkey -- she got sick in the night and died suddenly.  Her sister, Houdini, is coming to keep Tommy company.  He will feel better. 

Morning roll call
This week a hen, some goats, and a puppy will come this way from Griffin's Ark, all destined for new homes. 

And it's time to go now and enjoy the beautiful day!  Hope yours is as special.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Earth Turns, the Days Pass

(Rear left, Sasha; middle ground Starbuck, already gone to his wonderful new home -- added to the herd of some lovely people that bought dairy goats from us last year.  Foreground Rommey. )

Sometimes things that seemed like a wonderful idea yesterday are obviously not today.  The lovely Nubian Alpine does we got, big girls, are apparently part pogo stick.  We have sent the two adults off to another farm with higher fences, as they stand, look at the fence, scrunch up their eyes and go, "It's not there!  It's not there!" and leap over it with aplomb.  4 or 5 times into the chicken lot followed by 3 or 4 times out of the pasture and across between pastures as well, all within 24 hours.  Sudden discovery:  this is NOT a good place for them!  Although the baby would follow them, once I separated them the baby (Okay, 9 month old, nearly grown and considered old enough to breed in most goat communities) seemed content to stay behind the fence with the other goats.

Friend Chris accomodated us by releasing two of the calves we've been raising together to go to another farm.  It will lighten his load, and help the other friend as well, as he'll get a share of the meat.  Chris has done the hard part of the work, and the other two calves will be his to sell or harvest as his share.  I imagine he'll sell them, as he doesn't like to eat babies he has hand raised and kept close to him. 

Miracles!  He is going to be the new host for our naughty Morgan gelding, Rudy.  He has pastures where Rudy can be kept away from the baby goats, which seems to be the object of his jealousy.  And he and Chris will very much enjoy each other's company.  Tina will love him, too, but I think he is an especially good fit for Chris.  We cannot keep him, as the goats are our business. 

He sent me the young Boer doe and the Boer/Nubian doe he has been keeping for us.  They are hornless and cannot be placed with the horned herd, so I will take one into the dairy herd, and friend Sandra has agreed to take the other.  She is also getting a buckling, and two baby Boer/Nubian doelings when they arrive.   Both girls are tiny, and seem too young to have been bred already.  It takes Boers a goodly amount of time to mature to the size and strength needed to sustain a baby.  He also sent the pair of beautiful, silky, mini-rex rabbits that belong to another friend, and I will keep them for her until she can come to take them home.  That may not be until summer!

Another bottle baby that found its way to his farm came along, to go to the same lovely people as the boy I'm holding here for them -- a big place in the country where they are destined for love and life. 

Pam made a trip to Chatham today to facilitate the beef calf pickup, and worked with Chris to disbud a baby goat for a customer that needs hornless ones.  "Never again," she says, more because of the awful smell than the goat's reaction.

Hildy and her twin doelings, on their first day outside.

And poor Fawn--Still no babies OUTside.

Nikki, the puppy, has exotic tastes and will eat nearly anything -- something she ate today didn't agree with her at all.  After a few hours of being under the weather, a tablespoon or so of yogurt fixed her right up and she's as mischievous as ever tonight. Now, with puppy asleep in the chair, Chica asleep at my feet, Tootsie asleep on her couch, Simon sharing the chair with Nikki, and Chessie braving the sleet outdoors for her nightly romp, and all goats safely tucked into their barns and shelters, I wonder -- why am I so tired?

While eating bacon with farm raised eggs, and later hamburgers on home made rolls with home made butter and a touch of mustard, I reflect on how good it is to participate in sustaining my food supply.  I so appreciate the richness of this type of life.  Money and "stuff" isn't everything;  actually, it's hardly anything.  Peace.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Catching Up

Well, my friends, it doesn't seem possible that I have let more than a month go by without visiting with you here.  So many things have happened, I can't remember them all!  We've had some bitter weather, and then some lovely weather with temperatures into the low 50's, more usual for our local climate. 

Yet there are few things as beautiful as snow on trees.  Often our snow only lasts a few days.  With the lingering cold, there is some ice in the creek, and patchy snow stays for more than a week.

Little Simon Sez is growing, but he will never be able to be an outside cat.  He absolutely loves dogs, and lets them play with him -- For a ranging hound, he would make merely a couple of bites.  He shows no fear, only pleasure at the company of dogs.  He loves goats, too.  This series is him with one of our Boer bottle babies.

So, you say this is for goats?

Are they warm?

Are you sure?

We've added a new Great Pyrenees pup to our staff.  Her job will be to patrol the goat pastures and keep away the local population of coyotes and wild dogs.  It will be several months before she is ready, but she already tries to patrol the pasture.  Meet Monique (Nikki for short), bred by Aaren Nunez.
Here is a family picture, her mother Nima and her brothers and sisters:

Simon, as I said, loves Dogs.  Here he is with Nikki, and with Chica.

And of course, Simon Sez plays with Chessie, too:  "Can you get my tail?"

Well, now the photo essay is done, so on with the news.  In the Boer herd, we had 32 live births.   4 bottle babies were placed.  All 10 doelings have been spoken for, and 5 of the bucklings.  That's 19 babies placed within 2 weeks or less of their birth.  They will all stay on their mamas for 12 - 16 weeks. We would prefer not to have them go to auction, but to send them out with private sales.  Our big buck, Spunky, has a buyer, as does Pam's little Boer/Nubian doeling.  Jammies and Nick, two little friendly 9 month old wethers, also found a home with a pair of great families that want to start a viewing and petting zoo for handicapped kids.  My friend Holly's 5 rabbits went with them, along with some Mille Fleur D'uccle cross chicks and a non-matched pair of Silkies and their mixed breed pair of chicks.  We were very excited!

Holly is getting the white Sultan pair (chickens) the end of the month, and she is excited to have her first chickens since childhood.  They're named Seuss and Sully now.  All the chickens are laying, including the Sultan hen, so Holly has purchased an incubator and has already started her first set of eggs.  Now she has sheep, rabbits, a baby donkey, and .... CHICKENS!  Congratulations, Holly!

With the onset of cold weather, the Sultans, two trios of Silkies and a few leftover roosters raised from eggs are sharing the brooder house for extra warmth.  It's an 8x8 structure, heated with a red heat lamp bulb -- not too warm, but above freezing.  We also are keeping all the feed in that shed, so Chessie makes regular inspection trips to eliminate the mouse population.  Chessie (the siamese looking cat) tried very hard to get pregnant a few weeks ago, and we have had requests for mouser babies out of her.  That will be her only litter. 

Today's warm weather put the turkeys in mind of spring.  They are still young, but they were trying to figure out the birds and the bees.  Not very successfully I might add!  Halfway through their self-education, Ducky Duck (who is their close friend) decided that Tommy was beating up Chelle, and flew over into the pasture and started pulling Tommy's feathers.  Hey!  You get off her, you big bully!  Of course, then everyone was even MORE confused.

Day before yesterday, Hildy, the big Alpine doe, kidded twin doelings.  They will stay with her for a month.  Longer than usual with dairy babies, but she has been ill and although on the road to recovery won't be milkable for a while, so the babies might as well stay with her.  The babies have been sold, and their family-to-be will come tomorrow to inspect them.

Poor little Fawn, a Nigerian Dwarf doe, is still as round as a melon, and if you thumped her, I am sure she would sound hollow. We expected her to kid in September (!) or October, so you can guess how big she is now.  January should see Gracie's kids, and maybe Keelee's.  February will bring Ursa's, and then in March we should have kids from Olga, Martha, Bev, Myrtle, Mocha, Hayley, Luna, and Spring.  We have 3 new Alpine/Nubian cross does that are open (not bred) we think, gifted to us by friends who couldn't keep them.  We are milking four right now.   We are also getting 20 Oberhasli doeling bottle babies to sell.  They are coming from a big dairy that needs to focus on their cheese products rather than feeding babies.  And one of Pam's new purchases has been dehorned, so she will stay with my herd and try to be a milking doe.  She is a Boer, and we are working to develop some Boer/Nubian crosses to strengthen the milker in the Boer for families that just want a small amount of milk to use at home.

Summer's proposed projects (yes, we are already thinking about summer!) include an earth oven for bread baking outside and some new chicken pens, a buck pen so we can bring Duke home, and maybe some other fencing.  Neil is going to tackle building a new milking stand as the one I built for the miniature goats hardly holds the big girls.  Some stalls for the run-in barn are also on the "possible" list. 

I've been baking bread and enjoying it, and as the milk supply increases, I have in mind to try my hand at some cheesemaking.  Our little woodstove is very nice in the house, keeping us toasty, and friend Neil is generous with his time and energy and keeps us in split wood for the fire.  Mom was here for a few weeks, got to visit with some of our friends, and she enjoyed the woodstove, too.  She sent out pictures of it, labelled "My new best friend!"  She was here during the very bitter cold a year ago January.  I think she felt like she would never get warm again.

I hope you've passed your time warm, around friends, enjoying moments of reflection, watching the fruits of your labor come in -- that's what we've been doing, and would wish the same to you!  Until next time, friends!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brisk as all Get Out!

The sustained temperatures in the 20s have been discouraging the girls from having their babies, I think -- I have 2 definitely overdue pregnant does.  The chickens seem to be going broody too -- rather an odd season for that.  This lady is setting under one of the coops. 

She seems to be one of the smarter ones, though -- she decided not to be broody and sit on eggs right  NOW when it is so cold.  Little Reggie (Oregano) was enjoying the mommy goats (on the left still mom-to-be) and their cuddly demeanor today.  He snuggled up right between them for a nap, and only got up to have his picture taken.

Tommy was displaying his full regalia today, too.

We took in a dutch rabbit boy named Harley today.  In a few weeks, we'll also take in a batch of kits (baby rabbits).  We've offered to help their owner rehome them, as she has pressing business that will take her away for a while. She has someone who takes care of her "regular" rabbits and other animals while she is away, but these are rescue bunnies.  Harley got a warm spot in the brooder shed, and seems quite content.  Rodney, the vivacious guinea pig who is also looking for a home, already lives there, as well as the porch silkies and the various baby chicks of varying ages.

"Grandma," (my mom) is here for a visit, so all the critters are getting extra spoiling, especially the dogs and the cats.  Simon is doing well, he sleeps on her bed all day.  In the week that he's been here, he's doubled in size!  Chessie is still busily hunting mice anywhere they might think of being.  And Reggie, the baby goat, is growing strong and lively.  Among his latest antics are sneaking up on the turkey to try to pull a tail feather, butting chickens, jumping straight up in the air with all four legs all at once and tossing his head, butting the air and trying to tag you with his nose somewhere around your waist, running between your feet, trying to stay right between them all the time, and jumping up on anything he can get up on, including other goats.  Silly Nubian!  Baby goats call for their mothers, waiting to hear their mother call back.  That's mostly all they want, is to know they are heard and that mom is within earshot.  So, when Reggie, calls, I call him back by name.  After a few calls, he goes back to whatever he was doing before he suddenly realized that "mommy" was out of range.  He will probably be going home soon.

I hope Fawn and Keelee hurry up -- I have two other goats due in January!

Hope your day was warm and lovely.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Simon Sez

The weather has continued to be cold, freezing at night so that there is a skin of ice on the goat waterers in the morning.  The goats want more to eat to fuel their metabolic furnaces and feed the kids growing inside them.  Fawn should kid by early next week - there is no way she could be more than one cycle behind her sister, Nightfall.  Nightfall is giving near a pint of milk a day.  Baby Reggie is enjoying drinking it from his bottle. 

Yesterday morning found Amandapanda, the paint LaMancha doe, dead in her barn.  Nothing is known yet about the cause.  She was up to date on all her medical and vaccinations, and was pregnant with a kid due in spring.  She was not scouring, was eating fine, she just passed in her sleep. We will miss her.

The same day Amanda left us, Simon Sez came.  Mid-afternoon, wandering out from under one of the farm buldings was a small orange swirly patterned kitten with short legs.  He wound around the goats' legs and rubbed on them and tried out goat food but found it unpalatable.  I picked him up, carried him to the porch and offered him milk.  He offered no objection to being held, but his reaction to milk was, "What's that?!?"  When I put him down he went into the hay barn.  At dusk I could hear him down by the creek, and he came when I called.  Crunchy food didn't appeal to him, either,  so when I brought him in and fed him some shreds of cheese and meat.  He does not act like a feral kitten, is friendly to people, and is satisfied to be in the house.

Tootsie, the Belgian Shepherd, was intrigued.  Simon was docile, lethargic even, and wanted to curl up and sleep  Tootsie was trying to figure out if he was a stuffed toy, a puppy, a baby goat, or just WHAT he was.  He didn't hiss and spit or run away from her, so it COULDN'T be a cat!
She nosed him all over, nibbled him everywhere, ended up putting herself in charge of his grooming.  At the same time she was half convinced he was a toy, so when he was somewhere inconvenient for her, she would nose him around to where she wanted him to be.
After a while, exhaustion won out, but as you can see, Tootsie is still quite concerned about what to do with him and what her responsibility is.  She does not want him to go outdoors unless she is there to supervise him, and if he's let out without her, she paces and whines until you open the door, then she runs out to find him. If the other cat tries to play with him she is right there to intervene, too.
Finally, having wallowed the cover off her sofa, she decided the little buzzing (purring) critter that patted her nose with his paw, rubbed against her "everywhere!" and would not leave her be, was doing just fine, and it was time for a nap. 

Poor Fawn has not had her babies yet, although today she looks like she is beginning to dialate.  We should have more goat babies soon!

Another project for yesterday was installing the small wood stove, which makes a nice warm nook if you come in chilled from outside.  Mother will arrive tonight for her winter visit.  The bitter cold of last December/January helped her choose a slightly earlier date to visit this year.  She will enjoy the warmth of the stove, too.

I hope you are enjoying warmth and comfort!