Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The best laid plans...

I had planned to get a couple of piglets early this spring. Once the goat kids were weaned, they could drink up the extra goat milk and grow, having a happy life and then go to freezer camp in the fall.  I put off finding piglets because I was busy at work and with a million baby goats and life in general.  My friend, who was going to take one of the piglets after I raised it, called and told me I was probably too late. That I most likely would not be able to get a date for processing, (these things need to be planned well in advance) and that this late in the spring the piglets wouldn't have time to grow big enough to be worthwhile. I figured he was right, but just for fun called the butcher to see if I could get a date. I was able to, for November. I made an appointment just in case. 

Yesterday my friends wife sent me a link to an advertisement she had seen for 9 week old piglets, only about an hour away from here, at a good price. I answered the ad and in 2 minutes had agreed to buy the pigs. 

It was raining tonight when Rachel and I set off for Searsport, where we planned to rendezvous in a parking lot to pick up our new charges.  I put a crate in the back of the truck, bedded it down with hay, and tied a tarp over it. The pig people showed up right on time.  We had swapped truck makes so we would know each other. He was in a Ford F150 and I was in a Toyota Tacoma. That's how we do things in the country! Swapping the pigs from their crate to ours went surprisingly well.  Two cute little white girls. By "little," I mean 25 pounds or so.

Chris had rigged up a pen for them the night before.  A calf hutch stuffed with hay was ready and waiting.  A nice sized area with strands of hot wire was prepared to keep them in their own paddock.  The whole drive home, I planned the steps we would take to get the girls from the crate to their new home.

 Once they got here I put a pan of fresh water outside the hutch, and pan of food for them inside, out of the rain. We pulled the truck into the pasture, (always tricky, with hot wire to deal with, and animals we don't want to escape.) Chris gently got the first piglet out of the crate. She screamed and carried on. He tenderly carried her to the hutch and set her inside. Then he came back to get her sister.  When I opened the crate door, the sister pig flew out like a shot, leaping off the truck and sprinting through the pasture.  The first pig, who had been content in the hutch, blasted through the hot wire to join the runaway.  Mayhem ensued.  My blood pressure shot up several points.

Abraham noticed the newcomers first, and raced to see them, ears pinned.  He didn't quite know what to make of them, two grunting, short little things, nosing in the dirt.  Then Chanel saw them. Chanel hates pigs. I once read that horses dislike pigs because they are related to bear, and smell like them, and horses don't tolerate bear.  Chanel has had pigs share a portion of her pasture twice since she's been here. She was not amused either time.

Tonight, streaming in rain, she snorted and chased them. They ran nimbly out of reach.  Chanel snorted and stomped, and ran to me, as if to say, "Help!  Pigs in the pasture!"  The goats galloped in a herd, to and fro, confused and worried.  Chris and I went to work on the electric fence.  We had some mesh fence, which would be a more substantial barrier for the piglets, in the garage attic.  Chris got it down and we put it up around the hutch. It was tangled and hard to handle. He was so patient. Even after a long day, methodically working to solve the problem. I admire that about him more than words can say.

 All the baby goats "helped," sticking their naughty heads through the mesh, getting their legs tangled, chewing on it. When they were not doing that they were jumping on my nice truck with their hard little hooves. It was maddening.  Meanwhile, the piglets trotted and rooted and explored, looking quite happy. The horse, donkey and goats ran around in a lather, visibly distressed.  We got the reinforced fencing up, but still had no idea  how to catch the little pink things.  Friend Marion stopped in.  She has some kind of magic, (or the piglets were tired from their transport and explorations) and as soon as she got here the piglets stepped over the electric net (which was not turned on) and hopped into the hutch. They ate their supper, they had a drink, and Chris hustled to the garage to turn the electricity on. We stood back, swatting flocks of mosquitoes, and watched as the new girls came out of their hutch and tested the fence.  Zap. Squeal. Repeat. They walked the perimeter of their new enclosure, testing, testing. Zap. Squeal. I know it sounds horrible, but it was a good sound. It was the sound of pigs that will be safe. 

I hope they will stay where they should be for the night, snuggled into the deep hay in their cozy hutch. We will work on reinforcing their fencing to keep them safe as they grow. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Greener grass...

Our sweet neighbors allow us to graze our animals on their pasture land.  We fence it with a few thin strands of electric fence, and I've been a little worried about how all these kids will do, learning to stay in where they should. The thought of 11 kids loose and running amuck is a little terrifying. We have held off letting them out because the fence needed to be repaired and we were letting the grass get a good start. Today sweet Chris walked the pasture and tightened the fence up. Winter had not been kind to it.  He got it all fixed and ready for the season in about an hour.

The grass out there is ankle high and lush. Even I thought it looked tasty.  Around 4:00 PM I let Chanel, Abraham, and all the mama goats out onto the land they have not grazed since last fall. Chanel was so happy she ran a few steps, head up, mane and tail flowing. A brief glimpse of her younger self.  Abraham chased Jane Doe with glee. It was a lot of excitement. The kids all looked on, calling to their mamas.  After a while I got brave and opened the gate. Half of the kids streamed in, boldly.  The other half hung back and looked worried.  After a while Abraham came out of the big pasture. He circled around and herded the hangers on through the gate.  There was a lot of leaping and dancing about. They explored with glee. Chanel and the mama goats ate and ate and ate some more.  The happiness was palpable. Everyone stayed inside the boundaries.

Bravo and I took a little time to walk out with the herd. After the long winter, it was nice to see them being able to eat fresh, green grass with gusto.  There was a cool breeze, which kept the black flies at bay for the most part.  When I stood still I could hear wind in the trees, water rushing over the rocks of the brook tucked behind the trees, and the tearing of plants as hungry animals dined. It was lovely. Even Bravo was smiling.

It was a much better day than yesterday.  Yesterday started early, before 4:00 AM, when Bravo asked to go outside with some urgency.  A little while later he began to vomit, leaving puddles of blood all over the floors.  Bloody diarrhea followed. He had the good grace to make it outside for the latter, and directed all the vomiting onto hard floors instead of carpeting or upholstery. He's a remarkable dog. I had him at the veterinarians office by 9:00 and left him there, head and tail hanging, feeling miserable. I worried and fretted, nearly as miserable as he was. 

He had x'rays and IV fluids. He received antibiotics and stomach soothing medicine.  The doctor called me twice. They decided it was hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. He must have eaten something he shouldn't have, but I have no idea what it might have been. He is not really the sort of dog that eats indiscriminately. It remains a mystery. A $460 mystery. But he came home and ate his prescription supper with gusto. Then he slept through the night and seemed his normal, happy, self this morning.  I am relieved.  I sure do love that dog. 

Meanwhile, my friend Brenda has been working her magic around our yard. She has edged flower beds and moved rocks, hauled mulch and planted things she brought from her garden.  She has such an eye for loveliness, and can get so much done in such a short time. 

It is spring, and green, especially on my side of the fence.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Kids and kittens and bunnies, oh my!

As if there were not enough little, white,  kids in the pasture, here they are with mirror images.  All of them are getting big, and they are sleek and lovely to look at.

Spirit, Bliss and Echo snuggle sweetly.  Spirit is a wonderful mama. She even lets the other does kids nurse on her.  These three look so pretty together.  The Saanen goats are my favorites. They are quiet, sweet, and biddable. I like the shape of their delicate little faces, too.

 The kittens put themselves in adorable positions, seemingly begging to have the paparazzi come to call.  I oblige.


 They seem to have forged a relationship with this rabbit. I often see them  hanging out together. I become alarmed when I see the kittens chasing the bunny. Then I laugh when roles are reversed and the rabbit chases the kittens. Other times they just potter along, side by side. The inter-species relationships here never cease to amaze me.

Meanwhile, some tree swallows are checking out this nest box.  There was an English Sparrow hanging around, but I strongly discouraged him and he seems to have taken the hint and moved on.  

After a lot of rain, we've had some lovely warm days. The world is turning green, and I am glad. Quiet mornings I can hear loons and Canada geese on the pond, and song birds are filling the air with melody throughout the day. It's been fine enough this week to open the windows and let the fresh breezes billow through the lace curtains and push out the stale of winter. The house and I breath in deeply, welcoming. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Woes and ailments...

Mostly the animals on the farm are quite healthy.  Despite that fact, we have a good relationship with a wonderful large animal veterinarian.  She is young, brilliant, pretty, and very capable.  She is also kind, and willing to answer a text message from me on a Sunday night when I have a concern.  I try not to abuse such a privilege, and am most grateful to know I can get her expert advice if I need to. 

Last week she came to give everyone a check up, and dole out vaccinations where needed.  She fretted over the state of Chanel's hooves.  "See how they are all bruised?" she asked. I didn't. She showed me, and they are cracked, too.  "It's just age, like when peoples skin gets all fragile and is easily damaged," she explained.

And Abraham.  Poor little dude.  Last year he began having some problem with his hooves. Something called "white line disease," which is apparently common for donkeys.  At the same time his regular farrier, (hoof trimmer) was injured and could not work for several months while he healed. We found a different farrier, who was very nice, and he worked diligently to try to help Abraham with his troubles.  But the donkey's hooves looked horrible, and the shape of his hooves was making him move oddly and hold his legs in a strange way.  The farrier explained to me that this was a process, but I was concerned.  And Abraham was a brat for the new farrier, when he was always an angel for the original man. The vet noticed how he was standing and asked, "What do you think about his feet?" I said, "I wish I could have my old farrier back, I'm worried." She suggested I call him.  I knew he was busy, and that my two animals were small potatoes for him.  "He likes you," she said, "Call him."  So I did.  And he came right out.  Abraham stood stock still, practically offering his old friend his feet to work on. The farrier trimmed and cut and filed, and when he was done he told me the donkey might be sore for a few days because he had changed the way his hooves hit the ground and it might affect his joints.  About an hour after he left I looked outside and saw this: 

 Abraham was running. He bucked and dodged, danced and reared and ran some more.  He had not moved faster than a walk in months. Chanel got excited and did a little running herself.  I was overjoyed that Abraham felt well enough to celebrate.  

Meanwhile, Celeste had a skin irritation on her udder.  The doctor diagnosed a staph infection, and left me with a pile of needles, syringes, and a bottle of antibiotics. This meant I was giving a shot to the goat every day for a week, and wearing gloves while I milked her.  There was also a topical spray to soothe her.  She was a good sport about all of it, and looks much better now.  

While the vet was here she kindly castrated the Click and Clack, the new barn cats.  She gave them a tranquilizer and then one by one, on the kitchen table, she did the deed. It took mere moments, and cost a fraction of what my small animal veterinarian would have charged.  I tucked them into a crate until they were good and awake, and begging for supper. They never missed a beat. 

Harrison Ford, my beautiful, sweet, rooster was moving a bit slowly last week.  I  noticed he was resting in the pasture, where normally  he spent the entire day running and scratching and taking care of his ladies.  Then I noticed his comb and wattles were pale.  They got more pale by the day. 

I picked him up and looked him all over. I wondered if he was infested with mites or lice. I found a few external parasites, but not many. I treated him anyway.  I tucked him into a dog crate on a bed of soft hay so he could rest. I gave him diced beef liver to build his blood. I have him yogurt in case his intestines needed a bacterial boost. I called the vet, and she gave me permission to inject him with penicillin, which I did.  After three days he was paler and weaker.  In general, with chickens, once you notice they are sick, it's pretty much too late to help them.  But I tried.  I decided I'd let him go back with the flock, so he could die in the familiar coop where he was born, surrounded by his girls.  I tucked him into a cozy corner with a bowls of food and water.  Every few hours I check, expecting him to be gone.  But he is still with us.  He moves around a bit, which encourages me, but he is pale and weak, and I doubt he will pull through. Still, where there is life, there is hope, and I am hopeful. He's the nicest rooster I've ever had.  

Though most days the animals are hale and hearty, it's been a spell of care taking the critters.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Critter season...

This time of year, my time is taken up with critters. In a good way. My life is just so FULL of life.

The new kittens have dispatched their first mouse, and are very entertaining.  They are devoted to each other, and I love to watch them chasing breeze-tossed feathers and early bugs. They have the makings of excellent hunters.

 I had worried how they would be with my diminutive Silky Chickens. I need not have been concerned. They do annoy the free range rabbits a little, but the rabbits do not seem terribly upset by their stalking and chasing. Our little kingdom remains peaceful.

The goat kids are growing by leaps and bounds.

And they have a special fascination for the free range rabbit. She tolerates them amazingly well, sitting very still while they sniff her all over.

They are brimming with life and joy and curiosity. I spend a lot of time just watching them.

The horse and donkey have epic patience with the little things.  They leap and nuzzle, nibble and climb. We all are entertained by their antics. 
My first waking thought is about the animals. I often dream about them in my sleep.  All day long, I think about them, take care of them, and watch them. It makes me happy. I think it makes them happy, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Farmlette happenings...

There is much life here at FairWinds. The new kittens are getting bigger and bolder, dashing around the pasture, chasing windblown leaves, climbing the tree outside the grooming studio window to smile in at us.

They are very friendly, and purr loudly and often. We are enjoying them.

Then there are the goat kids. As they enter week #2 of their lives, they have picked up speed and endurance.  They run, leap, twist, dance, prance and entertain. I love looking out the window to see their antics, and find myself chuckling out loud several times a day.

I've taken to making sure I have my phone or a camera with me at all times when I do chores. Otherwise I might miss being able to show you scenes like this one...

Abraham has taken to standing next to objects such as the goat teeter totter or some other slightly elevated thing. He stays still until a kid or two leap up onto his broad back. And then he looks most pleased, and is very still while the babies dance upon him.

After a long winter of being coop-bound, (my chickens do not appreciate snow) the flock seems so happy to be out scratching around. They peck and dig, take luxurious dust baths, strut and flap.  The big guy in the foreground here is my sweet rooster, Harrison Ford.  I just like looking at him. He is huge, taller than my knee, but gentle.

In the north east corner of our pasture there is a little place we call, "Puddle Pond."  In the wet seasons, this low area becomes a rather large, deep, puddle. The ducks love it, and spend hours there splashing and gliding about.  To my delight I saw visitors there recently.

A lovely pair of Canada Geese. I wondered what the ducks would think of the interlopers. They appeared not to notice them, and peace reigned.

Springtime is busy here, and so full of life it never fails to energize me. I can hardly wait to wake up every morning to see what wonders are in store, right here, before my very eyes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Starting spring...

The calendar says it is spring, and the singing birds agree. The pasture is a mix of old tattered snow, and mud. So much mud. It sucks at my boots and the animals seem to hate walking through it. I can't blame them.
The ducks are in their element, wandering from puddle to puddle, dabbling their flat bills in the wet. They are on the move all day, after a long winter of being kept close to the coop due to the snow. 

Looking out the window I see little white goat kids bouncing and flouncing all around. We have never had them all be one color. It's hard to tell them apart, and we have taken to spritzing dots of color on them so we can tell which kid belongs to which mama goat.  Jane's kids have red dots, Ella's, green, Spirit's, blue. The kids Celeste abandoned are kept in a separate area, so they remain unsullied.
 Interestingly enough, the baby goats don't stay with their mama's all the time.  They leap and twist around the pasture, grab a snack from the mom milk bar,  then pile into the goat cozy for a communal nap.  I rigged up a little lean-to for them, and they gather there, safe from the hooves of the big goats.  It's the sweetest thing. Each kid lies touching it's brother/sister. They bond early, and tightly.

They love to climb, and will happily leap up on anything within reach.  Spirit goat has her own two kids on her back, and one of Ella's, for good measure. She is patient with all the babies.
Kids are curious about every creature they meet.

Poodles, kittens, chickens... they examine each animal with bold curiosity. 
We are all enchanted by them. Even this guy. 

Spring time. Mud. Kids. And lots of smiles.