Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2020 Kid Snuggle Day(s)

We were really looking forward to making new friends and welcoming returning friends to the homestead this weekend, but with growing concerns surrounding the transmission of Covid-19, we have made the difficult decision to post-pone until April 25th. When the CDC and governing officials ask us to help protect the most vulnerable within our community by avoiding gatherings, we listen. For those of you who have already purchased tickets, we will honor your tickets for the same reserved time on April 25th. If that won't work in your schedule, we have opened June 27th as a back-up date. Emails have been sent to current ticket-holders and we'll follow up by Friday with anyone we haven't heard back from. :)

The upside to this is that we have *more* time to prepare for you! Maybe the studio will be finished before you come? Maybe the goose enclosure will be completed, too? Perhaps we'll have chicks and goslings to snuggle? Who knows! Whatever additional work we can complete, most of all, we'll be looking forward to seeing YOU making friends with the animals who call our homestead their home.

I have updated the new date on the tickets available exclusively online HERE. If you missed out on getting your tickets, there is now still time! ♥

We are looking forward to your visit! 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Eden's Passing

Eden passed at 6 am. Despite the antibiotics and our best efforts, after her initial rally in the morning (see yesterday's posted video), Eden steadily declined through the afternoon and into the evening. Sean and I stayed the night on the couch with her held in my arms. She became limp and unresponsive at 4:30 am and died shortly after.

Initially, Sean attempted to resuscitate Eden, but with her long-term prognosis being grim, I asked him to let her go. While there was a chance for her to recover and for us to look into surgery if she lived long enough to grow large enough to attempt it, I was willing to do what I could to help her survive. Once her body began to shut down, no matter how sweet a kid, we had to let her go as peacefully as possible. She passed in my arms, warm and loved.

This is one of the hardest parts of farming- the feeling of futility that comes in the face of an inevitable loss. It never gets easier. Often such losses feel like a personal affront to the love, care and great effort expended in the hopes of a good outcome. "Not on my watch!" we determine. Then, sanity and reality return. We are not all knowing. We hold no special powers to correct congenital defects. So, we are left with two choices and it is not in us to quit. We choose to do our best for those in our care, whether that means helping them to fight to live or helping them to ease their suffering. We simply do our best. 

What did we learn from this? After 10 years, we were bound to see a case of cleft palette. Along with a myriad of other conditions, it happens. Now that it has happened here, we will know what signs to look for sooner. The prognosis is still poor, but with early detection, we might avoid the complication of aspiration pneumonia. I've been reading up on the condition on reputable Veterinary and Medical sites since Eden was diagnosed. If you want to read more on this topic, these links might interest you:

From Goat Vet Corner: Cleft Palette Information: https://www.facebook.com/notes/goat-vet-corner/cleft-palate-and-cleft-lip/1935830623330010/

Cleft palette in goats because of eating plants: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2089736

Prenatal cleft repair in goats to assist in human applications (We do NOT support intentionally breeding animals with defects in order to cure diseases, but this article is interesting in terms of what repairs might become available to help when this condition happens naturally. Animal testing is repugnant to us.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2089736

I began writing again because I missed it and with the first round of goat kids behind us, and the next set not due until May, I thought this was a good window in which to begin. Lots of posts about chicks hatching, creamery build progress, and happy bouncing kids. In the days to come, I am hopeful to get back to those kinds of happy posts. 

Meanwhile, thanks for visiting with us, Friends. We are glad you are here.
Sonja and Sean♥

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Eden's Update

Eden had a rough night. After tube feeding her last night, she was lethargic. Her breathing was labored and raspy. I hoped she was just feeling contentedly "milk drunk", but my instincts feared otherwise. Her lack of energy could be from the struggle to breathe properly with the congestion in her nose and chest. Or, it could be a result of the extra stress of going to the Veterinarian's office and receiving injections of an antibiotic and BoSe. Maybe being apart from her family caused her to shut down in defeat.

We took inventory of the situation. Since Dr. Sarah recommended pulling her from her Mother altogether, we decided keeping her in with us overnight might be best. At worst, Eden might pass during the night in my arms. At best, I could be close enough to respond if she needed us. I wrapped Eden in a soft towel and held her in my arms until 2:30 am. I applied peppermint essential oil in a coconut carrier to the towel near her nose to help loosen her congestion every 90 minutes or so and wiped her nose of any mucus.

She woke with a plaintive cry at 2:30 am. I woke Sean and he took her outside in case she needed to urinate. She didn't. She couldn't stand on her own and at this point we were pretty sure we would lose her before morning. Eden collapsed back to sleep until she stirred again at 6 am. Sean took her back outside to see if she needed to urinate, but again- she didn't and she still couldn't stand. She was fussing and mouthing at the blanket, so we tube fed her 3 oz of warmed goat's milk and dosed her with her antibiotic injection. I didn't tube feed her in the middle of the night because she was so lethargic, she wasn't breathing well, and could barely hold her head up. I don't want to lose her, but I also don't want to contribute to her suffering needlessly.


By 7:30 am, it was time to milk, so Sean brought Eden outside to her mother to watch over while we did that necessary chore. I didn't see it because I was preparing for milking, but Sean reported that as soon as he reached the barn, Eden heard goats bleating in the field and stirred. When she saw Birgitta, she ran to her and immediately attempted to nurse with interest (which is not ideal, but understandable). Birgitta accepted her back, but didn't let her nurse more than a minute before kicking away to eat her own breakfast. By the time I saw her after milking, Eden was following her brother around and attempting to escape through the pen slats.

We tube fed Eden again at 10 am and immediately returned her to her Mom. Birgitta, Micah, and Eden were curled up for a nap at noon. So, that's where we are. Her congestion seems much less than yesterday, but her lack of energy is a huge concern. We'll keep evaluating through the day and night.

Thanks for visiting today. ♥

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Pneumonia and other considerations

So, my intention was to lop a few easy pitches. This is farming and there are plenty of heartbreaks to go around, but there are also days of peace, joy, fulfillment, and happiness. With the nine does we hadn't planned to breed this year dropping 14 sweet, bouncing babies, I felt that I could talk about them for a bit. (They obviously had other plans regarding breeding. #12weekoldbucks*can*breed #doecode #whattheevenheck #goatsgottado #unauthorizedbreeding #Iknewitwastechnicallypossible,but8?!?!?!?! #bonusbabies #COSMOS!!!!!) I mean, a little fluff before we delve back into the grit. Is that too much to ask? I guess so...

Eden hasn't had a great beginning. Born along side her thriving twin on February 20th to Birgitta, Eden has caused some concern from the start. At birth, she just looked "off"; there wasn't anything wrong with her per se, but she stood oddly with her head down and body scrunched up. Sometimes kids need a bit to sort themselves out. We gave the kids and Birgitta their dose of Selenium & Vit. E gel. Since we live in a selenium deficient state, all newborns get this when they are born.

Of immediate concern, was that Eden wasn't as interested as her brother, Micah, in nursing. She was latching on and eating, but not with the usual vigor. We started watching her carefully several times each day. Over the next couple days, we noticed that overall she seemed weaker than Micah. She would latch on and suckle for a few minutes, but then fall off, sputter a little and shake her head. Eden repeated this cycle each time we watched her nurse. A finger near her mouth didn't elicit a suck response either. We chalked it up to inexperience coupled with some nasal congestion- possibly from inhaling birth fluids, which is not uncommon and usually resolves on its own. I was concerned that Eden wasn't getting enough milk and considered tube feeding her a couple times to make sure she was getting a proper share of milk. Without a proper suck response, bottle feeding would be too dangerous. Milk aspirating into lungs is often fatal.

When Shea from Knotty Goat Soapery popped over for a visit, she agreed that something appeared "off" and that tube feeding might be a good idea. I have had to tube feed kids for various reasons through the years and know how to, but Shea worked as a vet tech. I took advantage of her visit to help with holding Eden and watching my technique- since I hadn't needed to do this in a year or so. I am a firm believer in getting advice and help from those who may know more than I do and passing along knowledge to those who might use it. It takes a village- even when it comes to animals. :)

There are things to consider before supplementing feedings. It can become a self-fulfilling problem. One thinks the kid isn't eating enough, so it gets fed a bottle. Now that their hunger has been satisfied, they may not nurse, leaving them weaker and in need of a supplemental feeding. So, you feed a bottle, which means they eat less from Mom... and round and round it can go. It can snowball into raising "bottle babies"- which is rarely the best plan for kids. Whenever possible, nursing from their Mothers in the way kids are designed to do is best for the Moms, best for the kids, and really best for the humans. (While kids *can* be fed only 3-4 times per day and live, it is best practice to follow the natural feeding schedule does employ- feeding smaller amounts, every few hours, around the clock. When we are forced by circumstances to bottle feed, this is what we commit to... and it is exhausting.) Sometimes it is necessary of offer supplemental feedings, though. Each situation should be considered based on its unique factors. We do nothing on a whim.
Eden and her brother, Micah.
HUGE size difference!

Over the next day, Eden was tube fed a couple times until she seemed to be improving. Two weeks passed. In that time, Eden was active and alert. She began to follow her brother around. While it wasn't the normal, rough and tumble bouncing I was used to, Eden was beginning to be more and more active. She still never seemed to nurse as long as Micah. The congestion in her nose came and went. Sometimes it was quite pronounced, other times she appeared normal. We had had good success in the past treating slight nasal congestion with a combination of Triaminic and using peppermint essential oils diluted in coconut oil as a rub. We used those treatments on Eden when her symptoms warranted them.



At the Vet's office this morning.
This morning, her condition changed dramatically. The congestion that had been intermittent, settled into her lungs with a clearly discernible rattle. Sean called the Belfast Veterinary Hospital and we got an appointment for the afternoon. Upon examination, Dr. Sarah discovered Eden has a very pronounced cleft palette. For those unsure of what that is, basically, the boney structure at the roof of her mouth did not develop properly. There is a good sized hole which allows milk to travel from her mouth to her nose. It prevents her from creating the vacuum pressure to swallow properly, so drinking life-sustaining milk is a tremendous challenge. This condition often results in the decision to euthanize. The deformity commonly results in susceptibility to pneumonia, failure to thrive because getting enough nutrition will be a life-long hurdle, and the inadvisability of future breeding. Breeding is avoided because Eden will have a hard time maintaining her weight without the demands on her body carrying kids will cause. And, too, while we don't believe it is the case with her, cleft palette can be hereditary. So, though she is EXACTLY perfect in every other aspect in terms of what traits our farm is hoping to breed: naturally polled, lamanchas with excellent milk lines- this deformity means Eden can't be a mother as things stand. Right now, we're more concerned with whether or not she can live.

We discussed these dangers and concerns at length with Dr. Sarah and are following her advice- with a couple of adjustments. Dr. Sarah has suggested we pull Eden from her mother and tube feed her for the next 8 weeks or so. Tube feeding each meal will completely by-pass her cleft palette and reduce the risk of pneumonia. She gave us injections of Nuflor antibiotic to treat Eden over the next 3 days. Dr. Sarah thinks its worth waiting to see if there are any changes to the palette as she gets some size and weight on her. It is possible to have repair surgery done when she is a little older. Surgery comes with its own risks to weigh. Dr. Sarah offered to call in a consult because though she has performed the tricky surgery on other animals, there is a huge chance of infection and the surgery itself is tricky.

Birgitta's Family 2020
So, we are taking her advice and tube feeding her to supplement her diet. The change that we are making is this: pulling Eden from her family. Eden is 17 days old. That means that she has been dealing with and figuring out a way to eat enough milk to be an active- if not bouncy- goat kid. She climbs with her brother on top of crates and through pens. It is a risk to allow her to remain with her family. We think the risk of pulling her outweighs it. Separating her from her family means that she will be raised alone for months. She won't forge the bonds she needs to be part of her herd, an outcast that may always be bullied. The loneliness of separation can cause depression and for her to give up the will to live that she has been demonstrating. We believe in her. She has found a way to function for this long, we are hopeful that with support, she will continue on that path.

But, she may not. It isn't an easy path ahead. She's having some trouble with congestion tonight. We'll be monitoring her closely, but the reality is- there isn't a whole lot more we can do tonight. She has been given the antibiotic to help her lungs. She's had a dose of the steroid Dexamethasone to help open her airways. She's been tube fed. She is warm, dry, and surrounded by love.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

It's Been A Minute...

I haven't written in too long. I wanted to for a while and life moved along. I felt guilty that I never carved out the time to update our website and life moved along. I closed my laptop and put it away and life moved along. I felt the tug to rekindle this journal and life moved along. Some pretty major events happened since I last thought to include you in our world. Our youngest two daughters graduated from High School. Sean's Dad dedicated himself to Jehovah and symbolized that dedication in baptism. We added peafowl to the homestead. Our herd of dairy goats grew to around 50 (!) and we framed out and roughed in our new Creamery and Milk room. Sean worked for himself for all of 2019. Our family spent 9 days in Florida. We added two new vehicles and a hay trailer to our name. It's been a minute.

Creamery build
We had some challenges and losses, too. If you have been following us on Facebook, you've seen those we've shared. I contracted Lyme's Disease and it took (it's still taking?) time to regain myself. Though I am mostly "me" again, the dread that it could come back unsettles me. New mental scars to match the physical ones acquired. My determination took a punch, but slowly I am accepting my new "normal".

One positive I took away was necessary and critical re-evaluation of our life- the time and energy we use in worship, in providing for our family, and in recreational activities. Honest reflection leads to making thoughtful choices so we can reach our goals. It relieves the guilt of saying, "No" to things that take our time, energy, and money and don't add to our joy. Changes have been made and continue to be made, one of them brings me here. I have missed sharing our journey with all of you.

I won't promise to meet deadlines, to fill certain content, or anything else- except that I *will* write again. As often as I can without it becoming a chore or a burden. If you are following us on Facebook- we appreciate it- and we'll continue posting memes, pictures, and quick snippets there. Once in a blue moon, I also share to Instagram, too. But, if you are looking for more depth, if you want to be immersed in our life, join us right here. ♥

Thanks for visiting with us today, Friends. I've missed you.
Sonja ♥

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How We Helped a Gosling Hatch


 Last Wednesday morning, our Sebastapol geese's nest hatched and we were pleased to meet their two goslings. In the nest remained four unhatched eggs. Sometimes the unhatched eggs will hatch slightly later. If they don't, we candle the eggs to see if they are developing. If so, we move any viable eggs into another nest to have a shot at hatching. Most often, the unhatched eggs were either never fertilized or the embryo died at some earlier point of development. In either of those cases, the eggs have to be disposed of before they begin to rot.


Thursday evening, Sean checked the eggs to remove those that needed it and discovered an egg stalled in the hatching process. It was growing cold and the geese had already abandoned the remaining eggs in the nest, so we made the call to try to help this little one to hatch. We have had both success and failure at this, but weighed against doing nothing resulting in most likely it's death, we had to at least try.

It takes hours to help a bird to hatch. It must be done slowly, mimicking nature. Gentle tapping on the outside of the egg, stimulates the processes of closing off umbilicus and readying the chick for hatching. Care must be taken to not breech veins that might cause too much bleeding.

Helping this gosling was not without trouble. The first day, it was so weak that it could barely lift its head. Then, it developed splay-leg (or sprattle leg) and needed us to make braces from band-aids to align its legs properly for another 24 hours. It imprinted on Sonja. While that is sweet, it makes it hard to integrate the gosling back to its family.

This is what happened for us...








Morning snuggle buddy. #farmhairdontcare

Bath time! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hiking with Goats (and advocating for animal welfare)

Malik leading the group...
 I love, Love LOVE the article that Aislinn Sarnacki of Bangor Daily News wrote about our hiking adventures. READ IT HERE. I think the article and video shows the best parts of what we do here on the homestead. Hiking with our goats is certainly one of the most fun for both us and our goats. But, in the interest of advocating for the best care of animals, I wanted to take just a minute to clarify two points.

"Goats are just like dogs or cats." This sentiment was voiced by several of our hikers and I knew what they meant. But, I want to make sure that you all do, too. While there are some similarities; they both are smart and can be friendly, are both mammals, and have wagging tails- caring for goats is vastly different than having a dog. Goats do not make good house pets, for one thing since they are very happy to eliminate their body waste (in all its forms) wherever they are at the time. They are herd animals and NEED a herd of at least one other, and preferably two other goat companions. I could go on and on, but my main point is- goats make lovely companion animals when they have their needs met with appropriate shelter, herd mates, nutrition and care. Please, do not purchase goat kids on a whim because they are cute. They are but they grow and you may find that the "cuteness" wears off. Do not purchase a goat to be a house-goat. It is not what is best for that goat. Caring for an animal is a commitment. If you are not in a situation that is right for getting goats, visit farms that have goats and get your goaty fix there. :)

This is another clarification I feel we need to add: we select the goats for each hike based on factors that will ensure that all parties enjoy the hike; goats and guests alike. Some goats prefer other goats to people and would rather stay with their herd; we respect that. Some mothers would get stressed to find their kid missing for a few hours; we consider that. A goat may be feeling unwell or recovering from an injury; we won't add stress to their life for a recreational activity. This being the case, your hike may include goats of various ages, not just goat kids. It may not include goat kids at all. You may hike with yearlings or older goats who need the extra attention and would benefit from the exercise. The group hike featured in this article included two sets of twins, all bottle kids. As the first hike of the season, we were unsure of the trail conditions. It was important that we selected kids who we knew would stay with us and be easy to handle should we need to make adjustments. Carter and Benton will probably go on our next hike again, but Malik developed a touch of pneumonia this week. Though his treatments are finished and he is back to his bouncy self, we won't bring him along this week. He will do better resting at the homestead, so we'll select another goat (or two) for the hikes on Saturday. Our goats' health and well-being are the MOST important concern for us. Always.
Carter and Alana resting at the top

Lastly, we do not host birthday parties or any kind of gathering, really, at the homestead. We're not set up for hosting large groups and having too many people at once would stress us all out- me included. :) We do host up to 6 people for private hikes a couple of times each month. We hope you will choose to visit us and enjoy the experience of hiking with our goats. Currently, we have two times still available. They are:
May 5 2-5 pm RESERVE TICKETS HERE
May 30 10 am-1 pm RESERVE TICKETS HERE

If you would like to hike at a different time, please contact us at 207-323-4982 and we will see what we can do to schedule your preferred date.

You can enter to WIN a Goat Hike sponsored by Tiller & Rye in Brewer, Maine. This two week event will support Bangor Area Food Cupboards to assist those with a need in our community. To enter the drawing, simply bring in a non-perishable food item to Tiller & Rye from now until April 30th. Put your name in the drawing. You can enter once each day in store. Or, if you're not local, but still want to participate, follow this link and make an online donation. It's easy! Just click on tickets and decide how much you want to donate. We'll use your donation to purchase organic non-perishables and give you an entry for every dollar you donate. You can do that here: DONATION

We are excited for a new season to begin on the homestead and are looking forward to meeting many of you in person.

Thanks for visiting with us today.
Sean and Sonja