Saturday, September 18, 2010

The new hay barn

Hay Barn with Chicken Annex
OK, I have to boast about my husband again.  Rick is smart and funny AND has "EBS"~ extra-ordinary building skills. Today he completed the "hay barn with chicken annex." The windows are covered with screening, so they may be left open in warm weather, but they have shutters, that close up when it gets cool or wet. It has cool, recycled galvanized metal siding, and the chicken entrance has an engineered hardware locking mechanism that can be used from the inside or outside.
View from inside Chicken annex
This view shows the chicken door and the wooden shutter that lifts up and covers the screened window.
"Say goodbye to the big blue tarp,"  he said. He worked so hard on that little building! Tomorrow I will put the nesting box and perches in, so the flock can move in :)

Yesterday was vet day for Sheila and Tilly. I got up early, brushed them both well (I should have brushed their teeth :/ ) borrowed a couple of goat collars from Whimsy and Hummingbird, loaded them up and took them into Jackson. This was their first visit to our new vet, so I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be. The last time we visited the old vet, they were scared to death. 
They are farm dogs, you know, they don't know what town manners are.
They were both perfect dog angels, I couldn't believe it! They liked the vet, they ignored the other dogs, were friendly to the people, didn't pull me or have to be dragged. They behaved themselves. The vet is a young man and they liked him. He gave them treats before they got their shots. A cute moment was when Sheila was finished getting her exam and it was Tilly's turn.  She stood right in front of her and gave her a little lick of reassurance.  AWWWW! I was SO proud. (I would have paid extra for that.) After the visit, we went through the McDonald's drive through and got a large order of fries. We all enjoyed them on our way home!

Tilly loves the cushions! Before she relaxes, she has to "Scruff Around" to get comfortable.

"Good, GOOD dogs!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Finding the Balance


It would be interesting to take a poll to see how many of those small 'farmers' out there have to hold down a full time job to pay the mortgage. I do. I am a creative and hard working 50+ year old woman. My job pays well and includes excellent benefits. I work 40-45 hours a week. Add another 8 hours for commute time, semi-weekly trips to The Feed Barn, before or after work, or on weekends if the weather is not cooperative. I get up around 6 am. I have one cup of coffee, feed the cats, prepare formula and feed my kids, milk a doe or two, feed them, and send them to their appropriate places for the day. Loose the chickens after their night of confinement. SOMETIMES I have time for a ½ hour of exercise before my shower and preparations for work. Breakfast? I take that to the office to eat. I arrive home around 6 pm. That leaves just enough time in the evenings to prepare a healthy meal for Rick and me, clean up (maybe), and head to the barn. I have to bottle feed kids, milk one or two does, give the does hay and fresh water and separate them for the night. The bucks need to be brought in from the wooded hill, separated, given hay and fresh water, and locked up in their barn for the night. I have a "herding broom."  It is an old corn broom with a sturdy handle that is used very effectively as a tool to herd goats. They don't like the broom, so on occasion, they try to eat the straw at the end. It is about half eaten now, but it still works :) I also have to round up the chickens, making sure they are all accounted for. Bribery helps, here. If I am lucky (and organized) it is now around 7:30 pm. Just enough time to feed Lucy the Pig, the three dogs, the barn cats, and oh no, do some watering! Our summers are hot and dry here, so watering is essential. We intend to install an automatic watering system to help us with this chore, but it is pretty far down the list of “Things To Do.” Sometimes I am watering until darkness falls. GOD FORBID we should have an illness or injury to address. Weekends are for catch up chores~ weeding the veggie garden, cleaning the barn, CLEANING THE HOUSE, trimming hooves~we do those when time allows.

So how do I find balance in this chaos? How do I find time to prune the roses, say nothing about smelling them? I have learned to love my routine. I enjoy relaxing while holding formula bottles for two hungry kids. Their hungry cries of greeting “MAAAA!” make me smile instead of aggravating me. Goats are sociable creatures, not too demanding, and will tolerate some deviation from their routine. When I am busy at work, I can’t think about the farm. As soon as I am in my truck, I stop thinking about work, it’s all about the farm then. When I am rounding up those crazy chickens for the night, it is certainly comical, and I laugh while chasing down Houdini the Rooster. He is the Rooster. In his chicken mind, he should wait until all the hens have returned to their hen house before he enters. However, he is not able to count, so he doesn’t know that the last barred rock has already entered, or that Red Hen was the first to arrive. So when I have counted beaks, it is TIME for him to come in. He requires persuading. I think he enjoys the ritual as much as I do.  He is a sweet rooster, and never gives me any trouble, never flogs me or acts aggressively in any way.  He has three inch spurs.

"Don't make me get the broom..."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Whimsy milk...


Milking a doe can be a huge commitment of time and energy. I have been letting Zipporah nurse her doeling, since I am spending quite a bit of time feeding her other two kids for her, but it is time to begin weaning them. I am going to start weaning Friday, and will be milking Zipporah. But Whimsy’s story is a little different.

Whimsy delivered her two kids in spring of 2009. Her daughter, Peanut, is 18 months old now. Normally a doe will wean her own kids naturally and dry off. Not Whimsy, she has to be unique. Special, you might say. An overachiever. Peanut is TWICE her size and extremely chubby, because Whimsy is still feeding her. I did not realize she was still carrying milk until I noticed that Peanut seemed to be on the OBESE side. Whimsy seemed too scrawny to me, and just didn’t look very healthy. Whimsy has always been on the thin side and tends to have chronic skin problems. She also has a pretty thick coat, which hides some problems. A few weeks ago, while I had her on the milk stand trimming her little hooves, I gave her a good examination. “What is this”, I say to her, “Whimsy, you still have milk?” AH HA! Then the obese daughter makes TOTAL sense. I treated her skin with some of my herbal eucalyptus oil, and it worked like a charm. I separated Whimsy from her daughter and started milking her, to try to dry her off. Whimsy HATES being milked. She detests it. It is inappropriate touching, and she KICKS! I have a sign on my office wall that says “I am more patient than a goat is stubborn.” I have to be to milk this little tiger. I thought, "OK, the more I milk her, the more she will get used to it, the less she will kick, struggle, try to climb out of her milk stand, put her foot in the milk bucket"….NO. I can’t get her to accept milking. I have other does that do not object to milking, and I KNOW I am gentle, not hurting her.

Here’s the terrible part: Whimsy has the creamiest, most delicious milk! For a tiny doe, she puts out a quart a day IF you can get her to stand still for it. I will not give up!

“I am more patient than a goat is stubborn.”