It’s amazing me that Norma is still able to get around. She looks like she’s ready to blow! We calculated her due date at the 147-average mark which made her due date this past Wednesday. But she normally has her lambs on about the 150th day. Could be tonight :* ) Think I will head out and put her into the larger jug now.
Norma’s babies have dropped in the past 12 hours as we can see on her right side. She has to be close! She keeps flaring her nostrils and grinding her teeth when I stand near her… I think she thinks it’s about time!
Lambing pens (we call them “jugs”) with clean straw, just waiting for our sheepy moms to go into labor. Maybe 8′ X 12′ in area.
Last Sunday they didn’t look this nice. It was a beautiful day and I thought that I would just fork out the old straw and poo, and get some lime down and cordon it off for the impending births. It was a warm and breezy day and it felt great to be outside. Lots of good stuff for the compost piles. Everything went well and John joined me to put down the lime. I finished up chores, went inside and showered and settled in for the evening. I guess I had gotten more than my quota of a snootful and a lungful of molds and bad things that day, and never had a clue that I was about to be very unhappy! About 2 a.m. I woke up feeling like I needed some air. The old asthma was giving me a lot of grief. I used my rescue inhaler and went back to bed… but by the next afternoon at work I was really in distress. Ended up at the doctor’s office having a nebulizer treatment and being given the news that my rescue inhaler (which I only use a few times a year) was totally empty. Great! go home and get some rest and drink a lot of fluids.
I figured things would get better by the next day, but three nights of horrendous coughing later, no sleep and very little air exchange, it became obvious that I needed more help. I haven’t been this sick in about 6 years! My asthma has been very well-controlled with daily meds, and Maine’s climate seems to be a great fit for me. So this has been the first time in a long while that I have actually welcomed prednisone. Not kidding. Last night was the first night that I actually slept – for almost 5 hours. Finally! Now we can bring on the lambs :*)
And o.k., you can all shake your fingers at me and ask: Why was I not wearing a dust mask for that task? Sheer stupidity, with not an ounce of forethought!
I got the sheep header picture a couple of weeks ago one morning before I went in to feed the ewes. They were standing, waiting for their hay and grain, silently and expectantly, and the picture opportunity was too much to pass up! After I cropped it so it would fit, I got this result. Every time I look at this picture I think that it looks like a website for a network t.v. show! All the major players are standing there, mugging for the camera, with a straight face, being very serious :* ) Barnyard CSI?
For someone who has never (I mean never) been a milk drinker, I am incredibly happy about milk today. I have always been plagued with some lactose intolerance, but our goat milk doesn’t bother me at all. Not that I am drinking it, just making cheese with it! And after a hiatus of 2 1/2 months, it’s good to be milking again.
We don’t do things the way most dairy operations do them. We don’t take our goat kids away from their mamas, which means that while they are nursing we have to share the bounty with the babies. Honestly, this is more convenient for me as this allows me to get back into the swing of milking, storing and handling the milk, and making chevre. Since lambing is coming right up any second now, it’s kind of a relief to know that I don’t have to get out at 5 a.m. before work with milk pails in hand yet! That will come when we wean the kids. For now I am just milking in the afternoon and calling it good. And I am playing with goat milk lotion, which is my favorite in the whole world. Hopefully my recipe will work!
Anyone out there that’s doing goat cheese for a living right now is laughing that I am crowing about a gallon of milk for my milking… but I am not doing things on a grand scale and we love what we are doing. It’s fun, and the product is clean and not filled with hormones. It’s a good thing!
It couldn’t have been a better day! Well, maybe it could have been a few degrees warmer, but the sap is flowing and the sun is shining, and the goat kids are having a blast, and the pregnant ewes are starting to complain a lot! If they can’t be eating, they are complaining that their babies are kicking the daylights out of them. It’s quite a sight!
Thursday afternoon I raced home from work so that I could pick up all the goat kids and take them down to Sea Breeze Farm in Friendship. Brian is a good soul who is willing to do the evil deed of de-horning our babies for us. We do not have the box or the iron and I am not sure that we have enough goat kids in a year to warrant the purchase and learning curve to use them. So we put the babes in the back of the Subaru and rode down. Chloe came with me, and with great care, Brian burned their horn buds.
The worst part of the de-horning is that you can smell the burning hair. Brian shaves the area before applying the iron, but you still get that smell. Minutes after they are back in the car they are snuggling with the other goatie babes and fine. They look a little strange, like Pippi in this picture… a little like they have crop circles engraved on their tiny heads. Horns are so much trouble in a dairy herd, as they can damage their own udders as well as hurt the others. So we have the onerous task each spring, but it also gets us down to Sea Breeze Farm for a nice visit! And in another week, we will all have forgotten this and have moved on to lambing!
What a week it’s been so far! Things are hopping here at the farm. Monday we began our ritual of letting the mama goats out into the paddock while their babies have some unsupervised playtime late in the day. They are a hoot, hopping and dancing all around. Salsa and Sock Monkey have not been well pleased, they stay fairly close to the pen and call loudly to their offspring who totally ignore them! Elf doesn’t hang around, she heads out into the sun to stretch her legs. The sheep don’t know what to make of it, but they get along pretty well with the goats and are happy to mingle and say hello.
Before we head the moms back into their pen to reunite with their kids, we have begun milking. Because of the Ectiban treatments I am not keeping any milk yet, even though there is no withdrawal time for milk or for butchering. I just don’t feel right about it, and the goats’ fiber still shows signs of the stuff. But the girls need to get with the program and get into the swing and this is a good opportunity for us to really catch up with each other as well. We milk in a greenhouse that is inside the whole paddock structure, but outside of the paddock that the girls are in (kind of like an area surrounded by animal paddocks but separated so I have a place to store things and enough room for the milking stand). Usually I just have to open the gate and each doe knows whose turn it is, and they come out and jump onto the stand. It only took two days and they are back into the old routines. I love those girls!
My goodness! We are having a sunny day again today! Wow. No Monday morning snow storm. Amazing. Maybe spring really is just around the corner.
We had a lovely day yesterday and were outside until dark, enjoying the warm temperatures and trying to get caught up with extra tasks that might get us ahead before lambing starts next week. Elf is still having trouble with her pen-mates and she went over the green panel yesterday morning. I guess she needed a break. Her boy had a big belly full of milk and we let her stay outside in the sunshine for awhile before corralling her back in. I feel bad for her… if she had twin babies I might let her out with them, but Dove really needs to be with the others, so they need to make their peace with each other.
Round about midday I got down to a task I had been dreading. Our buck, Elvis, had been showing signs of some itchy, dandruffy stuff, and he was starting to nibble at his legs. Upon further investigation, we realized that he has a lice infestation. So after a call to a vet, who told us that everyone, even the sheep, would have it in no time (if they didn’t already have it), we decided that we had to use the Ectiban pour-on. He instructed us to use it even on the kids, which I really had a tough time with, but I do understand that they had already been exposed to it, so we did. Messy, oily stuff! Yuck! It was not too difficult to get the shorn ewes taken care of, but it was tough getting it under the goat fiber onto their backbones. And we need to do it again in 3 weeks. This winter has been hard on everyone!
After that nasty job, I decided to take a page out of our friend Kelly’s book (Kelly of Romney Ridge Farm) and take some time to go down and visit our peninsula’s lighthouse. Kelly and her human kids had stopped by early in the day to visit our “earless” goats, and when they left they were headed down to the lighthouse. I couldn’t stop thinking about that, so Kali, Chloe and I hopped in the car and went down. Took in the sea breeze and chilled out on the rocks with the gulls in the sunshine. It was great! I can’t get enough of the sound of the surf on the rocks and the view of the ocean to the horizon. Fuel for the soul! It was good.
Four nights in a row. Wow! Real sleep, 7 hours last night, 9 each of the nights before that. Our babies are all doing well. Saturday morning we opened the three jugs (pens) up to each other in the main greenhouse so that the three goatie moms could mingle with their babies.
This is always something of a challenge. When the does have been separated for awhile they need to re-establish their pecking order. Unfortunately, Elf has always been the lowest-of-the-low and she gets picked-on quite a bit. Sock Monkey really took advantage of the situation and got her licks in. But when the divider came out and Salsa joined the crew, she quickly began to put Sock Monkey in her place. She can be hard on Elf as well, though. As the day went by things got better and they are negotiating their space. We have found through the years with our rams that re-introducing them after a separation is safer in a small space than it is in an open paddock. They do not have a chance to run at each other from a long way away and build up speed and break necks or throw each other with powerful body slams. Hopefully these does will work things out, although Elf has never had any goat buddies here. She tends to hang out with Zorro the llama.
The babies are having a blast, even if their moms are being territorial! The two singles had been waiting for the big moment when they would have some playmates :* )
Now that would be a miracle of a different kind for us! Instead we just had 4 goat kid miracles this week. We have never had a black-patterned goat on the farm, but now have 2! We are very excited to think that our new buck Elvis has brought us this wonderful diversity to the farm. Not unlike our new administration, we have a new slant on our goat herd that we hope will keep things fresh for many years to come.
Tuesday morning while I was out doing chores a little after 4:30 a.m. I checked on Elf as usual, and nothing was going on. But a little after 5, I noticed that Salsa (also penned) was lying on her side with one of her back legs up. There we go! She was definitely pushing, and at 5:10 Oreo was born. Beautiful baby :* ) But Salsa barely got her breath, and in-between washing off her new little one she was pushing out her sister. I am glad that Salsa is such a large doe; Pippi was born breach. Salsa got her out very fast, but even with that I was worried that her umbilical cord might have been compressed long enough for her to inhale fluid. Luckily she didn’t. When she popped out I grabbed her and got the goo off her face and out of her nose and mouth and she began breathing normally. Yay! Two beautiful does. Can’t get any better than that. Salsa is a great mom and she had her babies up and nursing in no time. Our friends Chloe and Kali joined us a few minutes after and we enjoyed the babies as the sun came up, coffee in hand (thanks to John who brought us some cups – it was about 10 degrees and windy out there!).
After work on the same day Chloe helped me with chores and we noticed that Elf was looking a little peaky. Kali came over and we watched her for awhile and saw the tell-tale mucous drip. She finally decided that it was time :* ) At 8:45 we got a gorgeous buck, not black, not grey, but somewhere in-between, something of a taupe. He is amazing!
Big boy, goofy, and not sure if he should really want to nurse or not. We were out there in really cold temps until about 11:30, but when we went inside we knew that he had a belly full of colostrum and was headed for a good nap. They are all doing well.
Wednesday night we penned Sock Monkey just in case she decided to do anything stupid (in 8 degree temps with wind) as she was due yesterday. Thursday morning as I was finishing chores Kali came over to check on her with me and she got right down to business.
Even though Sock Monkey was working hard, her boy is a big one and his left elbow was caught so she needed a little help. He is another big, goofy guy and had a tough time getting started. We ended up tubing him as we could not get him to nurse, and his temperature was going down. Sock Monkey was wild… she kept lining that baby up to do his thing and he kept walking away. After we tubed him and he had a belly full of goodness, he was able to take a break and later on he got with the program! Of course I worried for hours that he would need more tube-feeding, but nature is a wonderful thing :* )
Wow! Two beautiful black and white kids in one year, one unusual sable-colored buck and a Salsa-white-and-beige-look-alike. Yay Elvis and does! We have been really lucky and are getting a big kick out of the baby antics. Now we get a break before lambing!
Elf is still holding out on us! The weekend was such a beautiful one, and our friend C.R. came regularly to help us check on the doe and do chores. Elf has all the signs of impending birthing, but she’s not quite ready yet!
While the afternoon was still pretty warm yesterday, we set up our chairs in the greenhouse to spend some time with the sheep and Elf. It gave the ewes a chance to investigate us as well as to let us get a more relaxed and up-close look at them. Some of them are due in the next few weeks and are really beginning to show their bags and bellies! They had already done the bulk of their eating for the day and were searching for places to take some naps and cud. I love the way Lupine stands, apparently asleep on her feet, slowly chewing, eyes closed, looking like she may be doing ewe-yoga! It’s an amazing process, and she does it with such feminine grace :* ) She is the only one of our sheep that my husband can identify accurately… oh yes, she’s the one that sleeps standing up, cudding!
On the other side of the partition the rest of the goats were having their siestas, and C.R. and I kept cracking up listening to all the snores and grunts coming from behind us. Salsa, who is great with kids, was doing little whistles and squeaks, while her yearling doe girls rested their heads on her. In the other corner was Elvis the buck, laid out in the best area for sun exposure, snoring up a storm and pursing his soft lips together every so often to make a few bubbles. It was such a peaceful time that I think I had some trouble keeping my eyes open, but Elf kept hitting me up for scratches, and wandering ewes kept coming by to sniff our faces.
It was a wonderful and relaxing afternoon, which felt particularly good after this long winter of snowstorm after snowstorm. It’s a little colder again today, but I can feel the spring in my bones!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!