Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bad behavior...

Ella goat was born right here at FairWinds 5 years ago.  Her mother, Nova, died after she kidded, and I bottle raised Ella, her sister Celeste and a brother.  The brother was sold but Ella and Celeste stayed on. Bottle raised kids are very tame and friendly, because they are handled frequently and they come to rely on their humans for so much.  Celeste is a nice girl; big, placid and a wonderful milker.  Ella is a wretch. Rather than walk politely from the pasture to the garage when it is time to be milked, she races ahead of me, trying to get in the hen yard to eat their food, or gobble up my hanging basket full of petunias, or demolish my flower bed. If all those antics fail, she veers left in the garage instead of going where she knows she should, and plunges her head in the feed barrel, gobbling as fast as she can.  All the while her nice breakfast awaits on the milk stand.

Most goats seem to enjoy being milked.  The milk stand holds their head so they can't leap off, but it is not uncomfortable, and there is a big bucket of grain for them to eat.  Milking also removes the pressure a full udder must present.  Celeste stands rock still when I milk her, not even flinching if a fly lands on her.  Ella, on the other hand, pitches a fit.

She kicks, hard, and I have had the bruises to prove it.  So I got some hobbles. These are soft nylon straps that I fasten around her rear legs. The other ends are anchored firmly to the table, so she can only move her legs about 4 inches in any direction. She cannot kick my teeth out.  The hobbles slow her down some, but she is a crafty thing.  She has learned that she can buck. She lowers her head, and then with both rear legs bounces up as far as the hobbles allow. This causes the entire, heavy milk bench to spring several inches up in the rear, and then come crashing down again under the 175 lbs of goat on top of it. If she is particularly successful, the bench will scrape my shins on the way up and down, and a leg will land on my toes. Painfully. Often she dumps the entire contents of the full milk bucket all over me, the bench and the floor.

I am a calm and patient person, but this goat makes me have violent fantasies.  I threaten to turn her into sausage. I imagine smacking her with a stick.  I sometimes call her very unpleasant names.
She turns a cool eye in my direction. She knows full well I am all bluff. Chris calls her "Cruella."  It suits.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Trips and dogs and goats and such...

In case  you have been wondering why there have been no new blog posts lately, it is because of this: I'm a klutz.

Two weeks ago at dog training class my dog zoomed  through a series of hoops and towards me in a way I was not expecting, running under my uplifted foot/leg as I was walking briskly.  I stumbled, and felt myself going down.  Of course, when one falls it all happens in just an instant, but I did have the thought, as gravity grasped me, "ROLL LEFT!"  This is because last year I fell and dislocated my right shoulder.  I have just recently begun to feel like that injury is completely healed, and I did not want to repeat the ordeal.  So, I twisted my body in such a way that all my weight landed on my left knee when I fell.  It was a rather innocent little fall, really, and on thick rubberized matting, so I felt quite fine when I popped up.  My knee felt funny, but I figured I'd walk it off.  Moments later that knee was so swollen my pants legs were tight and I realized I had done a bit of damage.

I came straight home and filled a gallon zip lock bag with ice.  Bravo looked on with interest as I propped my knee up and applied the cold stuff.  By the next morning I was mighty sore, and some impressive bruising had begun.  But the knee joint seemed fine, so I treating the injury as any soft tissue damage, with rest, ice, compression and elevation.  OK, maybe not so much rest, because there were goats to milk and feed to carry and dogs to exercise and grooming to do.  After a week, it was worse. Much worse. Two nurse friends scared me enough  that I went to the ER.  I was scolded, xrayed, ultra-sounded and cat scanned. After all that they sent home to rest, ice, compress and elevate.  With emphasis on the REST. So that's what I've been doing, while my endlessly patient husband and amazingly generous daughter do all my chores, cook my food, do my work.  Ok I've been doing a little work,
with my leg propped up on the grooming table, an ice pack wrapped in place.  I am feeling a bit better, and will hopefully resume blogging at a more frequent pace.

Meanwhile,  I finally got around to putting out some on-line advertisements to sell some goat kids.  We had 7 kids born here this spring, and sold two when they were quite young because they were bottle babies.  The remaining 5 have grown fat and happy, drinking mothers milk and dining on pasture.  I have to admit, I like them. But it was time for them to go make someone else laugh at their antics, so I took pictures and put the word out.

And today the phone rang. "Hi, I'm calling about your kids for sale. I'd like to buy the doeling."  Well that should have been good news, but I found myself stalling.  I couldn't bring myself to just say, "OK, come on over."  I had to grill the poor woman.  Did she have other goats to keep my girl company? Did she have appropriate shelter for goats? Did they have fenced pasture? She answered all my questions correctly, and 2 hours later her handsome, young husband pulled up.  "I'd like to buy a wether (boy), too," he said." 

And as quick as that two pretty babies were bundled up into the back of his truck.  Secure in a large dog crate, with a nice comfy pad for them to stand on, too. 

They protested. Loudly.  Meanwhile, back in the pasture, their mothers ignored their piteous cries. 
Off they went, to live on a 150 acre farm.  I hope they will be happy and loved and have wonderful little goatie lives.  I'm going to miss them. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy mistakes...

I make a lot of mistakes.  Some turn out ok.  For instance, marrying a man who proposes the first time he meets you, after only 8 dates, is a Mistake with a capital "M."  But after 33 years I can say that things worked out just fine.

When I ordered 25 Cornish-x chicks to be delivered at the end of April, I also made a call to have them processed, because these things need to be planned in advance.

In the past we have planned the date 7 or 8 weeks out.  These birds grow insanely fast.  But I wanted birds that were a little bigger, and the website where I ordered the chicks recommended a 12 week growth period.  So, I followed their suggestion set the schedule up. It was a mistake.

I realized my error when the birds were about 8 weeks old. They were huge.  Destined by genetics to grow large, they had the added benefit of eating grass, weeds and bugs on pasture, PLUS a gallon or so of warm goat milk to drink every, single morning.

They were so big they couldn't easily get in and out of the hutches they slept in at night, so for several weeks we had to catch each of them in the evening to put them in the safe enclosures.  In the morning we would set out food and water, and tip the hutches on their sides so the birds could waddle out to the pasture. I wished I could change the plan, but those processing dates don't change easily. 

 I spent the next few weeks worrying about how big they were getting. Yesterday was the date.  We packed them snugly into hay-lined crates in the back of my truck.  When the strong guys at the butcher shop unloaded the crates, they groaned and remarked at the weight of the things.  

When we picked the processed birds up this morning the staff marveled at the size of the birds.  "You will cook one chicken and eat for days!"  they said.

Rachel pulled one of last years chickens out of the freezer and weighed it.
Four and a half pounds.  They were all about this size.

Then she placed one of this years crop on there.
Just shy of 9 pounds. And this was not the biggest one, either.  I'm pretty sure the biggest guys were around 12 pounds.

This years crop of meat birds caused me some time fretting.  But now I have two freezers packed full of enormous,  pastured, milk fed, home -raised chicken.  There will be good eating ahead.  I can hardly wait to see what mistake I make next!

Friday, July 7, 2017

So much life in our lives...

In the past I have had a sweet little vegetable garden. Last year I couldn't because my arm was injured. This year I had the best of intentions, but was a little later getting started than I should have been, and lacked energy and focus.  Then I had an excellent idea.  I planted the whole thing in pumpkins.  Field pumpkins, pie pumpkins and pretty white pumpkins. They are blossoming and growing nicely.  We will have lots of pumpkins to decorate during our upcoming fall wedding.
The broiler chickens are enormous.  I made a mistake when I scheduled their butcher date, and they are nearly the size of turkeys.  I have worried and fretted about them the last few weeks, concerned that they would die on hot days, that their legs would give out under their weight, that they would keel over from heart attacks.  So far they are all doing ok, but I've gained a few gray hairs over the whole thing.  Hopefully they will be so delicious I will forget the worrisome weeks. Just four more days to agonize over them. 
Yesterday I saw a large bird land on our dead tree, and did a double take.

A Turkey Vulture, perched just over where the broilers are living, no doubt setting goals. I was fascinated to watch it, up close and personal. It lifted off after a while and sailed away. While they are rather un-lovely up close, they are incredible to watch when they soar.

This time of year there is so much life in our life.  Before kissing me goodbye to go to work, Chris leaned in and looked at me with what I thought was love in his eyes.  Turns out it was curiosity.  He leaned closer, and stared at my cheek. Then he reached tenderly towards my face and... plucked something.  I froze. He pulled his hand away. Dangling from his fingertips was a strand of spider silk and from that hung a wee, tiny spider, which had been resting on my cheek.  Sometimes there is a little too much life around here!