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 ♥

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kidding Season 2015 Begins...

The first week of Sean being home with us left some rather spacious room for improvement in my mind. A lot of time was spent driving hither and yon and my dreams of banging out projects long sitting fizzled with reality. All the driving was necessary; appointments to keep, roofs to rake, and children to be taken to their jobs. It fit neatly in between family worship time, hauling hay and grain, clearing the snow from more storms, and animal chores and ate up all the "extra" time I was hoping Sean would have to devote to other projects. Sean and I talked about our expectations and the needs we each have balanced with the needs of those in our care. We have a plan to make our time management better.

Four days into week two has seen a remarkable difference. On Sunday while we were snowed in,
Sean learned how to make our soy based scent tarts by himself from my notes. He did a fantastic job. I spent much of Monday creating new jewelry pieces while Sean took a couple hours to help friends clear the driveway of snow. Sean devoted Tuesday to cutting a stack of wood for our stove down to the proper length during the day while I worked on more jewelry designs and then, we studied together for our Theocratic Ministry School class on Tuesday night.
Which brings us to today. We planned to go snow tubing tonight with a group of friends after a day spent finishing jewelry, working on more wood cutting, and making Bee's Wax Wraps. I made a batch of cinnamon buns from scratch this morning for the girls to enjoy during school time. A nice, easy day.

The barn had different plans. We knew that Abigail is due to kid any time now and Sean has been watching for signs that her time has come. The sure signs of kidding to commence include Abby's udder bagging up to the size of a football, the kids dropping leaving a hollow look near her spine, and the beginning of a mucus show from her vagina. Overnight, she went from looking pregnant to looking imminently due. No tubing tonight! And, maybe no plans for tomorrow- if kidding doesn't happen today. And, that is okay with me. All I pray for now is healthy kid(s)!
have our bag of barn towels, kid coats, and medical equipment by the door. Additionally, I have the marble stone warming on the wood stove. This creates good ambient heat without the worry of fire. And, as a bonus to safety, there are no cords to chew either.

We are all about Abby right now. Sean frequents the barn to check for signs that active labor has begun regularly. And, so the 2015 Kidding Season starts for us. Like nervous grandparents waiting on the arrival of their little bundles of happiness, we wait. I am sick to death with worry. After last year's experience with both routine and terrible kidding, I won't rest easy again until this is over.

This view shows well Abby's hollowed out sides near her spine, swollen udder, and bits. We'll stay close to home and check her frequently for labor to actively begin.
This is what a well formed udder looks like when labor is impending. It will get a little bigger after birthing her kid(s).

So, what do you think? Will Abby have a doe, two does, a buck, two bucks, one of each, or triplets? Will it be today, tomorrow, or Friday? Post your comment to us with your guess. I will send the person(s) who guesses the right number of kids, their gender, and when they were born a couple 5 oz bars of our Lally Broch Farm Goat's Milk Soaps. :) This contest will end after I post the results. Obviously, no guesses will be accepted after I post the correct answers. The winner will be contacted via comments and has 48 hours to respond to claim their prize. Let the guessing begin!

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Monday, February 9, 2015

Loss and loss ***WARNING*** This post may upset sensitive readers.

I can still smell the Vitamin B complex solution faintly on my hands. It is unpleasant. I think I associate it with loss because it is used so often when a goat is doing poorly. Vitamin B can give an extra boost of energy, can help with a kid that is failing to thrive, is useful when a rumen is off... It is used in situations that will most likely result in a good outcome as well as critical ones. I don't know why my brain does not link it with the times Vitamin B was used and a goat recovered. Every time I smell it, I think of those that didn't pull through. Strange.

Loss is part of farming. I get it. I don't need to be reminded of it. I live it- thankfully not often. But, sometimes loss comes in waves. A particularly persistent case of Strongyle or Barberpole Worms infects the herd. Kiddings turn bad in freak accidents, like kids cutting through the uterine wall into an abdominal cavity of their mother or multiple stillborn births for a doe. A wave of common colds turn to pneumonia. When you care for herds of animals, there are statistically more things that can happen within that herd. We've wrestled with the first two; been gratefully relieved for the animals who pulled through and mourned the losses of those that didn't. Goat Pneumonia is fairly common, but this is the first time we've run into it within our herd.

Sean discovered Judah and Ethan down on Friday night. What we originally thought was a serious condition connected to the brutal cold temperatures and bullying in the stalls turned more complicated. Both goats were cold when we brought them inside. The first order of business was to start warming them slowly and steadily. Judah responded quickly. For him we offered fresh apples, carrots, bananas and hay and electrolyte-laced water. With the warmth of being inside, Judah snapped back to his normal self and was eager for grain.

Ethan did not respond the same. On Friday night, Ethan was drinking on his own and picked at the apples, banana and hay, though he was completely uninterested in grain. Just as well, if his rumen was off, grain is not the best choice of food. Natural roughage is better for digestion and Probiotics help stimulate the right levels of beneficial bacteria in a goat's system. Ethan had a slight runny nose, but goats get colds. Or, the runny nose could be in connection with the temperature change from colder barn to warmer house. We were concerned, but since Ethan did not sound congested in his lungs, and was standing, walking and drinking, we took note and moved on with the rest of his examination. Real alarm began to sound when Sean took Ethan's temperature and discovered that instead of running a fever, which we might expect in pneumonia, cold, or flu, Ethan's temperature was 94 degrees- a goat's temperature should be 101.3-103.5. This was critical and life threatening. Hypothermia. We moved Ethan as close as possible to the front of the wood stove fan. I grabbed a heating pad and blanket to covered him and help bring his core temperature back up. Sean popped a blanket into the dryer to warm. Over night, Sean and I replaced warmed blankets on Ethan. He drank warmed water regularly of his own will, though he had no interest in food. His runny nose worsened and we began to fear for pneumonia.

Pneumonia, while common in goats, can be deadly in as little as 12 hours. Whether Ethan contracted pneumonia first, went off his food, got weakened and the cold compounded his condition. Or whether the cold weather affected his system to the point of beginning to shut down, leaving him susceptible to Pneumonia is anyone's guess. What we know for certain is that Ethan was eating and drinking normally with the rest of the herd up until Friday night. And, while it is certainly freezing cold outside, the barn is snug, draft free, and warmer than the outside. The other goats are all doing fine.

On Saturday morning, we got in touch with our vet's office. We gave Ethan a shot of Banamine which is an anti-inflammatory, as well as a pain medication. And, our vet recommended an antibiotic, Duramycen. We added a shot of B Complex, too. Ethan's temperature had risen to 98 degrees and he was still drinking on his own, but would not eat at all. Through the day, we continued warming him with warmed blankets from the dryer and the heating pad and kept the wood stove running as hot as it would. Judah had completely recovered and spent the day tormenting Molly by being in the house and not in the barn. But, we kept Judah with us inside, mostly as a comfort to Ethan.

Ethan died Saturday night at 10 pm with Sean and I beside him, petting him and whispering to him softly as he closed his eyes and took his final breaths. It was a quiet passing that added another hole to my homesteading heart. I know this life is hard. I know there will be losses; some preventable, others not. I also question whether I am cut out for this. Can I love these animals, support them by sharing their milk and eggs, work side by side with Sean to breathe life into this homestead, witness their births and deaths and not lose myself? Some people develop a thick skin. That's not me. I still cry when we lose an animal, some more than others because they shared their unique personality with me in a way that touched my heart deeply. I don't want to become hardened to death and loss. At the same time, how much can one person feel without breaking? I don't know the answer to that.

What I do know is this. After losing Ruby and her kids last Spring due to complications while kidding, it was difficult for me to go to into the barn. Sean took over my feeding chores, kindly overlooking the flaws in my excuse of "needing to spend all my time creating the jewelry and the products we sell at market". There were many fewer posts and videos of kids and barn happenings because I just didn't want to be there. I helped when Sean needed me, but otherwise, steered clear of the barn. When we lost Jedi this past fall to parasites, I couldn't bring myself to go into the barn or watch the pasture anymore. I made excuses every time Sean invited me to visit the animals in the barn. Our nightly ritual of "walking the land" stopped and I threw myself into other aspects of our life. Things necessary in their own right, but excuses all the same. I started to secretly seriously question in my heart, "Could I continue living this life we'd worked so hard to build?" And that is how I have felt for the last nine months or more.

After spending my time at the shop and taking a complete break from being home all day, from my regular routine, something began to change. I started to miss those soft alien eyes full of curiosity. Slowly, I began venturing back into the barn for short minutes with Sean. It has only been a matter of weeks, but once again, I was beginning to think ahead and plan. And, now? We have lost Ethan. More death. More failure. More doubt. Most importantly, he was a sweet-natured, beautiful life and that is gone forever. Secondly, Ethan was important to us breeding the best lines we can within our herd. We had big plans for him. He is an expensive loss, emotionally and financially. So, what now? Do we quit? Do we go back to working full time jobs for other people in order to support our family? Or, do we go on? Which fork in the road do we take?

In another terrible twist of fate, Sean was let go from his employment today. His company has reorganized and Sean was let go. Sean and I have talked often about him leaving his job to work the farm full-time, but that was a plan for the future... when we were prepared... on our terms. So, here we are in February (at the worst possible time of the year) and life is more uncertain than it has ever been. And, terrifying. Kidding season is around the corner and with 8 pregnant does, I am worried for what losses we might encounter this year. Reminding myself that we have had 11 successful, fairly routine kiddings does not quell my fears. I feel apprehension of what could go wrong and I worry about the does in my care. And, I am afraid that I am inadequate. I thank God that I am not alone and that all this does not rest solely upon my shoulders.

There is Sean.

I think it is time to visit the barn.

Sweet Jemimah shares a stall with Ellie, Judah, and Cassie. Look at that sweet face! ♥

Naomi jumped up on the stand to show me her growing baby bump. This will be her first year kidding. :) 

Bailey is also bred for the first time this year. She and Asher will make lovely kids. I am hoping for some does, but as long as the delivery is easy and normal and the kids are born healthy and strong, I'll happily take whatever they provide. ♥
~Sean and Sonja ♥