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 :)

Friday, October 19, 2018

not the last garden report but close

The goats have been reveling in the sun between the rain, but haven't been invited into the big garden for a free-choice end-of-summer picnic this year.

A few of the okra plants are still blooming, and the chard is still growing just a bit faster than it is being eaten by insects; perhaps the same insects that have turned my Portuguese kale into lace.

LOTS of zinnias are still blooming!
The orange, yellow, and purple of this one are stunning.
I think that little bug is transfixed at the sight.

Candy roaster squash remain in the garden until a hard frost becomes likely, and I don't want the goats anywhere near them. Remember the time goats got into the garden for a matter of minutes and some rascal took one or two bites out of every one of the pumpkins?

We've had some cold nights, but Wednesday night was the first time I'm sure the temperature went below freezing. So now the candy roasters come in.

Leaf frozen into ice on the surface of a water bucket.

Yesterday I harvested these two candy roasters, each about 16 inches long. Today I'll harvest three more from the Very Raised Bed, and get busy making puree.

One of the last Jing okra blossoms. How I love these plants, both the Jing and the Bear Creek, with their different colors but equally exquisite features! The flowers have been repeatedly photographed, drawn, and painted.

I missed eating a lot of the pods because I couldn't seem to get the timing right for picking enough of the same small size to justify heating up the skillet. The ones I fried were good, though, and some of the older pods were cut up for the goats. I realized belatedly that I could have tried picking and freezing individual small pods and cooking them when I had accumulated a good number - why didn't I think of that? Maybe next year. Okra has earned annual planting in a prominent location, as an ornamental with bonus edible pods.

On the left in the picture above are two Minnesota Midget melons.
A couple of late melon vines produced tiny fruits recently, even as the vines were withering - the one pictured below is the size of a tennis ball. All in all, these melons were mostly a novelty. Small fruits are fine with me, a perfect snack size, but the flavor was very faint. This may also have been a result of all the rain, though, so unless I plant them again I may never know.

2018 was a tough year for my Suyo Long cucumbers. The vines struggled, and managed to produce only a few cucumbers. The endless rain took a toll on the early health of the plants, and there may have been an insect or disease problem related to the nearby milkweed - further research is needed on this before next year.

But that rain! Many plants - both cultivated and wild - struggled for survival at a time when they normally would have been blooming madly. Later, when we finally got some intermittent fair weather, the plants rallied and put on a second growth that allowed some flowering though still not what a typical year would have produced. This included the bee balm, anise hyssop, yarrow - which has not bloomed - chelona, and other pollen providers. For this reason, I let everything grow everywhere, even if it meant some of my garden paths became impassible and the bank garden by the driveway turned into a riot of jewelweed and motherwort. It all looked a bit of a wilderness, but at least there were some flowers available for the bees and butterflies and hummingbirds and photographers.

The big producer in the terrace garden was the beans; a very nice change after last year's two-handful harvest. I made bean salad over and over again, and never got tired of eating it at all hours. I picked beans for friends who happened by, and I froze many packets of whole beans to enjoy when the garden is resting this winter.

After years of growing different types of pole beans, this is my favorite. Tender and flavorful - either as a pencil-thin whole bean, or as a slightly older and larger snap bean, lightly steamed and added to bean salads. They are the only bean I've found to be truly "stringless." 

I've left lots of beans for next year's seed, and with luck they will dry thoroughly before we get a lot more rain. In the past I've had better luck drying pods on the vine than bringing them inside to finish drying. There isn't much room for such endeavors in the house. Even the bee balm heads I was drying on the porch windowsills have been getting swept off and stepped on and batted around. I'll just collect more bee balm seed heads and scatter them in areas where I hope bee balm will appear next Spring.

One last picture, from the new raised bed: organic catnip, grown from seed. The catnip also took a long time to take hold (again, with the rain) but look at it now! I'll harvest and dry some soon. Exciting times ahead for Moxie and Della, if we get deep snow and they spend long Winter days mostly indoors.

Are any southern hemisphere readers just starting their gardens?
Do tell, please!


Sunday, October 14, 2018


I want to say thanks for the encouragement on my little Cloud Harvest Cashmere experiment for Rhinebeck. Your comments and emails have been very helpful and energizing! It really means a lot to me.

It's been quite a lot of work so far, and intense due to the short deadline. A deadline can be a great motivator, but in this case, even a few more days would have been very welcome.

Of course most of the work has been on the computer - it's not like I'm building a barn. But every day for the past week I've spent hours looking through photographs, designing, searching for information, ordering specific things from various places, and juggling components of the process.

If this all comes together and my box of goodies makes it safely to Rhinebeck for the set-up on Friday, I will feel somewhat victorious even if not a single card is sold all weekend.

But of course I hope lots will be!

These two acrobats are also working hard and with intensity.
Meet my latest "squirrel-proof" bird feeder.

Last night I decided to cast on a cashmere project and see if I could get it finished before Rhinebeck. Just for a fun challenge, because I have all this time on my hands. I already had the perfect pattern and yarn combination in mind: a lacy baktus in a light green laceweight cashmere from Maine. Airy yet warm.

After three complete circuits of my little house, I still had not found the yarn. This is odd, because there are only a few places where I store yarn, and my small stash of cashmere hanks and balls was not in any of those places. Apparently when I virtuously gathered up ALL my fiber one day last year, carefully organized it by type, donated some and tucked the remainder safely away in drawers and baskets and boxes, the cashmere went to some Extra Special Place.

Sure wish I knew where that place could be.

Oh well, it's not like I'm short on projects. While searching for the yarn, I found the bag of steel wool I need for a woodworking task, and the box of blank cards I bought for a printmaking extravaganza if I ever get over my irrational fear of lino-cutting, and a complete set of 1960s(?) Pyrex mixing bowls from my parents' old house, which I ought to put on eBay. So although none of these things are Rhinebeck-relevant, my to-do list just got longer.

But not too long for Daily Markmaking!

I hope your weekend has been a joyful one.
Here's to a lovely week ahead.

Friday, October 12, 2018

what a day

It did not rain today!

I had a list of errands to be done in town, and did ALL of them. 
AND a couple that were not even on the list!

When I got home in the afternoon it was such a glorious day I walked around with the herd for a little while. The goats are soooo tired of rain. It was great to see them enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Oh, and I rescued little Iris from another potentially fatal adventure - this was the third. The way she's going, I seriously fear that little goat will not make old bones. But I'll do my best to keep her alive because I like her a lot and I'm hoping she'll grow up to be LeShodu without the attitude. I had hoped the same thing about her mama, Vinca, when she was born, but regret to report Vinca has been cranking up the attitude quite a bit recently. Here's hoping Iris will stay sweeter than both her mama and her grandmama, and will enjoy a long and happy life.

Speaking of hope, I've planted a new little garden of Spring bulbs out by the barn.
28 hyacinths and 3 irises and 40 tulips.
Nothing says "hope" like planting, I think.
And perhaps especially, planting in the Autumn for the Spring.

And speaking of Spring, look what I found out in the Upper West Side paddock, almost hidden beneath mushrooms and tiny ground-cover greenery:

A single violet!

What a great day. I hope yours was, too!


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

new logo news

Between ordinary tasks, I've been working to put together a few cashmere-related items to send to Rhinebeck - the annual and massive Duchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in upstate NY - for the Cashmere Goat Association booth. I've never done this before, and only got the word a few days ago about what type of items are acceptable for sale. Such a short deadline! I emailed a friend who is going to Rhinebeck - sadly, I am not - and asked if she would be willing to take my items along with hers. She agreed.

Then I took a deep breath, hit the ground running, and haven't stopped since.

Due to the time limitation, I am having some of my goat photographs mounted, and also made into blank greeting cards. And since I wanted to add a logo to the back of the cards, I took the opportunity make a new one.

Would you like to see it? You'll be the first :)

A graphite portrait of Lily - I think it was from #DrawingAugust 2016 - 
provided the base image.

Here is the new logo, created this morning, so fresh it's barely dry: 

What do you think?


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

the week that was

I was a bit under the weather last week.
Nothing terrible, just a sore throat, thick head, and general malaise.


I managed to put one foot in front of the other Every Single Day through the most miserable, overheated deluge of a summer I've ever known. When the weather at last turned lovely, I spent several days doing a lot of this:

Fortunately, I had the very best of care.

By Friday, I was feeling much more myself, and trying to get caught up on everything that had slipped. Maybe I could have succeeded (hahaha - that was a joke) if I hadn't taken Saturday "off" and gone up to Vermont for the fiber fair in Tunbridge. It's the only annual fair that I try very hard to attend, because it includes the Cashmere Goat Association annual show. I want to support the CGA, and it's always helpful to see what goats from other herds look like, and learn a thing or two.

And, well...fiber. Right?

This year I had the rare opportunity to handle dozens of wool samples in John Crane's exhibit: Sheep Breeds: A World of Difference.

Here are two I've been very curious about:

The driving and the standing and walking and the 10-hour daytrip was a lot.
I'm still feeling it, but I'm glad I went.
And now I'm glad I'm home.

Even if it is raining again.