Art of Proprietation

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


10042719 Heddar and Agnes
Our last doe finally gave up the goat.

10042762 Heddar Agnes RS

We only have three milking does, so some people will look at this and say big deal. But today our last pregnant doe finally kidded. A healthy doeling, thank you very much. It feels like about time, we have been waiting for kidding, kidding, taking care of kidding related crisis and following up with kids for a month and a half. I think that I have slept in my bed in the house three times during that period. I was ready for it to end. And Heddar, the last doe, took her sweet bippy time waiting for pretty much the least convenient moment. It was raining, my wife had left the property and I was trying to get on the road for business. As I was telling myself I needed to jump in the car to go, I checked on her one more time to find her in the midst of a contraction with two hooves and a bubble sticking out. But it turned out OK.

10042745 Goat Kid Pee And just to prove kids are unsafe at any speed, the new kid peed on me within 1/2 hour of birth.

10042703 Heddar and Agnes

10042737 Jacob closeup
All of these photos captured in their wild state by a boy who is not yet four.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Middle busting


That's our new middle buster. Last year, we formed all our beds with shovels and our backs. After both of us ended up in physical therapy for our backs this winter, I was a little worried that we (I) might not be up to it with the expanded garden this year. Physical Therapy is going to cost me $1500 (some day I'll talk about why my "insurance" wouldn't cover it), so it didn't seem outlandish to spend $400 on a plow to do the digging for us.

We went with a middle buster from Lowery Manufacturing of Alabama. A third of it was the shipping, it came by motor freight. I went with this one because I liked the design and I thought it would be versatile. It's made of 1/4" wall 2-1/2 inch square tubing and is very strong feeling. It's not as wide as I would like, but I think I could have extensions welded on if I needed to.


The idea is to dig trenches that throw the dirt up and onto the bed between. It gives us deeper tilled soil to work with, raises the planting surface up relative to the walking path and makes tilling in the fall go better. We finished the entire garden in less than three hours as apposed to digging it by hand over a week or more. And the three hours included figuring out how the plow would work. I think next time I could do it in half the time and I won't need a spotter to keep the lines straight. When we got done my wife told me she had doubts about the idea of the plow, but after seeing what it did, it was the right thing.

20100424 Panorama Mid Comb Cropped
This is the progression since last fall. I tilled every thing in and spread compost shortly before snowfly. The garden was all ready when the plow arrived this spring. And we have begun planting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A telling of true events, only the names of the innocent have been changed

It was an adequately uneventful birthing.

Sparking started showing signs in the late afternoon / evening, goo and such. About 10:30 my wife came back from checking on her saying there were contractions. Sparque broke her water at about midnight. About 12:15 AM she showed the first sac, followed by a second. We hemmed and hawed about which sac to deal with first. The second one was the first to show a hoof, so that's the one we dealt with first. My wife had to reach in and reposition the head to get it to follow the front hooves and that kid went quickly afterward. It was the Doe. We did all the toweling off and cleaning up while we waited for second one. Checking Sparque's abdomen, I could feel the second kid, but it was a solid 20, maybe 30, minutes before contractions started again. That whole time, the second one's sac had been protruding about three inches out of Sparque's butt. Once I knew I had two hooves at or out of the birth canal, I pierced the sac. She was tired and laying down, so it took some gentle pulling, but it was probably only three contractions from the end. We cleaned them off and got the first feeding of colostrum into them. The doeling fed off Sparque directly, but I hand fed the buckling as he wasn't strong enough to stand or move around right off. Both kids are feeding off the Sparque's teats this morning. Sparque is a good and attentive mother.

Given that lag between the kids, I am really glad we didn't jump the gun and pierce the bucklings sac early. If we had chosen the wrong one to start with or pierced it right after the doe passed, we would have ended up "reachen in and fishen 'round" which I don't like to do. There was a certain amount of drama, but not enough to nourish anxiety in the future.

Ruffles is still in a funk. She has been barely eating since her kidding. She was only making enough milk to feed the one baby and we weren't sure she was making enough for even that. She had pretty much rejected the first kid, Amos, in favor of the second, Andy. Funny because Amos, the first, seemed bigger and more robust to me at birth. But early on Andy caught up and surpassed Amos. We went through the last of our freezer colostrum and have been feeding cows milk since. That smarts.

Ruffles has gotten a vitamin B complex shot and is due for another today. She has also been getting Nutri-Drench, which she hates. Given her obvious depressed mood, I hesitate to force the Nutri-Drench. She's had pretty much free choice grain, but she shows no interest. It ends up feeding the chickens and not her. She has been out on pasture, and she'll browse some, but doesn't seem to have a sustained interest in any food. I have made sure she has minerals, we've tried separating her from the herd with her kids and without, nursing and not. The best seems in the herd without her kids so she has companionship but the kids aren't running her ragged. I just haven't found anything that seems to make enough difference, she is wasting away to skin and bones quickly. And the latest is she's giving raisin poo. Normally her poo is nice big plump black olives. Now they are shriveled little wrinkled raisins. Maybe some yogurt or probios is the next thing to try. I am pretty unhappy about her progress. It makes us question if this is her last pregnancy. But with Sparque kidded out, some of the milk pressure will be off and hopefully we can make some progress.

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A Buck and a Doe

Sparque final shared her secret with us.

10041946 Alarm Alice Comb

Sparque was actually due on the 15th, so we were getting a little antsy to find out what was in store for us. After she was late a couple of days, my wife started reading all the goat books. One of them said call a vet if the goat is more than four days late as the kids can get to big to fit through the birth canal. That wasn't something I wanted to hear so I was glad that on the morning of the 5th day (roughly 12:23 AM) we had both kids out without calling on the services of a vet and very little reachen in. Keeping goats is already expensive, having a vet out for a delivery would pretty much spoil it.

So now we have two new kids to add to this years list, a buckling and a doeling. Alice and Alarm.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Essential farm equipment

100416116 Sleeping System Labels
That's my sleeping system. I probably sleep out with the animals more than a lot of livestock owners. I do it when there is an impending event like a pregnancy, for human imprinting with young herd animals I intend to keep as breeding stock or if I suspect a predator is in the neighborhood. My dog really enjoys it, he likes camping out. Some of the goats enjoy it, they like to snuggle. And I enjoy it, I like the outdoors and I am comfortable.

One thing that makes a big difference is my sleeping system. Layer one is a reasonably waterproof sleeping bag cover. It's an old school nylon cover and it is cut to fit a large rectangular sleeping bag. It's job is to give an initial layer of protections and keep the rest of my system clean. The sleeping bag cover is big enough to fit my next element, a self inflating sleeping pad. The sleeping pad is a generous one, 72X 28 X 2". It's enough to absorb irregularities in the ground and give a thermal separation from the ground. Then I have a gortex bivy sac cut for a mummy sleeping bag. I have put this bivy sac to the test, and it really is waterproof. The final layer is a synthetic filled winter mummy sleeping bag. I figure the sleeping bag cover and bivy sac each give 5 to 10 degrees f added comfort range. The double layer also helps ensure waterproofness. And the sleeping bag cover helps keep my sleeping bag on the sleeping pad. My sleeping bag is not as warm as it was when I bought it ten years ago, but with this system, I am still comfortable done in the Zero F range. Down that low, I might also add some long underwear, though.

I have always enjoyed camping. I was in the BSA from the time I was eleven and camping was one of the highlights. Looking back on it now, though, I am surprised I wasn't deterred early on. I did not have very good equipment, especially compared to today's equipment. Those were the pre gortex years, when the only way to keep things from leaking was vinyl or liberal amounts of various sealants. A good backpack then was a boxy bunch of nylon stretched on an aluminum frame. Closed cell foam was the state of the art in sleeping pad technology. And A-frame pup tents were still the norm. There were a lot of cold, damp nights in those early years of my camping career.
My first sleeping bag probably had cotton fill and I had cotton long underwear. Leather boots were only water proof for about the first hour and nearly everything was a hand me down. But since I had never experienced better, I guess didn't feel bad. Having solid equipment now allows me to sleep out in any weather at the drop of a hat. And I do whether I need to or not. I actually enjoy the colder weather more. Insects bother me more than cold temps, I guess. And in extremely cold temps, it's easier to stay dry.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's April, Remember?

10041689 Ruffles
It's fun to camp, and Ruffles has been depressed since the delivery. Companionship seems to help. Well, companionship that doesn't eat her grain, anyway. It's a little tight in there for Ruffles, the kids and me, but Ruffles does like to snuggle. No, really.

So I have been sleeping out in the goat house. Last night it rained. A lot. And I was reminded I should have put a plastic liner under an old tarp like this. I had over estimated the water proofness of that blue tarp. I got dripped on all night. I contemplated going inside, but I was warm and dry inside my sleeping system, so I weathered it. In the morning I awoke to snow on the ground. Maybe I should have gone in.
10041694 Ruffles Amos Andy Nursing
The other morning I tore down half of the winter chicken house, flopped the panels over the fence and reassembled it as a two ended goat shelter. With this, I have two nursery shelters and a main shelter. We have a delivery due any moment and another at the end of the week. Pretty soon, Little, the whether, will be the only adult not nursing kids. In there is a bed of coarse wood chips and straw on top of that. It gets everybody up off the ground, keeping them warm and dry. Even the drips last night didn't really get the area wet. This morning I salvaged a piece of plastic from the chicken house and used it to line the tarp to stop the drip. I'll find out tonight how effective it is.
10041698 Sparky
P4100025 Ruffles Heddar Warm Sun
It has been really nice weather for more than a week. Into the seventies in early April.

P4100062 Ruffles Head shot
The Sunny weather was helping Ruffles ward off the blues. I'll have to pay attention to her to get throuhg this wet weather.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

All the best laid plans of mice and men

...Are dashed by the relentless flow of nature.
100330142 Heddar Ruffles
That's Ruffles on top, her daughter Heddar below. They are both pregnant in the picture. Preggers as my wife might say. Ruffles has been ready to pop for a little while. As I alluded to before, I have been sleeping in the goat house for a while. As it turns out, I had the breeding date wrong. I was twelve days early. And it took me ten nights out in the goat house to go re check my notes. I started sleeping out in the goat house again as the new date approached. Another four nights. Mostly in the rain. As of this morning, no mucus plug, no nesting behavior, no braying, nothing. I checked again at about 10:30 AM, again nothing. I went out at just before noon to give the pregnant does their grain snack. From a distance Ruffles looked like she had some pink showing through the leg hair. "Does she have leg mites I didn't notice?" I thought to myself. Then I noticed the umbilical cord hanging down. Hmm, and umbilical cord, I wonder were that came from?....

After all those nights sleeping in the goat house. Mentally preparing myself for "Reachen In". Wondering if I had enough light out there. Trying to schedule my work around this unpredictable event. She went and had the kids without me. Two healthy doelings, just what we wanted. Ruffles is eight and we might only get one more pregnancy from her. She is by far the best producing doe and we were really hoping to have more does from her line. And we really wanted to get more does from her.
10040115 Kid

10040114 Doe II

10040113 Ruffles and kid

10040102 Ruffles and Kids

100401171 Got Goats

The doelings needed a little help finding and holding a teat. It doesn't help that Ruffles has not nursed kids before. In the past, we have always hand raised (bottle fed) Ruffles' kids. Part of the idea is the kids view the person who feeds them as a member of their herd, maybe their mother and are less skittish with them. And the Doe views the one milking them as their kid. Last year, with a different doe, we decided to try allowing the kids to nurse on the doe. We let the kids nurse freely for the first two weeks. After that, we separate the kids from the doe at night to allow her to build up some milk for a morning milking. Then the kids nurse during the day. At about two months, we separate the doe from the kids (which she was ever so grateful for). Allowing the Doe to nurse the Kids gets us off the hook for a lot of midnight feedings. It also gets the doe off the hook for an engorged udder for those first couple weeks where her production demands milking twice a day. I do have to work hard to get a good imprint with the kids since I am not bottle feeding them. I'll still sleep out in the goat house for a few more nights. But that makes it easy to ensure they are getting enough to eat and are staying warm at night. It also means we have to teach ruffles to be a good mother. She's never done it before, and so far, I am not so sure she is interested in learning. Sparky figured it out last year, so I imagine Ruffles will to.
Either that or we move back to the old model for her....

A little later the same day:
10040124 Nursing Assist
Ruffles wasn't real thrilled with this whole motherhood thing. I think I heard her say something about great grandmothers shouldn't have to breast feed. Or put up with infants. Here I am using my arms locked into a peice of stock panel to get her to hold still long enough for the kids to nurse. While I was doing it alone two hours later, I thought to myself, ya right, this is easier than bottle feeding... But the kids will be up and agile soon enough. They'll be running her ragged wanting to nurse.

10040108 Ruffles Kid

10040104 Ruffles Kids

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