Tuesday, June 19, 2018

barn check

Just stepping out to the barn for a moment, to see how everyone is doing.

Would you care to join me?

Here are the charming Azalea and her mum, Lily of the Valley. Azalea seems to have forgiven me for trimming her hooves this morning. I want to be sure they are flat and smooth well before the 26th. I try to make sure the does' hooves aren't sharp-edged or jagged when they are due to kid. A mamagoat will often paw at a newborn kid with a degree of enthusiasm that will put the heart across you.

In the other side of the barn, we find Vinca having a nice snooze.
That little dark shape off Vinca's starboard hoof is Iris. 


And then we turn around to see this:

Rocket, in the old chair kept handy for visitors.

Goatherd hand for scale.

 Twelve days old.
Little Big Goat.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

slow sunday

Moxie and I went out at 7 for the usual morning rounds: releasing the chickens, checking the goats - all fine! - and then down to the garden on the Upper West Side to water seeds and admire our trellis.

Every morning for the past week I have gotten to that garden and thought - "Oops! must string trellis for pole beans today!" - and then forgotten to do it or even to write it down. So last night when it was almost dark, Mox helped me wind cotton yarn up and down between pairs of horizontal wires my Occasional Helper put up last week. And it was very pleasant to get down to the garden this morning and say, "Ah!" instead of, "Oops!"

On the way back up through the paddocks, I picked sprigs of a few little plants and put them in a jam jar for later observation and sketching.

This afternoon, when I finally threw in the towel and accepted that I was not going to get much of anything productive done today, Piper, Moxie, Della and I spent some pleasant - if hot - time under the portico, listening to the cheery sounds of bird conversation and the not-cheery sound of frass falling constantly. It sounds like rain just beginning to fall, all the time. How I hate gypsy moths. Those wretched caterpillars are defoliating all the trees again this year. It's a lot of stress, especially for my big, old, beautiful trees. Grrrrr.

Moxie suddenly went on the alert and found a chipmunk in the stone wall, while Della discovered that the new lawn chair is a perfect fit.

I brought out my sketchbook and the jam jar, and began trying to draw while Piper bumped my elbow at 20-second intervals until I gave up and opened the door so she could go back into the house. It is much cooler inside. Plus that is where she keeps her couch.

And here is the daily markmaking effort for today, Day 168.

Speaking of flowers, before I post this I want to add some pictures of rocket-the-plant, for which Rocket-the-goat is named.

Hesperus matronalis. It's a tall, naturalized non-native with a lot of common names; sweet rocket and dame's rocket are the two I've heard most often. It does have a sweet aroma, but I don't know where the "rocket" part of the name originated. Does anyone know? If so, please leave a comment!

 I hope your Sunday is/was a pleasant one.


Sunday, June 10, 2018


I had a very late night Friday. Not by choice - I was really tired. But Moxie and Della decided not to come in from their after-dinner mouse hunt at the usual time of ~10 PM, so I had to wait up, occasionally ringing the "door bell," until they came in around 1 AM. So I had a late start Saturday morning, and - not the cats' fault - a bonus severe headache. When I got outside around 9 AM, it was already hot and muggy. After morning chores I had no energy left for other tasks.

It was a waste of a beautiful early morning and I’m writing about it in order to get this idea firmly in my mind:

I need to get up and out early.
No matter how little sleep I’ve had
or what kind of shape I’m in.

So this morning I was out, creaking but determined, as the sun was coming over the horizon. After chores I transplanted seedlings while the sun was low. Then as the morning heated up, I returned to a project I’ve begun to tackle in small increments:

This pile of rocks and roots and soil was created when the builder was grading the portico area. My plan is to remove the stones and use all the soil in the new Very Raised Bed.

First, I tried removing the stones with the power of my mind.

Then I tried to come up with a method that would actually work, but without causing a lot of added aches and pains.

As you see in the picture below, I set up a screen over the garden cart - remember the garden cart? - so I can stand upright for most of the sifting process. Not leaning is the best thing I can do for myself, in any activity, period. I have only so many "leans" in me on any given day, and nearly all of them go to the goats and Piper.

This task also has some variety in position and motion, as only one or two shovelfuls can be sifted at once. So there's turning, digging, lifting a shovelful of dirt and rocks, and then more sifting. Gripping is another tricky skill for me these days, so doing just that little bit of shoveling then going back to sifting is good.

Big rocks are rolled to one side, and will later become part of the garden. Fist-size rocks, smaller rocks, and roots, are filed separately. What's left is a fluffy pile of soil.

Della decided to check my work by hopping into the cart (beneath the screen), walking through the soil, and hopping out the other end of the cart.

The hardest part is actually getting the cart down to the Upper West Side. The loaded cart is heavy. The driveway is steep. A very heavy cart could get away from me, leading to scattered soil and bad language. So I fill the cart only part way, and even so I tack, back and forth, on the steepest section of the driveway.

Here’s the very first load shoveled into the new raised bed:

This is a couple of loads - and days - later:

It's quite exciting to run a hand through it without encountering anything hard or sharp.

I intend to keep at this until the entire pile has been sifted. I'm really looking forward to planting this garden bed, but the more soil I can add atop the thick layer of bedding and manure from the goat barns, the better. Meanwhile, in the existing gardens, I've been planting pole beans and transplanting all the seedlings that were started in the greenhouse. A little bit every day. And lots of watering. And enjoying the perennials appearing one by one:

Northern hemisphere readers: how does your garden grow?


Friday, June 8, 2018

barn visit

I still haven't got really good photographs of the kids, I'm afraid...just hundreds of blurry ones! But I'm going to post a few anyway, because Time Goes Fast.

The above picture was taken early yesterday morning. Less than 24 hours old and both kids were already leaping straight up into the air their full height, and also scrambling up the Big Kid Rock by the barn.

In fact, the little girl toddled up to the base of Goat Mountain and cast an appraising eye when she was less than one hour old:

Enough mountaineering immediately after birth!
Back to Mama for more washing and drying.

Likewise, when he was only a few minutes old, her brother managed to wiggle half his body through a 6-inch fence opening before I could reach over and extricate him. His mama did something very similar when she was exactly the same "age" - 
I had to laugh!

If you've been following my gang o' goats for a while, you may know that every goat born here is named after something that was blooming or leafing out at the time. So...allow me to introduce:




Rocket, the boy, was the firstborn.
And that unusual white marking helped me tell the two kids apart right from the start. He also has one white foot, one white toe, and a little light spot beneath his mouth.
 Iris, the girl, is a tiny bit smaller than Rocket, and solid black except for a few white hairs right in the center of her forehead.
Mama is solid black and the buck is solid white.

The replacement barncams are a total bust, to my great frustration. They don't work At All in the barns and I'm missing a lot of interesting observation and fun. So I've been spending some time just visiting the big barn, which is where Vinca moved her babies the night they were born.

After chores and gardening were done today, I brought my sketching chair to the barn for my daily markmaking while enjoying the sights and sounds of the new family group.
I plucked one troubled little stalk of campion from the path to the barn and did a few pen sketches.

Vinca came over and asked if there happened to be any peanuts (there were) and then hopped up onto the bench. She hopped effortlessly - you'd never know to look at her that she was heavily pregnant two days ago.
Well, until you notice her udder. Just like her own Mama, LeShodu, Vinca has an udder that I would be pleased with on a dairy goat.

I am so happy with the way she's attentive and caring to her kids while being laid-back and unstressed about it. In this picture, for example, Vinca is having a little think and maybe a little snooze, but she's got both the kids tucked under the bench.

Vinca is the Cool Mom.