Category Archives: Disasters

And so it goes

From the left: Battie, her little (!) buckling, Betsy, and Edna

Things have been quite nuts here at the farm this past week.  The older babies didn’t look quite so big to me until we let Edna’s babies out of the jug with her on Saturday morning, and they popped out into the paddock.  What a contrast!  The month old kids look like giants next to them!

Edna’s babies curled up early on Saturday morning

As it turns out, Edna is a very laid back mother, (as she is a very laid back goat).  A few times that day one or both of us had to go looking for one or the other of her kids.  I guess this should have given me an inkling.  On Sunday morning we went out for chores, and as usual, the first thing we try to do is count heads and make sure everyone is there.  Not all the babies sleep with their moms, and we have two greenhouses and two paddocks with an open gate between them.  I started to get quite worried because we couldn’t find Edna’s little buck, Godric.  Finally we spotted him, all the way over in the next paddock with Jingle the donkey and Fergus the wether (there is no gate into this pen from the girls paddocks), lying in a little hollow by the far fence, wet from the rain we had overnight.

Godric with Sam

We picked him up and realized his back left leg was broken, or injured in some way.  I thought it was a broken femur, but Sam and John thought it was a dislocated hip.  We have splinted many a lower leg on both goat kids and lambs with great success, but I have never encountered an injury like this.  So we brought him into the house, made him comfy, got him warm and dry, gave him a bottle, and kept him as immobile as possible.  He happily got on the bottle, and rested and was fine with being inside.  I figured we now had two bottle babies in the house instead of just one, because we could see to his leg and then have him bottle-raised.

We got him over to our local vet as soon as we could, so she could take an X-ray.  And we quickly realized that this was not going to get fixed.  His femur was snapped in two pieces, and the top piece had swiveled all the way around toward his spine, and the bottom piece was pointing down.   Not something many four-legged animals could come back from, even if we had deep enough pockets for surgery.  So we had the vet put the little guy down.

We think he was wandering and one of the other moms may have backed him into the green panel that was closing off a small section of the fence between Fergus/Jingle and the girls’ area, giving him a slam as he was trying to get away through the fence.  Unfortunately, it happens if babies don’t stay near their mamas.  We replaced that section of fence yesterday with a galvanized panel that has smaller openings, but obviously too late to save our Godric (although being slammed into a fence that you can’t escape through would be just as lethal, I suspect).

Life on the farm sometimes seems so unfair, but in the end it is nature.  We may have to set up a “nursery” type larger pen for Edna and her new babies next year, so she isn’t stuck in a small jug with them for too long, but in a wider pen in the greenhouse, not just out and about with everyone.  I have done that in the past with some of our sheep.  But I really wanted to get them out of the greenhouse over the weekend because it had gotten so warm that I was afraid they would get heat stroke.  Good intentions, and all that.

And so it goes.

No change

Marigold during better days.
Marigold during better days.

We continue to take care of our sweet Marigold.  I honestly have to say that I don’t see any improvement.  After her 5 days of intensive worming and anti-inflammatories, we continue to give her vitamins, and need to give it time now, I guess.

She is pulling herself around a  little in her pen, and she is eating, drinking, peeing and pooping.  I am having trouble finding out how long the ‘usual’ recuperation time might be for this.  I suspect that a lot of animals get put down when this happens to them, so there isn’t a lot of anecdotal information floating around out there.  From what I have read, it’s at least a month before a final decision should be made about the animal’s future quality of life, if they are still alive.

I am now worried about keeping her warm as the cold weather descends upon us, when she is not able to move around much on her own.  We shall see, I guess.

The Hard part of farming

Marigold on the right.  Sweet girl!
Marigold on the right. Sweet girl!

While all our joy is devoted to our new Golden Guernsey does, at the same time we are dealing with a potentially devastating situation with my favorite yearling doe, Marigold.

When I got home from Vermont last Sunday afternoon, everyone was fine.  On Tuesday morning I went out to do chores about 5:20 a.m., and I found that Marigold was on the ground, pulling herself around with her front legs.  Her back end was not working, although her legs have power, but her back is not cooperating.  The classic symptoms of Meningeal Worm infestation.  (The worm goes into the spinal column and wreaks havoc with the nervous system).  My beautiful girl, strong and lovely, is struggling with a very ugly problem.

I am devastated.  We have two new Golden Guernsey does, but I have been counting on Marigold to be one of our breeding stalwarts.  Not to be, I know, but it’s a blow to the farm plan.  She is one of my favorite goats, one of the most colorful and friendly, and I am grieving for her struggle with this disease.  Those damn snails that carry the awful worm.  Aargh!  We will see how things go.  As of today she has had 5 days of the prescribed treatment, so now it is up to her and the vitamin injections.  Fingers crossed!

Milking time, finally

This spring has been totally upside down and crazy.  I have not gotten going with milking even though I meant to do so, weeks ago.  For the moment I am milking in the afternoons.  A few days ago I began separating SnowPea and Pippi from their babies right after breakfast, and after milking in the afternoon they are reunited with their brood.

View from the milkstand
View from the milkstand

I had moved the milkstand into our hay greenhouse for the winter, where we do things like hoof trimming.  My old situation for milking has changed in the past year, and I wasn’t sure that this would work out.  But the weather has been quite dry, so I am just pulling the milkstand out of the greenhouse and milking in the open air.  Awesomely wonderful!  The sky and the trees are as lovely as the milking is soothing, and it’s all coming together.

No curds in sight.
No curds in sight.

I have been doling out the frozen chevre in the past month or two, as I am down to just a few left from this past milking season.  So I was very excited yesterday to get out all my cheese equipment and sanitize it up and get it ready for the first batch.  I had 3 gallons of milk ready to go, so I set it up yesterday and warmed the milk, added the culture, and popped that pot under 3 towels to rest.  This morning as I opened up the pot, it was a giant fail.  No curds in sight.  Mama mia!  I was counting on this batch as the first one of the year (some of which I was intending to take on our yearly outing to Vinalhaven island, next Thursday).  OMG.  Phage or what?  Culture that was too old, or did I not drain the milk pot enough after sanitizing?  I left that pot on the counter for at least 2 hours, and I stirred it and pondered it for that whole time, in between other activities.

This has bothered me all day, and as I was playing it through in my head yet again late this afternoon, I finally knew what the problem was.  What a bird brain I am.  I forgot the rennet!!!   I guess it’s the curse of the first batch of the year.  Just not into the routine, still.  Sigh.  I hope to do better.

Cheese train is back on the tracks

Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.
Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.

Finally. It’s been about a month of one thing or another not working around here, and the refrigerator has been the biggest challenge, by far, much worse than no hot water for two days and the washing machine on the fritz. Two weeks. The freezer part of it worked, thank goodness, although we have 4 other freezers, but the fridge is such a huge part of everyday functioning, it’s easy to forget it.

Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom.  Essentials are all that are left!
Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom. Essentials are all that are left!

Today the repairman was able to come, and it wasn’t even a huge amount of money. The fan motor, or something like that. Which meant that tonight I was able to keep SnowPea’s milk for cheese making!  What a day. So her half gallon evening milking is all alone on its shelf. Not for long, however, so I am ready to go. Phew!

And so it goes with the stuff that we absolutely couldn’t divest ourselves of in the refrigerator. Most of it gone now, and a clean start with our old standbys: Tonic, pickled jalapenos, eggs, jam and milk! It’s all good!!!

Such a week

One of our flyers
One of our flyers

Getting back into the swing of the work year is always a bit of a rude awakening (especially when that awakening happens at 4:15 a.m.!). But it seems like we have also had a serious pile of crazy added to it.

Last week during a training run our best bird, #828, failed to come home. It wasn’t a particularly hot or windy day, but he just never showed up. He did, however, come limping home about 4 days later, and we had a tough time grabbing him because he was hiding under the loft building. Not a good sign. Awhile later we found him inside the loft, back with his buddies, but in pretty bad condition. Most likely savaged by a hawk. He was missing all kinds of feathers, and pretty cut up. We took him to one of our pigeon friends who thought that he might make it if we were to separate him and clean him up, give him electrolytes and special easy-to-digest food. So we did. He seemed to be getting better, was eating and pooping, and a friend recommended we treat him with Ledum, as it had seriously helped with a chicken that was attacked, and another friend had used it on a ram with a badly infected head. Unfortunately, I think he was away for too many critical days, and was too far gone. He died yesterday, so our thoughts of keeping him just as a breeder were done. Poor little guy. He was a tough one, and you do read about homing pigeons who endure a lot and get home okay and survive. But I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for him.

Waiting for a peanut treat
Waiting for a peanut treat

Added to that, the litany of aggravating craziness just keeps on coming. Last week the washing machine was out of order; end of the week we lost our hot water for 36 hours; this week our refrigerator crapped out (but the freezer part is still working); I got another denial on my NJ pension; and the real topper: a wonderful woman who ran our middle school cafeteria for many years and had beat cancer, just didn’t wake up the other morning. 54 years old and the sweetest, most positive and upbeat person I have never met. She will be sorely missed by so many. I can’t even really process it.

So in the scheme of things, the washer and the refrigerator, and the pension hoo-ha doesn’t really amount to much. Frustrating, but nothing compared to the loss of a dear, sweet soul. Maybe she and our pigeon boy are out there somewhere smiling on us. I hope so.


Taking a deep breath

Ready to ply
Ready to ply

For many reasons. First of all, the summer is a little more than half over, from my teacher point of view, and there is so much I want to accomplish, and so many people I would like to spend a little time with. And the biggest reason I have had to stop and take a deep breath is that I have been trying for 7 months to get my NJ teacher’s deferred pension going. With very little success!

Needless to say, things are very different from when my husband filed for retirement in 2001 in NJ. At that time everything was done on paper, with people talking you through it on the phone, and now, there is a mire of a website to navigate, with very little help on the phone to be had (well, I hung in there at one point and was on “hold” for 1.5 hours). State bureaucracies are all pretty complicated, and in a state with the the population of NJ, I guess it’s more complicated than most. And I imagine that the workers at the pensions bureau have a lot on their plates, too much to do, and not enough staff to handle the volume.

In the last few weeks I have been contacted directly by a very lovely person at the Pensions division, and it’s been a huge help. Hopefully I am coming to the end of the paper trail nightmare. But on Wednesday when I received two letters requesting information that I had already provided, in two different formats, my frustration level soared. So on Thursday I declared a Wallow Day. Worked on cheese and did a lot of spinning, had a Harry Potter movie marathon going in the background, interrupted by some time spent with the goaties, interrupted by fruitless phone calls. Yesterday I did a few errands and popped in to work to get caught up a little and also spend some time with colleagues. For a bonus, I got a phone call from my NJ school district telling me they have sent their end of the documentation to the pension people (or the documentation that they can put their hands on, 13 years later!). Yay!  And then I continued spinning our new lovely roving (Coopworth/alpaca). I think I may be ready to do some plying today. I think my blood pressure is probably back to normal now, and it’s a beautiful day!

Winged Weekend Warriors Part 2

The sorting mess in the driveway
The sorting mess in the driveway

It’s no longer the weekend, although I had great intentions of getting a blog post out by Sunday night. I am burning the midnight oil getting ready for this coming weekend’s Maine Fiber Frolic. I always think I am going to be better prepared to pack up my car on Thursday afternoon, in readiness to blast off directly from work on Friday to set up at the Windsor Fair grounds. But as usual, even yesterday afternoon, I was most definitely not prepared.

One of the reasons that I am so ill-prepared is that about two weeks ago I discovered a wool-moth infestation in some fleeces I had upstairs in my fiber area. This is one of the fears that all fiber folk have, and sometimes even constant vigilance is not enough.

Inside the freezer.  The wool mess takes over!
Inside the freezer. The wool mess takes over!

The offenders in my fiber loft were a few dirty fleeces housed in plastic bags that I had left open slightly so that they would not form condensation and felt. Near-hysterical panic set in and I had to weed out all the affected items. To start with, I just took everything outside and lined them up in the driveway for an inspection and sorting (thank goodness for a nice stretch of weather and a holiday weekend). Anything that was infected went on the compost pile and John turned it under, many times. Everything else went into the freezer, and every day as I came home, I took more out and washed and washed, in extremely hot water, and then dried in the sun, not to return to the house until it was in storage bins. Interestingly enough, nothing that was wrapped up tightly in cotton sheets was affected. Nor was anything closed up in brown paper.

The day after the gruesome discovery, a Saturday, good friend Chris came to my rescue and helped out all day, toting and organizing. Our driveway resembled a disaster zone, thank goodness not on a larger scale of any kind, like a real natural disaster.

There haven’t been enough hours in each day for me to feel like I am not running faster just to keep falling behind. But anything going to the Fiber Frolic either was not in the house at the time, or has been washed to within an inch of its little life and put into containers. No more open-air wool hangouts in our house for sure!

The upshot of it all is that I have a lot of fiber loft organizing to do. It’s time. The Weekend of the Wool Moth Warriors is over, but the battle and the preventive planning will continue for a long time to come. However, before anything goes back upstairs, even in containers, we are going to be doing some spraying. I hate chemicals and avoid them at all turns if I can, but I do not think we can eradicate lurking bugs without it. Ugh. I cannot believe that after almost a lifetime of living with wool and fiber products openly in our house, that we got hit. Luckily, the problem came to light before packing up for the Frolic. The alternative doesn’t even bear contemplation.

Henny Penny

I have a sinking feeling that Henny Penny met with an unfortunate even a few nights ago. She had still, all this time later, been sitting on a group of eggs in the back of one of the greenhouses. She has steadfastly refused to leave her little corner, even though those eggs must be pretty nasty by this time.

We have been noticing that all (well, it seems like all) the painted turtle nests in the yard around the house have been uprooted and the eggs broken open and scattered. Every morning for the last few weeks we have found more dug up like that. We know that frequently that can be the work of a skunk, but we haven't sniffed any evidence. Early this week John went out to check on Henny Penny and she was mad as a little hornet… all her eggs were gone, and there was a piece broken out of the cardboard area in which she is nesting, right behind her. John figured it was most likely a skunk as we think a raccoon would just go right over an 18″ high cardboard wall. I was relieved that she was ok, but I believe that she was going in there at night even though her eggs were gone. I don't know, maybe she had creeping chicken dementia, she is a really old girl, about 5!

We have not heard or seen her in the past two or three days now. Usually if she is hiding in the tall grass, we can hear her gentle chicken clucks. Wherever we go in the farmyard it is always there in the background. Try as we might, we are not hearing her anymore. It had to happen, she was an amazing old girl. And I hope that whoever got her killed her quickly. :*(


More goat breeding misadventures

Smiling SnowPea!
Smiling SnowPea!

I thought that the whole breeding experience was going to be a lot tamer this year than the past one where the goats are concerned.  We didn’t have the last minute wondering how to get semen straws shipped during the Christmas and New Year’s week.  We already had straws on ice at the vet’s from last year.  So we went ahead with the AI at the end of October and then in November I picked up a “clean-up” buck from our friend in Vermont.

Vaginal AI is always something of a chance.  We like Whit the Vet, and he had some new equipment this year and we have our fingers crossed that it worked.  And as a matter of fact, I have not noticed Pippi coming back into heat since her AI date, but it’s sometimes not something that we actually see.  The vet came back to do ultrasounds on the girls and nothing showed up in any of them, so the presumption is that it was a no-win situation.  Sigh.  I thought that I didn’t have much to worry about, because after all, we had a bucky boy in with the girls.  I clearly witnessed him breeding SnowPea during the course of a day and a half, so I wrote down the date and didn’t worry about it.

And then on New Year’s eve the picture changed.  I was very happy to believe that all were bred because of course, that is what we need to presume!  But on Monday I knew that Zelda was definitely not in a state of impending motherhood.  She screamed and flagged her tail all day.  She stood up on her back legs at the fence and wailed until I was sure the neighbors were going to start thinking there was animal torture in progress.  I thought about it all night and tried to decide what to do.  One goat going unbred is not too bad, because at least the other 3 were bred.  That’s more than enough milk for us in any given year.

Wrong again!  New Year’s day morning dawned, and when I went out to milk I found that SnowPea, our star milker who I have been milking through the past year (she did not get bred last year), was in heat.  Now I was really worried!  Mumble, mumble, curse, curse.  So I decided to call our friends in a neighboring town to find out if she has a proven buck.  Into the Subaru went the two girls and they went up to meet their new love interest, breathing all over the windows and nipping at each other the whole way.  And no question about them being in heat!  The buck our friends have is a San Clemente Island goat (very rare), and he has the most beautiful face and lovely brown eyes.  He did his job admirably and the girls slept the whole way home.  (Of course, now the Subaru smells like a randy buck).  If nothing goes wrong, at least two of our star mamas will be giving us lots of great milk next summer.  Fingers and toes crossed!