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!
Part of the crew who greeted me very patiently this morning. They were all waiting nicely for their hay and grain, just soaking up the warmth and the rays. It already felt good early and they have been enjoying the temperatures all day. So have we! Elf the doe hasn’t kidded yet, but she is looking close to ready. Her vulva is very red and puffy and she’s pacing. Hope it’s not long now! It’s the perfect day for kidlets!
O.K., I am not going to complain about the snow anymore! The snow day today did do me a huge favor: I had the time to make a huge pot of chili.
Just before lambing and kidding I always like to make a gigunda pot of stew, chili or soup to freeze in small portions so that we have food during the exhaustion of watching over our ewes, does, lambs and kids, around the clock, and then going to work in the morning! It’s so nice to be able to just pull something ready-made-but-home-made out during that time. And with the weather we are having right now (down to 8F at night) it truly is “chilly!” Comfort food at its best :*)
All of us here in Maine are waiting. For spring, mostly. In this house we are waiting for lambs and kids :* ) which definitely mean spring!
Our vigil begins in earnest this week as we watch our LaMancha goat Elf for any signs of impending labor. Her sides are bulging, but she doesn’t usually look huge like our doe Salsa the Tank does. Three or four times a day we are now checking on her to see what’s happening with her udder and her behavior. Not bagging up yet, so we may have a few days to go!
We are working on getting her pen ready for the big event. Just wish it wasn’t supposed to be so cold this week.
I totally meant to get this post up right away and then the weather decided that we were not to have access to electricity for a few days… but that’s over now and we were lucky enough to get our shearing in between snow storms! Setting up a shearing date is difficult for us because we need to keep the ewes inside a greenhouse for a few days before the shearing so they are dry… and we don’t have a barn so we have to do some of the skirting outside. Last Saturday was a gorgeous, clear afternoon and Jeff Burchstead of Buckwheat Blossom Farm in Wiscasset came over to do the honors. He did a great job. We were also lucky enough to have a great group of friends join us and help out. Thank you, everyone!
We always have our shearers trim the sheep feet before getting started with taking the fleeces off as that leaves us one less task to take care of after the job is done. We like to get those details out of the way before they lamb so we don’t have to man-handle them while they are trying to bond with their lambies. We also take the opportunity while Jeff has them on the shearing floor to give them their yearly CD &T inoculations (to prevent Clostridial bacteria and tetanus) in the form of a sub-cutaneous shot. Much easier while the shearer is holding them so nicely on their bums!
Lucy is the only ewe we kept from the 2008 lambing. She has never been shorn and is not very happy about being handled like this! As her fleece is buzzed off, hopefully in one connected mass, one of our willing helpers grabs the fleece and runs it out of the greenhouse we are working in, over to the nearby greenhouse and gets it thrown onto our “skirting” table. Here we take some time to get the nasty bits off the edges (read here “poopy bits!”) and any little pieces of hay or straw out of the fleece.
Here is a shot of one fleece out on the skirting table ready to be picked over. Then we fold the fleece and bundle it into a large sheet with the ewe’s name on it. Ready to move on to the next step!
At the end of the day we have a group of hungry, naked girls!
Fuzzy (below) looks over Lupine’s shoulder, wondering where is her dinner??? (We don’t feed them before shearing; don’t want them to have a full stomach while they are being tossed and turned on their backs due to possible bloating).
Phew! One adventure down, now we wait for the next big adventure: Lambing :* )
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!