Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vanilla Wafer

Vanilla, one of our favorite goats because she's just kinda funny with her super long ears, exceptionally LOUD voice, and sweet demeanor, had her son last night (March 30, 2013). We put them in a kennel so they can bond and he can be out of harm's way. We hung out to be sure he properly suckled. He did and he did it very well. This morning he was all twitchy and tail-waggy like a kid goat should be.

He's a little camera shy, but I was able to get one of his face. You'd never know his father was Jorge, the black Alpine buck. Wafer takes after his mother.


Farmer K did the first coat and Farmer C did the second.
One of the ladies from my oldest son's school often buys duck eggs from us. In the past, she donated several feeders and waterers for our birds as she no longer kept chickens. Last week, she showed up with an old dog crate and also this nifty handmade "coop" as she called it that used to house her beloved hens.

The ducks made their own nests and it was an easy task to gather their eggs this morning!
It was old and tired and needed a little TLC, so we dusted it off and painted it our favorite shade of barn red and moved it into the duck pen. It took them a few days to figure it out, but the birds have been laying in there now. This is great as it means less hunting around for eggs, cleaner eggs, and avoids that sad feeling when you accidentally step on a hidden egg...crunch.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Free Ranging

The days have been dry, but there are some grassy goodies to be had for those who get to free-range. The sheep have to be kept off their new three section pasture until the rains come and thicken things up again. But Karma and Cookie get to go out in the mornings and munch all they like.

My goose-wife is in the front.
The geese free-range during the day and this seems to have made them much mellower. They were never big fans of any of the food I offered them unless it was green, and prefer a U-Pick scenario. This has subsequently dropped the cost of feed for them, at least.

Pepper tends to follow me everywhere in the mornings after milking and she nibbles on whatever she finds in passing.

Sheering Time

The days have been heating up, so it was time to take off the wool coats:

Ginger in the center. I'm not sure if her wool is spinnable yet, but I'll give it a try.
I didn't dock her tail, so I gave her a lion tail trim to help keep everything tidy back there.

My big, beautiful Muffy, all shorn and ready to grow a new coat.
I have successfully been spinning her wool into yarn.

Pumpkin and Marshmallow are on the list for next year.

Hay Day Helpers

I have since discovered that I do not have to pick up and stack my hay anymore. The two feedstores I shop from deliver for a nominal fee, and believe me when you've unloaded and stacked a bunch of 100 pound bales of alfalfa, you're willing to pay a few bucks to have someone else do it.

Anyways, hay day is a big deal. It means my ranch hands, Karma and Cookie, have to clean out all the bits that fall through the pallets from the previous load of hay. That way I can sweep and prepare for the new load. They are such good workers. They never complain...

Goats on a Field Trip

On March 8, I gathered up Starlight and Paprika, bathed them, trimmed their hooves, and loaded them in the truck. They were going on a field trip to Wheeler Elementary school to meet the children. This is the second year I've done this. My dear friend teaches at that school and it was Farm Week.

The children got to hold and pass around a goose egg. The learned about goats, how many chambers are in a goats' stomach, what they eat, where they come from, and why people keep goats. Paprika was a little nervous so I held her on my lap, but this was Starlight's second trip there, so he was friendly.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Learning to Spin

Drop Spindle, Wool Roving, and Yarn (that I made).
The book Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont
is the only teacher I have had and though my yarn is
not perfect it is yarn.
Ever since I got Muffy the wool sheep, I was always curious about learning to make wool into yarn. I crochet, so I figure it would be neat to be able to make something from her wool. As stated in previous posts, sheep wool, raw from the animal, can be dirty and gross. It has to go through a lengthy process whereby it is skirted (the very dirty parts cut away from the fleece), washed sometimes with chemicals or hot water and detergent to remove poo and plant parts as well as dirt, carded to part and fluff the fibers, set into roving (long, fat strands to spin by), and then drawn (drafted) thin and spun. After wool is spun into a single strand of string, it is then plied with one or more other strands of string to make yarn. Are you tired yet?

Spinning with a drop spindle (pictured above) is an ancient craft. It requires a simple tool and some fiber. Since I don't know how far I will take this new ability, I am not keen on spending a great deal of money on fancier spinning tools like a spinning wheel or large carding tool. The blue roving pictured above is not from my sheep, but came with the spindle and niddy noddy as a beginner's spinning kit.

There is a learning curve. It took me several trial and error attempts to figure out that I needed to spin from very thinly drafted roving. It is something I do in weird patches of spare time. It's a fairly mindless task that can be stopped in seconds if there is an interruption. In the rare instances that I sit down with my family to watch TV, I'm usually spinning. Since the spindle and roving are small, I sometimes toss them into a canvas tote bag and take them to 4H meetings where I can both listen and spin.

Sugar's Babies

Sugar Sheep gave birth to two sweet little Shetland lambs on February 25, 2013. The ram is orange and has two white socks on his rear legs. Farmer G named him Pumpkin. The little girl is slightly off white like her mother. G named her Marshmallow. Since Shetland's are smaller sheep than let's say, Muffy, the babies are like little delicate dwarves. Both are doing well and keeping up with the sheep herd.

Sugar and Marshmallow


Sugar, Marshmallow and Pumpkin


Pepper's baby was born February 25th while I was out there doing chores. A beautiful but very small girl that my husband named Sage. Pepper is my best milker, always a pleasure to milk, gets right up on the stand, and is patient throughout the whole process.

After the scare with Lucas and after seeing how timy this baby was, I was worried she wasn't quite right. The vet had ordered me a bottle of BoSe to keep onhand should any other kids show signs of a selenium deficiency. To me Sage just did not look right. I gave her a BoSe shot later that day. I showed her where Pepper's milkmakers are so she could find the food. Several times.

She seemed tired and weak for a little goat. Usually after they get cleaned off and eat, they're up and moving around. As the days went by, I worried more and began to milk Pepper straight into a bottle to feed Sage. She ate hungrily and perked up after each feeding.

February 28th when I showed up in the morning, Sage had already passed. I buried her by Princess and Gucci. It was very sad. Pepper is still calling for her lost little one and looking at me as if at any moment I will hand her baby back to her.

Lucas' Selenium Deficiency

February 20th my oldest son and I went late to tend the critters and do the chores. I always make a point of doing a head count on the animals to be sure everyone runs up to eat. We did not see Tsica's little buck, Lucas. We got a flashlight and went into the goat pen to find him. He was down inside a dogloo house and was not able to stand on his own. He was cold, wet, shivering and in need of help. As you can see from the above photo of the following morning, it was COLD.

We brought the little guy into my truck, wrapped in my jacket, and turned the heater on to get him warmed up and dry. Even then, he was unable to move his back legs. I suspected either an injury or a selenium deficiency. He was about a month old then and that's when kids tend to start on hay. Sometimes a selenium deficiency becomes aparent at that age when there were no previous signs. My goats do get free choice minerals but the vet explained to me that because that is mixed with salt, sometimes they just don't eat enough of it.

 Here he is the night we found him. It was nasty and snowy out, so I was very thankful I was watching my neighbor's house and pets. When I got out on the road to drive home, the snow was so bad I couldn't see so we ended up staying the night at her house instead.

Her dog thought the goat was interesting and sniffed him. She accompanied him outdoors when he had to go potty too.

Here he is the following day waiting to go to the vet to decide what was wrong. She checked him out and decided it was a selenium deficiency. The following morning he received a BoSe shot. Within a few days he showed huge improvement and was able to return to the herd where his sister and mom were happy to see him again.

Here he is the day before he got to go back to his family. For three days we had to help him nurse from Tsica and since she's a fusspot to be milked, it was not an easy ordeal. Lucas is doing better. His back legs still look a little stiff, but he's nursing on his own and keeping up with his sister as best he can.