Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Goat Kid Time

I have been fighting a little something for the past couple days which is not going away as quickly as I would like it to. After morning chores, I spent most of yesterday in bed, sleeping much of the day. I slept on into the night and straight through until morning. Sean offered to milk the goats on his own this morning before heading out to work with a friend, but knowing how much longer it would take him, I dragged myself out of bed and into the barn. My head is pounding and all the early signs of an enormous migraine are making themselves known. This will not do.

The sun is out today and I have the van available to me (which is a nice change) and plans to venture out to get some of the supplies I need. That, folks, is *not* going to happen. In fact, not much is going to happen. No posts about the goat kids today, nor an update on the CSA Shares, nor even just images captured around the homestead. This girl is crawling back into bed with some of our Garden Lemonade Massage Melt rubbed into the palms of my hand and soles of my feet to wait for this to pass.

I HATE feeling sick. Sean says I treat it like a personal failure. And, perhaps he is not wrong. With so much to do around the homestead, laying low is not an option in my mind. With garden beds to finish building and filling, special orders to finish up and mail out, feta to brine, homeschooling to oversee, meals to prepare.... the list goes on and on... As Miss Sweet Brown put it, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

And, yet... back to bed I go. At least for a bit. I am leaving you with a badly edited (complete with typos and grammatical errors) video I worked on yesterday morning. It is what it is.

Hope you all have a good day.
~Sonja ♥

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week-Old Goat Kids

I spent most of today catching up on some things that have gone neglected in my studio. I made fresh cinnamon buns for our family's breakfast and made a batch of Feta cheese. I had plans to do as much as I could and finish what I could not, tomorrow, but around 3:30 pm. my body declared it had other plans. The reasons for joy within a large congregation are innumerable, especially during assembly days, like last Saturday. The only down-side is that with the abundance of loving hugs from our friends, the sharing of germs sometimes leaves me under the weather with a touch of something. It will pass I am sure, but the long list of things still needing to be done is going to take a bit longer than I hoped. It is 6:30 pm and I am in bed for the night. The girls are eating dinner with their Dad tonight. Sean will fend for himself. As soon as I finish typing these words, this girl is going to close her eyes and succumb to sleep in the hopes that by tomorrow instead of feeling sick, I will be awesome instead.

This video montage is made up of some snippets I captured of these darling goat kids of ours. I shared an unedited video this morning to our FACEBOOK PAGE. This video is slightly longer and it focuses on Baby Ruthie, Jacob and Benjamin catching a snooze, and Chloe's progress.

The clip of Lilly nursing Chloe shows how diligently they have both tried to make this work. I wish with all my heart there was something we could do to make that a reality for them. Little Chloe is suckling for all she is worth and her little cries of frustration are heart-wrenching. I've written before how Lilly patiently stands for nursing. In this video, she lifts her leg to allow more access. Sweet Momma. On a positive note, Lilly is making progress each day. Eventually, she will not be in milk any more and so long as infection does not set in, this will be just a memory before long. Yesterday was the final day of her twice daily course of Penicillin injections. I know that feels better. We'll continue watching for signs of infection. Our main job now is to help her to gain back the weight she's lost. We have every reason to believe that she will make a full recovery and live a long, happy life.
Chloe turned a week old about 45 minutes ago. Can it be only a week? It feels like I have been worrying over her for so much longer than that. ♥ She is such a sweet girl. Despite doing everything we can to encourage her to be a normal goat kid, she is very attached to the people. And, why not? We bring the food. A few times this week, I have been asked this question, "Why not just bring Chloe into the house?" In case some of you are wondering, too... It is very important to me that Chloe be raised with her herd, like a normal goat kid. Watch the video and see the difference between Ruthie and Chloe. Ruthie is into EVERYTHING. Her feet springs have engaged. She nibbles on anything she comes across. She likes the people, but she is engaged in being a goat kid. Contrast that to Chloe's behavior~ who is only one day younger. Chloe climbs the tables and looks at the grain bowl and nudges the hay, she sees the chickens or ducks passing by, but her main focus is on me. She stands facing me much of the time and as soon as she climbs down, she runs to stand with me between my feet. She is not off exploring as she should be. And, her springers have not engaged yet. While Ruthie runs with the other kids (see facebook video), Chloe is content to just stand and watch. Some of that might be her personality. They each have their own. But, it is my job to help Chloe to be a goat kid- full of mischief and bouncing feet. She'll learn that from being with her herd. Bringing her inside would add to that which I am trying to avoid. My only wish for Chloe is that she grow to be a healthy goat within a healthy herd. ♥

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends.
~Sean & Sonja ♥

Friday, April 17, 2015

Goat Update and Garden Bed Building

Lilly is still in milk. I feel like it is taking  forever for it to go away and give her some relief. I can only imagine how she feels about it. She is still getting Penicillin injections morning and night to prevent infection from setting in. So far, so good on that front.

Lilly is very interested at meal times. She sniffs the bottle and keeps a close eye on what is happening. After cleaning Chloe's tail end, Lilly rests her head against my hands, knee, or shoulder until baby is done. Chloe is learning her name. We call it when we enter the pasture and she follows us.

Boaz and Anna took an afternoon siesta in their lunch. 

Our biggest job today was to work in the gardens. Cameron has started our seedlings for us in his aquaponic system. We needed to make some repairs on our front garden beds to get them ready for direct sowing. We'll be building five additional 4' x 16' beds to add to the front garden. We have to get them built and fill them with garden soil and the composted manure from last year within the next 4 weeks.  Today we direct sowed 80 white onions, 100 snow peas, 144 carrots, and 125 beets. On Sunday, we'll put in some radishes, yellow onions, lettuces, and kale.

We'll also finish the first part of our back garden beds. We began them last year using 2x6 pine boards and that worked fairly well, but in an effort to use as much as we can from what the land provides us, we decided to repurpose those boards into the front garden and make some raised tiered beds by weaving limbs of Alder branches.

The start to our bottom tier.

Sean cut thicker branches into 2 foot pieces with a point on one end. We pounded these into the ground with a foot remaining above ground. Then, we used longer branches to weave in and out of the posts. To secure them, we reused baling twine that we had from the hay we feed the animals. Total cost= $0 cash dollars. Total time= 4 hours today and more ahead. We'll not remove the sod from the top of each bed. Instead, we'll line them with cardboard to block the grass. Then, we will cover it with garden soil and top it all off with our composted manure from last year. The lower bed is about 10 inches deep and the upper bed is roughly 12 inches deep. They are both 3 feet wide and 20 feet long. We have more work to do to finish these beds, but when we are done, I am looking forward to seeing how the tomatoes grow this year in them.

One thing I have missed over the winter, how my body feels in Spring... I. Can't. Walk. I mean, seriously. If I have one, it hurts. From head to toe. It feels so good to just sit, but I am very concerned about how I am going to get to bed. I may just live here forever more. It is an option that is growing on me.

In case we run out of projects, we can always rely on the animals to create job security for us. This is an image of the side of our barn. That is a hole through the OSB and Typar.

Can you guess what happened here?


Does he look sorry to you? He doesn't to me. Not one bit.

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. It is so nice to have your company.

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bottle Feeding Goat Kids

I intended to sit down to share some cute images of Chloe getting fed and an update on Lilly's progress. To round out my post, I looked up some additional sites that I would share with you, in case you ever needed this information. In my research, I stumbled on a couple sites that simply pierced my heart. I wrote this post last night, fresh in the heat of being annoyed. I slept on it and debated sharing it with you on this page. On the one hand, I do not believe that my writing about my feelings is enough to change what others do or how they live. Who am I that it should? At the same time, perhaps writing about why these things hurt my heart might make someone stop, for just a minute, to really think about their actions. Different experiences in life lead us on different paths, but I have to believe that we are all trying to do the best we can, to grow and become better people. Which is why I am shocked and saddened at the things some people will do to "livestock" without a thought; things that if done to their Fido or Tabby, would have them up in arms and ready to fight. For example, kittens and puppies need to be 8 weeks old and eating solid food before they are separated from their parents. This is not to say that there are not some exigent circumstances where humans step in to try to bottle feed, but that is not the norm. Responsible breeders of these domestic animals do not routinely remove day old young from their mothers so that they will be more friendly towards people. And, they do not castrate or neuter them without anesthesia. Why not? I think we all know the reason for that.

So here is my rant, in all its glory. While I doubt my position will change, I will cool off in a day or two and return to posting cute pictures for you all to enjoy. If you want to stop reading now and wait for that, I understand. ♥

Besides our Veterinary, I use a couple websites that I trust when faced with something new on the homestead. We have never needed to bottle feed any of our kids, so when it became necessary, I wanted to read up on what worked for other people. Armed with the two sites I trust the most, I wanted to poke around on other sites to see more information which might be useful. As I read through site after site of people bottle feeding goat kids for convenience, my hackles were raised. Look, to each their own. I get that some people prefer to bottle feed their kids, just as some people choose to disbud or castrate with rubber bands or any number of practices that rub me the wrong way. But, some information I found made me see RED. The advice was not only offensive, it was potentially dangerous and WRONG.

Here is one piece of bad advice I caught. One writer advises bottle-feeding all kids in order to prevent potential diseases from passing from mother to kid. While CAE and other diseases can certainly be passed through nursing and so a goat-keeper might choose this course, she mentioned in her post that she allows her goat kids to receive Colostrum from their mothers. Here's the deal. If you have CAE within your herd and are trying to prevent transmission to a kid, DO NOT LET THEM NURSE AT ALL. Once you have allowed nursing, chances are, it has been passed to the kid, totally nullifying the reason for pulling the kid. In fact, since CAE is linked to white blood cells, if you are truly trying to prevent transmission of CAE, you should not allow the mother to clean the kid at all either. It should be taken away as soon as it is out of the birth canal.

Additionally, I found many recipes for replacement milk to feed goat kids that suggested using whole cow's milk from your local grocer without any mention of better alternatives. Can goat kids drink cow's milk? Yes. Is it the best option? NO. Though they are both ruminants, cow's milk has larger fat molecules for one thing, which makes it much harder to digest. The best option for feeding goat kids is.... wait for it... goat's milk. If for some reason you don't have any available, you can often find it stocked at your local CoOp store. Or, call around to some local goat farms. They may be able to supply your needs. At least, TRY this first before running to your grocery store to use something that is inferior. If you can't find goat's milk and the alternative is a starving kid, then of course, a cow's milk substitute is probably better than nothing. I want to be clear, if the tone of the post was, "Hey, here's what to do in an emergency," I would have said nothing. I would have been appreciative. It is good information to have in the background. That wasn't it. This was, "Get yourself a goat kid as early as possible because it is cute and will bond with you better. So what if you have no Momma goat and no plan; no worries, you can just feed them *this* because it is easy and convenient and it is good enough..." That kind of mentality leads to neglect more often than not. Besides this, (barring any complications) if you wait until kids are weaned before you sell or buy them, so that they are at least eating hay and grain regularly, needing a milk replacement is a moot-point.

Which brings me to another excuse often given for bottle feeding; namely that the kid(s) will be sold before they are weaned. I don't know how young she meant in the post I read, she did not say, but the tone of the post made me think it was very soon after birth. She intimated that "ripping kids away from their Mothers soon after birth" (her words) was nothing to be concerned about. I get that animals are not people. I fully understand that people use animals for food, clothing, and companionship (among other things). But, from my perspective, I have watched our does with their kids. When one is missing or out of sight, those Mommas go crazy trying to find them. And, when a perceived threat comes near their young, they defend them. Perhaps I am a bit sensitive. After all, I remember in detail watching Salome suffer great pain to deliver Miss Ruthie safe and alive and her immediate concern for that kid. The mental picture of Lilly licking her still-born offspring clean and calling for it softly will not soon fade from my mind. While I have found (in our experience), that once the kids are weaned, they become part of the herd; our Mothers generally do not search for their grown kids like they do when they are newly born- to suggest that an animal doesn't have feelings for her offspring, is inhumane.

One last reason given was that bottle-babies are more snugly. And, while that may be true, is it what is best for your goat? What happens when your 6 pound darling grows to 150 pounds and still wants to visit your lap? This is a recipe for someone to get hurt.

Maybe this will change nothing in your mind as to how livestock is routinely managed. But, if there is a more compassionate way to care for our animals, shouldn't we, at least, consider it? It has been said that a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. I would apply that to individuals. We will be measured or judged by how we treat all of God's creations- especially those that are weaker, are in our care and should be under our protection. Food for thought.

*************** Rant ended. ***************

This is the post I intended to write for you. 

Lilly is making progress. As most women who have given birth knows, females were created with not only the ability to nourish our children with the milk from our bodies, but also the very physical need to do so. Being swollen and engorged without relief is uncomfortable to say the least and can be downright painful. A suckling infant releases Oxytocin naturally within it's mother, which assists with milk let down and releases "feel good" hormones. In a mammal that is not going to nurse young with their own milk, thankfully, that uncomfortable feeling declines within a few days with the loss of milk production and goes away entirely before long. Warm compresses applied a few times each day seems to help relieve Lilly's discomfort. We did not need to continue the Oxytocin injections because she passed the rest of the placenta yesterday morning. That is really good news. We are hopeful, she will stop making milk and return to normal shortly. Watching her lumber about the pasture, trying to move with an enormous bag hanging to her knees between her hind legs is heart-wrenching to see. She is still getting injections of the penicillin morning and night, but so far is not showing any signs of infection; no elevated temperature and her udder is not overly warm to the touch. Her appetite is healthy. She is beginning to slowly gain back the weight she lost in kidding. 

Warm rice bags applied 3 times each day for about 10 minutes
What amazes me the most is Lilly's patience and endurance. Chloe has the instincts to suckle and very often rams her head into her mother's udder with the hopes of stimulating milk to drink. She then latches on and sucks for all she is worth. Lilly does not kick her away or walk off. She allows this to happen, despite the frustration it must cause, over and over again. She is a wonderfully attentive Mother. Chloe is licked clean regularly and sleeps most frequently cuddled under Lilly's head. And, when I come in to feed Chloe, Lilly keeps a close eye on things.

Chloe suckling from Bailey.
Lilly keeping an eye on things.
I use a regular child's bottle and nipple for feeding Chloe and warmed milk from that day's milking. I want Chloe to have as normal a life as possible. To that end, Chloe lives in the barn in a stall with her mother, aunt Bailey and her week-old boys. When it is time to feed Chloe, I hold the bottle pointed downward imitating her mother. Chloe crouches down on her front legs, cranes her neck and drinks thirstily, little tail wagging. For the past couple of bottle feedings, I sat on a log with the bottle held in one hand between my knees. Usually, Lilly cleans Chloe while I feed her. This morning, Lilly stood next to Chloe, facing me. She leaned over to smell Chloe's head and the bottle, then, she turned to me and pushed her forehead gently against my shoulder. I slipped my free hand around her neck to pat and hug her back. It felt to me like Lilly knew we were a team in this. It was a sweet moment in time.

I will continue bottle-feeding Chloe as long as it is necessary, but I am still trying to get Bailey to allow Chloe to nurse from her. After each bottle-feeding, Sean or I hold Bailey still and let Chloe latch on for a minute or two. Bailey doesn't like it and she kicks her leg to get away after about that long. This is okay. Chloe is getting milk already, and overfeeding her can be fatal. My goal is to slowly try to get them used to each other, not to give Chloe another meal. If Bailey becomes willing to let Chloe nurse with her kids, I will decrease bottle-feeding proportionally. I do not want to take Chloe from Lilly. There is no need for that, Lilly has not rejected her. If Chloe can get the necessary nourishment from her aunt, that would be better for everyone.

Bottle-feeding is hard. Not because I have found it difficult to persuade Chloe to take the bottle, that was rather easier than I thought it would be. It is difficult emotionally. Kids have no natural "off" button to tell them when they have had enough to eat. Those Momma goats walking off mid-nursing are not being mean. They know that they have to limit the amount each kid gets fed. Too much milk can lead to Floppy Kid Syndrome or Enterotoxemia (Over-eating disease), both of which can be rapidly fatal. (Link to Onion Ranch has more information on these topics.) Feeding a bottle to little Chloe touches my heart and brings out all my maternal instincts. Stopping at only 3 ounces when, despite her bulging full belly, she clearly thinks she is starving is hard to do, but necessary. I am feeding Chloe based on her body weight. She gets 10-12% of her body weight in milk each day. She weighs a little over 6 pounds right now. 6 pounds multiplied by 16 ounces is 96 ounces. 96 oz multiplied by .12 (12%) comes to 11.52 ounces per day. I round to 12 oz. As she grows, the amount of milk she is fed will increase with her weight gain. This is only a guideline. I am also watching for Chloe to act like a healthy goat kid should. If she needs more or less, I adjust it based on what I think is best for her.

We'll keep you updated with how they are doing. And, for more information about feeding goats: CLICK HERE to visit Fiasco Farms. 

All the goats got some outside time yesterday. Here are some images from around the homestead for you.
Baby Ruth napping under the wooden table the kids
use for playground toys. 

Naomi with Bo and Anna

Miss Chloe thinks that fingers are delicious. I stole Sean's rubber boots to wear in the field because mine have enormous holes in the soles. I love his big yellow work boots. I think they make this picture. :)

Thanks for visiting today, friends. We appreciate your company.

~Sean & Sonja

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES: Genetic Malformation or Injury?

Soothing Lilly through
the scary procedures.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good relationship with a knowledgeable Veterinarian- one that knows about your breed and fights to help your animals recover when illness or accidents happen. I called this morning about the trouble with Lilly and Dr. Larson of Ridge Runner Veterinary was able to get me in within the hour.

The trouble is that Lilly is producing milk in her udder, but we cannot express any through her teats- either of them. One cause could be a "milk stone", a hard mass formed by deposits of calcium, magnesium phosphates, protein, etc. that harden to block the milk duct. Left untreated, these can become infected and lead to Mastitis. To check for this, Dr. Larson examined the udder physically and took Lilly's temperature. Her temperature was normal and no hard lumps were felt during the physical exam.

Dr. Larson threaded a short catheter into the milk ducts to see if she could clear any potential blockage and withdraw any amount milk from either teat. There was no sign of milk from either side. Next, a longer (approximately 8 inch) catheter was fed as gently as possible into the milk duct. Even with the entire catheter inside, no milk was siphoned from the udder.

Based on these procedures, it seems most likely that Lilly was either born with a genetic malformation in which the milk ducts are not connected to the outside or there is scar tissue from an injury in her youth that caused a blockage. Either way, though Lilly is producing milk, and has a lovely, large bag full of it, there is no way for it to get outside her body and into her young. At least, that is what we believe is going on. There is a very, very small chance that it is a case of Mastitis presenting without fever or any other sign of infection, but it is highly improbable. There is also a tiny, slim chance that the blockage will pass and be expelled, but that, too, is unlikely.

We want to give Lilly every chance of recovering from this and living a normal goat life. To that end, Dr. Larson administered penicillin into both teats with a catheter. If it is an internal infection, that should help resolve it. Additionally, Sean and I will need to apply warm compresses to her udder 2-3 times each day for 10 minutes and then, massage the area. Lilly will get injections of Banamine for the next couple days to help relieve any pain and discomfort this is causing her. Though we are hopeful that milk will start flowing, it is more likely that Lilly's body will absorb the milk supply she has and she will stop producing more. We will never breed Lilly again. She will become a pet and live out her days here.

But wait, there is more... because there is no "let down" reaction within Lilly, her body is not functioning completely normally. Contractions that should have helped her fully expel the placenta, are not coming. I asked Dr. Larson to check because I had not seen Lilly pass her placenta. That is not unusual. She could have in the night and eaten it before I saw it. I was concerned because usually by this time, a doe's discharge will be more clear in nature with bloody tinge to it. Lilly's discharge was still very thick. Upon examination, Dr. Larson found that Lilly's cervix has closed, but there is still unpassed tissue mass. Because what we need on top of the other issue is a partially retained placenta, right? To help remedy that, we will continue to give small dose injections of Oxytocin. That should help the placenta to be expelled. The problem with that is the effect of the Oxytocin will stimulate a milk supply... which has no place to go... which can cause discomfort and potentially lead to mastitis. To help prevent a uterine infection, Dr. Larson used a lavage combination of saline and an Oxytetracycline  antibiotic. In addition to this, an injection of penicillin was given intramuscularly and a dose of Banamine for pain. We are very hopeful that Lilly will make a full recovery, but she is not out of the woods. The next few days are going to be critical.

As for Miss Chloe, I attempted to hold Meme in the hopes that Chloe would get the colostrum she needs to provide the antibodies of protection which pass from mother to child. Neither Meme nor Chloe were happy with this arrangement. So, I coaxed Meme to the milk stand and milked what I could from her. This was added to milk from Bailey. Chloe drank a 3 oz bottle at noon. I'll milk Meme again and offer it to Chloe through the rest of the night. I am hopeful that Aunt Bailey might be coaxed to allow Chloe to drink her milk. But, if not, we'll have our first (and hopefully ONLY) bottle-baby. Miss Chloe will live in the barn with her Mom, who is loving and attentive. She'll learn how to be a good goat, but we'll help supplement her feedings.

We'll keep you updated. Thanks for visiting today.
~Sonja ♥

Goat Kid, No Milk...

We are not out of the woods yet, it seems. Last night, Lilly's udder was large and soft. Her teats were not filling. No colostrum. No milk. They were not hard to the touch or overly warm. It seemed like her udder just needed a little time to catch up with the rest of the body. We were encouraged that Lilly was not kicking away Chloe when she attempted to nurse. Chloe latched on well and was suckling for all she was worth- she just wasn't getting anywhere. Both parties were doing their part, it seems like this should just work! Both Sean and I massaged Lilly's udder and tried to milk her to get her started. Nothing. It was late. No one seemed in immediate danger. We'd check them through the night to see if with stimulation, milk would get flowing as it should.

Last night. Udder is filled and soft, but nothing happening...
This morning, we were in the same boat. Another "first" for us to learn about, we called our trusted Veterinaries at Ridge Runner for some suggestions. And, I looked to the Internet for clues to the potential issue(s). We ruled out a couple possibilities. I read about a few folks suggesting the use of Oxytocin to get milk to let down. Thankfully, we had some on hand. We wanted to check with our Veterinary before using it, though. Dr. Arena called back with the dose and Sean administered the injection. We also gave 20 cc of the Propylene Glycol orally and an extra serving of grain. Lilly has a good appetite and is active. She had no fever or any other signs of trouble. Sean had made a previous commitment to work with a friend today, which left me home checking on Lilly and Chloe.

The Oxytocin seemed to do the trick. Within two hours, Lilly's udder has certainly filled. Her teats are not filling, though. I tried milking both sides. I tried massaging them. No success. And, my new worry is that her udder is now hot to the touch and hard as a rock. I think there most certainly is a blockage. She could also be dealing with mastitis. I suspect that Dr. Larson will run a tube up the opening in the teats to clear them. Perhaps, Lilly will need an antibiotic, too. We'll find out shortly. With Sean an hour away in Ellsworth and Cait taking my van to work with her today, I shuffled some things and called in the Calvary. My van will be here within the hour and we have an appointment with the vet at 11 am.

My main concern is Lilly's health and well-being. I am still upset about the loss of her second kid last night. It brings back painful memories for other kiddings gone awry. I don't want to lose her and I am afraid of the worst. I keep reminding myself that whatever-this-is can probably be resolved with a good outcome. But, I must confess, there is a tiny niggling voice in the back of my head counting pennies. The check we wrote on Sunday brought us to a critically low fund area. This visit might be the straw that breaks the bank. And, this is where faith comes in. We have never been without a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, nor food in our bellies. This, too, will work itself out financially. I thank God that he knows how, because right now? I haven't a clue. My job is to just do what needs doing to take the best care of this animal.

I'll fill you in as soon as I can. And, so as to not leave you dangling in worry with me, I'll share some pictures I did not have time to post yesterday. I hope they make you smile.

Benjamin and Jacob take an afternoon snooze in the sun. 

Ben was sprawled and comfortable, but the look on Jacob's face, was hilarious.
"Dude! Do you mind? Boundaries!" :)
Baby Ruthie knows where the good stuff lives. 

I love that sweet face! ♥
Ruth is going to be as snuggly as her Momma. It was so hard to take pictures when all she wanted to do was get as close as she could to me. I kept moving her away to try to snap a shot, but was only quick enough to get this one. :) It'll do. 

Monday, April 13, 2015


With seven does giving birth to eleven healthy, bouncy kids, this has been the busiest kidding season we've ever had here at Lally Broch Farm.  Salome's singleton that arrived Sunday afternoon put a bow on a perfect season.  Sonja and I rejoiced over our successes and breathed hearty sighs of relief that we wouldn't have to go through this much stress and fear for another year.  We thought.

We debated sharing this story with you. It is one thing to choose to live this life with all its rewards and losses. Another to be dragged into heartache. For those of you who only want happy tidings, read one more paragraph and then, close out the window. While we still choose how much and what we share with you, we realize that you are invested in our lives. Though we have never met many of you in person and you live in other states (or countries even!), you are there with your support to cheer us on when things go well and to mourn with us when we suffer a loss. We decided to go ahead and tell this tale to those of you who want or need to hear it. I offered to write it. Sonja does most of the writing, but I know how much time and effort goes into each post and I know how hard loss is for her. This much I could take off her shoulders for the moment.

Sonja has maintained that Lilly, one of our Saanans, really looked pregnant, especially in the last couple of weeks.  Although her udder has gotten larger as of late, I chocked it up to her being like her sister, who was giving milk precociously, before even becoming pregnant.  Lilly has not looked big in the middle like her sister, Bailey, who had twins just last week and hasn't shown any signs of being in the family way.  So tonight, while I was out mucking the horse stall, I thought nothing of looking over and seeing what I thought was Bailey licking her new little buck, Benjamin in the field.  I literally did a double-take when I realized it wasn't Bailey, but Lilly, licking the little one.  Thinking this was also a little strange, but sweet, I took a third look.  It did look like Benjamin from afar, same colors, but where are his waddles?  No waddles... no waddles... Lilly KID!

Sweet girl, Chloe. ♥
After alerting Sonja that she was in fact, Right, we ran out to find a healthy baby doe almost completely clean and standing well.  We got mother and daughter up into their stall, and did our routine checks.  Tawny-colored with brown socks, she weighed in at about six pounds and has been christened "Chloe."  However, Lilly continued to strain about every three minutes.  I felt around under her belly and discovered that she still had one baby left to deliver.

It was getting dark in the barn. It took me a couple minutes to move the light to see better. Sonja watched over the proceedings.  After a few pushes, it was clear that something was wrong with the kid.  Usually when kids are coming, they still wiggle their noses or twitch their feet.  This one just hung limply.  In the few minutes that I was gone rigging the light, Sonja knew we had a stillborn. The delivery went smoothly but there was nothing to be done. The kid had died long hence; it could not be resuscitated. Lilly's maternal instincts were intact. She cleaned off the little doe and called softly to her. We were concerned that Lilly would panic if we took away her kid. She might spend her time calling and searching for it, neglecting her living kid trying to find the missing one. We left the kid with Lilly for a little while; long enough for her to be satisfied with the unfortunate results. Slowly and gently, I covered the kid with a towel. Lilly sniffed the towel and turned back to Chloe. While her attention was elsewhere, I quickly scooped up the kid and took her away.  Lilly didn't panic, and seemed to understand, going back to pay attention to her healthy kid.

Lilly and Chloe
The stillborn was very small and looked perhaps a little less developed then Chloe. She was a beautiful, soft brown doe with perfect lamancha ears. It is very sad to lose any animal, especially one so young. So, today was a mixed blessing.  Lilly and Chloe are doing very well, but our perfect kidding season has been marred by a single loss.  Still, it has been a remarkably good kidding season, and it looks like it really is over this time.  We've included pictures of the new arrival, as well as the one that almost was.  Thank you for reading friends, even through the hard times.

--Sean and Sonja

Blueberry Muffin Recipe

I have been baking a lot recently. We make our own breads. From Italian loaves that we drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and cinnamon buns with icing to bagels and muffins for breakfast. It goes hand in hand with growing our own fruits and vegetables. I want to live in a world where I make and grow most all of our family's food. I know not everyone can be at home and spend the amount of time it requires to do this. And I know that not everyone wants to use their time this way. For me, it feels good knowing exactly what I am feeding my family. At first, there were some skeptical looks from the girl who were too used to pre-packaged foods, but with recipes like this, I am slowly winning over the hearts of the teenagers in this house. I am sharing this one with you because it is super easy and quick. It can be made and be ready to eat in less than an hour. And, it is seriously Oh-My-Words-Aahhhh-mazing! This recipe makes 16 HUGE bakery-style muffins.

3 cups Bread Flour (We use King Arthur brand)
1 1/2 cups Sugar (I know it is a lot, but worth every calorie!)
1 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs (duck eggs, if you have them)
2/3 cup Milk (I use our goat's milk)
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 cups Blueberries (I use mine from the freezer without thawing)

For the topping:
Granulated Crystal Sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line muffin pan with paper muffin liners or grease the bottom of the pan well.

2. Combine all of your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and stir to mix them together.

3. Use a 2-cup measuring cup. Measure 2/3 cup of vegetable oil into the cup first. Add 2 eggs to this and combine. Then, fill to the 2 cup mark with milk. Add vanilla and stir until mixed.

4. Add contents of measuring cup to dry ingredients in bowl and combine until a thick batter is formed. I use a spatula to make sure to get all the dry ingredients incorporated. Add blueberries.

5. Spoon into muffin tins. I make them level with the top for big, bakery-style muffins. This recipe makes 16 muffins when made this way. You can make smaller muffins by using less batter in each cup and make more of them. I usually make 8 muffins to a each muffin tin. To make my muffins extra moist, I add a little water to the empty muffin spaces; just under half way to the top is perfect. Sprinkle the crystal sugar (to taste and appearance) on the tops of the uncooked muffins. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top and bake.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cooked muffins comes out clean.

7. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and eat warm. Or cool completely on a wire rack and store for later.

If you make these, I would love to hear your thoughts on them. :)

~Sonja ♥

Sunday, April 12, 2015

WARNING GRAPHIC POST: Dystocia During Kidding

While Sean worked on more spring clean-out in the barn, I fed and watered all the animals. We wanted to have time this afternoon to cuddle up and watch a movie together. With team work, the plan was to call it a day by 4 pm. Salome had other ideas.

We knew that she was due to kid any day and have been keeping a close eye on her. This afternoon, she started calling. Meme is a quiet goat, rarely calling. Sean gave her a good look over. Her kid had very clearly dropped, her udder had engorged, and her ligaments were gone. We predicted she would kid today.

Labor began with hard contractions, but no real "mucus show". Meme became very cuddly; licking Sean's hands and face between contractions. We washed up, grabbed our kidding kit, and settled in to wait. It was at this point that I clicked a couple images with my phone and posted to facebook. With five kiddings past this year and all with excellent results, I was certain this one would be textbook as well...

Contractions started. This was all the warning we had before Salome was straining hard under them. In our experience, this is the beginning stage of labor. When things get really started, usually we see a larger discharge and often a bubble forms and protrudes.

Not this time. This happened and then Meme immediately began straining to push. She did not even appear to be dilated before the hard contractions gripped her. Within a minute or two, a soft black nose and pink tongue presented. Worrisome, but last year, Haddie had a very similar presentation. The hooves appeared under Amos' chin. Sean easily maneuvered them into the right position and Amos was born. We watched for a couple contractions to see if the hooves would appear under the chin.

They didn't.

Within a couple contractions, the head was delivered with no "bubble" or amniotic sac and very little discharge. Worse, we could not see hooves. Meme was calling pitifully and straining with no progress. We had to check for how the hooves were presenting inside. Sean washed his hands and carefully slipped his fingers inside. He could feel the hooves, but the kid's legs were turned backwards and he was unable to grasp the  front hooves or ease them into the birth canal.

We made an immediate call to our Veterinary's office. Jen from Ridge Runner was in the office having just come from another emergency call. Over the phone, she explained that we needed to push the kid's head back inside and very quickly grab the front legs and pull them into the right position. The instructions were very clear, but we felt we needed help in person.

I was relieved when Jen arrived. It took 20 minutes, but it seemed like so much longer. We monitored Meme and the kid while we waited. Sean was ready to attempt the procedure if Meme or the kid seemed in distress. Since I had already announced the kid was coming, I tried to update what was happening on our facebook page. People from all over the United States commented their concern and I wanted to ease your fears along with my own.

Jen carefully eased the kids head back inside and slipped her hand completely inside along the left side of the kid's body. She hooked a leg and eased it forward. Then, she quickly repeated the process on the other side, pointing the leg forward. A solid grip on the kids head and one leg, she eased the kid out amidst Meme's cries of distress. Within seconds, the kid was born.

Sean was busy holding Meme still, so he missed the details of what happened, but my excited cry of "Oh God!" caused him to turn in time to see the kid flop onto the hay. Jen quickly helped towel off the kid to dry her and help stimulate her to respond. She did immediately. And, in true Motherly fashion, Meme seemed to forget the ordeal and turned all her attention to her new kid, licking her clean, calling to her softly, and loving her offspring. Some people would call it instinct and I am sure some of that is involved. But, watching Meme respond to her young after enduring what she did, is so much closer to what I call unselfish love. ♥

Jen checked to see if another kid was coming. I was very happy to have one healthy, living kid and content to leave it at that. Jen gave Meme a dose of Banamine to ease her pain and sore muscles and a shot of antibiotic as a precaution. She left us with some Oxytocin in case Meme retained her placenta and instructions on how to use it. We did not need to. Meme seems to have rallied back to normal and both she and her kid are doing just great.

This Vet visit ended up costing us $250. In a time when we are already worried about finances, this is a bill we cannot easily afford. And, looking at it from a strictly financial position, I can understand why many commercial farmers might choose to euthanize a doe in this situation. The reality is, this doe kid will sell for about $125. Salome would sell for about the same, if we planned to sell her. Many folk would consider that a bad investment. We don't. That bill will add stress to our budget. But, what value does life have? We have two live does. And that is worth every penny.

We could not be more pleased to introduce the birth of Miss Baby Ruth. (She'll be matched with young Boaz as a pair.) She weighed in at just over 6 pounds. She is pure black and has her Mother's ears. Miss Ruthie's father is Lamancha; her mother is Oberhausli. She should grow to be as good a milker as she is beautiful. And, if she is anything like her parents, she'll be a friendly sweet-heart. ♥

Thanks for following along with us today, friends. It was so comforting to know you were there cheering us on and praying with us. Thank you.

~Sean and Sonja ♥

More information about Goat Kid Dystocia is available HERE.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Clean Out: Deep Litter Method

About this time each Spring, I write about our use of the "Deep Litter Method" of handling animal waste through the winter months. It is a riveting topic that is sure to cause unbridled enthusiasm on the part of our loyal readers. At least, that is what I tell myself as my life changes from cute animal images to what feels like days on end of shoveling out manure. I also convince myself that when we plant our garden next Spring, we will be happy to have this black gold to top fill all of our garden beds. The truth is, after a couple of back-breaking hours of hauling manure in all its odoriferous glory, the benefits of doing so matter much less than the reward of it finally getting done and knowing that this unpleasant chore will not need to be repeated for another year. I know some folks who employ the deep litter method year round. For us, I prefer to do semi-weekly clean outs of the stalls and coop for the majority of the year. It just makes me happy to see them clean with a fresh bed of pine shavings. For more information on the Deep Litter Method, this article from Mother Earth News was very informative.

Yesterday, Sean and I tackled the chicken coop. I am very proud that I personally shoveled out 3/4 of the coop on my own, with Sean hauling away the litter to a new compost pile. He had to step in and finish for me. My back just would not take any more shoveling. When it was finished, I spread out hay in two corners in the hopes that our goose, who has been laying eggs regularly this past couple weeks will go broody and hatch out a nest of goslings for us. Sean, also tackled the horse stall. He's super-man like that.

This weekend, we hope to begin removing the thick layer of soiled hay from each of the goat stalls. I hope that with warmer days and sun, we will have the entire barn clean by next weekend. (In re-reading, I noticed that I employed the word "we". Truth be told, this mass clean out is much too heavy for me to lift. While I can care for the routine clean outs on my own without trouble, when it comes to the once-yearly major clean out, Sean does most of the work. My part involves keeping him company with my ready wit, counting how many loads he's hauled (very helpful, I am told) and feeding him vast quantities of hearty food when he is done and has showered. But, as we are "one-flesh" I take partial credit for this work because Sean is kind enough to allow that. Totally Super-Man.)

We spent hours this week tracking down more hay. We're thankful to have found additional hay bales for the animals, but they will only last a couple of weeks before we will need to find more. We are searching to purchase a couple round bales for Jasmine. Since she eats like a proverbial horse, a round bale in the pasture will help us to stretch the limited number of square bales we can purchase. We can feed round bales to the goats too, but we have found that in the past, this costs us more in the long run and is more work for us to boot. It will take Jasmine a bit to eat a round bale on her own and that will ease the stress on the limited amount of square bales we have. At least, that is the theory. It is worrisome how many folks are out of hay. Neighbors who have the equipment and hay acres and acres of land for their herds of dairy cows or sheep are buying hay themselves this year. One more worry to add to the pile.

One of these neighbors stopped in to check on our search yesterday. It was a kind thing to do and his concern was appreciated. While here, he mentioned that a bale of hay was laying on the side of the road, just up the way. It seems someone lost a bale in their travels. With no way to discover who had lost it and the bale broken up and getting wet in the rain, the bigger shame was in letting it go to waste. It was not suitable for goats or horse, but would be useful in the nest boxes and Ebony would appreciate the warmth to root into.

While we were out, we caught a
glimpse of a couple pairs of wild ducks in the stream. The Hooded Mergansers are so pretty. Perhaps this pair will have a nest. I hope so. Our Mallards are starting to pair off. Angelis and his hen have flown the coop and spent the last week together in the would-be pond. I don't know that they will appreciate it or even use it as we intend, but I think a flake of the road-side hay placed out for their use might encourage them to build a nest and start sitting. So far, the nest of duck eggs in the chicken coop has not been sat on regularly. I'll give it a week to see if any of the hens will claim it. The nest of chicken eggs is being set upon by a very broody and protective black hen. This is good news.

I hope they build a nest and hatch out a clutch of ducklings for us.

Back at home, Sean and I made quick work of the afternoon feeding and watering chores. While I brought hay and grain to the goats and horse, we let the kids and their Mommas out in the yard to stretch their legs and romp. The other goats' stall doors are facing the field, so those goats can leave the barn anytime they choose. The nursing mothers and their kids are separated still from the main herd, so daily exercise time is a must.

I like sitting and watching the kids bounce and play. The boys are all feeling the urge to head-butt one another. The girls are more interested in eating whatever they can find or steal.

Anna the Brave
Jasmine is less thrilled with this arrangement. Jasmine is used to stealing a bale of hay if Sean throws them down to me before I bring them into the barn. She just reaches over the white line and pulls a bale to where she can eat it in comfort before I get them all where they need to go. Since it keeps her out of the barn and from getting in our way, I leave the one she claims outside for the while. The kids have caught on to this routine... and they are fearless.

Jasmine finished her grain before Abigail and the chickens could help themselves to it. 
They took turns jumping on top of the hay bale and eating what they wanted between Jasmine's mouthfuls of hay. Miss Anna had no manners what-so-ever. She tried to steal hay directly from Jasmine's mouth! I worried that Jasmine would show her displeasure by threatening to bite, but so far, she flips her tail, twitches her ears, and eats large mouthfuls before the kids can get too much of  her stolen booty.
The new kids are growing every day. It is such fun to have eight littles bounding about on spring feet. I am working on editing some video for you. I'll post it as soon as it is ready. Salome is due to kid any time now. So, be on the watch for those pictures, too.

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends.
~Sean and Sonja ♥