Escape!

Oh, goats. They are such lovely creatures! Daisy is currently giving us more milk than we know what to do with, and she is quite the sweetie.

However, everyone knows that goats are escape artists. Ours are no exception! I’m getting rather tired of goats in my garden (twice now I’ve had to replant beans and tomatoes!) and I sure don’t feel great about them getting into the neighbouring GMO soy field.

Today we set up a portable electric fencing system so that we could move the goats around various parts of the yard. The idea was that they’d munch down the grass & weeds, and then we’d move them on to the next spot. It was a lovely idea and perfect in theory, until we attempted to put it into practice.

On this wonderful first day of Summer, in blistering heat and searing sun, Jae and I pounded a copper grounding rod 6 feet into the ground – no small feat! We set up all the fence posts, strung the wire, turned on the fully-charged solar fence energizer, and placed the goats inside their new pen.

In less than one minute, they were out. They received a big zap – we saw the sparks – paused for half a moment, and then they barreled right on through as though the wire was not even there.

Goats:1, Solar fence:0

I hollered after the goats and declared that I was sick enough of them in my garden that I’d be happy to get rid of them altogether. Lynden started crying, “Please don’t get rid of my goats, I love those guys, please let me keep them!” and Raina joined in with a high-pitched wail.

So now Jae is returning the expensive solar electric fencing system to the TSC and reinforcing the fence around the goat yard, where those stubborn beasts are supposed to be contained. And the lush, overgrown lawn? Well, I think we’ll finally give in & purchase a lawnmower, and feed the goats the clippings.

Morning Rituals

For most of my life, I was not a morning person. It was really, really hard for me to get my butt out of bed. But living on a farm means getting up each morning and getting right to it – there’s no time for easing slowly into the day! There are things that must to be done before breakfast is made, animals waiting to be fed, goats waiting to be milked, eggs needing to be collected. These days, I love mornings and the routines we start our days with. Take a peek at a morning on the farm!

Freshening

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We’ve been anxiously awaiting the birth of this year’s goat kids. This evening, we arrived home to discover the Daisy had JUST given birth – to a stillborn kid. Oh, how our hearts broke. The tiny little kid was laying there in the corner of the barn, fresh and new and looking perfect, but not a breath of life in it. My children were so very disappointed and sad.

For her part, Daisy seems just fine. She passed the placenta with no problem, and soon after resumed eating and drinking as though nothing had happened. She doesn’t show any signs of distress, which is a relief and a blessing. Daisy, being bottle-raised by our children, holds a very special place in our hearts. It was getting to be pretty dark by the time we got things settled and we needed to call it a night, so in the earliest hours of the morning she will be milked for the first time.

Dinosaur is still quite pregnant and round. Lynden is hoping that she kids twins so that he and Raina will each have a baby goat to love.  He shed quite a few tears tonight over the poor little stillborn.

Goat Stew

The other day, our billy goat (“Billy”, aptly enough) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Not wanting to let a perfectly good goat go to waste, Jae decided he’d take the opportunity to learn how to butcher a fairly large animal. Billy was hung up in the garage and Jae got to work, coming out on the other side with a good 20lbs or more of great-looking meat.

Now, everything I have read has said that an intact (not neutered, that is) billy goat will give meat that has an unpleasant “billy goat” taste to it. If you’ve ever smelled a billy goat, you know how putrid they are, and apparently this aroma carries over into the flavour of the meat. After Jae’s butchering job, I figured Billy would be fed to the dogs.

Jae had other plans. He got online and found a recipe for goat stew, then spent last evening in the kitchen. When he placed the steaming pot of stew in the centre of the dinner table, I served myself a bowl and took a big bite before I could think twice about it.

Oh, dear readers, I cannot tell you how disgusting the stew was. It had potential, to be sure, but the aroma of Billy certainly did lend flavour to the meat – a flavour I would have been happy to go my whole life without ever tasting. My stomach heaves even now, just at the thought of it.

Jae tried to be stoic and brave. He tried to choke down his stew. Alas, the taste of Billy overwhelmed him quickly, and he agreed that the rest of the meat was fit for the dogs. I spent a while taking the remaining chunks of meat out of the stew to toss to the dogs for dinner, and the rest of the pot was added to the compost pile.

I suppose when every goat source you have at your disposal warns against the nasty flavour of billy goat meat, it might be wise to take heed. Live and learn!

A Mama’s Love

I woke up early this morning to check on the new goat kids.  I was worried.  I didn’t know what to expect – would the kids be alive?  Would Alice have taken to them?  Would I be able to stay calm if I had to dispose of two tiny goat bodies?

My worry was for nothing.  When I entered the barn, I found Caprice’s twin kids (2.5 months old) curled up in Alice’s stall with the new kids.  They were a bundle of warm, furry sweetness half-buried in the straw.  Both of the new kids were breathing steadily as they slept, and Alice seemed fairly comfortable and relaxed.  I watched them sleep for a few minutes, then went about refilling Alice’s food and water buckets.  As she ate, her kids awoke and made their way over to their mama.  Clumsily, cautiously, the kids began to nurse.  I almost cried with relief!

Now, at the end of their first full day, Alice’s kids are trotting around the goat yard and exploring.  They are perky and inquisitive and so incredibly cute!  The human kids can’t get enough of them.

If only our goat yard wasn’t a mud pit after so many endless days of rain!  Those goat kids stumbled into a still-wet mucky spot  in the middle of the yard and got themselves so dirty.

Look at those tiny little curious fuzz balls!! I’m so thankful that all is well!

A Birth in the Barn

Over the past few months, I’ve read plenty about goat birth. I’ve watched videos on YouTube of kids being born and talked to other goat owners about kidding. I prepared myself for the day when we would experience our very first goat birth here on the farm.

Today was the day. After weeks of excited anticipation, Alice birthed twin kids this afternoon. And you know what? All the reading and video-watching in the world couldn’t have prepared me for this day. Alice’s birthing wasn’t anything like the videos.

When I left the house to deliver eggs this morning, I though something might be up. Alice was laying in the goat yard, looking very uncomfortable. I was in a hurry, and didn’t think on it too much. The day passed, I returned home, and just as I went to check on the goats, Alice gave birth.

There she was, standing in the doorway of the barn. She just stood there, and the baby fell from her, to the floor. I was stunned for a moment, then ran into the house to grab receiving blankets. Within minutes I was back outside, and Alice was birthing her second baby. Again, she just stood there, and again her baby fell to the floor.

One would expect Alice to begin nuzzling her new babies, lick at them perhaps, or mother them in some fashion. But Alice? No, Alice merely looked as though she was relieved of great discomfort, and wandered out into the goat yard, leaving her babies behind. Not even a sniff in their direction.

I cleaned those sweet babies off, and brought them to Alice. I put them right under her nose, and she ignored them. I held her still and tried to put the kids on to nurse, but Alice did not like that idea. She gave a few kicks and stepped on one of the kids.

I wish I could say that Alice just needed a bit of time to rest and recuperate, but as the afternoon slipped into evening and the kids started walking and exploring, nothing changed. By the time the sun started setting, the kids still had not nursed and I was getting worried.

Finally, Jae held Alice still and I used my Henry Milker hand pump to milk a jar of colostrum out of Alice. Boy, did that liquid gold ever flow! I brought the kids inside with me and bottle-fed each of them. They lapped it up, quick as can be.

As of now, Alice is in her freshly-bedded stall with her kids. I’m hoping that, come morning, I’ll go out to find a happy new mama nursing two sweet kids. I’m hoping that her instincts will kick in and she’ll start to care for her babies. I’m hoping that those two kids will be alive and well, and that I won’t have to bottle-feed them for the next few months. I hoping for a happy ending.

(For those who are wondering, the first kid was a pure white buckling, looks exactly like his daddy. The second kid was a solid black doeling, smaller than her brother, and sweet as can be. Male, female; white, black – in perfect harmony, those two kids. Pictures to come tomorrow if all is well.)

Two Kids on the Couch

We have this sweet Alpine milking goat named Caprice, who birthed triplets about a month ago. Of those triplets, one died, one seemed dead on arrival, and one thrived. The one who seemed dead came around, but Caprice wouldn’t have anything to do with her. Caprice attached herself to the healthy, thriving kid and rejected the other.

For a time, we’d hold Caprice so her second kid could nurse. Caprice would kick and thrash about, until it became too much of a struggle. We gave up on mama ever accepting her baby, and now little Daisy is bottle-fed.

Lynden has taken on the role of surrogate goat mama for sweet Daisy. He brings her into the house for her bottle, holds her close, snuggles her, sings to her. He plays with Daisy in his bedroom, making forts and hiding away with her. Daisy follows Lynden everywhere and cries for him when she’s out in the goat yard.

How lucky for Daisy to have a friend like Lynden in this world, and how lucky for Lynden to have the love of this sweet little kid. They make a great pair, and I’m positive that all this handling and loving will make Daisy a superb milking goat when she grows up!

Adventures in Milking a Goat

Our goats arrived on Tuesday evening, and we are LOVING them!!  Bella is a wonderful, beautiful momma and Alice is such a sweet little kid.  They are quickly settling in here.


Yesterday  morning (the goats’ first morning here), I went into the barn bright and early with the intention of milking Bella.  I had never milked a goat before.  But, I had read some books and milked a cow when I was a child, so how hard could it be?  I had all three of my children with me, the older two eager to see the goat’s milk in the bucket and the baby on my back in a mei tai carrier.

Bella looked at us with great suspicion.  She had only spent a brief time with us the night before and was in a totally new place for the first time in her life.  I led her out of her stall and tied her to a post with some hay in front of her.  Then I got out my warm wash cloth to wash her udder (just like I had read, oh I felt smart!), and as soon as I touched her, Bella gave a little kick and moved her rear end away from me.  I tried again, and again, but Bella wanted nothing to do with me.

The kids were sitting on a bale of straw, getting impatient and wanting to see some action.  Lynden started chanting, “Goat’s milk! Goat’s milk!  Goat’s milk!” and Raina kept repeating, “Want goat milk, mama!”  Bella didn’t seem too pleased with the noisy little kids sitting on the straw bale, staring at her.  Within another moment, the baby on my back started wailing, and that was the end of my first attempt at milking.  Bella was clearly unimpressed.

This morning I tried again.  The baby was sleeping and the older children had lost interest, so Bella and I were alone in the barn while I made my feeble attempt at milking.  The situation was much improved from the day before – Bella actually let me touch her and squeeze her teats for a few moments before becoming impatient and putting a quick end to things.  Progress!  I fed her some carrots and an apple from the tree, and she quickly decided that she might actually like me.  I tried again, and got a few more squeezes in.

Nothing came out.

Obviously I failed to trigger a let-down reflex, and didn’t spend even a fraction of enough time working at milking Bella.  Clearly I needed more goat-milking education than a book could provide.  I called my Gramma, who grew up on a farm.  Surely she would help me!

Turns out Gramma had never milked a goat before, but had milked plenty of cows in her day and figured it couldn’t be much different.  She came on over and got to work on Bella, who stood nice and still for my 80-year-old Gramma and didn’t fuss or kick.  Within two squeezes, there was milk squirting out of Bella’s teats!  Hoorah!

Gramma didn’t get much milk, because she didn’t milk for long – just long enough to show me what to do.  I tell ya, seeing milking in action made a world of difference for me!  Some things just can’t be conveyed very well in a book.  Goat milking is one of them.

This evening I went into the barn again for my third attempt at milking Bella.  Jae held her nice and still for me (oh boy, do we ever need to build a milking stand!)  and I got to work trying to imitate the motions Gramma showed me.  Suddenly, a glorious thing happened: milk squirted into my bucket!  I got a good ten or twelve squirts in there before Bella decided she had had enough – not more than a tablespoon of milk, but enough to boost my spirits and give me hope for the future!

Tomorrow morning, I try again.  Bella and I will make a rockin’ milking team yet!

On a totally unrelated note, our chickens have been enjoying the roof of their coop quite a lot lately:

Welcome to the Goat Hotel

Our little yellow barn has served as nothing more than a glorified shed for the last many years, and has housed a bunch of junk since we have lived here.  With the delivery date for the goats coming closer and closer (only two more days!), we spent the day removing all the junk from the barn, building a goat stall, and adding a wall to the front of the building.  We worked for a good nine hours!

Here is our barn as it looked this morning – open front, full of junk.

I cleared all the junk out (now its piled on the grass just outside the barn, argh!) and Jae dug a trench in which to put a 4×4 support beam for the stall wall.  Ninety percent of the wood we used was recycled from the fence my parents took down on their property earlier this year, and from the old upright piano my brother tore apart a few years ago.  All we needed to buy was four 2×4 beams for the frame.

The gate was made from 100% recycled materials.

The kids helped us spread straw around the new stall.  Look how cozy it is:

And then the front of the barn needed a wall, so I got started on that.  My sister stopped by for a little while and helped me out some – she’s a great workmate!  It was rather silly to be surrounded by junk as I worked, but I’m at a loss as to where to put the stuff that was in the barn.  Our other barn is mostly full right now, with bikes and various bags of animal feed and furniture.  What to do?

So now the barn has a front wall and a goat stall, and is more or less ready for the goats to move in.  I still need to put a front door on, but that’s work for another day.

The work we did today was so incredibly satisfying.  I love having the ideas in my head materialise into something tangible and good, by my own two hands.  Jae and I had a lot of fun working together in the barn, and the kids and chickens seemed to enjoy it too.  The chickens have been checking out the new digs all evening, pecking around in the fresh straw on the barn floor. All in all, it’s been a wonderful day.

Behold the farmer kids: