Thursday, March 19, 2015

2015 CSA Share Information and Barn Plans

Moved upstairs until they can return outside.
This post was started more then 2 weeks ago and got pushed to the background as new kids were born. At the risk of giving you all whiplash, I am posting it anyway...

It is very much like the game of getting the fox, chicken and the grain across the stream intact. Sean is working at changing the goats about in preparation of business of real kidding season to begin now that pre-season has run its course with two successful kiddings.

We begin to milk tomorrow morning. In order to get the milk stands set up and ready, the turkeys needed to be moved upstairs in the barn this week- which meant that upstairs had to be cleaned up from supplies, shelves, and the other useful bits that had accumulated over the winter and were in need of some serious sorting. Tonight, the kids all need to be separated into one stall together and away from their Mommas for the overnight. And here is where the logistics become interesting.

Asher cannot be housed with the other young bucks while the doors are still kept closed (most of the time) to keep in the heat. He can be housed with Jane, so she is moving back there. Lilly and Bailey need to be moved from a stall without doors, to one where kidding can be more comfortable and fully accessible. The best spot would be living with Abigail and her kids, Sarah and Levi. But, we can't just throw them in there and hope for the best. So, while Sean deconstructs the wall between Jane and Abigail, Lilly and Bailey can chill in the milk room. Ellie, Cassie, and Jem will be moved to live with Leah, Rachel, and Keziah in the main doe stall so that Keren and Naomi can vacate the stall with Abigail and move in with Haddie and Meme in the 2nd kidding stall. They are all due to kid next month, are the same age and grew up as kids together and should get on well. Once all this shuffling takes place, Sean will reintroduce Lilly and Bailey to Abigail while he deconstructs the temporary wall which kept Abigail and Jane apart and use that lumber to create an overnight kid pen all the while watching for any trouble between Lilly, Bailey, and Abigail. Dizzy yet? When all is said and done- for the next 6 weeks- during the daytime hours:
* Asher will live with Jane and their twins on one side of the buck stall
* Jesse, Judah, and Eli will live together on the other side of the buck stall
* Ellie, Cassie, Jem, Leah, Rachel, and Keziah will share a 10x10 stall
* Abigail and her kids, Sarah and Levi, Lilly, and Bailey will share a 10x10 stall
* Meme, Haddie, Keren, and Naomi will share a 10x10 stall

Once the weather breaks and Keren kids, she, her kids, and Jesse will all move to their new forever home to start a brand new herd and provide milk for their new family. The doors to the pasture will be reopened. All three 10x10 doe stalls will have their dividing doors open to allow free access during the day. The wall separating our three bucks will be removed and they will also enjoy free access to their stall and pasture. Once the weather breaks. Boy, that has a nice ring to it!

*************** Back to the Drawing Board*****************

Our make-shift plan doesn't work.

1. Lilly & Bailey began aggressively butting heads with Abigail and the kids upon introduction. While the goats in other stalls gave a few token pushes and feigns while they settled in to who is in charge, the sisters tried using their much larger size to run Abigail outside and not let her back into the barn- over and over and over. *Sigh* Seriously.

2. In Jane's absence, Asher decided he likes having a bachelor pad and tried to pick a shoving match with Jane's kids. Unlike Jedi who was sweetness itself with kids, Asher immediately tried to show his dominance. That lasted all of one minute before Asher was granted his wish to have his own stall, again.

We considered letting Jane and her twins live in the milk room with Ebony, the pig. This will not work. Both bouncy kids tried climbing the stairs already and that is a recipe for disaster! So, for overnight tonight, we'll move Abby to the milk room alone. Jane will sleep in with Asher and all the kids will have a sleep over together in a stall to themselves. In the morning, after we milk, we'll pick up more wood and make some changes.

*********** Success! (Or, a close approximation of it, anyway.) ************

It is not the best solution to our dilemma, but it works for the moment. We pray daily for the weather to finally break. These animals are stir crazy from being cooped up all day and who can blame them? Not I.

Keren, Piper, and Jesse will be leaving our farm to begin their new life together at their new home sometime in the next week or so. When that happens, we'll rearrange stalls slightly and it will look like this come April...

The reality is, we already need a bigger barn. While I realize that perhaps some of you might suggest keeping less goats, doing so is contrary to our reaching the goal of maintaining this lifestyle by working for ourselves. I confess, I worry about finances and whether we are making the right choices for our family, but when we weigh working for others and being away from home and our kids all day with the delight and joy our schedule has been since Sean's February lay off... well, it is not even a close call. The girls education has become more of a family focus. Working together each week in our ministry has strengthened us and brought us closer together. So many projects are getting done with time to spare for US. We are creating more of our products at a better pace in preparation for the coming season. Sean half-jokingly remarked to me that he's never worked harder, but the meals are better. It is hard work, but I don't consider that a "downside". In fact, it is really hard to find a down side. It shouldn't be so in the wake of uncertainty and the loss of a steady paycheck, but Sean, the girls, and I have never been closer or happier than we are right now, today. I understand that perhaps it won't last. Perhaps the financial bottom line will necessitate Sean's return to full-time employment elsewhere. If it does, I will choose to look on these past few months as a wonderful gift. But, how will we know for sure, unless we press forward and TRY with all our might?

Sean has been taking odd jobs as he can find them to help supplement our income until shows, craft fairs, and farmer's markets begin in earnest. We hope that one of these opportunities will become a steady 2-3 day/week employment, leaving him available for the farm the other 4-5 days/week. I am creating as fast as my fingers will allow it. And, we are working on our goal of supplying goat's milk soaps, massage melts, scent tarts, eggshell jewelry, and bee's wax wraps to 8 additional stores in Maine. We are planning for this year's CSA garden shares (Click to read.) Goat rentals (click to read.) begin April 1st. And, we have enough eggs being laid regularly to satisfy 6 of our 10 regular CSA Egg Share (Click to read.) Customers. This will increase daily with the daylight. If you are interested in signing up for any of our shares, you can use this form (Click to read.) or call to talk with Sean or myself at 207-323-4982.

Sean and I spent a couple hours this week planning on the barn expansion we'll need to frame and sheath this year. Most of the year, the does will have open access to three of the stalls and their field. Once breeding season comes in the fall, we'll be able to separate our pairs into private and semi-private kidding stalls. We've planned to create four kidding stalls (marked in light blue). If we can breed the way we did this year, with several weeks between each kidding, this will suit us perfectly. We'll increase to breed 8 does each year, alternating years so the does have plenty of time to rest and recuperate after breeding.

This is our ambitious, 2-year barn plan:

*Pour cement pad for addition
*Frame & OSB sheath 10x10 Dedicated Milking Room
*Frame & Cement Board sheath 10x5 Dedicated Milk Processing Room
*Frame 10x5 Wood Shed
*Frame and Metal Roof Addition
*Typar entire barn
*Move and install windows and doors (as necessary)
Cost of Materials Approx. $900

*Aluminum siding on entire barn
Cost of Materials ?????

When I wrote this two days ago, I felt nothing but excitement at all of the possibilities ahead of us. I knew it would take a lot of hard work, but we're up for that. Today I spent most of the day working on gathering information for a grant I want to apply for. If we are successful, we'll have the funds to expand and complete all the garden beds we want to have, a greenhouse to cover a good amount of them, and the barn expansion completed this year. It would be a HUGE jump for us and allow us to apply for our dairy license as well as more than double our CSA shares. My dream is to be able to focus part of our CSA shares towards supplying low-income and elderly families with fresh, local foods. For some reason the potential to be able to take that leap so soon leaves me feeling overwhelmed and just a little lost. It is all perception. Nothing has changed between this day and that, other than my perception and mental attitude.

I think it is time to get off this silly machine and put my hands to work. Nothing helps change an attitude so much as a little physical work help to distract the mind. I need to make another three batches of soaps to give us a fully stocked supply and there is no time like the present.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit friends.
I am glad you came.

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Monday, March 16, 2015

GRAPHIC VIDEO: Goat Kidding, Piper is Born

The sweet scent of fresh hay and newly-born goat kids lingers on my clothes and I am in need of another shower. I couldn't be happier. Sean was right. Keren kidded quickly in less than an hour just after noon time. Keren's new human, Jessica, wanted to try to be present for her kidding. We'd been texting through the morning with updates, hoping to be able to give enough notice for her to be there without spending all day waiting around in the barn. But, when it was time to come, that kid was on no one's schedule but her own!

We were able to catch a video of her, making her grand entrance:

Jessica arrived about 20 minutes after Piper entered the world. Other than the necessary task of helping to dry her off, we left everything else for Jessica to see and/or participate in as far as she was comfortable with.

Keren did great kidding and possesses good maternal instincts. As soon as Piper was born, Keren immediately helped clean her off, calling softly as she licked her new kid dry, learning each other's scents and voices.

I love the look on Piper's face as Sean checks
to see her gender.
Our most pressing hope was for a healthy kid. Second to this, we really wanted a doe for Jessica's family. We bred Keren specifically so that her kid would not be related to Jesse. A doeling would give her a nice start for her family herd, since both Keren and her kid would be able to be bred with Jesse. As if we had anything to do with matters, Sean and I shared an enthusiastic "high-five" automatically when we discovered that the newest kid was a doe.

Piper tipped the scale at nearly 7 pounds, a healthy respectable weight for a first kid. Piper is 1/2 Lamancha, 1/4 Oberhausli and 1/4 Boer. She should grow to be a good sized doe with hybrid vigor and a decent milk supply. Piper inherited her Daddy's Lamancha elf ears. A quick inspection of Keren showed a nicely-developed udder; large in size, evenly filled, and attached well. I couldn't be happier about Jessica's prospects for her new herd.

Jessica's goats will remain here for about a week. This will give Keren time to settle into motherhood and to make sure Piper is growing as she should. It is bitter sweet to see our first goats leave the farm to begin a new family. Keren is two years old now and a mother in her own right. Jesse was born last year and is ready to sire kids. Sean and I are extremely selective about who we sell our kids to; a wealth of knowledge and experience are not necessary, good hearts and a love of goats is a MUST. It is not about selling goat kids quickly to make a few bucks. It is about finding the right homes for our kids.

Our farm is not the least expensive place to purchase goat kids, but our kids are healthy, friendly, and come from a good line of milkers. We spend time talking with perspective buyers answering their questions and asking our own. We have to feel good about where our goats are going to live. We only sell goat kids in pairs. Our kids come with documents detailing their parentage, medical history, and pictures of their births- if we have them. We also supply a basic goat first aid kit and are on call to answer questions for folks for as long as they need us. As I said, Sean and I are thrilled with the new family these goats will have. I know they are going to be well-loved. ♥

For those keeping track, we now have seven healthy goat kids born this season. Four kiddings completed with excellent results, two (maybe three) more to go before we are done for the year. We'll have updates with images and video to share with you.

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends.
We're sure glad you came.

~Sean & Sonja 

Goat's Kidding, Boaz and Anna are Born

Sean left about an hour ago to bring Miss Caitlin to work. Usually, I take this extra 40 minutes to deeply study the insides of my eyelids, especially if Molly goes with him for the ride and the house is quiet and dark. This morning I awoke to Sean snoring up a storm. (It is ironic that Sean's relentless snoring, when I am trying to drift into sleep, is often annoying. Yet, that same sound in the middle of the night or in the early morning hours usually makes me smile to myself. It is proof that I am never alone. He is here. ♥) Once awakened, nature called and needed attending to. And, as soon as my feet hit the floor, my brain roused itself to begin the day. I tried to convince it that we could rest for a bit longer, but after a few minutes of laying awake thinking about the day ahead, I knew sleep was no longer an option. That did not mean that I had to actually leave the warm cocoon of my bed. If that is not what laptops were created for, it should've been.

I promised you all pictures and a post about the arrival of Naomi and Asher's first kids. No better time to write it for you than now...

To be completely candid, there is not so much to tell. We missed it.

It snowed about 6 inches over night and the snow was still coming down heavily Sunday morning. While I prepared a warm breakfast of fresh, homemade cinnamon buns and sausage links, Sean offered to milk Jane and Abby solo. I agreed. So, Sean milked the two does, gave them their Ivomec booster, and returned them to their kids. Then, he checked pregnant does for signs of kidding before coming inside for breakfast. I strained the milk and recorded the amounts in between working on breakfast and tending the wood stove. Over breakfast Sean commented that he thought Naomi would be kidding in the next couple days and that Keren was not far behind.

After breakfast, Sean and I made three batches of goat's milk soap, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, and a loaf of fresh Italian bread. I finished some new jewelry pieces while Sean cared for feeding and watering our animals. Afternoon chores were finished by 4:00. It felt good to have a lazy day at home. We enjoyed dinner together. The girls cleared the table for us and we gathered in the family room to watch a TV program and enjoy a slice of chocolate cake. Sean brought in Phoebe and Zeke to romp and snuggle with us.

The program ended and the kids needed to be returned outside to sleep. Sean checked the barn once more only to discover two black lumps that he could not account for in the expectant doe stall. He rushed to turn on the light so he could see better all the while worried that he was too late...

And, he was.

Naomi had kidded twins and cleaned up all on her own. Sean was greeted by two alert and completely dry, furry baby goat kids and one happy Momma looking for treats. Sean ran to the family room window and rapped to get my attention. He rattled off, "Naomi has kids!" and he was gone again. Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed my barn sweater, threw on Sean's boots, slipped my camera into the vet bag and headed outside. Since we had not yet moved Naomi into a private kidding stall, getting to her and the kids meant climbing over stall rails and dodging a couple other pregnant does. Easily enough done, but not convenient.

Proud Daddy, Asher was very
interested in his kids.
Haddie, Salome (Me-me), and Keren share the stall with Naomi. Haddie and Me-me are not due for another month with Bailey and Lilly, so we moved those two out to give Naomi some more room and less company. We'll continue to let Keren stay with Naomi for a couple reasons. First, they are buddies. Also, Keren is due any day now, too. Naomi has a strong mothering instinct. She was the doe who cleaned off Samson when Abigail rejected him last year. Since this is Keren's first kidding, it might be good to have a seasoned doe in the stall. Sean just chimed in with, "And, we'll be plum out of room if we can't double up some of the does." He has a point. Our building motto has been, plan ahead for the size we want our herd to be and then, double that. Goat math can be as tricky as chicken math. We framed out and built a 20x30 two story barn over the past two years and we're already planning a 10' x 20' addition to it for this year. We need the room.

Naomi and Boaz
Since kidding had already happened, all we had to do was check over the new kids and Mom, weigh the kids, and discover their genders. Another buck/doe combination! We named the little buck, Boaz. He is pure black and has long, floppy ears like his Momma. Bo weighed in at 6 pounds. His sister is named Anna. She is an oreo-colored doeling; black in front and back with a white band around the middle. Baby Anna has one black front leg and one white front leg and her Daddy's Lamancha elf ears! She weighed in at 5 pounds. These kids are Nigerian Dwarf/Lamancha cross. We expect them to grow to be good, medium sized goats between 80-100 pounds. This will be our first year milking Naomi, so we do not have any idea of how much milk she'll produce nor how her milk will taste. But, if she performs well, we may keep Miss Anna to add to our line. Asher's mother and sister are both excellent milk producers. His offspring may be as well.

So that is three kiddings complete; three healthy sets of twins and three proud Mommas. Three bucks and three does born. We have at least three more ahead of us this season and potentially four more. I will have some video of these new kids as the days pass, but I do not have any of their birth. Instead, please enjoy some cute images of our newest kids.

Boaz and Anna
Keren is getting close! :) 
Last night, Keren was showing signs of impending kidding. Her udder grew considerably larger through the day and her kid(s) had dropped into the right position. As of 10:30 this morning, Keren is showing signs of pre-labor; she is up and down trying to find a spot that is comfortable- mostly unsuccessfully. We suspect she has only one kid, but we aren't certain of that.

We cancelled this morning's plans to go out to "Preach the Word" choosing instead to stay home. The kid(s) could come tomorrow or even the next day, but we are fairly sure it will be today. This is Keren's first birth. We have observed how wonderfully well the instincts created within our animals work, but from time to time, a little help is needed- especially the first time. So, we'll be here. To help if she needs it; to cheer her on, if she doesn't. And, we'll keep you posted with any new developments.

Thanks for visiting with us this morning, friends.
We are sure glad for your company. :)

~Sean and Sonja ♥

PS. Originally, we planned to name Anna, "Ruth", but we changed our minds overnight. She just didn't look like a Ruth. So, Anna it is. :) 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES: The Birth Story of Phoebe and Ezekiel

We had a nice visit planned with some wonderful friends to meet our new baby goats this morning.

Levi smiles all the time. His personality is starting to develop.
Levi loves head and chin rubs and snuggles into being held. ♥
Stephanie: I would love to see goats kidding sometime. I have never seen it in real life and I think it would be interesting.

Sonja: Oh, we aren't expecting more kids until next month. It is hard because by the time we called for you to come, the kidding would be long over. It's pretty fast most of the time...

At that moment, Sean walks in carrying Levi and Sarah. Sean says, "You know how you were writing about how unpredictable our life can be? Jane is in active labor."

Sonja: How active? Is she just starting labor or is she ready to kid?

Sean: She has a bubble. We need to get out there now.

Sonja: Well, I can't believe your timing, Stephanie. I guess you might get to see a kidding today. I don't mind you coming out to watch, but you need to be prepared. Sometimes there is not a happy ending. Jane has kidded twice for us. Both times she had twins; a buck who lived and a doe who was stillborn. Sometimes there are complications and we could lose a doe. I just want you to understand that it is not always joyful, though we hope so.

Stephanie: I would like to come out.

Sean: Well, we better get out there or we might all miss it!

Not all does want food when they are in labor,
but Jane does! She eats with a great appetite between contractions. 
For those of you who are new to our homestead, Jane is a French Alpine doe who must live either alone or with the bucks. She does not tolerate does and killed one of our goats when she first arrived two years ago. In the field, she is fine. But, she cannot be trusted inside the barn with any of the does. We are often asked, "Why not put her down or give her away?" The answer is complex. First, she is a great "people" goat. She is very well mannered walking on a leash and loves being near us. Jane is a fantastic mother. She kids easily and cares for her offspring very well. And, she is one of our highest milk producers. Besides, it is not her fault that she thinks she is a dog and not a goat. If she were a danger to the people, there would be no question that we would make the tough decision. That is not the case. The option of selling her or rehoming would only be passing on a "special needs" goat to someone else to deal with and there is no guarantee that they would be willing to work with her the way we do. We have learned that accommodations can be made to work within her abilities and so, she lives with the bucks. They rough-house, but no one gets hurt. The only draw back to our arrangement is that Jane is bred every year instead of every other year and she kids at unpredictable times.

Like today.

We all made it to the barn in time to assist or watch the kidding with about 20 minutes to spare. Jane's kidding was routine. It took longer this time than in the past for Jane to deliver the head and body of the first kid, but once she got down to business, we had two healthy kids within an hour.

The images show the beginning of what we call the "bubble". You can just see two white tipped hooves in the next image. And, in the third, Phoebe's head is visible inside the bubble. We watched the kid's hooves move and head wiggle between contractions. Still connected to oxygen supply through the umbilicus, the kid was in no danger while the contractions proceeded normally. (It is hard to see the hooves in the last image, but they were present and accounted for and labor proceeded as expected.)

Jane's first kid was a 5 pound doe, speckled with spots and sporting her mother's ears. We named her Phoebe.

It is still amazing to meet each new kid and see its unique personality shine through. Phoebe stood within minutes of being born and headed straight for her Momma's milk as if she had done this many times before.

Ezekiel was born a few minutes later, a wiggling 6 pound bundle of grey and white splotched fur with elf style Lamancha ears. Over the course of the next hour, Zeke stood and fell dozens of times trying to figure out his feet. He is a terrible cry-baby. Every time we pick him up or helped towel him off, he fusses up a storm at us, calling for his Momma. We are going to have to really work with him to get him used to people.

Zeke's first shaky attempts to stand. He is all legs and more often than not, those legs were interested in going in four separate directions!

I am so relieved that both of Jane's kids survived this year and that both Momma and kids are healthy, alert, and normal.

Phoebe look like a little bunny in this picture! :) 

I could wish that Jane had not selected the coldest night on record in 20 years in which to kid, though. I have written before of the frigid cold that we are dealing with this year. I looked up the stats and it appears that this month of February will go on record as the coldest month ever. (It says so on the chart. ;) ) Add to that the significant and unrelenting deluge of snowfall and you can understand how miserable the weather has been for us. Our barn is usually 20 degrees warmer than the outside air in the winter time and much cooler than the outside during the summer months thanks to windows and doors to provide a nice cross breeze. 20 degrees warmer when the weather dips to 0 means the barn is still 20 degrees. With their thick winter coats, full bellies, plenty of fresh water, no drafts in the barn and deep litter composting under foot, the animals handle that kind of cold in stride.

Last night, the thermometer read -1 degrees at 11 pm inside the barn. Outside was forecast to drop to -22 with a windchill making it feel like -45 degrees. I am not even joking. This would be alarming for our animals without two kids less than a day old thrown into the mix. More decisions to consider. We could bring the kids inside and risk Momma Jane rejecting them. We could allow a full sized goat, complete with bloody "show" dripping from her tail end, inside our home with her kids. We could sweater the babies and add more hay. We could bring out a space heater and take the risk of a fire. Options, for sure, but which one would be the best for us?

In the afternoon when I saw the forecast, Sean and I started to prepare. We sweatered the newest kids. Any possible draft was found and stuffed with hay. We heated the granite stone on the wood stove. Sean added extra bedding. I experimented with making some sacks that could be warmed in the microwave. The winner was three small sacks half-filled with the rice or dried kidney beans we had on hand. I twisted the middle closed around the rice or beans and secured it tightly with an elastic band. Then, to be extra safe, I inverted the rest of the sack around the part holding the rice, so a curious goat would not be able to open it and eat the contents. I tested the make-shift warmers. Sacks warmed for 4 minutes in the microwave kept warm for just about 90 minutes in the barn. Used in conjunction with the heated stone, we could keep one sack near each set of kids all the time, rotating them out every 90 minutes.

At 1 am, the temperature inside the barn dropped to -7 degrees. We decided to use our portable electric space heater. We own a long cylinder-style one with ceramic coils covered with a protective grate. It shuts off automatically when it is jostled or turned on its side. Sean used heavy duty 4 inch screws to mount it to the underside of the ceiling joists at an angle to radiate towards the floor. Then, he used wire to secure it further on either end. We know heat rises, but there was no way to attach it safely near the floor or on the wall. With chickens roaming freely in the barn, they could try to roost on it and get injured. This was the best solution for us. And, it worked in that the barn temperature was raised to 20 degrees by 3:30 am. The draw back to our solution was the inability for us to sleep until nearly morning. We had to monitor the portable heater and replace warmed rice packs all.. night... long. And, by we, I mean mostly Sean. I confess, I dozed off a couple times, but I can assure you, I was not rested one bit!

Levi wanted to meet his new neighbors, but Momma Jane
was not interested in that! 
Still, it was all worth it. We lost no one to the brutal cold. According to the weather predictions, we'll have a bit of a break and then, are in for another freezing overnight Friday night into Saturday, though it is supposed to be warmer than this last one. We'll monitor things and take the precautions that seem the best to us. That is all we can do. Our best effort.

More images and video to come in the days ahead. Stay tuned, friends.

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Goat UTI, Urinary Calculi, or nothing...

It is never boring. Never.

From the cat who steals potatoes from our basket to eat to the one who has learned to open the cupboard doors to steal sweets hidden inside, we get it all. Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up! Tas-cat has decided that potatoes are not only fun to steal and hide in our bed, but also make a delicious snack. Meg's kitten, Acadia has learned how to open the cupboard doors. We used to keep any sweets that I did not want to refrigerate in the cupboard- safe from insects or pests. They are no longer safe from the felines. Ridiculous animals!

These annoyances are manageable for the most part. And, it helps that I am counting down the days until the cats can return to living in the barn full time. This, too, shall pass.

What has me on the concerned side is Abigail. She began behaving strangely last night. We have been spending a lot of time in the barn. First of all there are cute kids to draw us. Secondly, the weather has not warmed up to the point that I can stop worrying about everyone. We are on track for this February to go on record as the coldest one since 1995's 11 degree average month. As of right now, we've averaged 4 degrees for the month of February. That is COLD, by anyone's standard. The kind of cold that can be lethal and cause all kinds of trouble within a herd, flock, or chattering.  It is necessary to check on everyone not only through the day, but also through the night.

Anyway, during the evening feeding time, I spent an extra hour watching the kids and Abigail and caught something out of the norm. Abigail squatted as normal to urinate and did, releasing a healthy stream of liquid waste. But, then over the next few minutes, she squatted several more times as if to urinate, but nothing happened. It might be absolutely nothing. And by nothing, I mean, something that will remedy itself with time, such as the stretched and shifted internal organs returning to their proper place after carrying twins. Pregnancy puts pressure on many organs and any pregnant woman can understand what it does to the bladder and kidneys! Abigail may be feeling pressure as things settle back to normal. Or, it could be a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is understandable, having just kidded in a barn- a somewhat less than perfectly sterile environment. If this is the case, we can support Abigail's urinary tract system naturally with cranberries and if necessary, with an antibiotic. SMZ-TMP is the standard drug of choice for this kind of infection. [The goat dose of SMZ-TMP is generally given orally at a dose of 665mg/50 pounds twice daily or one 960 mg tablet per 75 pound goat twice daily. Some people have questioned using the class of Trimethoprims orally with goats because of potential issues with degrading their rumen. I have never had to use them before (and may not now) so I can't recommend one way or another. This is where having a good relationship with your vet is invaluable.] UTIs can usually be resolved, but sometimes, they develop into a bladder or kidney infection, which are more dangerous and can be lethal if left untreated. The other possibility, though the least likely is Urinary Calculi (UC). Some of the signs of this would be straining to urinate with little or no stream and is usually seen in goat wethers. Does can be affected with it, but it is not as common. UC is caused by too much phosphorus in relation to calcium in the feed. This causes crystals to form and block the urethra. If you have ever had a kidney stone, you can understand the level of pain this can cause in your goat. This is a serious condition that can be fatal very quickly if left untreated. So which is it?

We don't yet know. To find out, we spent 2 1/2 hours straight sitting in her barn stall watching for Abigail to urinate. I can report that in that time, she ate her hay with a vigorous appetite and drank normally. She passed "goat berries" no less than five times- all completely normal in color, size, and consistency.  (Who says farming isn't full of glamour???) Naomi urinated twice. Keren urinated once. Sarah and Levi both urinated multiple times. But, Abigail was disinclined to cooperate. She is not acting like she is in any pain. I ran my hands thoroughly from shoulder to hind end, over her ribs, across her stomach and down to her udder. I pressed firmly into her sides near and around where her stomachs, bladder, kidneys, and intestines live. Nothing felt wrong. She stood still and allowed the attention without any sign of distress or that she had noticed me at all. I even went so far as to milk 8 oz of colostrum from her to freeze for a rainy day when some other kid(s) might need it. She was perfectly fine with all of this. She has no temperature. She is acting normally. My gut says she is perfectly fine.

But, until I see her urinate and know for sure, I cannot rest and therefore, neither will Sean. It is 10:30 pm as I write this. Sean is going to check on her again at midnight. We are hoping that he can catch her sleeping and rouse her to stand. We have noticed that all the goats tend to urinate after laying for any period of time. If Abigail urinates normally without attempting to do so repeatedly, we can chalk it up to her recent kidding. If Abigail continues to squat after urinating normally, she may have an UTI. If she is urinating with a slow flow or just dribbles, then we'll suspect UC. See? It's never boring or predictable. I mean, really, what else would you rather be doing on a Saturday night than sitting in the cold in a barn watching a goat, waiting for it to pee?

I only have this one new picture of the kids to share. I was so distracted with Momma's tail end that I did not capture any today. I did sneak some kid snuggles while in the barn. Sarah and Levi are doing great. I'll try to capture and post some more images of them for you soon. [Update: I have video and pictures of those kids at the bottom of this post. :) ]

Thanks for sharing the adventure today. It's nice to have the company.
~Sean & Sonja ♥

More information about:
*medications and their doses can be found at the Fias Co Farm webpage HERE.

*Urinary Calculi on the Onion Creek Ranch webpage HERE.


I didn't want to write an entirely new post with an update for you and make you all wait another day to find out the ending, so here it is...

Abigail is completely fine.

Sean went out to the barn at 2:30 am with the heat stone for the kids and to check and rouse Abigail. Just as we hoped, within about 10 minutes of getting up, Abigail needed to urinate. She had a perfectly normal stream. Sean waited another 10 minutes to make sure, but there was no more squatting without urination. Just as we suspected, Abigail was suffering from normal pressure after kidding. But, the only way to know for certain was to see her urinate again- even though that meant waiting in the barn for several hours keeping tail watch and setting alarms to get up in the middle of the night to catch her. Crazy, huh?

This is a perfect example of what we deal with on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. An animal will act out of their "normal" and it is alert time. Is there something wrong? Or, are they just being silly? Did we miss something? While we do not want to inject our animals with needless medication, we don't want to leave a potential problem untreated. Sometimes trouble comes in the "wait-and-see" variety; sometimes, it is a clear "Call in the Vet!" event. Especially in the wake of losing Ethan to pneumonia, I am living on the edge of Paranoia. My head knows this, but my heart isn't listening. I hope that someday soon I can venture into the barn without my heart racing in near panic until I know everyone is hail and healthy. Though, I hope that day comes soon, I know we cannot become complacent in our care. The more animals to care for, the more potential for things to go awry. I understand the limitations of being an imperfect mortal. That does not prevent me from taking it very personally when something terrible happens- whether or not I could have done anything to prevent the outcome. I know that you understand what I mean.

This time, there was nothing to worry about, thankfully. And, now that I know that is the case, I was able to relax and enjoy some time with those sweet kids...

Levi was curious about his first sighting of snow. Keren had little interest in playing in it, but she watched from the doorway before returning to hay eating. 

The rest of the herd is anxious to meet and greet the new additions. Rachel tried to catch a glimpse from two stalls away. 

It was a great day to open the door and allow the does some time in the yard- not that they ventured far. Abigail got as far as the bale of snow-covered hay intended for spreading in the goose and duck yard. Levi and Sarah nibbled on anything anew, which encompassed EVERYTHING they saw. Then, all at once the springs in their feet would ignite and in a hop-skip-jump, they launched into the air in a flurry of energy.

If watching that doesn't make you crack a smile, I give up!
They call this "snow". It looks questionable... 
I love that sweet, smiling face. ♥
The kids had a ball prancing around in the snow and bounding into the stall. The hardest part of taking pictures or video is that they are NEVER still!

An arm full of snuggles and softly snoring goat kids makes a visit complete and the cold worth it.

Thank you for joining us today for a visit. We love the company.

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Friday, February 20, 2015


What a proud and happy Momma.
Abigail came through labor and took to her
kids this year without a hitch. 
I was nervous and worried that Abigail would have difficulty kidding this year. Not with the actual kidding itself mind you (like her mother, Ellie, Abby is a tank). Big, beautiful, and sassy, she does not have a demur bone in her body. I was worried that like last year, she would reject her kid. We were prepared for that contingency, but hoped, hoped, hoped that those measures would be unnecessary. They were.

Abby displayed all the tell-tale signs of kidding and Sean was right, she didn't last the night in labor. Sean checked the barn before going to pick up Caitlin from work in Belfast. No changes, but I stayed home just in case. Early in the day, we checked our kidding bag to make sure we were prepared. Sean was gone about an hour and returned home to find a very, very newly delivered kid. Abigail was still very much in labor. We helped dry off both kids. With her immense size, I thought for sure she had triplets in there, but I was wrong. Abigail birthed two healthy, beautiful kids. We are all very happy and relieved!

Abigail's first kid is a buckling whom we named Levi. He has his sire's coloring and ears and holds the promise to grow as large as Jedi, too. Levi weighed in at a whopping 8 1/2 pounds! Our biggest kid yet. Levi already has small, noticeable horn buds formed. We'll not disbud; Levi should grow an impressive and useful set of horns. Already he is showing his character. He is curious about everything, nibbling on anything that might offer the hope of being food. He also enjoys having his head rubbed. I love his adorable chocolate polka dot spots along his back and legs.

Abigail's second kid was born very fast, a little doeling we named Sarah. She is a keeper. Adorned in a pure black, long curly coat and true "cauliflower" Lamancha ears, she is the spitting image of what her grandmother, Ellie, must have looked like when she was born. Sarah weighed about 6 pounds. She is healthy and alert, but so far, she is content to sit quietly between nursing. Where Levi hops and bounces already, Sarah treads at a slower pace. I am absolutely thrilled about Sarah's birth and we will be keeping her to add to our line of Lamanchas.

One kidding down and I can only hope that the others go this textbook smooth. They should not be due to kid until next month, but we'll be watching them closely all the same. Besides the obvious excitement over having kids to snuggle and love on, we'll have fresh milk and cheese available for our family in a couple weeks. Added to the increase of eggs from the chickens, it feels like Spring might actually decide to appear after all.

So, with no more introduction, I am very pleased to share with you the first kids from Lally Broch Farm in 2015:
Instinct kicks in and the kids want to nurse... on walls, other does, front legs, my knees, basically anything they are close enough to mouth. A little help is all it takes before the kids are latched on properly and able to get the nutrition they need.
Levi was a quick study. Once he found where the milk was located, he was in business.
Sarah took a little more coaxing. She was interested and calling, but she couldn't quite
get the hang of matters at first. Sean was a great help to teaching her the ropes. 
Morning cuddle time is both fun and necessary. We do not bottle feed our babies as a rule. Snuggling, petting, and talking to the kids is an important part of bonding. We fall in love with them immediately. It takes some effort on our part to convince them to fall in love with us, too. We bring them in one at a time so that Abigail is not distressed by their absence. They visit with us in 10-15 minute increments.

Totes My Goats. ;)
The easiest way to weigh the new kids is placing them into a sack with handles and using our hanging weight measure. Because the kids feel secure, they do not fuss and wiggle, which allows us to capture an accurate weight for them.

 Cute kids can be distracting, but schooling must still happen. Sean helped Meg with her math while I took pictures.
How is Molly handling this new development? Not well. Like many children being introduced to new siblings, she is very jealous of these new furry babies that are getting love and cuddle time. The kids have been introduced to Molly. She did well with it. Though she is excited, she did not try to nip them or chase them. Mostly, she was interested in their scent. A thorough licking was next on her list. Some readers may worry about introducing the scent of a predatory animal to the kids and we are mindful of that, but keep in mind, our goats are well used to Molly and her scent. And, while I am certain that Abigail seeing Molly inside her stall would be met with the same protective reaction as when the other does get too near her new babies, the scent of Molly alone has not provoked the same reaction. Instead, when the goat kids are returned to the stall, Abigail licks them clean of the offensive odor and goes about her mothering.

All of the barn residents are interested in the new members of the herd, especially Ellie- who divided her time between hoping (begging) for extra grain over the stall wall and eyeing her grand-babies.
This is not an optical illusion. Levi is a big boy! Sarah is normal newborn kid size.

I love this picture so much. Look at those sweet faces!
Lunch time!
Levi, born of Abigail and Jedidiah. Oberhausli-Boer/Lamancha cross
Sarah looks exactly like Ellie, except we believe she'll grow horns.
Caitlin came with us to the barn when the kids were being born and she captured some footage of the event. I added some from yesterday. From wet, newly born kids to kids in sweaters, this video shows snippets of the first 24 hours of life. Enjoy...

Thank you for visiting with us, friends. It is a good day on the farm.

~Sean & Sonja ♥