Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising, and tonight’s storm

Well, the Bombogenesis is here.  We on the coast have been having torrential rain and strengthening winds for hours now, and the lights are flickering every few minutes.  I would say that we are probably going to lose power shortly to the wind and crazy fluctuations in the atmosphere.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

I don’t know how many of you out there are Susan Cooper fans (she is an awesome British author of some of my favorite books – she is also a poet).  I have been a big fan of her fiction for many years.  Her Dark is Rising Sequence series being one of my faves.

Every year around Solstice and Christmas I try to either read The Dark is Rising, or watch it’s movie equivalent, The Seeker: Dark is Rising.  Having to rely on Netflix DVD delivery meant that today was the day I received it, and so we had a wild viewing of it while the lights flickered and the wind howled outside.  Quite the most dramatic rendition I can remember!  It was extremely atmospheric and it made me quite jumpy, what with the wild wind and the relentless rain on our metal roof.  I was very glad when Ian McShane and his friends prevailed over the Dark.  Phew!

Another year.  Again, a wonderful story.  Darkness and Light, the eternal struggle.  One in which most of us are fixated upon as we watch the light gain strength, even as the winter deepens.  It’s a funny thing, winter growing as the light returns.  It’s just one of those things that we can celebrate or fight.  Tonight I am feeling a little bit of hope.

 

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Donkey dilemma

Beezus and Fergus watching the new fence go up
Beezus and Fergus watching the new fence go up

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, whichever you celebrate.  We had a very laid back beginning to Hanukkah, and a lazy Christmas day with the kids and grandson.

But, best laid plans, and all that!  The vet was supposed to be here yesterday at midday, but she had an emergency in Belfast, which is up the coast far enough that she could not get here while we still had daylight.  She came instead this morning, so we finally got the newbies vaccinated for Rabies, and she got blood from all of them for the usual blood tests.

Jingle our amazing donkey
Jingle our amazing donkey

In the meantime, we have been watching things with Jingle the Donkey and the boy group, which is down to one buck now, Reddog,  since Oreo left the farm (we could only have used Oreo the Lamancha buck on the Guernsey girls as the two Lamanchas that we kept are his mother and his sister…  not very useful at this point).

Looking up the new fence line you can see all the icy patches that have made t-post pounding a challenge
Looking up the new fence line you can see all the icy patches that have made t-post pounding a challenge

We have always kept Jingle in with the boy group, back to when we had both rams and bucks.  Even though she is technically a mini donkey, she is definitely on the larger end of mini.  Jingle has always had complete control over behaviors in that paddock, and makes no bones about it.  Everything was quite normal with the bucks until we had Reddog the Guernsey boy come back into the group after being with the does for almost 2 months.  His behavior has changed.  No longer the mild-mannered, shy young buck.  And he has gotten quite aggressive with Jingle in particular, for some reason.  As he has horns, Jingle has begun to avoid him at all costs, which is becoming a very poor situation.  Being chased by a little guy with big horns across icy patches of ground is not how I want my little donkey to spend her days.  She is here as a guard animal as well as, you know, a pet.

I have always said that there is no room on a dairy operation for horns (particularly on the does), but we have had horned bucks in the past who would never even consider crossing the line with the donkey.  I am not sure what is going on here, but obviously we need to address the situation.  If I thought the behavior was only because Reddog no longer has a goat companion in the paddock, I could remedy that pretty easily.  But this behavior began the moment we put him back in after his breeding stint.  And has only gotten worse, Oreo or not (he was terrorizing Oreo as well).

The gap in the fence is being investigated
The gap in the fence is being investigated

To that end, Sam and I have been out there putting in a small paddock area where we are going to have to move Reddog (t-posts through the ice not fun,  but the ground is not really frozen hard yet, and today’s temperatures were a gift).  He will now have a full fence line with his girls, and hopefully, will calm down.  Jingle will stay in her paddock for the time being as I don’t need a pregnant doe getting on the wrong side of her and being kicked.  All the paddocks are contiguous, so everyone will be able to communicate with everyone else, so none of the animals are truly segregated and alone.

BUT, we cannot do this move until we are ok to mix the two girl groups.  Aargh!  It’s Dominoes all over again.  At least I know it will be ready the minute we have test results, or the vet gives her okay.  It’s always something.

The holiday weekend is upon us

The new girls are curious about the other group
The new girls are curious about the other group

And we have hit the wall of the week,  Friday!  Things have been crazy this past few days, and not from a holiday standpoint.  I am always first and foremost handling goat management, as I need to be.  When you have animals, that is really what you do, behind the scenes of everything in life it is always the animals.

We were expecting the vet to be here on Wednesday morning and were all set up for that.  Doing blood work before we mix the two groups of girls together is part of the plan, and when the temperatures are moving into winter range, we want to be able to do that as promptly as possible (getting blood out of animals in really cold temps is not easy.  Been there, not pretty!)  But, there is always a spanner in the works.

I never stopped to think about the fact that Sunday is Christmas, and the vet, luckily, had spoken to at least one of the labs early on Wednesday, and we realized that even if all the labs received the blood late in the day on Thursday, there might be employees on vacation, and it would possibly put the blood at risk for not being fresh enough to test – or at worst, not there yet at all.  At this point we decided to reschedule to Monday.  I am much happier, and as luck would have it, Monday looks like an okay day weather-wise.  That is truly lucky at this time of year.

And so we are in a holding pattern until then.  We are getting ready to cover the empty bare-bones greenhouse with a new tarp, as I am planning on that to be the kidding area.  The new girls we have from Ardelia Farm are all due to kid around the end of February, and thus we need to keep moving forward on all of this.

And so it goes.  Tonight is a screening of The Empire Strikes Back while we wrap gifts.  This is a family tradition, and I am definitely looking forward to it.  (And for anyone who has not seen Rogue One yet in the theaters, go see it ASAP.  It’s amazing!).

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone!

Goat rodeo on ice

Battie and Betsy all cozied up
Battie and Betsy all cozied up at twilight

Well, Monday is a wrap.  Finally.   We had quite the morning.  Zelda and the buck Oreo were scheduled to leave us and join the farm that Sassafras and Pickles went to live on two weeks ago.  And it was not as easy a transfer as I would have liked!

Scheduled is the word.  I was worried all last night that Zelda was going to be the one that was difficult, and Oreo would be the piece of cake to walk into Curt’s trailer.  Not.  What a surprise, but it’s something that should not shock me at all.  You just never know.

Zelda the Beauty!
Zelda the Beauty!

And so we had the goat rodeo on ice.  Oreo knew something was up the minute we went out for chores this morning, and we were even being nonchalant.  I did my usual thing, and Sam went to do his.  Oreo was having none of it!  Zelda came with me into the catch pen and launched into her morning hay like nothing was amiss.  But Oreo got the wind up and it took four of us adults to get him cornered and caught, slipping and sliding on the ice and the snow.  I really hate doing that.  In the process, Sam got an arm injury, John came in with a bleeding arm, and the new owner’s hands were bloody by the time we got the buck into his trailer.  I waited to take a fall until I tripped on the handle of a bag in the house.  Not a winner of a day, I can say that now.  But tonight, it feels like it is ancient history.  I can truly say that this morning was kind of the end of an era.

Since last spring I have been working toward getting all the animals together that I can definitely handle alone.  Sam will not be here forever, and when he moves on, my 62+ year old body needs to be able to handle what we have.  I don’t move as fast as I used to!  And so I have planned accordingly, and we made a plan for who to keep and who to part with.  I had a really hard time parting with SnowPea’s daughters Pickles and Sassafras, and Zelda was an even more difficult cull.  But we lucked out and found an amazingly wonderful farm in Auburn, Maine, and the owner there really loves our girls and our genetics, and not only has the 3 girls now, but he also has Oreo the buck.  I couldn’t have asked for a better home for them, and they are not really that far away.  (He has Nigerian Dwarf goats as well, and I am dying to go up and visit his place!).

Anyhow, we are turning a corner here at the farm.  I think we are as tight as we can be.  I have two purebred Lamancha does left, and 7 almost purebred Guernsey girls.  One Guernsey buck and one half Guernsey buckling.  It’s finally a picture that I think can work for me.

The winter seems to be settling in, so I am glad that the Goat Rodeo is finished for the year.  I hope.  After the Solstice I think I can feel a little more positive going forward.  But we definitely won’t think about January 20th just yet :*/

Sunday yucky Sunday

Yesterday afternoon's chore time
Yesterday afternoon’s chore time

The snow was awesome, while we had it.  Nice fluffy stuff.  Of course, it was lying on top of the ice road that our driveway had become, so it was tough going, nonetheless.

But the rain came today along with unforgiving wind, and the temperatures have been steadily rising, only to reportedly plummet again tonight.  All the goaties are snug in their shelters and have been all day.

The snow was quite pretty!
The snow was quite pretty!

I am chomping at the bit to be able to get all the girls into one group together, but that will be another 10 days or two weeks.  The vet is coming on Wednesday and we are doing the new girls’ Rabies vaccines as well as the usual blood testing.  All the newbies are purportedly bred, (they were in with a buck), and I don’t want to take a chance on any of them passing something to our existing herd (although the present setup is not optimal, they can touch noses through the fencing).  I do not believe that it is going to be a problem, but I don’t want to take any chances, either.  And the Rabies is very important to get well before the kids arrive.

So our shelter change-up organization is going to have to wait until the two groups are one.  Until then, the girls appear to be pretty comfortable.  Cannot WAIT for the Solstice!!!

I love this kid

Fergus the nut
Fergus the nut

Fergus.  He is a crazy goofball, and he is about the sweetest buck we have ever had on the farm.  There is something going on here that is not what can become the i’m-friendly-when-i’m-small-and-i’ll-boss-you-when-i’m-big.  He seems genuinely sweet.  Of course, he is a goat, and goats can get up to some pretty crazy things, so I am not counting on him always being totally cooperative, specially when fully grown.

Always fooling around
Always fooling around

This little guy is almost dog-like. His mama Pickles was sold a few weeks ago with his auntie Sassafras.  They are Lamancha/Alpine crosses, and his papa is Reddog the Guernsey buck.  So almost half Guernsey (although the Guernsey association will not allow any of the Lamancha crosses  to be used as foundation stock for the breed, more’s the pity).  The Guernsey goats really are much more laid back than most of the other dairy breeds, so I hope this continues to be his personality.

Working in the greenhouse, Fergus has to lend a helping hoof or two
Whatcha doin’?  Can I help???

What a nut!  Wherever we are, there is Fergus, making our day a little bit brighter.  He is always ready to offer a helping or hindering paw, whichever.

He knows he is cute!
He knows he is cute!

Settling in

Waiting for supper. Left to right: Eleganza, Dorcas, Delta, and little Edna peeking between Eleganze and Dorcas.
Waiting for supper. Left to right: Eleganza, Dorcas, Delta, and little Edna peeking between Eleganze and Dorcas.

Our new girls are very friendly so far and they are getting accustomed to being ogled by the gang from the other side of the fence while getting used to their surroundings.  It didn’t take long to see how the pecking order between them played out, either.  Dorcas has the upper hand at all times; Eleganza (the whitish doe) comes in a close second.  Of the two very laid back, smaller girls, Little Edna is bottom of the heap.  Even Delta will give her a head nudge.  But, such is life in the goat world.

Breakfast at sunrise
Breakfast at sunrise

I had worried that Edna was holding back on eating because of the pecking order, but we have so many baskets of hay around, they all have found their way to as much as they want or need.  I spent a lot of time with them today, and am chilled to the bone now (we woke up to 0F this morning).  They are doing just fine, and are licking up every bit of the kelp meal and ProBios powder that I am adding to their feed.  Good girlies!

Delta and Dorcas in the intrepid road warrior Jeep with Sam
Delta and Dorcas in the intrepid road warrior Jeep with my son Sam

I  know how stressful transport can be on any animal, and these girls are no exception (hence the addition of ProBios to their feed).  They were in a vehicle for over 4 hours, and the two in the back of my Subaru never lay down, even though they could.  If I had known them better, I would have put Delta in with Edna in my car, and let Eleganza and Dorcas have the slightly more spacious Jeep space!

Dorcas and Delta doing their relaxing in the back of the Jeep
Dorcas and Delta doing their relaxing in the back of the Jeep

But, all seems well in the land of the Guernsey girls.  I think they are doing fine, and after another few days we can let them into the larger pen, but I will still be keeping them separate from the larger group for now.  I keep wondering if Battie and Saffron recognize their friends from Ardelia!  I can hardly wait to see how they react to one another when they are all together in one pen.  Should be interesting.

 

Goat tripping

The Home Gang trying to figure out what is going on
The Home Gang trying to figure out what is going on

Well, we did it!  We have now added 4 more Golden Guernsey goats to the home herd.  I thought long and hard about it, but when push came to shove, I knew that I could not say no to a few more of these very laid back and beautiful girls when the opportunity arose.

My little road warrior
My little road warrior

Anyhow, we bought our original 3 Guernseys from Bailey and Thomas at Ardelia Farm in the northeast kingdom of Vermont.  And we went to get these 4 from Ardelia as well because they are scaling back their animal involvement in favor of the businesses that are actually making them money.  Good one on them!  So we lucked out.

Where are we???
Where are we???

Anyhow, Sam and I left Bristol at 5 a.m. on the dot yesterday morning, each of us driving our vehicles in tandem, tarps and straw all at the ready in the back of our vehicles.  It was a blustery day with pretty serious snow squalls in the White Mountains, but we took it easy and arrived in northern Vermont about 10:20 a.m.  (We stopped for a bathroom and coffee break in Gorham, NH, and then the darn GPS took us on a two-lane road in Vermont that by-passed interstate 93, but we were driving behind a geezer going about 30 mph for many, many miles, so it didn’t save us any time.  Very frustrating!).

Delta and Dorcas tuck in to breakfast on this wintry morning
Delta and Dorcas tuck in to breakfast on this wintry morning

Anyhow, Bailey and Thomas of Ardelia Farm are really lovely people and we totally appreciate being able to get more Guernsey stock from them.  The four girls we brought home are as cute as buttons, and nicely laid back.  They did the drive with no drama,  and we will deal with the vehicle clean-out later today.  We were too exhausted from the 10-hour trip to do anything yesterday afternoon other than tuck them in, and the vehicles aren’t going anywhere!

Dorcas, Delta, Elleganza and Edna are comfortably ensconced in a little pen of their own for the moment.  We will have a chance to get to know them better in the next few days and will see how they like living with us on the coast (although it is 10F here this morning, which should not be much of a change for them!).  We will have to start knitting little goat booties, too,  as they are all bred and probably due in late February…

Getting ready

New tarp is installed on greenhouse #1
New tarp is installed on greenhouse #1

The time has come for us to make sure we are ready for winter.  In the past week the animal’s water tanks have been freezing over, and it was a sign to get going on winterizing the pens and the water troughs.

We had a new and larger tarp on order from our local farm and feed store, and today it arrived.  We are lucky that it was a very lovely day, and we got that puppy on this afternoon.  Yesterday we ended up replacing a stock tank with a floating heater with another kind of heated 16 gallon bucket.  It is different than our other heated stock tanks, but I hope it will be just as good.

Not truly gorgeous, but a new stock tank is beautiful to us!
Not truly gorgeous, but a new stock tank is beautiful to us!

And so we move into the winter, whether it is officially here or not.  The goats are all putting on their furry best, and we are adding straw in to their sleeping quarters regularly (those little buggers eat quite a bit of the straw, so it’s difficult to keep the amount we want available to them!).  The dreaded Polar Vortex is scheduled to arrive for a quick showing this weekend, and then again in a more serious way toward the end of next week.  Brr.  I don’t feel quite ready, but it doesn’t matter.  We will see it in.  And the countdown to the shortest day of the year is on!  Totally looking forward to the Solstice :*)

Change is the essence of life

Pickles and Sassafras
Pickles and Sassafras

I guess!  I am feeling a little sad, as we said goodbye to Pickles and Sassafras today, SnowPea’s only twin girls, ever.  The girls are a Lamancha/Alpine cross, where their mother and grandmother were purebred Lamanchas.  The Alpine in them is how they got those big old ears!  (It was a bit of a rodeo as we took them out of the pen… Sam had them on leads, but they took off backwards, and in the process they mowed me down and took Sam for quite a ride.  But all was well, Sam never let go.  Oy.  I have a sore knee, but it will all work out!).

Dynamic Duo
Dynamic Duo

Decisions about how many animals to keep on the farm change from year to year as our needs and capabilities change.  Having slightly morphed our focus toward breeding the Guernsey goats made me have to take a really hard look at how many goats overall I really can manage to milk in a season.  Keeping more than a few girls just ends up with me only breeding half, and carrying the others along.  Not only is it more work and management, but it’s an added drain on the budget for hay and grain.  The market for crossbred goats is not huge around here.  I am hoping that the Guernsey youngsters will be more salable, so keeping some around and not milking all of them will hopefully pay off a little bit.

We shall see!  It looks as though Pickles and Sassafras are going to a wonderful home where they will have plenty of other goatie friends.  Lovely folks.   And now we are down to only one Salsa/SnowPea progeny, our little friend Fergus the Buck.  He will have to carry those wonderful milking genetics forward to some of our new girls.  It’s all good :*)