Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Building a New Barn: Part 1

Tack room empty and ready to be dismantled.
After only 5 years of hard use, our old horse barn is being retired. Not completely, of course. We frugal Mainers are full of that "Old Yankee Ingenuity". The recent movement towards "green living" and recycling has been in use in this neck of the woods for longer than my existence. "Reclaimed wood"? That's just fancy talk for using what you already have, again. Whether it be logs reclaimed from bayous in the south or ripping down old barns and reusing any good wood and metal from them, it is all part of the same thing. It is a good thing, to be sure.

Our current chicken coop measures 8'x8'x8'. The walls are framed with reused 2x4's and covered with OSB; the roof is covered with plywood and tar paper, just waiting for the asphalt shingles from the old barn to be re-purposed for the new coop. The floor is planked with 2x6 boards from someone else's old goat barn torn down earlier this year. The new coop is a sturdy, draft free building which will give us years of use. Total cost out of pocket for materials? Less than $75 and the time it took to tear down and clear some one's unused, unwanted, old barn. That is recycling at its best.

Sean and Tristan S. carefully removing the roof shingles.
We are doing similarly in terms of building our new 20x30 barn. Large and spacious, the new barn blue print has been redesigned at least four times and will probably be revised at least that many more before the building is finished. We are using as much material as we can, from what was already on hand. For example, we were able to salvage the goat door Sean constructed a couple years ago and two sliding windows from the horse stall. Sean's brother and sister donated 2 brand new windows from their recent house remodel. These will give the milk room lots of light and a nice breeze. As we carefully removed screws or nails from the old barn, these were sorted into buckets of usable and recyclable, the latter to go to the scrap yard with the next load; why throw away good money? Some wood was too damaged or worn to be reused, these went into the burn pile.

Our helper Tristan worked hard.
It is hard work. The kind of hard work that has you dozing off while waiting for your supper to finish cooking. The kind of hard work that makes you excited for your bed at 8:30 or 9:00pm. The kind of work that puts a smile of satisfaction on your face when you think of all you have accomplished... before you realize just how much more there is to go. But, this is the life we have always wanted, Sean and I, even if we didn't know it. It is hard work more than physically, though. Especially for the tender hearted.

As the walls came down, being on the roof became more precarious.
The goats were keenly interested in the new goings on in their stall as things were either being taken apart, patched together for the moment, or reassembled in its new form. The most common thing heard Saturday was the exclamation, "Get out of that!" to one goat or another trying to help us by eating or chewing on anything they could. They were less helpful in the building process than you would think.

Two 10x10 stalls in the new barn. Chicken coop in back.

On Sunday, Leah began acting strangely. I checked her over and noticed what I thought was either diarrhea or constipation. Yes, I know the two are polar opposites, but I couldn't decide whether what I was looking at was a lump of soft droppings molded together, or a mound of hard dropping molded together. Either one could be very dangerous to goats. The trouble was, I wasn't positive which it was. In the couple of years since we had been keeping goats, we'd never had a case of either one. I went into the house and checked my favorite book (Goat School by Janice Spaulding). There was a recommendation to try Pepto Bismol or Vanilla yogurt for diarrhea. And, of course, keep the goat hydrated. Pedialyte or even, Gatorade work well for this purpose. I was not completely certain it was diarrhea, though. I logged into my favorite website, Fias Co Farm (http://fiascofarm.com/) and found the recommendation to use Mineral Oil or lemon juice for constipation and a reminder to keep the goat hydrated. Hmmm... which was it?

Sean and I discussed the situation together, debated pros and cons, and hoped we would make the right call. We decided to give her some water mixed with A-Lyte solution made to help replace vitamins, amino acids, and electrolytes and to watch her. If we didn't see her relieve herself again soon, then, we would call our vet. I added the proper dose to the water bucket and went to retrieve her from the field.

Leah was walking around, nibbling in the field. At least, she was behaving like she was healthy, not listless or panting. She let out a soft cough or two and expelled a sack membrane with the front part of a 3 inch kid. Another cough and the sack was completely birthed and hanging from her by the umbilicus. She did not looked distressed. She didn't groan, pant, or sigh. She did continue eating from the field, picking here and there.

It took another 5 hours before the umbilicus was broken. It was awful! Leah did not attempt to sever the umbilicus herself, the way Ellie did with her full term normal birth. She didn't seem to notice anything was wrong, really. The umbilicus dried out and eventually, the fetal kid dropped into the field. Once it was detached, we removed and wrapped the fetal kid in a towel and Sean gave her a decent burial. I was still on "goat watch duty" because the placenta had not been delivered. We were told by an expert NOT to tug on the umbilicus to help along the delivery of the placenta, just to watch that any discharge remained bloody and relatively slight in amount, neither gushing, nor dark red-black, nor a yellow/green in color. It was suggested to give her some bootstrap molasses in some organic coffee, if we had any on hand. (We don't drink coffee, organic or otherwise, so we didn't.) and most difficult of all... to watch and wait.

Two days later, Leah seems as unaffected as she did during the ordeal.

Lesson Learned:
If you don't want the goats to decide when they will breed, separate them. Leah is a year old. Some goat farmers will breed their stock as young as 8 months as long as they are 80 pounds or so. We had not planned to breed her until this fall's 'in season time'. We, also, had not separated out Jedi from the herd yet. That move is coming with the completion of the new barn. Our plan is to arrange "dates" for Jedi and Asher (when he is of age) with the does. We want to decide when they breed and to whom. It makes more sense to us and how we want to run our family farm. I doubt Leah was in season; she couldn't have been more than a month or two along, by my guess. She certainly was not acting like she was in season, but these things can happen when bucks are living with the does.

Our plan is to continue to watch Leah. Goats often carry twins and can miscarry only one of them and deliver the other just fine. Or, if she is carrying another kid, she may lose it, too. So, we watch and wait and learn. If she is not pregnant with another kid, and we are hoping this is the case, we will attempt to breed her, Rachel, and Pepper in the fall. If she is pregnant, she won't get bred again until Fall of 2013.

Life on the farm can be hard both physically and emotionally.

1 comment:

  1. The barn progress looks great! I hope Miss Leah only had one baby on board, and just gets to be a care free teenager a bit longer.