I have other posts I want to write, stuff I want to share, but all of that kind of fades to the background when there are baby goats on the farm... and there are baby goats on our farm again!
I get so tired of mending fences, I'm terrible at milking, and when we do milk, we tend to give as much of it to the dogs as we actually process because I get too busy. And lately, the goats have been particularly goaty, which makes me sorely tempted to sell them all and live in peace.
But then the next kidding season rolls around, and the babies make everything worth it all over again.
It's been a crazy few days (weeks) at work. When it gets to be too much, I go outside to soak up the sunshine and watch the babies hop around for a few minutes, and the irritation just sort of melts away.
So for now, I'll keep my goats and the headaches they bring, if for no other reason than the sheer joy of having babies around the farm twice a year.
Because baby goats make everything better.
I took 220 pictures yesterday. Unfortunately, I was 200 pictures into my photo-snapping spree when I noticed a setting had been changed, so most of them were fairly well ruined. Happily, I still wound up with a couple of shots that make me smile even thinking about them. So I decided to share the cute. Happy Monday, all!
Snickers's oldest son is definitely the most rambunctious baby we have so far. His antics never fail to make us smile. I was able to catch a video of him meeting one of the cats for the first time, so of course I have to share!
It never fails that as the days get shorter, my mood gets grimmer. Every winter, there’s something that triggers a full-on case of the winter blues, and every winter it seems it’s something a little different, but it comes just the same. It’s as if the lack of sunshine makes it impossible for me to handle the bad stuff of life with the grace and faith that comes a little easier when the days are warmer and the breeze is gentler.
Whatever tips the dominoes of my descent, I’m usually in a pretty deep funk by January. This is the second year in a row that the aforementioned funk has halted book production. (Sorry guys - didn't meant to slow down Vance's stories so much.) Making books is enough to leave me wrung out - it feels an impossibility when I’m starting from a place that’s already dark.
Any other time of year, when things get rough, I can turn to my Bible, to prayer, to worshiping God, and the waves of life don’t beat me about so badly. In winter, I tend to turn to Regency and Victorian-era England. (My parents asked my eldest how I was a few weeks ago. His reply: “She’s pretty deep in Jane Austen’s world right now…”) At first it soothes me, but it can become a little manic if I let it.
It doesn’t help that January is a miserable, cold, nasty month in Missouri. Usually you can count on December and February to each give you at least a few days of decent weather each. But January is just biting cold, gray, windy, blustery, miserable and gross. Have I mentioned I really dislike January?
But this most hated of months does mean the arrival of seed catalogs, along with their pretty glossy promises of lush summer gardens. I can lose myself for hours sifting through the pages to put together my wish list. And when the total from that makes my eyes water, I narrow it down. And then I narrow it down again. And again. Aaaand again. Four or five passes in, I get my total to a number my husband can live with and place my order. Which means my seeds arrive mid-January, giving me two weeks to sift through the packets and dream and plan before it’s time to start getting serious about seedlings. By then, you can practically taste spring.
After last year’s terrible winter was so hard on our sweet baby goats born in January, I was determined to keep my girls from breeding for January babies. But one of our does wasn’t bred on the property (so I wasn't in control of when she bred) and the other, well, I’m still not sure how that little hussy managed to find her way out of the pasture to the buck pen, but she did. So I once again wound up with a doe bred for January 5 and one for January 10.
As the day approached, I eyed the weather forecast, not at all surprised to see that the one window of particularly nasty weather hovered over the due-date window for my girls. It’s been a flurry of activity around my house, preparing for the little ones’ arrival. We were determined to give them the best possible chance at life despite being born in the yuckiest of months.
As my girls started showing signs of delivery, my husband, our oldest son, and I started rotating shifts to keep an eye on the does so they wouldn’t deliver alone in the middle of the night.
To fully appreciate what’s going on, you have to know that Snickers, my son’s doe, is the farm favorite. She’s a sweet, friendly, laid-back little goat that charms everyone who meets her.
Cinnamon, my darling girl, is… contrary. She’s the doe that lets Dylan get the milk bucket full before she turns to him, smirks, and kicks it over. She was wild as a fox hair when I got her for basically free because I was told she would never even let me touch her. Now, she’s our herd queen and the apple of my eye. She’s kind of a punk to other people, but she gives me kisses and loves for me to scratch her neck. But I know my girl (the aforementioned Houdini-hussy): if there is a way to keep me on my toes, she’ll give it a whirl.
So as we approached the absolute worst day in the forecast this week, it was Snickers who had her twins in the last of the sunshine on the last reasonably warm day, giving me time to help her dry them and get them fed and into warming barrels before temperatures plummeted.
Cinnamon? She gave birth in the 1-hour window between checks during the absolute coldest moment of the coldest night this week. My husband checked her at 11 and there was no sign of labor. By midnight, I was frantically calling for help to towel off her twins before we lost them to chill.
I haven’t slept in days and I’ve pleaded with God to please let all of our babies live through this cold snap, but we’re the happy goat parents to four more babies after a whirlwind two days. Of course, three boys and one girl. Oy, the boys.
And suddenly, all the junk that sent me into a tailspin in December doesn’t seem to matter. It’s hard to be sad in the face of such pure and sweet new life.
So I think my goal for 2015 is to build a big, heated barn for my goatie girls so they can have all the January babies they want to have, because they’re the perfect cure for the winter blues.
I've decided it's time to tell Vance Davis's story. To do that well, I'm re-reading all of the books with him in it. Well, I'm attempting to, anyway. Any time I try to sit down on my front porch to read, this happens:
I finally convinced this crew to leave me alone and then I got distracted by Snickers teaching her baby, Forest, how to pick a fight with our young buckling, Skittlez. (My oldest son insists on the "z" - he says it makes the name more manly. Or is it manlier?)
Even with all of this cuteness abounding, I'm determined to work on this book. I'll let you know how it goes!
The buck on our farm used to escape his pen so he could hang out on our porch. Not sure why, but he did. It was pretty cute, but a bit irritating having to clean the porch each morning.
We sold that little buck and one of our does this weekend. It was a decision that made a lot of sense, but I have to admit I miss the sweetie. The porch seemed a little empty without him last night.
Because all of the remaining goats are either girls who've just had babies or they're too young to be housed with a new adult goat, that leaves us with one wether (boy) who's kind of the odd man out at the moment. Rather than leave him in the pen alone, I let him out so he could hang out closer to his friends.
Instead, he set up camp on the porch. Apparently, it's the happening place to be if you're a goat. When I look out my front door, this is what I see. Pretty cute, and I guess it's worth sweeping the porch in the morning.
I've read about it, the fact that kidding season is a total roller coaster. My understanding is that whether you're talking sheep or goats, this is the case. For me, it's goats.
My herd is still a small one; we only had three does scheduled to kid. Despite the dates calculated based on the last observed breeding, my girls' bodies were telling me their time was close, so I put then in the kidding pens a little early, just in case.
As mentioned in my last post, Snickers kicked it off for us with a beautiful set of twins. The girl was obviously the weaker of the two at birth, but she rebounded pretty quickly. Which made it all the harder when she took a turn for the worse. We did everything we could, but by midnight that night, she was gone. It seems so cruel that something so little and perfect should die.
Maybe I'm imagining it, but Snickers hasn't been herself ever since. She soaks up attention (even more than usual) and is a little indifferent to the remaining buckling - even testy at times. Forest (the buckling) is a skinny little thing, and I'm a bit concerned about him. Maybe it's just because we lost his sister. Maybe something really is off. Either way, I'll be keeping a pretty close eye on Snickers and her son.
The night the doeling died, I collapsed with exhaustion about 1 a.m. About 5 a.m., something inside me said, "Wake up!" I went out to check on the goats and heard the plaintive cries of a new baby. Cinnamon had given birth to one little one and was mid-way through the second. Baby #1 cold and weak. I ran to wake up my oldest son, who helped round up towels. We moved fast, getting babies dried off so we didn't lose another one to the weather. We were careful to do all of this in a way that let Cinnamon keep cleaning them, though. I don't ever want to interfere with the mother/baby bond.
Happily, both babies are doing well. The buckling is a little weaker, so we're keeping a close eye on him. He's also just about the cutest thing on the planet. I'm pretty much in love and doubt I'll be able to sell him. I've named him Rolo. His sister doesn't have a name because I'm fairly certain she's already sold to a friend and neighbor, so I'm trying not to get too attached. She has enough spunk to be the heroine in one of my novels, though. It's hard not to admire her pizzazz.
I have to say I'm really impressed with Cinnamon. It's her first time to have babies, but she's doing an amazing job so far.
Last night, I joked on Facebook that if Porsche, our full-sized dairy doe, wanted to wait a couple of days to give birth, that would be cool with me. When I checked her last night before bed, I knew it wouldn't happen.
She went into labor at 4 this morning. My husband heard her and tried to wake me up, but I wouldn't budge. Luckily, she didn't need me. By the time I got out there, she'd given birth to three healthy boys.
While I'm dismayed they're boys because I'd planned to retain her doelings, I'm thrilled with how beautiful and healthy they are. She cleaned them up on her own, though Adam and I did help her finish drying them so they didn't catch a chill. Babies this beautiful make me want to be a crazy goat lady and keep them all.
Here's where it's obvious Porsche is my experienced mama: when the other two young moms had something go wrong with their babies, they just frantically licked them. It was all they instinctively knew to do. They would look at me with eyes that visibly said "help me."
Porsche, on the other hand, has things well in hand. She corrals her three boys with ease and her eagle eye instantly spotted that one had a weak back leg. In response, she has started exercising him. For the first hour or so, she let him nurse whenever he wanted. Now when he wants to nurse, she faces him and backs down the length of the pen, then turns and backs the other way. He follows her like a donkey following a carrot, dragging that little leg behind. After a lap, he gets to nurse. Then they do another lap. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, and it's working. Every time I check them, he is stronger.
This goat has seriously earned my respect this week. When we bought her, her previous owners told us she likes babies. I would say that not only does she like babies (all babies, not just hers), she is a phenomenal mother.
I know other farmers with much longer kidding seasons than ours. I'm not sure how they do it. I guess, like in all things, we'll work our way up to it. I'm a little sad there aren't more babies this year, but I'm not sure I would have physically withstood many more!
I can't stop laughing about the number of bucklings this year. It's a bit reminiscent of my ultrasound with my youngest. They told me he was a boy and I giggled about it for days. I'm destined to be surrounded by handsome men, I guess.
I don't mind having all boys, but when it comes to goats, the boys are hard to milk. Maybe next season we'll do better with our doeling/buckling ratio. Someone told me it depends on when the does breed, where they are in their cycle. A question for next year, I guess.
In the meantime, it's back to working on the next book for me - assuming I can force myself to stop checking on baby goats, that is.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.