Archive for March, 2012

As you may recall, we had one goat, Skye, who had a really rough time birthing, and who was very swollen and somewhat ill after her kid was born. She rejected the kid, but we were really persistent about putting her on Skye, hoping that when she was feeling better, Skye would change her mind about letting the little one nurse.


It worked, eventually.  The doeling, Calypso, got supplementary bottles, but after a couple of weeks of putting her on Skye a few times a day, we actually observed her nursing unaided, with Skye tolerating it, and even pushing other goats away to let the little one eat undisturbed.  Skye’s milk production was not really up to snuff, so we continued with bottles for another week, hoping her milk would come in as she nursed regularly. Her production did seem to ramp up, and we discontinued the bottles, though we were watching little Calypso pretty closely to make sure she was gaining weight and staying healthy.  Success!  Being born a couple weeks after everyone else, Calypso seemed tiny even in comparison to the other kids, but we did not worry about it, as she did not seem to be getting pushed around, and she was growing and gaining weight.


This morning, Hubby went to let the goats out, and Calypso was missing.   He found her body under a bit of straw in the corner where the kids normally sleep.   They sleep in a sort of a dog pile, and our best guess is that she somehow got on the bottom of the pile and suffocated, being so much smaller than the other four.  Random tragedy.  We’d heard of that sort of thing happening, but we didn’t think it would occur in such a small group of goats; we’d only heard of it on big farms where there are dozens or hundreds of goats.


We’re really disappointed.  And sad.  Calypso was the cutest kid, and was our big success story, having been finally accepted by her mom.  We were planning to keep her for future breeding and milking, especially as she was as friendly as the bottle kids (having been on the bottle part-time for several weeks), but had some chance of learning good mothering and being a good mom herself, down the road.  I don’t think there’s much we could have done differently, but you always wonder…





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The dogs ran away yesterday morning.  Probably chasing a deer, or possibly a flock of geese (the geese are starting to come back, now), but regardless, they took off.


Our neighbour to the south, the one who is a little odd, called in the afternoon to tell Hubby that he’d seen them at the end of his driveway that morning.  Given that he’s terrified by the mastiff, Cherry, I’m shocked that he did not immediately call to demand that we do something; as it was, his less-than-timely call meant that we had no idea that the dogs were even missing until enough time had elapsed that they could be anywhere.


When I got home from work, Hubby broke the news – Fox and Cherry were gone.  Poppy the puppy had actually stuck around the yard, which is pretty amazing, but the other two were AWOL.  We got back in the car and drove up and down all the grid roads within several miles of our place, hollering out the rolled-down windows, but to no avail.  We consoled ourselves by saying that they’d probably show up at the house by dark, but they didn’t.


We didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.


This morning, our helpful neighbour called to tell us they’d been spotted a mile south and one east from their place…at suppertime the night before.  Helpful.  However, he did spend an hour giving me the names, phone numbers, and approximate locations of every neighbour within a five mile radius, so that we could start calling around.  Instead, we got in the car and did another little tour of the neighbourhood, starting from where the dogs had last been seen.


Driving up the road, we saw a yellow dog – we sped up to catch it, only to find another neighbour walking her retriever.  We explained our situation, and she was sympathetic, but had not seen our strays.  Back on the road we went, stopping every mile or so to holler both dogs’ names.   We went as far as we thought the dogs were likely to have roamed, but turned around to drive home, empty handed.


Then a truck came barreling out of a laneway, flashing its lights.  We stopped to talk to the driver, who asked us if we were looking for a couple of dogs.  Upon hearing that, indeed, we were, he told us that they’d been spotted just up the road, but we needed to hurry and catch them, as they had been near a herd of cows just about to calve, and the farmer who owned the cattle was as like as not to shoot them if they harassed the cows at all.  He also mentioned that they had gone into at least one yard, and scared the owner enough that they just about got shot then and there.




The fellow told us he’d help us find them, and waved us into his yard.  He turned to Hubby and asked if he’d ever ridden a quad before; Hubby had not.  Buddy kind of laughed and said it was easy.


Well, Hubby learned quick.  He and the kind neighbour were out on the quads for about three hours, driving through muddy fields and snow, looking for tracks, and stopping at all of the neighbours’ houses to see if anyone had seen the wayward mutts.  Lots of folks had seen them…and chased them out of their yards.  Nobody had thought to grab them and check their collars for a phone number; I guess that’s just not done here, or maybe they were just too intimidating.  Quite a way to meet the neighbours – having to apologize for our dogs scaring them or harassing their livestock…not exactly the way to make a good name for yourself!


By suppertime, the dogs still hadn’t turned up, and the guys had to give up.  I followed them up the road in the car, back to the kind neighbour’s house.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement at the top of a hill, maybe a quarter or half a mile off the road.  I pulled over, hoping…


…And sure enough, there was Cherry.  Barking.  But not coming towards me at all, despite my calling, pleading, and offering treats.  Dumb dog made me slog through a quarter mile of slightly-more-than-boot-deep snow, pregnant and puffing, to go collect her.  She sure was happy to see me, though.  I stood and hollered for Fox for a couple of minutes, but did not get any response, so I took Cherry back to the car and headed out to catch up with the boys.   We all went back to where I’d found Cherry, and after a few minutes’ walking and calling, Fox came out of the bushes, too, though she was also pretty wary of approaching us.


Having missed supper, and spent a cold night on the loose, you can imagine how happy they are to have full bellies and a warm mat to sleep on – Cherry hasn’t moved in a few hours, not even a twitch.  We’re pretty relieved, too, but sheesh, what a way to meet the neighbours…

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A Few More Photos

…Just because it was a beautiful day outside, and we had the time to spend a morning watching the new kids play:







Also, I’ve made up a facebook page for Rural Dreams.  I’ve added a few other pictures there (portraits of each of this year’s kids), and it’s a neat place to add little updates that are too short to be worth writing a blog post – come on by and check it out:  Rural Dreams facebook page

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We’ve had a rough month with these goats.  You can tell we’re novices.  We just got last week’s bottle babies back out to the barn, and now we’ve got another one taking up residence in our kitchen.

It turns out, having three bottle babies is about as expensive as smoking, maybe even more so, at least if you feed them cow milk instead of goat milk.  They’re hungry little critters, and milk is around $4 or 5 a gallon – which only lasts a day or two.  We could try milking Saff and maybe even Missy, but they are feeding their own babies, and I don’t want to place too many demands on their systems just yet – dairy animals will produce milk at the expense of their own health, and the last thing I need right now is for my two passable mommas to get sick!  Plus, milking would entail me getting up half or three quarters of an hour earlier, like 5am, when I’m already having fun trying to get enough sleep, and dealing with goats in the cold and dark before going to work.   Yuck.


Missy’s boy (the one who collapsed last week) is up and about and being a total nuisance, but we never did convince her to accept him back, even though she seems happy enough nursing his sister.  He went back out to the barn yesterday, though, thank goodness.


Silly rejected her doeling right from the outset, and was actively attacking her whenever she got close at all, so she came in the house for a week to be bottle fed and brought up to speed.  She is also back out in the barn, now, rather than tap dancing in my kitchen.


We thought we were done with that, as Skye, our last doe to kid, is fairly placid and calm, rather than skittish like Missy or pushy like Silly.  We thought she would be a good mom for sure.  She gave us a cute little doe on Sunday night, but has not been allowing her to nurse.  Skye has not been feeling well – she has the runs and her vulva is still very swollen from the birth, so we thought maybe we could just limp things along until everyone was feeling better, and hoped that Skye would become a little more accepting as she got back to normal, but it doesn’t appear to be working.  Skye is getting her energy back and starting to look better, but she’s also getting more active about kicking the doeling off when we force her to allow it to nurse.  Bleh.  So the little one is in the kitchen, as we speak.


I’m afraid we’ll have to cull Silly – between her teat deformity and her aggressive lack of interest in mothering, she’s really no use to us, and we cannot, in good conscience, sell her on to anyone else.  The breeder had suggested it right from the outset, but we wanted to give her a chance – if she had turned out to be a passable mother, we might have kept her.  Unfortunately, Silly didn’t get the memo.


Next year, we’ll do a better job of managing breeding.  No more February babies for us – it’s just too cold, and too dark, and too much of a hassle hauling bottles out to the barn 3 or 4 times a day when it’s -15 and dark and blizzarding.  It’s hard on the kids, too, and there’s been a lot of frozen ears around here.  I think we’ll shoot for late April, or even May, if we can breed the does that late.


Next year, we’ll have all the towels and flashlights and thermometers and bottles and nipples ready a couple of weeks before the earliest expected due date, whether we think the goats were bred or not.  I will also learn how to give injections, and will have a few medications on hand.  Apparently, I also need to stock up on Preparation H, as I have been informed it’s the best cure for swollen bits of pretty much any type, on several species.


Next year, we’ll have a vet who deals with goats lined up in advance.


Next year, we’ll have a herd name and tattoo registered with the breeder’s association.  We could sell one or two of the bottle babies, but we can’t sell them as registered until we get our own registration, plus our tattoo.  We don’t have tattoo equipment lined up yet anyhow, but it’s frustrating to think that we could sell these babies for good money, plus let someone else assume the cost of bottle feeding, had we only been a little more organized back in January.  I’d hate to let them go for unregistered prices, with the pedigrees they have (and how much their parents cost), so I guess we’re stuck with them, for now.


Next year, I won’t be pregnant and awkward and exhausted and too ungainly to comfortably bend down to assess what’s going on with a goat who is in labor or having problems nursing.   Barn smells won’t turn my stomach, and I will be out there more regularly, monitoring what’s going on.  Plus, I won’t be so worried about getting kicked in the belly by a goat who’s unhappy with me fiddling with her rear end or udder.


As usual, this goat business has come with a steep learning curve…

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Continuing from January and February, our monthly food storage report:


The root cellar is starting to look a little more bare.


The carrots are now completely done; actually, they did not make it past the first bit of February before we weren’t really able to find non-bitter carrots.  I didn’t mind them being wrinkly, especially if we were using them in soups and stews, but I don’t tolerate bitter very well.  The goats are enjoying them as treats we dole out, however, so it is not a total waste.


The cabbages still look more or less fine.  As in last month, the outer leaves have dried out and discolored, but the heads themselves are still firm and tasty.


About half the remaining beets are fine – still firm and not sprouting too much.  The other half are starting to go soft, but are still completely edible.


The potatoes are fine.  I am still amazed by the potatoes.


The onions are going strong, but we are running out.  We are down to the little ones that are a pain in the butt, because you need 3 or 4 for a recipe.  Next year, we plan to plant 50% more – 600 sets, instead of 400.  It does not appear that they will rot before we can use them up, even the tiny ones, which is great.


The squash seem to have hit a wall this month.  About half of the remaining pumpkins, as well as a couple of the spaghetti squash, sprouted black gooey spots and mold in late February.  I am not certain if they just hit their ‘use by’ dates, or if it had something to do with us moving them into a different room of the house (they had to be moved, as we were painting the room they had been in).  The new room is just as cool as their former location, but may have had higher humidity.  Also, they wound up being more bunched together, rather than being spread out on the floor, simply due to the fact that we were putting a lot of stuff in that room in order to be able to paint the other room – air flow may have been an issue, as well.  At any rate, they were not a total waste, as the chickens really appreciate the squash, so we cut out the black and mushy bits to compost, and fed the rest to the poultry.


So as far as veggies go, we’ve already started having to buy carrots, and will be buying onions soon.  We’re fine for potatoes and cabbage, and the beets are so-so.  Suddenly, I am really noticing how well-suited the basic Ukrainian diet is for this region – perogies are flour dough, potatoes, onions, saurkraut, and cheese – things that store well here.  Same with borscht – beets and cabbage and sour cream.  Something to keep in mind when you’re planning your winter meals, anyhow.


As far as the other food storage goes, we’re starting to run out of some things.  I made too much jam and jelly this year, or did not give enough away, or something, but those shelves are still quite full.  We have not used any of the fruit syrup we made, though we’ve given some away, and it was very appreciated.  We still have lots of pears, peaches, and raspberries, but those are ones that always last fine through the winter and disappear in a flash come hot weather.  Salsa, however, we’re rationing, as we’d rather not have to buy it – it’s expensive, and not nearly as tasty from the store.  I should can several times as much this fall (if I can find the energy!).


The frozen stuff is much the same.  We have plenty of some things (corn, peas), too much of others (wax beans), and not nearly enough of a few things (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mangoes).  I don’t think I miscalculated that badly on the fruit; I just seem to be having smoothies a lot more often than I used to.  I blame it on the pregnancy – I crave cold stuff frequently, but don’t want to load up on ice cream, so I make a nice, healthy smoothie, instead…almost daily…and have decimated my frozen fruit supply in the process.  Next year, we’ll put up extra, especially with the extra freezer downstairs, although it is fairly full with chicken, right at the moment.


Overall, we’re doing not bad.  I am not too happy about the squash crashing like it has, and we’re spreading them out better in an effort to get better air flow to the survivors.  I suspect that squash could store a whole lot longer, anyhow.  I’m still very happy with the potatoes, cabbage, and beets, and I have some ideas for how to stretch the carrots next year.  Onions – like I said, we’ll be planting a lot more come spring.  And we’ll adjust what we plant for the freezer (more peas, fewer beans) as well as making more of an effort to get fruit in the freezer, and spending maybe a little less effort on the jams and jellies.  We’ll get it all figured out eventually!

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