Sunday, November 11, 2018

hay day

I've never felt comfortable standing idle while other people work.


When the work being done is my work...even more so. 


 Sometimes, though, there are things that MUST be done,
at a time when I CANNOT do them.

And at a time like that, when - for example - I can no longer delay getting in as much of the winter hay as possible, and an entire squad of my hay man's family members not only delivers but also stacks the hay for me...


Well, all I can do is count my blessings,
thank everyone from the bottom of my heart,
and stay out of the way til it's time to write the check.

All weekend I've been puttering around getting little things done, but the most satisfying "achievement" was getting that hay in...and I didn't lift a finger.

Funny, that.
I don't know if this means I should be worrying about how much longer I'll be fit to carry on with this goatherding way of life, or if I should just be finding more ways that other people can do all my work...
while I enjoy the totally undeserved afterglow of achievement!

I hope your weekend was productive and satisfying, with or without hay.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

day 304

Daily Markmaking continues.

Tonight it's a watercolor portrait of Ms. Moxie.


Monday, October 29, 2018

goats unplugged

I got a decent night's sleep last night, and am sufficiently energized to give you the follow-up on Mallow and Rocket.
 Today they are both looking pretty chipper. FINALLY.

Thursday was not Our Favorite Day. They had their surgeries around noon, and I stayed in the barn to be there when they came out of the anesthesia, which, based on past experience, I expected to be within a half-hour. The actual procedure is very quick - my vet is efficient and has done this many times. I fully expected that by 1 PM the boys would have been up for a while, walking around in their stalls and nibbling at hay, and I could get on with my day.

While they were out, propped up on their sternums to help prevent bloat, and with noses pointed down to keep mucous draining in the right direction, I took the opportunity to make a little sketch. Here is is.

It's called: Mallow Being Still For The First Time In His Life.

One hour turned into two, without a blink or a twitch. Then three hours. I didn't want to call the vet, who already seems to think I am a fretful softie who worries about nothing. But I certainly would have felt happier to see the boys up and moving. And when, after three and a half hours they finally wobbled to their feet looking very dazed, they were too uncomfortable to move around and keep themselves warm. Both goats began shivering so hard I could see it from ten feet away.

Then I called the vet, who suggested making oatmeal for them.

This is not a painting of the oatmeal I made on Thursday. This is oatmeal I painted several months ago. But Thursday's oatmeal looked very similar and an image may break up this long story a bit, so here you go:

Unfortunately, Rocket and Mallow were still too out of it to want to eat, even lovely warm oatmeal. Vinca and Azalea, their mamas, thought being fed oatmeal on a spoon was great, though. They think we should do this more often, and not just on special occasions.

I did everything I could think of to try to get Rocket and Mallow thoroughly warm, so that keeping coats on them would then be enough to help them maintain their body temperature. But "everything I could think of" wasn't really that much. Using a heater in the barn is a fire hazard. These goats aren't like dogs or cats who will snug up next to a person and stay there, benefiting from their body warmth. And before you, I couldn't bring them into the house. Perfectly reasonable question though!

Rocket under my coat, seen through a hay manger.

Here's an enlarged view of Rocket's eye.
This is not the eye of a comfortable goat.

I got my extra-large electric heating pad from the house, and - being very careful to monitor how much warmth it was generating on the lowest setting - began putting it on each goat in turn like a saddle blanket, then covering the goat with one of my old barn coats which I am finally proven justified in keeping, so there's that.

I have only one heating pad, so I would put it on one goat until he had stopped shivering for a while, and keep an eye on the other goat. When the second goat started shivering again, it was his turn, and if the goat who was losing the heating pad was lying down, he could have the hot water bottle against his side, under his coat.

Rocket was up and down at long intervals, so the hot water bottle was a helpful back-up for him. But poor Mallow got up once and then could not lay down again, though he tried and tried and tried. He was so tired he was literally propping himself up against the wall of the barn. When he would try to lay down he would get his front end folded under properly but then, as soon as he tried to tuck his hind end down, he must have felt enough of a painful twinge that he would wearily straighten back up again. This happened every few minutes for hours. I cannot convey in words how sorry I felt for him.

The heating pad was at first swapped from goat to goat every 20 minutes or so, but the interval gradually stretched to an hour or longer. I didn't dare stop monitoring them, because the "unplugged" goat eventually started shivering badly again, every time.

By the middle of the night, both goats were occasionally nibbling a few blades of the hay, which was one load off my mind. As you goat-fans know, it is critical that goats keep their complex digestive systems in action.

Mallow in my old fleece jacket, nibbling a bite of hay. 

It was a cold night. Below freezing. I can't stand, or sit in a chair, for very long, and the boys weren't in the part of the barn that has a bench. So I was lying on the floor of Mallow's stall, where I could keep both boys in my line of vision - they were in adjacent stalls with a stockpanel divider between. I stole one of Piper's old mats (which is fair because she stole it from one of my chaises last year) and brought out a wedge cushion for a back support, and had an old lightweight sleeping bag to wrap up in. I was wearing two fleeces and a rainjacket and corduroy trews and gloves and a wooly earwarmer. My laptop was on hand to help pass the time "just in case I have to be out there for a while," but I couldn't listen to an audiobook because strange voices would have made ALL the goats, even the ones in the other barn, more upset than they already were.

When I took the heating pad off Rocket at 4 AM, he was cuddled up in a corner under his jacket, dozing. Mallow was still standing, so I gave him the heating pad again and went into the house to warm up and get a couple of hours sleep. At dawn I found Rocket moving around in his stall, with slightly runny eyes but a clear nose. Mallow was still standing and looking pretty sad.

I brought their mamas - and Rocket's sister Iris - into the stalls with them. They had been in the next stall over, where they could all see each other through the night but where the patients could not get pushed around or accidentally knocked down.

And then as the sky was getting light, I fed and watered everybody else - half the herd had been standing huddled together in the next paddock staring at the "recovery room" all night - and came back in to feed Piper and the cats and put the hot water bottle on my own back for a while. I had very good company.

Later, during the warmer part of Friday, both boys were allowed out for a while. But I kept Azalea and Mallow in a paddock next to the rest of the herd, and gave Mallow a little bit of pain medication to make him more comfortable.

Friday it didn't rain.
It was like some kind of crazy miracle.

Over the weekend it's been a gradual return to something like normality. Rocket's recovery has been straightforward, but without the repeated "reheating" throughout Thursday night, that may not been the case. I simply couldn't risk it - even a tough little monkey like Rocket is not designed for 12 hours of constant shivering.

I've kept Mallow and Azalea locked in a stall each night, so Mallow couldn't get pushed out of a shelter during the constant cold, dank weather we've had since Friday. Today is the first day he is looking more bright-eyed, and I saw him wave a horn at Azalea when the two were sharing a manger full of hay. It is always a relief when you see a poorly animal feeling cocky again. If it isn't raining tomorrow, I think we'll be back to our regular routine. How glad I will be!

And on we go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


I started writing this yesterday, but was too tired to be coherent. Every waking moment of Tuesday was spent shifting goats around to keep two young bucks separated from the does, several of whom came into season yesterday morning.

Rocket at 13 days.

I had contacted my vet to try to get her out to wether both boys last week - which would have been perfect timing - but didn't even hear back. I managed to catch her with my third call, on Monday. I'm reluctantly wondering if it's time to look for another vet. I certainly don't expect someone to drop everything to rush out to my place, but I do need someone who will return my calls. I like my vet, but her practice has grown and this is not the first time I've felt like she just isn't "there" for me anymore; the last time, there was a communication delay for several weeks with the result that vaccines were administered at a time when their efficacy was reduced - which frankly, stuck in my craw. I'm a good client. I am respectful of the time of others. I don't complain about expenses and I pay my bills instantly. My animals matter to me.

[Deep cleansing breath.]

Anyway, the boys' appointment is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Rocket now.

I'm a little sorry neither of these boys will sire offspring as they are both quite nice in terms of conformation. I even checked with the owners of their dad, in case they might want to have Rocket for his genetic potential - his mother is the daughter of my best doe, and is a good cashmere goat in her own right - but they are fully stocked with bucks. So, wethering it is. Mallow and Rocket will be happy and there won't be a constant risk of unplanned breedings.

In other news, I found my largest baking pan - it still had this watercolor taped to it, as I had used it as a drawing board back in July - 

and have started baking the candy roasters.

I started with the largest squash, which was 11 pounds 8 ounces - I had to cook it in two shifts! I've got several pounds of gorgeous purée in the freezer already. I will try to save some of the squash whole, for cooking in the Winter - it's lovely to cut into a squash and relive summer in that fresh aroma.

One quarter of the 11.5-pound candy roaster

The temperature has dropped below freezing several times at night, but a few nights ago it went down to the 20s F and the gardens really showed it the next morning. I pulled up all the remaining okra plants, and saved some wilted zinnia heads in hopes of seeds. I'm not sure how that works - do you know if the seeds have already matured before all the petals have dropped, or if they haven't developed and won't be viable? - but it's worth a try. I now have cardboard trays of seeds all over the porch - zinnias, bee balm, Suyo Long cucumbers, two varieties of okra, and candy roaster squash. The plan is to get all the seeds dry and into envelopes before I knock the cardboard trays over or the cats start playing in the seeds or Piper swings her tail and sends everything flying.

Piper on our long walk in the woods on Monday.
Plenty of tail-swinging that day!

There are still zinnias in jars on my windowsill, and I will enjoy them as long as possible. And of course, there are dozens of photographs on my laptop. I could keep drawing and painting zinnias for quite a while, I think. Maybe I will.

My eyes are almost closing as I type and I have yet to do my Daily Markmaking, so I'd better get cracking! I hope your week is going well :)