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Friday night we had our first goat crisis.  After getting home and changing into farm clothes, I gathered milking supplies and went out to gather the milkers.  I found Abba in the barn, standing by the hay manger, listless and panting.  *Hard.*  Open mouth panting.  I quickly milked Jacqsonne and Memphis so that I could devote all attention to her.

With some prodding I was able to get her onto the milking stand so I could evaluate her.  I turned on the two box fans in the stall at full force, angling them so she was getting air from both directions. I stuck the thermometer in and when it got to 107 (!!!!) and continued rising, I left Abba on the milking stand and dashed inside to grab my clippers.  It stopped at 107.6!  SCARY!  I had planned to clip their heavy coats this weekend, but maybe this was a sign to DO IT NOW.  I asked HB to come help and I started clipping her thick coat.  Once HB finished the cheese he came out to help clip.  I filled a bucket of cool water and offered it to her.  She drank a lot!  But did not want to eat.

I called a friend for advice on the next step.  There are several wonderful goat ladies in the area, but I rang up my friend Jennifer.  We planned to clip Abba and then start sponging cool water over her.  All I could think of was heat stress.  Unusual – yesterday wasn’t very hot, but it was very very humid.  And the fact that Abba was standing in the barn without a fan made it worse.  My friend suggested that she may have a touch of milk fever, so we went ahead and gave her oral calcium, B complex, nutri-drench and probiotics.   Subcutaneous lactated ringers were also suggested to help get her hydrated, fast.  The CMPK gel, it smells so yummy! like cupcakes!  Although from Abba’s reaction I’m guessing it didn’t taste like it’s smell.  Although Memphis was licking the side of the milking stand today where a little bit was stuck…

By the time we finished clipping, her temp was down to 104.5, so I started sponging her with cool water.  I sponged just like we do the endurance horses when we want to cool them quickly:  sponge water on, paying special attention to areas where blow flows near the skin (the large blood vessels on the inside of the gaskin, forearm, and neck … then across the rest of the body).  You let the water sit briefly, scrape it off, and reapply.  The reason for the quick turn-around is that if you let water sit too long on the hot skin, then it heats up and actually holds heat IN instead of releasing it.  Note:  HB was very stern with me note to use the gaskin area — too close to the udder and a potential source of infection he says, wetting the udder.  Just a thought.  I was very careful around her udder.

Within an hour of starting work on Abba, her temp was down to 102.5 and she was acting normal – eating, drinking, and being very talkative.  I got up a few times during the night to check on her, and HB kept an eye on her through the day.  She appears normal, and I am so, so, so relieved.

I had almost everything I needed for our first emergency.  And you can bet I have extra bags of lactated ringers now.  But it’s made me think about the rest of a first aid kit to keep for the goats.  There are lots of suggestions out there, but I thought GoatWorld had a pretty complete list.

What are your absolute, *must haves* in emergencies?

All the milkers got spring hair cuts today.  I don’t want to risk something like this happening again!  Last night HB and I strung up box fans for the stalls, angled off the rafters so that they blow directly down on the goats.  Xenia clipped up the prettiest, I will have to take pictures tomorrow.  Sweet Roll and Donut are next on the list, especially Sweet Roll with his long, thick coat.

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I had Wednesday off so HB suggested I head over to the market for Green Market Wednesday and the afternoon’s scheduled rain barrel workshop.  So I did.

The first part of the workshop presented a lecture on rain gardens.  Rain gardens are planned depressions in the ground that allow storm water to runoff and collect and slowly infiltrate into the ground.  When used properly, they can lessen the amount of polluted runoff water reaching streams and rivers by 30%.  Runoff water comes from parking lots, rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, roads, and other broad expanses.  Problems arise when large quantities of water, often carrying pollutants from pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, debris and other wastes  are dumped into streams and rivers.

I’ve become more aware of the local water situations living on a farm for a few years now with spring-fed creeks running through the hills.  Somethings cannot be controlled – our neighbors have a lease on the property fronting the road and we have no say in the choices of fertilizers and pesticides they use on land we do not own.  But we can attempt to make the correct choices on our own property.  And we may not be able to control the choices of our in-laws, but I can play a role in the choices HB and I make.

Anyway, back to the workshop.

Once the lecture was over, a gal from the local soil and water conservation group gave a quick talk and then we delved into making our rain barrels.  Literally, delved.  The barrels we were given were old pickle barrels, some (like mine) still containing old pickle juice.  For a person who does not like pickles, it was slightly disgusting.  For any normal person it was probably a little gross.  You tip the barrel to about a 45* angle, then bend over, shove your top half inside the barrel and find your bearings inside the dark and stinky abyss inside.  Lovely.

Creating the rain barrel was surprisingly easy.  Behold, the finished results:

The barrels come by way of a North Carolina pickle company; of course, the cucumbers weren’t American.  I’m sure the barrel isn’t made in American either.  Ugh.  This reminds me of the Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame) article I read this morning on the future of farming.

The barrels come with a permanent top that fits under the rim (similar to a canning jar), but for the sake of the barrel we remove the lid and fit a screen under the rim to keep out debris.

Pictured below is the overpour spout with attached hose.  When the rain barrel fills, water will flow out of this hose and (for now) onto the ground.  The real plan is to have multiple barrels so that when one fills up, the water travels into the next barrel via the hose.  Cool, huh?

And of course, we needed a spigot at the bottom of the barrel.  I want to build a small platform to raise this barrel just high enough to fit a bucket and/or watering can underneath for easy filling.

Interested in attending a rain barrel workshop at the Lynchburg Market?  The next workshop will be held on June 12th from 11am to 1pm.  You can get more information from the market website.

Created just in time for an afternoon thunderstorm.  Perfect!

Wow, there is so much to say with the latest events over the past few weeks since the last post.  Forgive me, dear readers (hello?  anyone?), but let me indulge you in the latest from Spring Mill.

Chicken: It’s What’s for Dinner

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, we processed our old laying hens.  I debated about if it was something I wanted to share with the blog, but have decided there is nothing to be ashamed about.  We received these hens as day-old chicks, raised them with love and care, and in return they (unknowingly) provided us with eggs for nourishment.  I sold their eggs to my co-workers last year, so they provided nourishment not just to HB and I, our in-laws, but also to at least 50 other people when you count the eggs eaten by our neighbors, co-workers, friends and their respective families.  Amazing the impact of 11 little hens, isn’t it?

The hens were getting older, laying less, and eating what eggs they did lay – a habit we tried hard to break, but never could.  So we set up one Sunday morning, and processed the hens.  The first one was the hardest for me, and after that it became a respectful thanksgiving as we did each hen.  The processing wasn’t that difficult and it was actually pretty interesting.  In their death, these birds will continue to provide nourishment, and that’s another amazing aspect.

A New Beginning

The day after we processed the hens, the next set of chicks arrived.  This time we ordered 30 pullets, half of which are Americanas that lay the beautiful “easter” eggs in shades of blue and green.  The other half are a mix of brown egg layers, Columbian Rocks, Red crosses, and Silver-Laced Wyandottes.  The picture above is taken at one week of age.  They’re living in their brooder in the coop and thriving.  We ordered them from Mt Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.  We ordered our previous set of laying hens from them as well, we love the quality of the birds.  Now, if only I could find a few meat birds to raise as well… 😉

A New Addition

Last week Xenia kidded a beautiful little doeling, who we named “Bette Davis” to keep up the year’s theme.  She is a sweet, spunky little girl.  Despite wanting to bottle-raise, we’ve decided to let Xenia raise her.  Our work schedules just don’t allow time for midday feedings.  Now I’m trying to decide when to introduce her to the rest of the herd.  Bette is so much younger than the other kids, I don’t want them to bully or injure her with their roughhousing!

The Never-Ending Project 😉

The goat barn is coming along well.  We’ve fenced in the small barn lot surrounding it and putt up two of the three gates.  We’ve started some of the interior wall work, and once that is finished will complete the outer front wall.  Then! we will be able to move the goats out there.  How strange it will be to not wake up to them “baaaaa”ing out my back door!

A Bit of Beauty

Our rose bushes are in full bloom and I’m in love with them.  Every year they get better and better.  These were $6 tea rose hybrids we picked up on a whim at WalMart a few years back.  I love the blooms – one blooms a buttery yellow, the other blooms a pale yellow with pink-tinged petals.   Walking out to the chicken coop and seeing these lovely plants makes me smile.

An Education.

Today is the first day the dairy goats and kids have been turned out with the wethers in the big pasture with Huck.  There were some antics at first, but now everyone has settled down and enjoying the field.  Yes, and I said with Huck, my horse.  After nearly 9 months of stall rest and controlled exercise we got the “go ahead” after his last ultrasound to put him out in the pasture!  Last Wednesday was his first day out, and he is LOVING it.  I think he enjoys the goats out there too.  Sweet Roll and Donut stay with him full time – in the pasture during the day, in the barn lot at night.  They often curl up together (the wethers, Huck doesn’t curl up with them) and sleep in the stall at night.  Huck must be picking up skills from the goats – when we climb a big hill/mountain on the trail he breaks out his “mountain goat walk” and cruises up them. 🙂

The goat kids are growing like weeds.  I weighed them the other night, they average around 30 pounds, just over one month old.  Fred and Bogart (Memphis’ kids) are the biggest, and the youngest.  Their bone structure is much more substantial, while Rock and Doris (Abba’s kids) are taller, leaner, but weigh more than you think!

One month.

I can’t believe it.

I spent five months waiting, planning, and in the span of 30 days, time has flown by.  We have a new routine, new kids to play with.  To laugh at.  To cuddle with.  To wince at when they chew a little too much on your hair…

We expect Xenia to kid soon! She is due on Thursday the 29th.  She’s no where near as big as the other does were this close to birth.  Her udder isn’t nearly as full, but I really do think she’s still pregnant – over the past month her sides have taken on a more rotund dimension.  She’s such a high-stress girl.

All the kids have homes:  Doris will remain with us and become a future milker, Bogart will move in with Donut once he’s old enough for weaning – we plan on him to become a companion as we will eventually have to put Sweet Roll down due to his illness.  Fred and Rock will move in with Donut and be fed out and sold to buyers in North Carolina, co-workers of good friends there. I think I managed to pick the most mischievous buckling to keep for our own pet (he will be castrated shortly).  Bogey’s into anything and everything and often keeps me company while I do chores and clean Huck’s paddock.  He finds great joy and jumping on and off objects.  I love his zest for life.  I love all of the goat’s enthusiasm towards life.  It’s something good to model in our own lives.

We put a deposit down on a buckling this week, and we will go pick him up this summer.  He’s a nicely bred French Alpine with good conformation and bloodlines that overlap very little with our current stock.  I wouldn’t have minded something a little more flashy – a nice wide belt? – but we’re not breeding for color — we’re breeding for quality stock with good conformation, attitudes, and milking ability.

Our cheesemaking is going well.  We’ve had chevre transported up and down the East Coast by friends, who all come back with rave reviews.  Our friends have been known to hoard their chevre.  We’re up to several different flavors: plain, herbs de provence, cracked peppercorn, and the newest – a smokey chipotle.  My co-workers love me, since I regularly bring in cheese to share.   I luckily work with some pretty daring taste-testers, lots of foodie’s in one animal hospital!  We call them our “R&D department” and test run new flavors on them and get feedback on new flavors to try.  Some work, others need some tweaking.  They in turn share it with their friends, and we’re already developing a future customer base.  It’s the life of the party.   Not really.  But close. 😉

My father has surgery tomorrow, so please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  I’m likely to be gone for another short stint depending on how everything goes.  It’s been a rough week:  last Thursday HB’s mom had her first chemo session at the same time her father was having quadruple bypass surgery.  Everyone is doing well, thankfully.

Finding time

Some days it’s so hard to find the time to do everything I need to do.

On those days, besides not getting my “to-do” list completed, the blog doesn’t get updated.

Take the past few weeks as an example. 🙂

The goat kids are growing like weeds.  I need to weigh them, because I seriously think Fred Astaire could easily weigh 30 pounds or more.  He’s hefty, big boned.  They are so much fun!  The bucklings are the most outgoing, little Doris is shy but she wants to interact.  Her features are so feminine in comparison to the bucklings.

The momma goats are doing well. Memphis is astounding me with her milk production, she’s getting more grain than anyone else and still could stand to put on a few pounds.  Xenia is due in roughly 10 days, which is very exciting!

The goat shed is coming along.  We’ve got a lot of the siding up, in rough-cut hemlock.  We still have to do the front, and then apply the batting, but it looks really good.  And really big.

Huck is doing wonderfully.  We’ve been out on the trail twice and he loves it.  So do it.  Our most recent ultrasound was Saturday, and we’re cleared to canter and next week he can go on turnout.  His hooves are chipping some, from the trails, and I need to ask Anita about that.  I’m trying to schedule a soundness exam for him as well.  I stupidly scheduled one for next Wednesday before I realized it’s the same day as my dad’s surgery – so I’m trying to re-schedule it.

I’m behind on house-work, so I really should go.  Good thing I have Wednesday off.  I need to weed the bulb bed, mow the grass, and do a million other things.

Just for kicks, here’s a picture of the chicken we had come into work the other day:

Two years ago today, I married my best friend and we never looked back.

I don’t think either one of us saw where our life together was going to lead, but we welcome the surprises each day holds.  We take on adventures, hand in hand, and conquer.  And if we don’t conquer, at least we tried.  Together.  And we’ll likely try again.  One of us is always able to pick up the reins and carry us forward.

We have both faced successes and disappointments.  With the help of each other, we persevere and try to revel in the small things.  Together we have raised baby calves, baby chicks, and baby goats.  We’ve produced our own food, and I’ve canned more in the past three years than I ever thought I could.  We thrive on our little part of the farm and hold dear the friends that doing so have brought us.

To HB, I can say nothing more other than

I love you more and more every day.

♥ Happy Anniversary! ♥

Jump for Joy!

Bogart the Alpine goat takes a leap

Bogart has become my little shadow.  He slips out of the stall door at the last minute, and he’s really so good at hanging with me, that I allow it occasionally.  Some days I tell him “It’s time to be a goat” and send him back out with his goat family.

Yesterday morning he played and followed me around Huck’s lot while I picked up manure.  He’ll help me do chores, following me back and forth up and down the barn aisle and outside.

He loves to jump on top of the hay bales in the barn aisle.  He jumps up, tap dances on the bale, and then makes a HUGE leap off!  It’s incrediably cute.

All the bucklings are super friendly and playful.  They want to interact with humans.  They love it.  Little Doris Day, on the other hand, could care less about coming over to visit.  Ever since she was dis-budded, she’s wanted less interaction.  Some days she runs around like the stall like a deer if she thinks I will try to handle her.  I’m trying to spend more time with her, quiet time so she doesn’t get alarmed.  I think it will work out in the end. 🙂