Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making Plans...

Farming has been a test of what works and what doesn't for us. We have decided our Blackbelly Sheep will be phased out. They are a fairly wild breed. Blackbellies are a hair sheep and bred for meat. They do not produce wool. The skittish ones can jump six feet in the air right over my head, and for the record, they have done so. An adjustment to the sheep pen by way of a catchment area has helped tremendously when we need to move or handle them, but they are still quite "crazy" for us. They are extremely graceful and beautiful animals and very low maintenance. After some consideration though, we have decided that all the crazy ones are on the freezer list.

If you feel up to the challenge to start your own herd, we will be selling our ram, Lucky, and two females: Braveheart and Baby Sheep #2, as they are the tamest. Braveheart is a sweetie and will come right up to you for pets and snacks. I feel these three Blackbelly Sheep deserve a chance to move on to another ranch where they can produce and raise more babies for another, more adventurous farmer.

Our very best sheep was our dearly departed Muffy. We believe she was a Tunis or some sort of crossbreed thereof. Although we did not eat her, she was a meaty sheep and her offspring were always meaty as well. At this time we have not decided if we want to keep breeding sheep. But over the next five months we will be downsizing to only woolies. I like to spin wool as a hobby, and am looking forward to working with the fleeces from Sugar, Pumpkin, Marshmallow and Ginger. DoeDoe will stay on as our herd matron. We believe she is a St. Croix or some derivation, but she is a hair sheep. She can retire here at the ranch.

Since wool is so much fun, and spinning a peacable hobby I can do in my spare time when I watch TV with my family, we are considering taking on some alpacas from a lady who needs to rehome some of hers. After doing some research, we found out that there is an alpaca ranch five minutes from us. We drove by and checked them out to see how they keep their animals. It looked simple enough, so we hope to bring home our own small flock sometime this week if all goes well.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pima County Fair and 4H

This past week has been hectic for us. The Pima County Fair was on and two of the kids were showing their bantam chickens. Much preparation at their 4H leader's house went into this big moment for the boys. We had never been to the barn section of the fair before, so it was a new and exciting as well as educational experience.

The 4H and FFA children were showing poultry (chickens, pigeons, ducks, peacocks, turkeys), beef steers, dairy cattle, goats, sheep, and hogs. Each group puts up a display poster about their project which is informative. Many of those that we enjoyed reading were the diseases pigs can carry and transmit to humans (ew!), the cost of raising a hog, the cuts of meat on a chicken and facts about steers.

Beef Steers kept cool with a fan
The children have barn duty, which means they hang out in the barn near their project and are available to answer general questions. These kids did a great job and it was obvious they'd studied up. The barn and animals are maintained by the children and everything was tidy.

Poultry Showmanship
Our boys only did the showmanship show as we are so new to all of this and it's overwhelming at first. Other parents recommended that we take the kids out of school the whole week of fair. Some even bring campers and rent a site on the fairgrounds. Now we understand why!

Goat Showmanship
If our kids were taking part in more than one show or project we would have needed to be out there much more. As it was, we were there each day to feed and water their chickens and help out with our group's birds.

Outside one of the rides
Next year we will know what to expect and be better prepared. The boys both earned blue ribbons for showmanship. They have plans for the next time around and seem to be enjoying 4H more than ever now.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Muffy, the day she came to live at the ranch.

Yesterday our big, wooly, old friend, Muffy, passed away from what appeared to be a sudden heart attack. She had an eating disorder which I believe resulted in not having enough to eat where she was prior to her coming to live at the ranch. She LOVED to eat. And she overate whenever she could. She was overweight, though after looking at pictures of other Tunis sheep, maybe she wasn't that much over as they look like hefty creatures compared to our thin, graceful Blackbellies. I always figured she'd die from a heart attack, so I wasn't that surprised that she did.

At least we were there when it happened. I held her head up and comforted her until the end. It's about all I could do. I examined her teeth to try to figure out how old she might have been. She had all eight bottom teeth, and judging from one of my sheep raising books and the how long and very loose the teeth were, she was a bit of a geriatric sheep. Sheep life expectancy varies depending on the breed. I could not find a listing for Tunis. The average is 10-12 years though some breeds go much longer. We had Muffy about three years and I believe the man who owned her prior had her for about five. I don't know how old she was when he got her but he had mentioned she was pregnant then. She had some issues with her legs and my guess it was a bit of arthritis. A while back she had caught her hoof in a pallet and sprained it, but had been recovering nicely and her limp was hardly noticable of late.

The whole family helped to bury her. She was laid to rest next to Gucci and Princess.

New Cereal Baby

Cocoa Puff was the last bred goat doe we were waiting on to kid. She had a sweet little baby girl the other day and we named her Cocoa Roo. Little Roo is the daughter of Mini Gabe. She prefers to hide out in the Dogloo so the bigger goats can't bump her around. Her mother is great at feeding and very attentive.

Roo is 50% Nigerian Dwarf, 25% Alpine, and 25% Nubian/Boer

Thursday, April 11, 2013

And Then I Put my Hand Inside My Goat...

Yesterday, Max the dog found a place to squeeze through the fence. He ran away from me with that big doggy grin on his face when I called him to come back. He skipped through the front neighbor's yard then poof. Vanished.

I had an idea that I thought might work since he is such a runner and only swayed by a couple of good things in life. I went and got the milk pail, which he knows all too well as he gets the leftover milk when there isn't enough to fill a quart jar. I ran back to the neighbor's fence and called him. Nothing.

I went to the next neighbor over and that family was in their back yard blowing bubbles to their little dogs. I stood on a 5 gallon bucket to see over their wall and asked them if they had seen a brown dog. Max came bounding up to chase bubbles with the others. "Ah there he is!"

Then Max, realizing I had spotted him, smiled and ran off. I quickly gave the bucket to the man and said call him and ask him if he wants his milk.

Oh yes. They all looked at me like I was crazy.

It's okay. I'm used to that. You have to be off your rocker to want to be a farmer with real farm animals and all that...you know...just for fun.

To his credit, that man ran after my dog asking Max if he wanted his milk. My dog ran through the easement and back to the first neighbor's yard. The man gave me my bucket back and I thanked him. Then my silly dog who thinks milk is the nectar of the gods came right back to the hole in the fence and followed me back to his kennel.

Like a good dog.

Yes, I gave him some milk.

Which leads me to today and my goat issue. So I went to Lowe's and got a bunch of fence posts and fencing to remedy this dog sneaking out issue as I do not want him or any other animal to be able to get in or out of the fence. The existing fence isn't mine, so I really have no right to fiddle with it. Besides, I have learned a trick or two about animal proofing fences.

I pulled in with my overladen truck and went to feed the animals before I could unload. There in the 'mommy' stall was Ms. Cow with a bubble hanging out of her back end.

As you can see, there is a goat head inside that bubble.

My plans now interupted, I went and grabbed fresh straw and bedded down the area with it so she could push her little one into the world on a relatively clean space. And I watched as she dutifully did so without any help for me. She's a pro after all. This is her third time having babies.

That little one came out looking healthy and fine. A girl and we later named her Barbie.

I hung around and noticed Ms. Cow give another big push. A hoof poked out. Goats can come out different ways and don't tend to need much help. But after some time I noticed that the discharge changed from clear to a yucky yellow-brown color. Learning from last year and Vanilla's stressful births, I figured this baby was having a hard time.

I looked closer to see where the nose and other hoof might be, but they were not there at all. Ms. Cow continued to push and the only thing coming out was the right front leg and shoulder. Very wrong and would not have worked out at all. I was thankful to be there and be brave enough to help.

I scrubbed up my hands and arms with soap and water and well...reached in. It was slimy. I felt around as gently as I could, surprised by how much room there is inside a goat. I followed the shoulder up to where the head should be. But where was the head? Really weird. It wasn't where I thought it should be. I felt across the chest to the other leg which was folded under the body. Felt up and to the side and discovered the head was folded to one side of the baby, squished tight to its body.

I took my hand out and pushed the leg back in, folding it inside to match the other leg. Then I found the turned head and carefully repositioned it so the nose was facing the exit. As soon as I took my hand out, that baby was zooming toward the door and was born in a hurry. He came out upside down, revealing that he had manparts.

We later named him Espresso. He's a hungry fellow and good at finding the milk spouts.

Yesterday and today reminded me that things go unexpectedly wrong in life. Sometimes all we can do is try our best to straighten them out and get them back on track. Life is too short to be angry or frustrated or squeamish. When things need to get done, it's best to just do them right away.

Tomorrow is fence day...unless something else goes wrong.

One more goat left to give birth and kidding season is done for 2013. Let's hope Cocoa Puff's birthing day goes without any hitches.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Star had a perfect little baby girl. She is black, white and brown and we named her Stardust. A healthy, twitchy, jumpy, loud little rascal to hold and enjoy.