Friday, September 20, 2013

The Replacements, Part I

In Mid-December of 2012, as you may well know, we lost our livestock guardian dog, Mini.  In addition to the sadness of loosing a dog, there was also the matter of what to do about our livestock guarding needs in her absence.  Our bucks have their llama, but our does were in need of some protection, and I could clearly hear a good deal of coyote activity not too far from our farm, and there's always the threat of neighborhood dogs finding their way here.

Enter Zulum

He was the dog we had bred Mini to, and like her, he was an Armenian Gampr.  I already liked many of his traits, which is why I had picked him to sire Mini's puppies.  Rohana, from whom I had obtained Mini, generously offered to let him stay with us, either to fill in until we got a more suitable replacement, or he could stay on permanently if he was a good match.

Stella did her part to show him the local customs

So, that's, uh, considered a delicacy around here?

 And he seemed to get along pretty well with her, though he never quite got used to her laser beam vision

What the????

Stella seemed to think he was alright, if a bit of a kiss up to the management

I luff you!

Previous to being with the breeder, Zulum had been in a situation where he learned to distrust men, especially around food.  As a result, he was a huge love muffin with me, but very suspicious of Andy, which was not ideal.  We worked for several days on the two of them getting to know each other better, and Zulum started to relax and become less wary and growly around Andy, which was quite encouraging.

Then on Christmas Eve morning I came out to the barn, and he was gone.  Just-- poof-- no more big dog.  AAAARRRRRGGGGGG!  Great, this dog isn't even mine, I have him for about a week, and he disappears.  That'll teach Rohana to trust me with one of her dogs!  I looked all over the neighborhood for him, and for such a big dog, he was very good at disappearing.  I called Animal Control to let them know about him, especially since he was not fond of men, and because he was about the size and coloring of a mountain lion, which would probably freak out any number of people.

His wandering did emphasize why I would rather not keep an intact male on a property our size- once a dog gets an idea of what breeding is all about (and Mini was Zulum's first experience just two months previous to this), he is much more likely to go in search of breeding opportunities.

The day after Christmas, we got a call from Animal Control that he had been found, and were able to go collect him from some people just a mile and a half away (as the dog roams).  They told us that they'd posted a sign at the local country store about him, so we went to take it down, and it was a little piece of paper that said "Found: Brown Dog" and a phone number.  No size, gender, location, or any other details that would have narrowed it down from approximately half the dogs in our area. The only way it would have been less helpful is if it had said "Found: Dog".

We put him back in the barnyard and watched to see if he'd try to get out again, and it turned out that he was going under the fencing, as opposed to climbing over it, as we had seen Mini attempt.  This huge dog was like a mouse- if the head fits, the rest will find a way.  Sigh.  A day or two after his return, Andy accidentally nudged Zulum while he was eating, and we were back to square one with the trust issues.  The next day, some friends came over to breed a goat, and I had to put Zulum in a stall because I didn't trust that everything would run smoothly otherwise.  He barked for over an hour straight, which gave me a headache and freaked out my friends' doe who wasn't used to dogs at all.

I figured that I had the time and energy to fix either his trust issues, or his wandering the neighborhood issues, but not both of them.  I also worried that he was an insurance claim waiting to happen since we have a good deal of visitors to the farm and not all of them have been blessed with common sense.  If I lived alone on a large, remote property, he would have been perfect for me.  But I have a spouse I am pretty fond of, and we live in an area with lots of neighbors, so I reluctantly returned him to Rohana.

Which meant we were back to not having a livestock guardian dog, until I got an e-mail from a fellow small farmer...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An old ad campaign...

This is my dog:

This is my dog on drugs:

Any questions?

Oh- I see a question in the back there.

The question was asked "What the heck did you do to your dog?"

Stella started doing a large amount of reverse sneezing (which can look distressingly similar to "I'm about to barf!") several days ago, which is usually how your dog tells you that a foxtail has taken up residence in their nasal passages.  Long story short, she had to be anesthetized so the vet could look into her nose to find and remove the offending foreign body (which they didn't find, because of course they didn't, that would be a way too normal outcome for anything from this farm), and when I picked her up, she was still a bit drunk from the anesthesia.

She was feeling the effects enough that she was bobbing and weaving on the walk from my car to the house.  It was sort of hilarious. And she looked so bleary eyed, I couldn't not take a picture.

Meanwhile, inside her nose is all swollen and inflamed, so she's on a round of antibiotics to ward off a possible sinus infection, as well as Benadryl in case it is allergies.  If the sneezing continues once she's had all the antibiotics, then she is supposed to go in so they can take another look, though I am really reluctant to put her under for a second time in the span of a week.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013 Kidding Season

As this was our last day to bottle feed for 2013, it seemed like an appropriate time for a short wrap up, by the numbers:

Target number of does I wanted to freshen (kid): 30 to 35
Number of does who kidded: 45
Total number of kids born: 111
Number of bucks: 66
Number of does: 45
Number of first fresheners: 20

Ten single births
Thirteen sets of twins
Fourteen sets of triplets
Six sets of quadruplets
Two sets of quintuplets

First kids born: January
Last kids born: June
Months during which we bottle fed: 7
Hours spent disbudding just our own goat kids: 15
Rough estimate of hours spent bottle feeding: 543 (this translates to approximately 68 full-time eight hour work days, which is equivalent to having a full time job from January 1 through April 4 of just bottle feeding, and no other farm related chores.)

Not counted up: hours spent delivering kids, milk stand training first fresheners, milking the rest of the does, taking pictures of the kids for the web site, e-mailing/talking with potential customers, waiting for people who have made appointments but never show up, filling out paper work, getting health certificates for and shipping out kids, etc.

This is the first kidding season we've had in a really long time that we didn't have some sort of volunteer help (I may write more about this later- I needed some quiet after last year, which included the need for me to talk less, hence, no volunteers) and it is the biggest kidding season we have ever had.  We had far fewer health problems with kids this year, and both of us attribute most of that to being able to have absolute control over how the kids were handled, though I think another contributing factor was our very dry spring.  I also changed up how I fed the dry does this year- far less alfalfa for the last couple of months of pregnancy than usual, and it seemed like the kids were all a pretty good weight, and I had to reposition/pull less kids than in previous years.

This is exactly how I feel during the last half of kidding season
I hope this is the biggest kidding season we ever have.

And I can't believe I start breeding for 2014 in six weeks...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm Asking You With My Mind....


Stella!  Are you begging?

What? No! I would never!

I was just, you know, wondering if you were going to finish that?
Who can resist that face?  Not me!  Here you go....


Amazing how quickly she can make food disappear...even she can't seem to believe it.

Mrmph. Are you sure you shared?

By the way, that third picture is typically the expression I get anytime I shift my weight in my chair, make any sort of motion on the couch, walk anywhere in the house, or touch the back door.  Add to it vigorous tail wagging, and it turns into a declaration that clearly something! exciting! is! just! about! to! happen!

I think she's the definition of an eternal optimist.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring is Here!

It is officially spring as of today, so happy Equinox!

We have had very little rain for the last three months (there are cracks in the pastures already), but now that the trees are leafing out, it is almost dazzlingly green on the farm, with some very nice splashes of color here and there.

We have five or so types of daffodils growing on the farm- we can't quite remember if we planted these, or if they arrived here on their own.

Dr. Hurd Manzanita
This particular type of manzanita can grow to be very large, and while manzanitas in general like full sun exposure, this one seems to be quite happy getting only morning sun, having deep shade the rest of the day.  The white flowers are delicate and luminous- a visual treat in an awakening to spring landscape.

Yellow Flowering Currant
Whomever named this one got really creative in the same way that someone names an Irish Setter "Red".  This type of currant is one of many native to California and is supposed to be more heat and sun tolerant than the somewhat showier pink flowering currant we have over closer to our seasonal creek.  This particular specimen gets some dappled morning sun, full midday sun, and afternoon shade, and has quickly grown to being five feet tall, though it is a little on the leggy side for a shrub.

Ceanothus, also known as California Lilac

The ceanothus shrubs are the real show offs of spring here- covered with intense clusters of brilliant blue flowers, they smell lightly of honey.  There's usually a cloud of beneficial insects working away on these- the various predatory wasps, hover flies, bumble bees and honey bees.

Bumble Bee on Ceanothus
If you want to know where the phrase "busy as a bee" comes from, hang out around a blooming ceanothus.

Hummingbird Sage

One of my favorite members of the salvia family native to California is hummingbird sage.  The flowers are very intense, and the hummingbirds do indeed seem to love it.  It doesn't grow in bush forms as many of our other sages, but produces runners underground, and forms a cluster of plants.  It has fairly large leaves, especially for a sage, and a heavenly smell when you bruise the leaves.

And then we have this flower.  It was here when we moved in, just sort of randomly growing in what had been a bit of lawn.  We moved the plants to a patch of ground we later realized was really poor soil, but they seem to be doing fine in that location.  They appear to grow from bulbs, the leaves are flat and iris-like, they get no summer water, and after they bloom, they go dormant like our daffodils.  They are not invasive, but I have yet to encounter them in my native plant wanderings, and we've not seen them in any of the many (many, many) flower catalogs that populate our mailbox.  We like them- they are bright and cheerful- we'd just love to know what they are.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Group Shot

Somewhat surprised I was able to get this many kids to look at the camera without them all jumping up and trying to eat the lens, as bottle babies are notorious for their piranha-like qualities.

These are from the first several sets of kids in February, and thanks to Guy Noir, we have had more than just a variety of buckskins- he has thrown a decent number of all black and black and white kids this year.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

You Can Never Take Us Seriously

Cause we're always kidding!

Haha! Get it?  Get it? Baby goats are kids and they are born this time of year, and we call it kidding, so us goat people are always kidding around!

We are delightful, aren't we? Ah, dairy people- we'll milk a joke for all it's worth!

Anyway, the little fuzzballs are arriving left and right, with 40 on the ground since our first kids arrived January 31st.  


To amuse ourselves between disbuddings and picture takings and bottle feedings, we let the kids check out Stella.  Her facial expressions are priceless.

If I ignore it, it will go away

Since it hasn't gone away, I'll use my powers of side-eye, to slyly check it out.

Quick ear sniff while she's distracted!

Fine, you may sniff, but no looking for an udder.

We've always been able to trust Stella with the kids- she seems to easily understand that they are different from the adult goats, and can invade her space (to a point).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cocktail Hour

The other day, in ye olde barn yard, I noticed that someone looked a bit disgruntled.

Insert dramatic sigh here

What could be troubling you Flash?

The cabana boy has yet to show up with my margarita.

Oh really?

I didn't even know we had a cabana boy. I guess I really should start to pay closer attention if I'm missing those sorts of details.

Yeah! What does it take to get a drink refill around here?

Cassandra appears to think that Boo has had enough already and does not approve of these demands for more.

What a lush! You're going to make yourself sick, you know.

I got called away to deal with something else, but returned a little while later to see if things had gotten straightened out for the ladies.

Flash seemed much happier,

Yes, yes we are so much better, thanks.
and Dipity appeared to be in a pleasant food coma.

Boo, on the other hand did not look nearly as happy.

Urp! Oh no! I think I overdid it...

Huh.  Looks like maybe next time, you should listen to Cassandra.  She is known for predicting the future, after all.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Project Management

I never knew, when I first got my goats, that I was in fact starting my very own herd of project managers. No matter what we are doing on the farm, there's always someone watching what we do, or getting in the way enough that there's no way to rush getting something done.

I've been feeding a "three way" (wheat, oat, barley) hay this winter, and a good deal of the wheat steams have ended up on the ground of the barnyard. I cannot believe that goats have a reputation for eating any/every thing they can get their mouths on, as they waste literally tons of hay a year on our farm.  They do chew on things, yes, but actually consume them? Hardly!

Anyway, being the type to not want to waste anything, I decided to gather up what looked like mostly straw to toss into the chicken palace as something to catch the next couple nights of chicken manure.  I loaded up a wheel barrow, took it to the chicken house, got one scoop of straw under the chicken perches, turn around and see:

Howdy ma'm, just checking to make sure you're using approved materials for this job

Looks like Project Manager Sarandipity (her friends call her Dipity) was on duty that afternoon. The girls all take turns keeping an eye on us farmers, making sure we don't try anything funny around here.

Your project site looks like it is up to code

They are meticulous, and pay attention to detail

Pitchfork complies with barnyard cleanliness-keeping standards

Only after a thorough inspection do they give their feedback

I approve- you may continue with the next stage of your project.

I let Dipity know that it would be much easier to finish my project if she were to kindly move out of my way. And off of my pitch fork.

You there! Hook yourself up to this contraption so I can drive away in a flourish of glory!

I had to remind her that I actually needed both the wheelbarrow and what was in it to complete my project.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Parting Shots

With all of the computer trouble I've been having, I hadn't gotten a chance to look at some of the pictures Andy took last fall until somewhat recently.  When I couldn't pull up the pictures of Mini I had taken during the late summer, he went out and grabbed some more pictures so I could post them to the farm web site.  Here are a few of my favorites...

This first one captures the Border Collie personality so well:

Notice how Stella is mostly a blur and everything else isn't? 

That's pretty much what living with a herding dog with too much time on her paws is like. 

Can you guess what happens in the next frame?


Yes children, this is what the Large Hadron Collider is doing, but with particles instead of dogs.

Wanting to get a few face shots, Andy called Mini over to where he was, and she decided to take the shortest route to get to him, never mind what/who may be in that path:

Stella was caught a little off guard

Mini looks so dutiful and Stella looks so surprised/offended/taken aback.

Here I am!  I came as soon as I possibly could.

Of course, any time we are in a pasture, it doesn't take long before the does figure out we're there and come on over to demand their share of the attention.

Alright kids, you can go visit, just please be safe...
Mini looks like one of those "helicopter parents" who is so certain that her children are going to hurt themselves, while the kids look so confident about what they are doing.   

So there they are.  It was a little bittersweet to find them after we had lost her.  I sometimes think of what could have been, what was supposed to be, and all of a sudden, there's something in my eye.  Wait, both eyes...probably just pollen, or dust, or something.  But, I also think of what was, and the good of having her here, and I know that eventually, that will be mostly all of what I think of when I remember her. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy "It's No Longer 2012!"

This is not going to be one of those posts with critters and humorous captions.  The next post probably will be, but not this one.  Feel free to skip it- I've wrestled with writing it, but I sort of feel the need to explain why I have needed a bit of a mental break from the farm (because it is nearly impossible to take a break where we really get away from the farm), why my web site is as out of date as it is, and why my e-mail replies have been slow in coming.

For me, 2012 was a bit of a suckfest, with the last three months being the worst of it.  I'm not trying to win the Pity Olympics, as I know there are people out there for whom the last year was even worse, or equally crappy.  I suppose I feel the need to explain as a way to ask for patience from the people I know for withdrawing and not wanting to talk as much about the farm as usual.  This is also a bit of a rebuttal to those who think that because I live and work on a farm that my life is all sunshine and lollipops, because that notion dismisses the heart break and hard work that goes in to having a farm for any amount of time, as well as the uncertainty that underlies all kinds of farms.

I'll put the rest after a break, so you can choose whether you want to read it or not.