Friday, January 21, 2011

Babies Babies Babies!!!

What a delight to have 13 wonderful baby goats at the Farm! And congratulations to Keiko Dynamite -- who was apparently much more successful at breeding, during his escapes from the buck pen, than I ever imagined a 6 month old goat would be! With the exception of a couple unusually marked brown goats, almost all the babies are white in color as Keiko Dynamite was.

We had some very cold weather during this birthing season, which led me to do frequent checks at the barn -- even during the cold of night. Imagine an alarm shrieking you out of sleep at 2:00am so you can trudge out through the cold & snow to the barn . . . I love farming! And, I really do! Yes, there are numerous struggles & discomforts. I have found, however, that it is these situations that build integrity. To quote a farmer at a goat conference which I attended: "If you raise livestock, you will become a person of character, and that character comes from being kicked and frozen and peed on. It is a true education."

Difficult situations measure our strength of character, just as they test the abilities of animals. Being in a financial situation where my goat herd MUST pay for itself, I can no longer afford to keep does that are not financially profitable. Thus, I have sold numerous does since last September. I sold three yearlings in the midst of this round of birthing: one miscarried, one had stillborns, and one refused to mother her son. That last situation truly saddened me. The baby boy was lovely, and she had no interest in him whatsoever.

Difficult situations call for immediate action. Upon discovering the situation, I had to measure how long it was worth trying to interest the mother in the baby versus how long he could survive without milk. It was a very cold day that "Orph" was born, and I knew he could not take the low temperatures without nutrition. After trying as long as I could to appeal to the mother, I pulled off my sweatshirt from under my jacket & wrapped Orph as warmly as I could. His mother was indignant from my efforts to get him to nurse, so I knew it would be of little use to try to milk her. I also knew that Orph needed that precious colostrum that animals produce in the first 24 hours after birth. I grabbed the container in which I had carried down the cat food to the barn (no, not the most sanitary, but this was a time for speed) and cautiously approached Oreo -- an older doe who had kidded the previous afternoon. Oreo was an absolute gem and let me milk at least a cup of that precious, life-giving nutrition from her udder. With that I grabbed Orph and hustled to the house.

"Grandmother! I need your help! Baby goat!" She came to the kitchen and picked up the baby -- he was still wrapped up in my sweatshirt . . . did I mention how cold I was?? -- and held him while I took my winter overalls off. I grabbed the tube used to directly feed milk to babies through the esophagus into their stomach. Luckily, Orph did show an instinct to suckle at my finger when I gently placed it in his mouth. So, then I began a quick search for a bottle and a nipple. I poured the still-warm fluid into the bottle, and worked to get a few drops of milk into the baby while I held him tight. Once Orph had some nutrition in him, I wrapped him in a towel and placed him over the register in the kitchen. 30 minutes later, I encouraged a few more drops into him. An hour of napping & warming, and then he was actively ready to nurse on his own! Wonderful! Except . . . soon I would need more milk and I looked to have an orphan on my hands.

Looking at how late it was getting after my adventures with Orph, I contacted my friends to let them know I would not be able to join them that evening for the Inaugural party we planned to attend for the new governor (sigh). I headed back to the barn, knowing I made the right decision to attend to my herd instead of socializing. Lo & behold, another doe named Face had one little boy that was doing great and one who had not survived. I moved the little wobbly baby & his loving mother up to the front of the barn (my maternity ward). Hmm . . . an opportunity! I took off my current sweatshirt -- this might be a reason I create so much laundry! -- and used it to wipe him off & warm him up a bit. Then I grabbed the sweatshirt, ran to the house, and rubbed it all over Orph. We flew back down to the barn as I explained to him that he was going to have a new mommy. I placed Orph next to Face's baby and made sure to rub more of the lingering placental liquid onto Orph. Face continued to lick her baby and began to lick the new one next to him. I stepped back and observed as her maternal instincts led Face to accept both babies as her own. Orph now had a mommy and a brother: "Morph"!

As delighted as I was at the great service that Face did for Orph and for me, I was saddened to turn around and sell Orph's natural mother a few days later. She had been a loving kid, and I had enjoyed her. I could not, however, tolerate a mother goat that refused her baby. I sincerely care about all the animals that I tend, but I must look at what is best for the whole herd. It is not good for a baby when his mother abandons him. These are part of the lesson that farming teaches. New births are a great joy! These babies inspire me and motivate me to be the best goatherd for them that I can be!

Photo Caption: Morph, Orph, and two of their half-siblings enjoy the heat lamp on a cold winter day!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meet KEYT!

It has been a very exciting two weeks as baby goats have arrived at Harrison Farm! I am currently up to 10 boys and 3 girls, and they are doing great! The first baby born was a hearty little boy from Khristin the Goat, sired by Keiko Dynamite (my poor little buck that met such a tragic end from the coyote). After considering many names, he became known as Keyt -- which is the last name of my former intern. Keyt is a bouncing baby boy, and he is now at the point that he nibbles at grain & hay. Enjoy this video of Keyt!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Trails with Abraham

My mother & I enjoyed many fun years of riding Abraham -- whether on the farm, in state parks, or out West! This picture was taken at Caesar's Creek State Park in 1985. Mother originally purchased Abe to use for riding in the Rocky Mountains and with the hope of training him as a pack mule. While he never took to "pack mule" status, she did take him to the Rockies and rode him during Wagon Train re-enactments in the Dakotas and Ohio. He was a wonderful mule! Abraham, as a mule, was the son of a mother horse and a father donkey. This creates a creature which is hardy & somewhat stubborn, but usually has the temperment of a horse (as opposed to a more difficult donkey). Mules are born sterile, so Abe never fathered offspring, nor did he need to be castrated. Abe lived a long life, despite developing a tumor at the intersection of his right front leg and shoulder. It began growing around 2005, first appearing about the size of a baseball. It increased to the size of a basketball by the time of his death. While it may have contributed to his passing (tumors tend to absorb massive amounts of energy from the body and sap blood flow), it did not hinder his mobility. As recently as Boxing Day 2010, Abe had a hoof trim and was afterwards chasing Baby V the Calf around the barn lot. I am grateful for my happy memories of Abe and for the fact that he went so quick! Yesterday, Abraham was placed atop the grave of Lassy the Horse and composted. Lassy & Abe resided together ever since he arrived at the farm in 1982. She pestered him without mercy at times, so I could not help but laugh that in the end he -- literally -- ended up on top! This is the first time in my life that I have been without an equine. It is an odd feeling, but I am sure another will come to the farm at the right time. RIP Abraham!

Memories of Abraham

This picture was taken on Thanksgiving Day 1982, the day after Abraham the Mule came to live with us! Yes, that is the future Goatherd astride the noble mule! Mother is at the right of the picture, showing off her newest equine (check out her super-styling early 80s hair cut!) The Grandmother is at the left -- and almost 30 years later she looks nearly the same! My beloved grandfather is the handsome gentleman in the feisty black fur hat . . . and now you know where I get my unique sense of style! I remember my mother's excitement over purchasing Abraham, although I was still young enough that I cannot say I actually recall this photo being taken. This was the start of many happy years with Abraham!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stubborn as a Mule . . . In Praise of Abraham

It is with great sadness that I share news of the passing of Abraham the Mule. My dear friend was feeling ill on Wednesday evening, seemed a bit improved on Thursday, then passed Friday afternoon around 2:00pm. We had spent time sitting together that morning. I held Abe's head in my lap, as he lay on the ground, and Baby V the Calf stood with us. Abe & I reminisced about our lives together and I told him how much I loved him. I asked him to stay a bit longer with me if he could, but told him that I understood if he needed to go on. I am quite sentimental, and I have no doubt that my mother & Lassy the Horse were in need of Abraham's company on the other side. Abe went peacefully, slipping into sleep with Baby V guarding him.

As best I can recall, Abe came to live with us circa 1981, at which point he was already several years old. My mother was interested in having a mule for riding out in the Rocky Mountains and this led to the acquisition of our mule. The mule came to us through a "mule trader" in Kentucky and my grandfather gave him the moniker of Abraham. I was about 5 when Abe joined us, so for most of my memory he was a part of my world. My mother rode Abe for years and years. He was strong and dependable, despite an inclination to believe that dreaded mule traps were everywhere . . . mail boxes, fallen trees, trucks -- anything out of the ordinary would cause him to be startled in the fear that it was a clever mule trap!

I have very happy memories of the times I shared with Abraham. I rode him often, though he was never my primary mount. By the late 1990s, Abe retired, along with Lassy the Horse. They came to live at Harrison Farm's barn lot, where they spent a decade together. When my mother passed, Abe & Lassy became mine. They were costly friends (have you seen the price of a bag of Equine Senior?!?), but I am not only sentimental about animals, I am overly sentimental about anything connected to my mother. After Lassy passed last August, Abe shared his quarters with Forrest the Goat and, most recently, Baby V.

Abraham was at least 40 years old, and was in excellent shape until just his last 48 hours. It would be a blessing if we all could go so peacefully! I am grateful for the time we had together. I like to think that he is kicking his heels up in pastures on the other side! God bless Abraham!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for a blessed 2011 from Keyt, Draco, Orion, Mr. Bartley, and the Goatherd! May your New Year be as exciting as the arrival of baby goats!