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When we first moved to the acreage, we got cats.  Well, we had some indoor only cats that came with us from Alberta, but we got some barn cats right away, as there had been a lot of grain storage on this place, which meant there were plenty of mice.  We started out with three barn cats through an SPCA program – Stevie, Bobby, and Molly.

Stevie

Stevie, the (late) Barn Cat

Bobby

Bobby the (former) Barn Cat

Molly

Molly, the (former) Barn Cat (when she was much, much skinnier!)

The cats did a great job of keeping the rodent population in check, and were fun companions while we were doing outside work.

 

Unfortunately, Stevie had to be put down, after we found him, paralyzed, in the hay stack.  We never did figure out what happened, but our best guess is that he tried to jump between bale stacks and missed.  The vets did their best, but were unable to fix him up.  We were pretty cut up about that.  There’s really no such thing as ‘only’ a barn cat around here – they’re all pets.

 

When we sold the goats in late 2015, the barn, which was not heated, got to be pretty cold, and we worried about Molly and Bobby out there.   We had always figured that all three of the barn cats had been somebody’s pets at some point – they were just too tame and friendly to be anything else.  We ended up deciding to try them in the house, to see if it would work out okay with the other house pets.  In the end, it went well enough, and Molly and Bobby moved indoors for good.

 

We ran into some problems in the spring of 2016, though – a couple of skunks started hanging around, and ended up getting into the chicken coop, killing several hens.  We’d never had an issue with skunks before, and were kind of surprised by the whole thing.  Later, though, in speaking to local farmers, we were told that 2015 and 2016 were both crazy years for skunks – one neighbor had shot over a dozen skunks in a one-month period in 2015, and almost as many in the month prior to our chicken incident.

 

We talked it over, and realized that, besides the goats, the only difference between spring, 2015 and spring 2016, for us, was the cats.  So we went back to the SPCA, and brought home a couple more bundles of joy – Oscar and Millie:

Oscar

Oscar the Barn Cat, who thinks he’s a dog!

Milly

Milly the (occasionally psycho) Barn Cat

Our assessment appears to have been right – that barn cats keep skunks away.  We haven’t seen or smelled one since we brought these two home, and this is the time of year we would expect to really start seeing them.  My theory is that cats and skunks occupy the same ecological niche, and that the cats, being territorial, won’t tolerate skunks in their home territory.   Or maybe the skunks don’t like the competition, and stay away.  Regardless, we’re relieved not to have any more skunk problems, and Oscar and Millie are doing a good job of keeping rodents under control, as well.   If you are running into issues with skunks, you might consider a barn cat or two!

 

 

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The West is Burning

The other day, I was out playing with the goats (and with 9 kids so far, I’ve been doing a lot of that).  I looked up and saw smoke.  Lots of smoke.  I went running to see what was burning, and it was the field just across the road from us!

just across the road from our house

just across the road from our house

Now I understand that burning stubble is a long-standing practice, and probably locally common.  We haven’t seen much of it (or any, really) since we’ve been here; thinking about it now, that was probably because the fields were more or less underwater until past the ideal planting time, so burning wasn’t really an option. This year, we had less snow and an earlier spring, and everyone is burning their fields.   People know what to do, and the fires have been controlled, but boy, there’s been a lot of smoke.

stubble burning

It’s still really disconcerting when it’s right at your mailbox, too!

a little too close for comfort

a little too close for comfort

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Apparently I can’t do it all.  Or at least not at the same time.  I know, amazing, huh?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve set out to write a post, but then getting sidetracked with photo editing, business issues, crying babies, goats, or a diaper blowout.  Unfortunately, in all of that, Rural Dreams is getting short shrift.  I’ll get back at it, I promise…eventually!

Meanwhile, some cuteness:

cute kids

more cuteness

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I really do love my Toggenburg goats, but, as I have mentioned before, there are a couple of major drawbacks to having a less-popular breed – primarily relating to genetics.  As one of only two registered breeders of Toggs in my whole province, I have to range pretty far to find bucks that are not related to some, or occasionally all, of my herd.  This is not really uncommon – one lady drove for more than 12 hours to come and buy a buck from us, for exactly the same reason.

 

This little fella traveled over 12 hours to his new home

This little fella traveled over 12 hours to his new home

 

We could have put off getting a new buck until 2016, as we did not have any girl babies in 2014, so there are no major issues with daughters in the herd…for now.  However, we’ve bred all of our does this year, so by 2016, we will NEED a fresh buck, and there is really no guarantee that we will have any more time (for shopping, and also to go collect the buck) or money (ha!) than we have right now, so it seems like a good idea to get going with the whole thing.  Also, with fresh blood in the herd, we could finally start offering ‘homestead packages’ of a few does and an unrelated buck…something that we have not really been able to do, to date, but that is in the long-term business plan.

 

Buck shopping is equal parts frustrating and fun.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at photos of girl goat rear ends – nobody seems to be too concerned about showing off their bucks, but *everyone* wants to send you a picture of the nicest udder in their herd.  Even shopping for a boy, you better be looking at pictures of his mom and grandma, since what they have in the udder department will tell you a lot about what the buck is going to add to (or subtract from) your herd.   Goat breeders, on the whole, are friendly and down-to-earth, and it’s been fun chatting with folks about pedigrees and breeding plans.  On the other hand, trying to find someone who has an appropriate animal *and* can ship it to us, *and* is willing to hold it until weaned is really asking a lot, and there are some really nice herds that we just couldn’t buy from this year because of circumstances.

 

Looking at all of these goats, and their pedigrees, and their show ribbons and such has really got me thinking.  We should be showing our girls, as well.  One of our does has both a mother and a twin sister who’ve gone Grand Champion in major shows, and the mother of one of our bucks is also quite decorated, as is the grandmother of another.   It would be fun to hang out with all of these folks I’ve been emailing with and talking to over the years, too.  Too bad it’s such a logistical nightmare with young children, and all of the shows are a long trek for us.  Aah, well, maybe down the road a bit.

 

Meanwhile, I’ve got some more udders to go examine…

 

Toggenburg goat doe

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The newest addition

It is tough to hold a baby and type, so I will keep it short:  our daughter, Baby J, came a bit early (the 9th), but was big (over 8 lbs) and healthy.  I am sore, which is to be expected, but doing much better than I did with Baby M.  All is good at the acreage, though everyone is a bit short on sleep these days.  Here’s the obligatory ridiculously cute baby pic:

 

baby j

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Stay Tuned

Sorry for the sporadic posting…with summer in full swing, now, and our due date getting close (just three weeks!), I have been…distracted, to say the least.  I make no promises that it will get any better, either, until closer to the end of summer, or whenever things settle down with the new baby.  So, at this point, all I can say is:  stay tuned for further information 🙂

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Our Etsy store was featured on Katie’s Crafts blog today…check out the link for access to a giveaway draw and a coupon code for our shop!

 

Link to Blog Feature

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