Archive for the ‘farming’ Category

My Alter Ego

For years people have asked me, “Why do you have goats?” Mind you this question started long before goats in pajamas inundated your Facebook feed.  I always replied with a simple, “Well, I like goats.”

In reality, I have loved goats since I was a child.  Well, I loved them until my dad brought one home from the auction.  His name was Billy.  Of course, it was. He was a male and  back then no one knew that a male goat is a buck and a female a doe.  They were billies and nannies. But  I digress, Billy was an asshole.  Billy was the epitome of the reason why no one thinks anyone with a brain or a new car should own a goat.  He climbed everything in sight and if he could not climb it he rammed it.  He could not climb children and he rammed us…hard.  Billy lasted two weeks and then made a trip back to the auction. Not a tear was shed.

In my twenties, my friend Rhonda had a horse and two  pygmy goats to keep it company.  Their names were Hans and Ivy.  My love was renewed.  These two were freaking adorable and friendly.

Years passed, I am try to be a sensible person and can only have things that have a purpose on this farm.  Goats give milk, we drink milk, a sensible purpose. So I convinced Rod into getting two Nigerian Dwarf goats.  But they were just kids and would need a year to be productive so I found another goat.  One in milk that we could use and the Nigerians would have time to grow.  Milk is good.  Well, not true, completely.  Our first milking goat , Matilda, gave the worst tasting milk I have ever had.  I thought it tasted like I was licking a stall floor.

 

Junie B. Jones and Amelia Bedelia as kids

So we continued to buy milk at the store, good tasting milk and gave the Nigerians time to produce.  Junie B. and  Amelia Bedelia did eventually give good tasting milk but it was such a small amount that I decided that I wanted to try another breed. A standard breed goat, a large goat. Larger goats have larger teats…easier to milk and more of it.  Matilda was sold and Olive and her kids, Skippy Jon Jones and Lilly  were purchased.

                                                                3 2013 butting heads farm Painting-9637Olive and friend

So then I had two Nigerian Dwarfs and two Nubian does to milk.  And I did not need all that milk.  And to be honest the Nigerians, the ones you all know as the goats in pajamas, are drama queens in my opinion.  They bitch  yell if they are in heat, want food or just feel like it.  The Nubians, Olive and Lilly yell when in heat and you can hear them from a mile away as they are the loudest breed of all goats but it is a deep resonate sound not a whiny bitchy sound. Drama queens and whiners suck no matter how cute they are or how much you love them.

You are right the sound of an animal should not be the deciding factor of a preference and it is not. I have had Olive for 5 years now and she is truly my hero.  She is who I want to be.  She loves her cookies after milking, I prefer mine at midnight with milk. She always believes in letting her wind blow freely from any end she chooses. She loves the smoke of a cigar, especially mine. And maybe my favorite thing about her…if she doesn’t like someone she simply slams them in the head.  I love this goat!

 

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So it is finally here.  The last son is graduating.  The nest is emptying….

I pride myself on being this tough old broad that is hard and realistic or at least I think I thought I was.  Then this happens.

Don’t get me wrong it was hard when the last two completed school and moved on to their futures.  But this is the last one, there will be no one to wake up 47 times to ensure timeliness, there will be no more dirty dishes or socks in the mostly unlikely of places. No more permission slips to sign in my last minute dash to work. No more lunch money.

I have been a bag of emotions today.  I felt like I have been fired from a start up business that I had birthed and grown into a fantastic, thriving successful thing.  I felt unemployed, my job is no longer necessary.  I will be kept on as an adviser but I am not  in charge of it.  I had contemplated selling the goats because why not.  I was rethinking every life decision I have made.

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Youngest and his girl

 

As I was explaining  the jangle of shit that was going through my heart and head to my husband, the goat guy shows up.  “Hey, I have a proposition for you….”

I have two new goat kids coming Tuesday.  They are bottle babies.  They will need nurturing and I won’t have to wake them or find their socks but something wants me to keep doing what I am doing, so I will.  Even if it is with tears in my eyes.

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Sometimes farming is a Shit Sandwich.

Several years ago I was a speech therapy assistant and the amazing speech therapist who I worked under told me that when writing summaries of a student’s progress to always format it in a shit sandwich, the good, the bad and then more good.  The past two weeks in farming has been a shit sandwich.

The good layer: We were finally able to acquire our 5 piglets this past weekend.  With the extreme cold temps and much snow we were put on hold for two weeks. Two weeks does not sound like much but when you have the kill date all set two weeks are pounds lost and pounds are dollars. On Saturday, K. Bob, Patty, Stu, Barbie Q and Madam Curry joined the farm family.

The SHIT layer: A week ago this Sunday I went out to do chores and Lilly did not get up promptly and meet me by the gate with her girlfriends.  I looked in and beside her was a little white, furry mound.  Shit, F&*%, damn.  I hurried and moved the rest of the herd into a different pen and went to assist Lilly.  Shit, F&*%, damn this was not supposed to happen for about 23 more days… but it was happening.  She kidded out a set of triplets.  Beautiful triplets.  Large triplets.  But very flaccid triplets. Yet they were alive.  They were quickly brought inside and Lilly was administered to.  We lost the biggest of the three in the first hour.  The smaller two were fed every two hours and we eventually lost them as well.  Lilly was not doing well, the vet was summoned, many tests were run, many shots were given to whole herd to bar against any possible contagious diseases, worm medication was given, tums for calcium and Gatorade for electrolytes were doled out in massive quantities.  Life in the barn was a worry, a stress, a holy shit week.

The second good layer: All tests came back negative for any contagious diseases. Although many dollars were spent and we will never know what caused Lilly to prematurely kid,  knowing that none of the other girls should have this unfortunate situation happen is worth it. Olive is due the 4th of April…let’s hope the shit sandwich has been served and it is time for dessert.

 

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You all must remember James and his Giant Peaches, he was our original herd sire.  A magnificent Nigerian buck. He was white with a beard that hung almost as low as his…peaches.  Last summer we decided to do away with bucks on the farm. So James went.

You are all probably wondering why we would decide to do this.  Well, there are many reasons or there were many reasons that seemed reasonable at the time.  First, monetary: it costs about $150 a year to house a buck and that does not include his friend’s feed.  Goats are herd animals and need companionship.  A buck will need a wingman aka a whether or another buck to spend time with much like a bachelor and his friends.  Someone to drink  with, eat with and talk about does with. Second the keeping of a buck and friend requires another home.  Another path to be shoveled another bucket of water to carried to and another area to be mucked out.  Along with more hooves to be trimmed, more vaccinations to be given and all the other mundane stuff we do that no one but a goat farmer realizes has to be done. And then there is the smell, the amazingly awful stink that comes with the  buck  who is in his full glory during breeding season.  I can’t describe it nor did I find it to be as offensive as the husband did. I will agree it is… well, rank is perhaps a good word or downright freaking nasty might be better. But I could deal with it because, hell, they are my goats.

So James was gone and we had to have the girls bred.  We hired Beau, a handsome, big strapping Boer gigolo. Beau spent 3 weeks here on the farm romancing Olive, Lilly, Tilly and Stella.  It cost us $100, actually it cost a 26 pound turkey and thirty five dollars.

Olive and Lilly took Beau seriously and are due to kid in April.  Tilly and Stella not so much. So here we are in February and there are does to be bred.  Called Beau’s owner and asked if Beau could spend some more quality time here.  Well, it seems Beau, the poor guy, took a spill on the ice and split his testicles which would take some time to heal before he could take on such a task.  But we were offered Jerry.  Ironically, Jerry is the son of James.  So we have come full circle in a strange way.

The decision mostly based on stink ended up being  stinky itself.  The cost effectiveness does not work out.  It cost $100 to breed the first time plus feed and hay for the bucks while they were on the farm so that ate up the $150 savings. They still stunk up the place for a short while.  But ultimately, the hassle of worrying if I am going to get everyone bred before the season ends has made us decide to keep a buck for ourselves again.  So next fall if you stop in, breathe deep and know that you are smelling relief in more ways t

james

James

han one.

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Fitbits and Farming

For Christmas I requested a Fitbit. Not because I have a fear that I am not stepping enough every day, but for the reason that I had heard they have a sleep part to them. Christmas morning I received my requested gift, a Fitbit Charge 2.  Holy Santa, not only does this bad boy track my steps and sleep it also checks my heart rate.

First day, needs to be charged…5,347 steps.  Not bad for Christmas day.  Day two, starts out ripping it, 8,276 steps…frigging thing needs to be charged again…guess it did not receive a full charge on day one.    Day 3 and a drive to Orono and back, 10,982 steps not bad for sitting on my ass for 4 hours.

These things become obsessive…I mean really obsessive. I check it all day long to make sure I am….walking, you know the simplest of exercises.  Well, the simplest when you farm.  But did you know that this little piece of technology does not factor the difference between a step empty handed or one in which you are throwing a pitch fork full of heavy goat shitty bedding into a wheelbarrow or when you are carrying in an back arching load of fire wood.  Nope, that is just a step.  Same step one could take walking up to the counter at McDonald’s to order a supersized meal.

But for some reason these steps become important.  I mean really like crazy important. Today after work I made soap. Soap is not step intensive. So the effing Fitbit stayed at 11,292.  It should only matter that I made a batch of soap.  That is how I have always defined productivity, what I completed.  But oh no, now I am actually standing in front of the crock pot, stick blender going full bore…stepping in place to the tunes blaring out of the radio.

13,741 today, so far….

 

 

 

 

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Doeling in their hut. 

April vacation started Thursday.  Olive’s due date was Saturday.  Perfect planning…not that I had a whole lot to do with it.  Nature has it’s own rhythm and it worked out to my advantage… so not.

Anyone that owns goats knows that the gestation period for Nubians is roughly 150 days, with the typical goat kidding three days to one side of the due date or the other.  I try hard to schedule kidding during April vacation or as close as I can.  I work with a bunch of really great people who understand my “other” life and I can go home when the deal goes down.

Olive worries me.  She has had milk fever her last two kiddings and needs meds to get up and going. But I have a barn cam and an app on my phone so I can monitor things and run home if necessary  which makes me way less anxious this time of year.

Honestly, things are perfect…great people, good technology and decent timing….

Until Thursday morning.  Olive’s ligaments were gone.  Ligaments are a sure way of telling of impending kidding.  They run along the side of the tail and are usually described as feeling like a pencil  that runs diagonal along the backside below the hide.  In preparation for kidding a doe’s ligaments will soften and “disappear”.  So they are gone.  It is 4 in the morning I have to be to work at 7.  Maybe all will happen in those few hours.  Yeah, no.  So I make a plan.  I will stay home until 11 and youngest son will sign out, come home and be on watch after that.  Remember above when I said that I work with great people…I truly do…but I also work in a district with a contract.  Under that contract I cannot extend a long vacation.  So therefore I felt I needed to be at work at some point during the day. I kind of stress over these things.  I have this kind of guilt not guilt.  I choose to be at the farm but yet know I should be at work….it is a shitty paradigm.

So I check Olive once again, go in the house change into somewhat presentable work clothes, check Olive again, drive to the neighbors and ask if they will check on Olive at 10 and 10:30.  Drive back to the house check on Olive, mind you nothing has changed. Drive to work. Neighbor calls at 10, nothing happening but there is a slime string hanging down.  Neighbor calls at 10:37 very long slime string but nothing else to report.  I continue to pretend to work.  At 11 I sit down with my friends for lunch and check the app on my phone, you know the one that is connected to the barn camera.   It comes onto the screen and I see nothing but here this little, baa….Gotta go.

Seriously, I jumped up grabbed my purse and headed out the door.  I raised home and had a set of twins waiting for me.  All are doing well, but Olive did need her dose of meds.

I truly love the people who make this farming this possible, good friends all!

p.s. Lilly is due next Saturday….

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Unrest

This little farm has different seasons, as all farms do.

There is summer with all its glory. Weeding the gardens, feeding the multitude of animals, canning, milking and the list goes as long as the days are and beyond.

Summer transitions into fall.  School starts, back to work, broilers and pigs head to freezer camp.  Gardens are harvested and readied for the deep sleep of winter.  Wood is cut and split.  And the grand push to ready the Christmas season is on. Soap and lotion are made for the numerous  sale events we attend. The house is cleared out and set up for the home show in November, no small feat that.  The family calls it “hell week” and rightly so. Christmas comes and goes and we settle into winter.

Most would think that things would calm down after all that.  But stock has been depleted and more must be made for coming shows.  I never have time for spring cleaning so I winter clean.   People love to take soap and cheese making classes during the doldrums so many are booked usually on the same day the girls come into heat so I must juggle goat sex and meeting people for their class without smelling of Stanky Buck.

The later part of winter, I mean like the month of March. I rest.  Chores are at a minimum with only the goats and chickens to be done.  Milking does not occur now as the girls are dried off to give their energy to growing kids that are due in April.  Life is slower and easier.

The longer days of Spring and five, maybe six piglets will be arriving this weekend. The first batch of broilers shortly after that.  I need to start the tomato and pepper seedlings, too. Did I say that I have the whole month of March off, I guess I lied.

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