Thursday, April 4, 2024

no one was hurt

Well, this has happened: 

the neighbor's tree came down across my barn.

There must have been an almighty crash, but the wind was roaring every time I woke up in the night, so I doubt I'd have heard it even if I'd been looking right at the barn when the tree came down. Based on the last time I checked the barncams, I think it was between 3 and 6 AM.

At least seven goats were in the barn at the time, either in the original stalls opening on the north side or in the Peace Pavilion on the south side. There may have as many as 10 goats sharing, because in unsettled weather the goats who claim the little duplex shelter on the Upper West Side will sometimes come up and bunk with the barn group.

The west half of the barn is a shambles. Everything that had been stored in the loft area is in a tangle on the floor. The roof is in pieces, part of it is completely gone. Doors are hanging, or snapped off. I won't even try to get into this part of the barn until a second person is here, just in case something else should snap or crumble or collapse.

At first glance I'd hoped the east end of the barn (on the left in the picture below) might be safe enough to continue using temporarily, but it is not. Rafters are snapped, jagged ends hanging. The sooner everything is out of there, the better. Right now the hens are still in the last stall on the east, with access to their pen, because there is simply nowhere else to contain them today.

The Peace Pavilion (on the left in the picture above) initially looked like it fared better. Upon closer inspection, I think the structural integrity is compromised. It looks better because it was better built. Some of the materials may be salvageable.

The insurance adjustor is coming tomorrow morning. My agent informed me that MY insurance will have to cover this, even though the tree demonstrably fell from my neighbor's property. I asked the agent to repeat this, because I thought I must have misunderstood. I'll have to hear it from the adjustor as well.

Do you remember when I had this barn built? It was the 6th of May, 2014. I told LeShodu it was a present for her 10th birthday, which was May 7th, 2014. I wrote about the construction day here. As time went on and I added dividers and benches, making the barn as functional as possible, I wrote about each improvement and experiment. As goats were born and raised and combed in this barn, I wrote about them. You have probably vicariously spent more time in this barn than in any other, unless you actually have one of your own. I can't imagine how many hours I've spent, day in and day out. And of course, when I finally added the long-awaited Peace Pavilion only a couple of years ago, it became one of my most satisfying projects ever.

Oh dear.

I'm not going to get sentimental about this. In fact, just wondering how on earth to deal with dismantling what's left of the barn is giving me such a sharp pain between my eyebrows, that sentimentality won't have a chance to get a foot in the door.
And I just keep repeating to myself...
"no one was hurt."

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

notes from the goats

Betula is doing well. 

He's staying in the barn paddock with Violet and Sambucus for company until I feel confident the broken horn will not start bleeding again. So far, that has happened twice. Most recently yesterday. Meanwhile he's eating very well, resting well, and generally acting comfortable.

In other goat news, cashmere shedding is definitely underway. 

Almost as soon as combing began there was a hiatus of a few days due to suddenly very cold, very wet, very windy weather. But now it's just cold and muddy, so we can expect weeks of combing. I'll try to comb at least one goat on any day that is not raining. There's no point in trying to harvest damp cashmere.

Did I mention weather?

In the past week we've had snow, rain, freezing rain, and a world coated in ice. Then the ice started melting from every twig of every tree, and now we have mud. And that's all I'm going to say about weather.

I'm continuing to fine-tune the system for distributing chaffhaye to the goats every morning and evening.

At this point I don't have to tie every goat, every time, in order to get every goat fed, huzzah. Just some of them, most of the time. And I'm still doing individual pans, morning and evening.

If I could shift them over to free-choice feeding, it would be a lot less labor for me. I couldn't try it right at the introduction of the chaffhaye, because there would have been a few very assertive - and chunky - goats and many very hungry goats. But now that they all know there will be pans for everyone I'm experimenting by doing both: giving them each their pan of grub, and then putting out additional feed in big bins, and keeping an eye on behavior.

So yesterday I asked my Occasional Helper to leave a couple of extra 50-pound bags of chaffhaye in one of the shelters for my convenience, next to a bin in which I opened a third 50-pound bag for self-serve.

Here's what the extra bags looked like by last night:

In case my description wasn't clear: there was a bin containing a wide-open 50-pound bag of chaffhaye literally 8 inches from these "backup" bags.

The forklift operator had made small holes in these two  bags, so maybe that was considered an invitation? Or a challenge? I don't know. But once these bags are open, they must be fed out quickly. For the next couple of days I'll have to carry empty feed pans down to this shelter and fill them from these wastefully punctured bags, and then carry those full pans all over the paddocks to distribute. 

So far, this experimental free-choice supplementation has not been what one could call "a time-saver."

Oh well, everyone is eating, that's the important thing. Here we have three generations - Lily of the Valley, Tsuga, and Fern - demonstrating synchronized chewing:

And I'll close this Note from Goat World with my birch boy, Betula,

resting his chin and soaking up some vitamin D:


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

drama week

I know it's only Wednesday, but it feels like a week of drama.

Not this. This is not drama. This is Azalea's response to my suggestion that we do a little preliminary combing to see if the cashmere she and daughter Hazel are carrying is ready for harvesting.

Nope. Azalea's still hanging on to her undercoat, for the most part. She did allow me to lift off some of the loose fluff accumulating around her head.

Hazel, Azalea's daughter, followed Mum's example.

Don't they look like two peas in a pod? 

I wish so much I could have bred Hazel, and continued to breed Azalea, because they have some qualities I really value. But when very young, they each had a problem with weakness at the base of their horns. Azalea's son Mallow had it too, so I had to conclude it was genetic, and even though they all seemed to outgrow it by adulthood, I didn't want to perpetuate the trait. Azalea did break one horn last summer, though not at the base, thank goodness. And it may not have been related to the original issue at all, but I mention it because...

this is not what one wishes to see when sweeping out the barn.

And this is the drama.

Betula broke a horn on Monday. It may have happened shortly before morning chores, because the trail of blood drops was very fresh, and when I got to Bet, he was missing about a third of his right horn and was very bloody indeed. (Don't worry - I won't include a picture.) As you may know, the end of a goat's horn is "dead." But horns feel warm right at the base because there is a blood supply persisting partway into the horn. In the past I underestimated how far beyond the warm-feeling part of the horn the blood supply persists. I'm pretty clear on it now, though.

Betula did not have any problems with horns as a youngster, but in the past few years he has worn down a section of the arch on both horns by rubbing them against the metal fences. I've been worried that there would be a injury one day, as a lot of head-banging and horn-smacking goes on out in the paddocks, and the challenges to authority amongst the goats never completely stop. Especially relevant to Betula, since he is the biggest goat in the herd.

Things were a bit worrisome all day and all night Monday, and there were extra barn visits throughout the day and a barn cam for non-intrusive night surveillance. Happily, by yesterday afternoon the slight residual bleeding had stopped and Bet was eating well.

Today I had to repeatedly point out that if Betula wanted me to put kelp in the mineral feeder (he did), he would have to step back and let me get to the feeder for five seconds. He remained firmly wedged between me and the feeder, and honestly I was so relieved that he was feeling bright enough to forget his manners, that I fed him kelp from my hand instead.

This barn cam snap was taken after I came back into the house following morning chores. Betula had already gone back to eating. You can see his chaffhaye bucket is clipped pretty high because on Monday I wanted to encourage him to keep his head up while eating. I don't think Gravity is our friend when we are bleeding.

Anyway, I had hoped to catch up on sleep last night but it didn't happen, and now I can't stop yawning at dusk so I'm going to head out for evening chores before I fall asleep.

Peaceful, ordinary, routine evening chores, I hope.


Sunday, March 17, 2024


Do you try to take the maximum possible satisfaction from even the simplest or tiniest improvements? This is my latest:

Decanting a hoof treatment from the big, messy, hard to control containers it comes in, to these:

25 ml plastic bottles that will fit in a pocket and administer the small amount needed to the exact spot where it's meant to go.

Ten minutes well spent.

What little changes have made you hugely happy?


Sunday, March 10, 2024

quick tip

I haven't been doing anything adventurous in the kitchen (or anywhere else) lately, but this handy trick for making easy-to-spread butter is something I've been doing for months and have been meaning to share.

For years I assumed the pricey "spreadable butter" on the market is blended with oils in some sort of fancy industrial process. And it probably is. It never occurred to me to try to make it myself.

This simple and effective method comes from Nancy Birtwhistle, a Great British Bake Off champion and author of four books on "green living." She generously shares loads of recipes and tips online, including this one, so I think it's okay to describe it here.

Nancy recommends using a handheld "electric whisk" - not sure what that is but I have a handheld mixer and use that - to cream butter for a couple of minutes. Then gradually add an oil (in a bit more than 1/3 the weight/volume of the butter), whisking constantly to emulsify. So far I've used grapeseed oil, canola oil, and olive oil. So far they have all been delicious.

The whole process takes just a few minutes, including transferring the mixture into containers for refrigeration or use. The clean-up actually takes longer for me, in part because I make a pot of bulgur at the same time and when the spreadable butter is done I "pre-wash" the buttery beaters by sinking them briefly in the hot bulgur so not a bit of the butter will be wasted.

I love butter but I don't love trying to scrape hard butter across a piece of bread. This has  been a very helpful tip for me. Maybe for you, too?

p.s. Just found an Instagram post from Nancy last year, demonstrating her technique. Fingers crossed the link works - I don't know much about IG. 

p.p.s. Turns out I do have an "electric whisk" - every day's a school day!