Homestead News, Volume 18

I’ve been thinking I need to update you on the animals around our place. They are a big part of our daily lives, so sometimes the changes appear subtle to us, but others notice the changes more readily. The young ones are growing, and some of the older ones will be increasing our numbers soon.


I’ll start out with the goats. We still have three older wethers waiting to fill some of the freezer. I’ll have to wait until the surgeon gives me the okay before I tackle this project. Believe it or not, the meat from the previous goat we butchered and ground is gone. Since these are dairy animals, we don’t get a lot of meat from one carcass. Last year we kept three young wethers, this year I think we’ll keep them all. More meat on the hoof that way.

We will be having baby goats soon, January 5th is the first due date with one or two others to follow by mid January. One Stripe, our old lady goat of seven years, will be first. She has developed her characteristic waddle and her udder is developing nicely. I need both hands back in action to begin milking her the day of delivery. I will milk her everyday and give the colostrum to the pigs, dog and cats. After five days, I will begin keeping it for us to drink, which we really look forward to.

Next in line is up for grabs. Back in the summer I turned Cricket in with the buck for breeding, wrote down the date and thought all was well. Later on, she spent the day by the gate with the buck indicating she was back in

heat, so I didn’t think she ‘took’. At that point we had decided to sell the buck and borrow one from Faith, which is what we are doing now. Well, Victor the borrowed buck,

Victor the borrowed buck

has now been here for 22 days and Cricket has yet to come in heat. So, is she pregnant and due in January? She is the only one what knows. She is also the only one I am milking once a day now. We only get about a pint, so it’s barely enough to keep the kefir going, another reason we look forward to new baby goats and an increasing milk supply once again. I didn’t keep Cricket’s summer breeding date so I can only guess a due date. If memory serves me correctly, which it often doesn’t, that’s why I write things down, she is due somewhere between One Stripe and Copper. We’ll see.

Next in line is Copper, one of One Stripe’s daughters. Copper is an old hand now at having babies and she looks very good. Her due date is January 11th. With two does back in full production we will soon have plenty of milk which is very good. We also need to replenish our reserve supply of frozen milk.

Besides having plenty of milk for us, another reason it will be very good is the expectation of having piglets sometime in the next month. That’s a guess anyway. We are estimating Liberty may be due around January 10th if we have an accurate breed date. That estimate could be anything but accurate, so we will just have to wait and let her tell us when the time comes. I figure after a few weeks the piglets will be more than happy to drink some goat milk, so it turns out to be very good timing. Right now the pigs are getting some of our old powdered milk in their daily ration. They will be happy to have goat milk instead.


Two of the pigs have turned up with greasy pig disease again. From all of my reading, this is caused by a staph infection that sets up in scrapes or scratches. It can be very contagious and it can spread all over their body, but it can also run it’s course and heal without medical intervention. According to the vet, staph bacteria is everywhere, in the soil, on the surface of most animals skin, etc., it just needs an avenue

to grow. With all of the briers and thorny plants in our pastures, the pigs are going to get scrapes and such as they graze and root around, so this looks like it may be a recurring event here. The first time they got it the vet came out and gave each of them a penicillin shot. We don’t want to repeat that performance on a regular basis so I did some research to see what we can do naturally. For now I have added dried minced garlic and yeast to their daily ration. The sulfur in the garlic is great for it’s anti-fungal and antibiotic properties. The yeast contains zinc which is good for the pigs immune system. I have found a book that I will be ordering about natural pig treatments to see what else I can learn.

We did some more bartering with Emmet and he took home all of our older hens and two young roosters that were causing too much commotion in the chicken house. We kept our older Buff Orpington rooster. He is calm, not aggressive toward us, calls the hens to eat and overall, has been a great rooster. This leaves us with 20 young hens, many of which are laying. There are two different ages of hens in this flock from the first two sets of eggs we incubated in the spring, so some of them are almost a month younger than the rest. We are getting 10 to 12 eggs a day for now and a few of them are getting to be good size along with the smaller pullet eggs.

There are about 40 more young chickens that will be ready to butcher in about two to three weeks if the surgeon releases me to do so. This chore will have to be completed around the healing of my right hand and the timing of the surgery on my left hand. It will be the same thing, trigger finger and ganglion cyst, so I will have another splint for a while at some point.

Life on the farm is good. Very good. It fills our days and our bellies. It seems with each passing day we talk to more and more people that see very hard times coming our way. There are pieces of the coming storm that some focus on, the economy, the terrorist activities, the racial hatred, the government, but most don’t consider the immensity of it all. It’s a huge complicated mess and there is no telling which way the avalanche will fall when it all lets go. I have talked to some older folks that know something is coming and they are afraid. Some of them hope to be gone before it gets really bad. Fear is a powerful thing. It can paralyze you or motivate you. Remember, even though it is the holiday season, it appears to become more important everyday to avoid crowds. And if that bus or truck every pulls up out front, don’t get on it. You never know what may await you at the end of that ride, but it will no longer be a life of your choosing.

There is still much to be done here. We can only pray we have it completed before the time comes. You might want to do the same.

Until next time – Fern

Barely Enough Milk

And it’s all our fault. Well, maybe partially our fault. We’ve been trying to have year round milk for several years now. This is the closest we’ve come so far, and if we make it this year, we will barely squeak by if we do. There are a number of factors that contribute to having year round milk, or not. Here is a run down of our situation this year.

We had four does in milk this year, starting in January, two experienced and in April two first fresheners. As a general rule a doe will not give full capacity milk the first year since her udder is developing. The second year will be a better indicator of full milk production for a particular animal.

Obviously, if you want to have year round milk, there have to be animals capable of producing at particular times of the year to meet your needs. We have tried to accomplish this by breeding at least two does in the summer to provide the ‘carry over’ milk during the winter. A lot of folks don’t like to milk in the winter. It’s cold, it requires more feed, and it means scheduled breeding and birthing twice a year instead of once. All of this has to be considered to see if it will fit the lifestyle you choose to live.

We attempted to breed two of our does in July. Yes, it’s hot then, but we’ve had animals breed then before, which resulted in surprise babies we weren’t planning. Our Nubian does originated in Africa and definitely prefer hot weather to cold, so summer breeding is not out of the question for them. Our July attempt didn’t work, so we tried again in August with success. One oldest doe, who is seven this year, bred and is due in January. We planned to breed a first freshener as well, but it didn’t take. We found this out three weeks later when she came back into heat. On a whim, we also bred our other older doe when she came into heat thinking we would have three does due in January and three due in April. What we ended up with is two experienced does pregnant, dried off and providing no milk, and two first fresheners not bred and providing very little milk.

These two first fresheners may be producing more milk than we are getting, though. The problem there is that they are still letting their seven month old kids nurse. Yes, I know, they should have been weaned months ago. The pasture we use to wean the kids has now turned into the pig pasture. The first set of kids we had in February were weaned there successfully. The second set of kids we had in April were there for one month, but then we had to get ready for the pigs and they took over the pasture. We crossed our fingers and put the kids in a pasture next to their mothers with an adjoining fence, but that didn’t work. The does let their kids nurse through the fence. We temporarily put the does in the pasture that now has the water storage tanks, but it wasn’t long enough to break that cycle of allowing the kids to nurse.

So, why are we getting barely enough milk? We ended up relying on two first fresheners that are still letting their kids nurse. Not a good choice on our part. We have already discussed successful weaning with the next kids that will be born in January. Now that we have become familiar with the pigs, the weaning kids will go back into that pasture with them. We will pen off the kids at night, with their own little barn and feed them there. In the mornings we will let them out to graze with the pigs. Training Liberty, our gilt, to go into a pen by herself to eat has worked out very well and gives me confidence that we can juggle pig and kid feeding just fine. I will feed the pigs first and get them situated, then feed the kids in their pen and close them off from the pigs. Then we won’t have to worry about competition for feed, housing or water between the kids and the pigs. That’s the theory for now anyway.

I hope to get these two first fresheners to provide enough milk to get us to about January 10th, which will be five days after the first doe is due to kid and the milk will be drinkable. The second doe’s milk will be ready for consumption around January 16th, which means we’ll have more than enough then. That may be perfect timing since we are guesstimating that Liberty may have piglets by then. Some of that extra milk, especially the first milk with colostrum, will be excellent food for Liberty and her babies. There are some things that work out just right.

There are always so many things to learn when raising livestock and trying to meet certain goals. Sometimes things work out just like you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Speaking of barely enough, our 17 hens have been giving us around 5 eggs a day for a while now, which isn’t enough. We’ve had to buy eggs to fill in the gaps. Sometime this month our young hens should begin laying which will be great. After their production becomes enough to keep us in eggs, the older hens will fill up more jars on the shelf. It all usually works out in the end, one way or another.

Lessons learned, whether from successes or failures, are always valuable. The more we learn now while failure is still an option, the better off we will be. 

Until next time – Fern

Bo’s Crooked Legs

You may want to pull up a chair and pour a cup of coffee or tea, because this story will take a little time. If you are a very soft hearted individual, you may also want grab a box of tissue. No, Bo didn’t die, but he had some struggles, and I won’t tell you the end of the story until we get there somewhere down the page. Now if you’re the kind of  person that turns to the end of the book to see how it ends before you even start reading it, you can scroll to the bottom of this article and see what happens. Otherwise, here is how the story began.

On Thursday, April 2nd, right on schedule at 150 days gestation, Cricket went into to labor. Cricket is one of our first fresheners that I have high hopes for. Her grandmother, Katy, was one of our first does. She was a good mother, good milker and all around very good doe. Cricket’s mother, Ivory who we sold last fall, was also a very good doe, except for that very irritating hollering that she refused to stop doing. It’s the only reason we sold her. 

Our friend, Faith (pseudonym), came over to watch and participate in the birth since she plans to start her own goat herd very soon. As the kids feet presented during labor, I realized the legs were crossed. At this point I wasn’t sure whether these feet belonged to different kids or the same kid. Even though I had not seen this presentation before, I didn’t feel I should intervene, instead I waited to see how Cricket would proceed.

After the feet but before the head appeared, Cricket got up and laid down several times, which is normal during labor. But one time when Cricket started to lay down again, she landed on a pile of hay. She had pawed up some of the hay in her birthing pen in a nesting type of behavior, which is also normal. This is kind of hard to describe, but as she lay down, she landed on the downward slope of this pile of hay, which caused her to roll all the way over on her back, then onto the other side. I was worried what might happen to the kid’s legs during this accidental roll over.

Shortly after this event, Bo was born. As his head emerged, we realized one of his legs was quite a bit ahead of it, while one of them was not. After he was born, Cricket took a few minutes to decide what this thing was she had just expelled from her body. Even though it was a cool day, we gave her a few minutes to adjust because the umbilical cord had not yet broken. I wanted her to be the one to break the cord, instead of us. I moved Bo up toward Cricket’s head as far as the cord would allow, to encourage her to begin licking and cleaning him. Faith removed the mucous from his mouth, and some of the birthing material from his body. A little while later, I cleaned, dried and stimulated Bo with some towels. Then a short time later, Cricket stood up, broke the umbilical cord and began investigating her new son.

After Cricket began licking and talking to Bo, I made sure the wax plugs were removed from her teats, and helped Bo get his first meal. At this point, all appeared to be well. A few hours later, as Bo began to get up and try to walk, we noticed his front knees were not straightening out as he stood. He had an awkward look to him, but still was getting up and around and trying to nurse on his own, just like any newborn kid. I hoped his awkward knees would correct themselves over the next few days. The first things that came to mind were the way his legs were crossed and being compressed with each contraction during the birthing process. The next thing that came to mind was that while his legs were crossed and outside of Cricket’s body, she rolled all the way over during labor. Now, I’m beginning to wonder about birth trauma to his legs.


We decided to give Bo a few days to see if his legs would strengthen and straighten out on their own. They didn’t. These videos are at day three and are the ones that really got to me. We knew that we would either need to try to do something to help Bo’s legs, or put him down. Other than his legs, though, he is a strong, healthy animal.

Off to my goat books I went. This is the only book I have that really dealt with birth trauma, as opposed to nutritional deficiencies. I read all about nutrient and mineral deficiencies and bent leg, but none of these maladies matched up with Bo’s predicament. In the book, All About Goats, on page 131 it says, “Contracted tendons, particularly of the forelimbs, are common in newborn kids resulting in an inability to straighten the leg. Mild cases with a partially bent leg will often resolve on their own as the tendons stretch with movement; more severe cases may need splinting to stretch the tendons and allow weight bearing on the foot.” After finding this, I went to the internet to find out how other people have splinted baby goat’s legs. There are many different ideas out there for the looking. Armed with this information, Frank and I decided to use stiff cardboard and duct tape. Here is what we did on Monday morning, when Bo was 3 1/2 days old.

Cardboard, socks, duct tape and scissors

Start off with a sock for cushioning and protection for Bo’s skin

Wrap in preformed, stiff cardboard

Duct tape cardboard in place, then fold the sock over both ends

Duct tape the sock in place over each end

Then do the other leg

One of the first things Bo did after we finished his splints, was nurse. That was one of our concerns, and he had no difficulty at all. Good. That was step one. We encouraged him to walk, just to make sure he could get around on his own. The next thing he did was try out his “new legs” and play. Yea! So far, so good.

Bo quickly got used to using his “new legs” and began to play with the other kids much more than ever before. We planned to leave the splints in place until Friday, which would have been four days. But, Thursday evening, when I went up to milk, I found this.

Since one of Bo’s splints had worked it’s way below his right knee and was no longer serving any purpose, we went ahead and removed them both. The encouraging sight I saw, was that his right leg was straight and he was using it normally. Now to see how the left leg was doing.


His left leg was awkward when he tried to walk on it, even though it was straight. We hoped a few days time would improve it’s use. 

This morning, two days after removing his splints, here is Bo. We still feel his shoulder stance is a little wider than the other kids, but he now looks and acts like a ‘kid his age’, so to speak.

I have to tell you, it chokes me up a little and does my heart good, to see the improvement Bo has made. Frank and I both have soft spots in our hearts for animals that struggle. Bo has given us another great learning opportunity. We had never splinted anything before, animal or human. It gave us the chance to research, brainstorm, experiment, discuss improvements and what worked, and gave us a successful finished product – straight legs. All of this will still eventually lead to food on our table. Bo is destined to become a wether, like the other young bucks, which we will raise and butcher in due time. Does this make me sad? No. We raise animals for the purpose of providing ourselves with good, wholesome food. 

We were fortunate that this story had a happy ending. Not all of them do. We have had baby goats that were not able to overcome the obstacles they encountered at birth and have had to put them down. I didn’t know how this story would end, that’s why I have postponed telling it. But now I feel fairly certain that Bo will do fine. And as for Cricket? She has the makings of a fine milk goat. She has trained to the milk stand and milking routine well. I still have high hopes for her. And if I attend another birth where the kids legs are crossed, I will do my best to reposition them correctly in the hopes that this will not happen again. There is no guarantee that this was caused from birth trauma, but that is what my gut instinct tells me from all of my reading and research. Sometimes there is no way to know why some things happen. But this time, we were blessed with a successful solution. I am grateful.

Until next time – Fern

Easter Is Here

Lady Bug decided to choose Easter Sunday to present us with a beautiful little doe. In keeping with the celebration of birth and new life the Easter season brings us, we decided that would be a great name for the last baby goat we had arriving here this spring. Please meet Easter.

Isn’t she beautiful? Goats come in many different sizes, shapes and colors, but this is one of our favorites. The only color she has besides a dark, soft red is the black on the front of her legs and the end of her tail.

Lady Bug did very well for a first freshener. Once she decided to have her baby, she did so without any assistance and without complaint. These short videos show the birth. We started weaning our older kids the day before, and you will hear them in the background. Some of them obviously aren’t happy to be separated from their mothers. The noise you hear, did not come from Lady Bug or Easter.

Lady Bug wasn’t sure what to think of Easter at first. She spent the first 10-15 minutes smelling and nuzzling the baby, but did not lick or clean her at all. I was beginning to become concerned, but after a while, her instincts kicked in and she made up for lost time. Since the weather was cloudy and cool, I used some towels to dry off and stimulate Easter while she was waiting for her mom’s instincts to start.

Easter arrived healthy, active and ready to eat. As I do for all of our newborn kids when I attend their birth, I helped Easter get her first meal shortly after Lady Bug stood up. Lady Bug has a good milk supply, nicely formed teats and udder for a first freshener and a great attitude. She is attentive to her baby and is exhibiting the signs of a great doe. We are very pleased. There has been something about Lady Bug that Frank has really liked, ever since she was born. That she has presented us with a beautiful, healthy doe her first time to give birth, has increased her value in our eyes. We look forward to watching the two of them grow, one kid into a doe, and one doe into a mother and milk producer.

Grace, a friend of ours who came over to see the newborn baby goats recently, told me something that has really stuck with us. As we all sat visiting and laughing in the barn while she was holding a soft, newborn baby goat she said, “You have a great life. You really do.” You know what? She’s right. And we give thanks each and every day for this wonderful life we’ve been blessed with. Is it perfect? Not even close. Does it have it’s frustrations, difficulties and challenges? Regularly. But it is truly a wonderful life.


Easter, the time of celebration, the time of rejoicing over an empty tomb and renewal of life. Easter, our little doe, will be a constant reminder of these blessings.

Until next time – Fern

The Saga of Penny’s Babies

The past few days have been very busy. You see, Penny, according to my obviously inaccurate estimations, was due to kid tomorrow, on Saturday. Instead, she and her kids decided this past Tuesday was to be the day. So we will start this saga that day and see if we can squeeze the events into one rather long post.

Tuesday morning when I went up to milk and feed the goats, I realized that Penny’s udder had really filled in the night. I had been checking to see how far her hips, or ligaments, had spread for a number of days. I told Frank the evening before that Penny really seemed to be almost wide open and I just didn’t see how she was keeping those babies in there. Well, it didn’t last much longer.

Tuesday was supposed to be a laid back day that allowed us to clean out the barn and get the birthing pens ready at a lolly gagger pace. Not to happen. I called Frank on the radio, remember we use them all the time. I told him that I didn’t think it would be long before Penny went into labor and that we needed to get the birthing pens set up. I asked him to scramble up some quick eggs for breakfast while I milked two does. His idea was better. Milk the goats, bring the milk down and start chilling it, then we would clean the barn and set up the pens before breakfast. Thus began the mad dash to prepare. Not our preferred mod of operation. We would have much preferred the lolly gagger pace. Anyway. I quickly completed the morning chores, took the milk to the house, filtered it and set it to chill in ice water, we woofed down a few bites of cottage cheese, and away we went. 

Frank fired up the tractor while I started in with the pitch fork. It was a surprisingly quick and thorough cleaning. Since Penny was not showing any signs of imminent birth, we went back to the house for a real meal and a cup of coffee. By this time we were hungry, I cooked up a big brunch of sausage and eggs hoping this would hold us for a while. We both knew this would turn out to be a long and busy day.

After we ate, I went back to check on Penny. She was out in the pasture grazing with the herd, showing no signs of labor, no discharge, nothing. She was talking a little which made me think she may be in the beginning stages, but that was all. So I left her grazing thinking this would be the last good exercise she had for a few days and that the new green growth would do her good.

We decided to go to the post office and buy gas. While we were at the gas station some folks from church called to let us know the bacon and sausage we ordered from the local ag class had come in and they were heading our way. So we waited at the little country convenience store, got our bacon and sausage, visited for a few minutes, then headed back home. The longest possible time we could have been gone was about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, but I don’t think so.

As we drove in past the pasture, I could see all of the goats except Penny. Uh-oh. I still had my radio with me, so as soon as we hit the house, I hoofed it up to the barn. As I topped the little hill where the barn sits, Penny saw me from the pasture and started hollering at me. Double uh-oh! I called Frank on the radio to let him know what I was seeing as I went through the barn and into the corral on my way out to the pasture. As I got closer I called him back and said, “We have babies! I need your help!” As I got even closer, I called back again and said, “We have twins!” 

Now, we have had does birth or begin birthing out in the pasture before. I usually pick up the baby or babies, hold them in front of the does nose, and she will follow them to the barn. Penny would have none of it. She paced and she hollered, and she paced and she hollered, but she was afraid of her babies and would have nothing to do with them. I know I called Frank on the radio again and reported the situation, but I have no idea what I said this time. He was busy trying to get the bacon and sausage in the freezer because he knew it would be a while before we would be back down to the house. He asked me to think of what we may need from the house for the birth. We had just about everything there except some towels, so he gathered them up and headed up to the barn.

In the meantime, I decided to take the babies to the barn, get them set up in the birthing pen, then go back for Penny. When I took the babies to the barn, the whole herd followed me there. That is, the whole herd except Penny. She stayed where she had given birth, hollering and pacing. She knew her scent and the scent of her babies was there and she wasn’t going to leave it. After I went back out to the pasture, it took me a while before I could catch her. One Stripe led the herd back out and helped me catch Penny by standing between us. Penny was comfortable enough with One Stripe, our old matriarch, that I could reach across and take Penny’s collar. It took some coaxing to get Penny to leave her birthing place, but when the herd came with us, she did much better.

Now I have her in the barn, in the pen with her babies. I quickly leave them alone hoping she would begin to lick and tend to them. She still frantically called and called, even though her babies were right there, she ignored them. Not a good sign. But she was quite agitated. So we put a brass double end clip on the side of the pen down low, clipped it to her collar, then placed her babies right under her nose, and left her alone. As she continued to fuss and call, her babies answered. She started to smell them, then after a few minutes started tentatively licking them. Thank you. I was relieved. After she showed serious interest in cleaning her babies, we unclipped her collar from the pen and let her finish the job. I’m sure you’re not surprised that there are no pictures of any of this process.

Now the next hurdle was for the babies to nurse, and to make sure Penny would let them nurse. I left them alone for quite some time since she was tending to them and I didn’t want to disturb that. Lucky for us the temperatures were right around 80* so I wasn’t too concerned about the kids getting chilled. Penny wasn’t real excited about letting the kids nurse, so we clipped her collar back to the side of the pen again. I put one kid under her nose, while I assisted the other one in getting that first meal. Once the first one was full, I traded them off and made sure the second one had a good meal. We also trimmed off the umbilical cords and sprayed them with 7% iodine somewhere around this time. Now, I could sit back and relax for a bit.

Faith came to see the babies. She plans to have her own goats soon.

Now for some reflection. What a surprise this birth was. Here is what we based our decisions on this day. Penny is a first freshener, meaning this is her first set of babies. Most, obviously not all, but most first timers take a while when they birth. Most pending births are indicated by the amniotic sack breaking and a long string of mucous type material hanging from the doe’s vulva. This is fairly standard. So, when I checked on Penny in the pasture before we went to the post office and she had no discharge, I figured it would still be at least a few hours before she gave birth. Now, we haven’t been able to see all of our goats birth over the years, but we have seen many. I don’t remember any of them having twins from start to finish in under an hour. Penny is definitely the exception when it comes to that observation. 

If I had known she would be giving birth in such a short period of time, I would have penned her up right after we finished cleaning the barn. No matter how much experience you have dealing with animals, there will always be an exception, or a difference that needs to be dealt with that you can learn from. Penny has been an interesting teacher for me this week.

After Penny calmed down and bonded with her sons, yes they were twin boys, she was very attentive, talked up a storm and just fussed over them for hours. She showed no signs of rejecting them, and they are healthy, vigorous and doing great. Since One Stripe and Copper have already provided us with boys named Breakfast and Lunch, we are calling Penny’s boys Dinner and Dessert. They will be banned and become wethers when they are about two weeks old.

We let Penny and the boys out with the herd this evening. First we penned up One Stripe and Copper’s babies in the baby pen for the night, so there weren’t any extra babies around to cause any confusion. And little do the older kids know, but they had their last drink of milk this evening. In the morning we will move them from the baby pen to the weaning pasture. They are now eight weeks old and their moms are ready for them to be weaned. So we will have new little babies in the barn with the herd, older babies in the weaning pasture, and the buck and older wethers in their pasture. We still have wethers that need to be butchered and had plans to put one in the freezer today, but there are only so many hours in the day, and there just weren’t enough of them today. 

Cricket had a son yesterday, but that story will have to wait for another time. I think I learned some important lessons from her as well, and I want to share them with you. Life is an interesting journey. There are many, many lessons to be learned. Some of them are even taught by a goat.

Until next time – Fern

Life & Death on the Farm

There are times that life on a farm or homestead can be a joy and a challenge. After One Stripe’s successful birth of healthy, vigorous babies, we had a couple of days before Copper was due. So we tried to get a few things done.


We wrote about the beginning stages of getting the solar panels ready for installation a week or so ago. Frank has started charging and conditioning the batteries that will be used with these panels. We bought the batteries a few years ago, and it’s time to charge and desulfate them in preparation for installation. He got that in the works yesterday in between trips to the barn to check on One Stripe and her babies, and to see if Copper happened to be in labor.

 While Frank was working on the batteries, I managed to make up some coleslaw and deviled eggs. I figured the next

few days would be busy and  wanted something quick and good to eat on hand. Then I was able to get a few seeds in the dirt. I have some old seeds that may not be viable any more so I wanted to try and use them up. I put a thick planting of dill, lettuce, mustard, onions and mixed baby greens back in the

herb bed. Then I planted three dishpans of seeds to put in a south window in the house. It was a beautiful, sunny, 65* day, and it was great fun to play in the dirt.

Patch and Breakfast this morning, 2 1/2 days old.

We decided to let One Stripe and her babies out of the birthing pen last night after two days of confinement. The babies are very vigorous, jumping around and exploring the barn. If they had not been this active, we would have kept them penned up for another day or two until we……….[Interruption…….] We just had a little rain shower pop up and I went to make sure these babies were in the barn instead of out in the corral or pasture. They were tucked into their birthing pen with One Stripe. This is one pen that we are able to remove the gate easily since we have it attached with double end brass clips. When we let them out, we actually just removed the gate so the kids can ‘go home’ when they want a warm place for a nap that is out of the way of the regular activity in the barn. And that is where I found them just now.

While Copper was eating on the milk stand last night around 5:30, I checked her udder and it was tight and full, which means her milk had come in. I knew then she could give birth anytime, so we planned to check on her again around 9:00. We also put her in a birthing pen, just in case. Her tail was becoming very pronounced and I figured she would have her kids in the night, so we made plans to come back and check on her at midnight. No babies.

When we got back to the house after the 9:00 barn check,  I went out to feed the cats and found Little Bit barely alive. She was having difficulty breathing and was very limp. Little Bit got her name from being the very littlest kitten of the four we got a few months back. She has always struggled to be healthy, fighting a type of kitty cold from the time we brought her home. We carried her to and from the barn a lot, because she couldn’t keep up with the others. We had taken her to the vet a few weeks back for a long acting antibiotic and steroid shot which helped a little, for a short while. Instead of letting her suffer and die in the night, with much sadness and tears, we put her out of her misery. Thus is life on the farm sometimes. This morning, I miss Little Bit.

After the short trip back to the barn at midnight, Copper hadn’t started labor. That made for a short trip, so it was back to bed until about 5:45 am. As I sleepily got dressed to head back to the barn, my thoughts were on another short trip, and back to bed for just a little more sleep. It wasn’t to be. My arrival at the barn this time found Copper having contractions, not often, but contractions. With the sun just beginning to color the horizon, I settled into my barn chair to await the sun and the birth of new kids. I called Frank on the radio to give him the news. Remember we use our handheld radios all the time, and they come in very, very handy. Now it was his turn to get dressed and gather water, coffee, the camera and some snacks for me. He is truly a great husband.

After a little over an hour and Copper spending most of her time standing up, we decided to go down to the house for a quick breakfast and to warm up. Upon my return, I found a beautiful baby girl, mostly cleaned up and talking to her momma. From the looks of Copper, I knew she wasn’t finished yet. Since nothing seemed imminent, I brought One Stripe in on the stand to be milked. No sooner had I gotten started, when Copper laid down pushed real hard a few times, and had another baby half way out. I guess she thought that was far enough because she stood up, and out he came and plopped in the hay. Copper is a great mom and started cleaning him up right away. 

Now you can meet Buttons, another beautiful baby girl. Her coloring and markings are very similar to Patch, except the white on her side is kind of splotchy and she has white on two of her feet like her grandmother, One Stripe.

Her brother, in keeping with the way we name boys, is named Lunch. He has more white than Breakfast, and is really a good looking boy.

Both of the babies are vigorous with a healthy set of lungs and a very good sucking instinct. I made sure they had another meal when I went up during the rain to check on One Stripe’s kids. I also collected the afterbirth from Copper’s pen since she was finished passing it. The goats will usually eat some of it, but we remove it once it’s passed to prevent the smell from attracting any predators. On this trip to the barn I found Pearl laying right beside the gate to Copper’s pen, right where she is supposed to be, protecting the new mother and kids.

Right before I left the barn this morning, I realized that one of the young wethers was limping very badly and wouldn’t put one of his feet on the ground. But my back needed rest, so inspecting his hoof will have to wait for the next trip up the hill to the barn. Raising and breeding animals is not always a successful venture. More often it is, but not always. Sometimes they live, and sometimes they die. Such is life on the farm.

A different topic. If you are looking for more information about homesteading, gardening, preserving food, moving to the country and more, we would highly recommend that you check out the new ebook store, Country Living Series by Patrice Lewis, from Rural Revolution. Frank and I have read two of them, The Death of Knowledge and Bovine Basics for Beginners, and found them well written and informative. The Lewis family has been homesteading for several years. Patrice and her husband, Don, share many of their experiences in these writings. There is nothing like experience to teach you something, but reading first hand information from someone that is describing their life and learning is the next best thing.

We continue to learn each and everyday that we are blessed to live, and for that we are truly thankful. Each day that we can spend living life on the farm is one more day in paradise. Challenges and hardships cannot dim the blessings that this life brings with each new day. Now it’s time for another trip….to the barn.

Until next time – Fern

Meet Patch, And More Goat Lore

We had a very pleasant surprise yesterday! One Stripe had lively, healthy twins. We had a little concern, since according to my records 150 days of her gestation would fall on Tuesday, February 9th. Most goat books I have read indicate that kidding before the 150th day can mean there is a problem, unless the doe has triplets or quadruplets. As I posted before, One Stripe had attained her classic waddle, but remained very healthy and active, to the point of still trying to trot, she was too big to run, in from the pasture when I showed up at the barn.

Friday night when we went up to feed, everything was normal. One Stripe came into the barn and got up on the milk stand to eat. Saturday morning, she came into the barn, put her front feet up on the blocks to get on the milk stand, then just stopped and looked at me. She obviously wanted to eat, but wouldn’t attempt to go any further. After a little coaxing, I realized something was up, but I figured she was just getting too heavy, so I put her feed in a bowl on the floor and she ate just fine. But, after I turned her out I realized her walk had changed. She didn’t go far before stopping and it appeared that one of the babies had moved back to the point One Stripe almost had to swing her back legs out and around the baby just to take a step. It now took her much longer just to go out to the pasture, with many stops, and she no longer kept up with the herd. I hoped this wasn’t an indication of pre-delivery problems.

After watching her for a bit, I radioed Frank to tell him we needed to get the birthing pens set up and ready, that we might be having babies today (Saturday) instead of Tuesday like predicted. So, we got in gear, cleaned out the barn and got everything set up. We put hay in the back of the pens, so the does wouldn’t stick their heads through to eat it, washed out the water buckets and checked the tote with the birthing supplies one more time. Then I went out in the pasture to bring in the girls. It took One Stripe about 10 minutes, with many stops, to walk the distance she usually covers in less than a minute. She didn’t appear to be sick or stressed accept that she didn’t take too many steps before pausing for a break, some longer than others.

When we got to the barn and I opened the gate to her birthing pen, she just walked right in, right at home. This has been her routine for the last six years, so she knows what is going on and is very comfortable there. That is very nice. No stress for her, no having to make her go in, no hollering for the other goats, just peaceful readiness for babies. By the way, the other does that fought tooth and nail against going in and bellowed from the time they were put in, have gone on to other pastures. That is part of the way we maintain a calm, peaceful, easy-to-handle herd. It is part of breeding in the characteristics of what we want in a goat, or cat, or dog, or chicken. We only keep those animals that meet our requirements, and One Stripe is an excellent example of a great goat.

Saturday night came and went with no babies, which was good. That would be day number 147 in my books, and just too early. Then came Sunday, day number 148. After her breakfast, I let One Stripe out of the pen for a bit, and pulled up a chair. She didn’t go far at all, just across the barn and back. I could tell by how hollow her hips and tailbone were, along with a very small amount of discharge, that this would be the day for babies. But since it was only day number 148, I wondered if she would have triplets. It also occurred to me that if I had caught her breeding activity at the end of her 24 hour standing heat cycle, that my estimation could be about 24 hours off, which would put her at 149 days, but still a day early. The other factor is One Stripe’s age. She will be seven in May, which is older for a breeding, producing doe. Most folks would have already sold her off as an older doe. But, for those of you that haven’t read about my plans for One Stripe already, she will be staying here all the days of her life. She is one of those special goats that is calm and gentle, a great mom, a good milker, and has stole my heart. I can’t claim that with any of the others, but I can with her. So, here she stays, all of her days.

One Stripe was nice enough to have her babies in the middle of the afternoon, on a sunny, 75* February day. It was short sleeve weather with no worries about cold babies, a picture perfect day. We have two friends that are interested in goats and the birthing process that I contacted when I knew for sure we had babies coming. Faith [a pseudonym] arrived in time to see the second baby born. She is hoping to buy Penny after her kids are born and I train her to milk, so she is wanting all the firsthand experiences she can get under her belt before she takes her first goat home. After the kids were born Grace [another pseudonym] and her husband came over to see them. So we ended up with a barn full of talking a laughter. Another plus on this fine February day. Plus, Frank and I got to share some of our experience and knowledge which we always enjoy. One Stripe had no difficulty birthing at all. Just like always. She started ‘talking’ to her stomach after a while, like she was telling the babies to hurry up and come out. That made me laugh.

Patch was born first in the classic, front feet, nose, head position. In less than two hours, Patch was trying to jump around, like baby goats do. But then she would fall over, making me laugh. That is when Grace told me that Frank and I have a great life. She is right. It is a great life, and we are very blessed. Patch is a very active, vigorous baby girl, with beautiful dark brown ears, which Frank likes. We may just have to keep her.

Breakfast, yes, we named her brother breakfast because that is what he will be, was born back feet first. When the amniotic sack appeared and stayed unbroken, I thought something looked odd and kept trying to see if the head was following the feet. It didn’t take long for him to be born, and my only concern was that final push or two when most of his body was out, but his head was not. I wanted to make sure he was out and able to breathe well. But he came out fine and all was well.

When the kids are born, if I get to be there, I swipe the mucous from their mouths so they can start coughing and breathing well. Depending on the temperature, I may dry them off some with a towel. Since the weather was so nice yesterday, I didn’t dry them, but left them to their mother’s attention. Another huge benefit of having tame, easy to handle animals is that they don’t mind having you in the birthing pen with them when the time comes. We have had does that ran to the back of the pen like cornered animals, or does that tried to ram and run out of the gate when I went in, especially first fresheners. We did not keep them. It makes it much harder to help the kids if they need it or make sure they are nursing. It also makes for wilder kids that are difficult to handle as well.

It wasn’t long before both kids were dry and fed. We clipped their umbilical cords and applied a strong 7% iodine to cauterize and sterilize them. While all of this was going on, Faith described markings on the first baby, a girl, and said something like, “That white square looks like a patch. That would make a good name.” And it stuck. So, meet Patch.

Upon discovering the second kid was a boy, Frank said to Faith, “His name is Breakfast.” We have a running joke that all bucks born here have the name of Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. Some folks think that’s funny and some don’t, but all males born here are destined to be meat for our table, unless by chance, someone comes by that needs a new billy goat. But that doesn’t happen very often. We had chevron patties for supper last night, but it wasn’t Breakfast. It tastes great.

Faith and Patch

I milked out about a quart of colostrum from One Stripe last night. It makes it easier for the babies to nurse, and begins the stimulation for One Stripe to produce more milk. This morning I brought her in on the milk stand to eat. It gives her some movement, lets her eat in a normal location, and makes it much easier for me to milk her, sitting in a chair instead of kneeling in a crowded birthing pen.

Copper with her ears out

It was a great day. Easy birth, great weather, good company and beautiful babies. It doesn’t always go that way, and since One Stripe aborted last year, she had many prayers for a successful pregnancy this year. Now, to wait a few more days for Copper to kid. Yesterday afternoon as she lay out in the corral, I noticed her ears were out. That is usually a sign of listening, but at this stage, it is also a sign of discomfort. According to my records she will reach 150 days on Wednesday, two days from now. But we watched her closely because we have had does go into labor right after another one gave birth. Something about the sight, sounds and smells of birth can bring on labor in another animal that is close to her due date. For the farmer it can mean turning around to help another goat for a few hours, just when you thought you were finished for the day. We had that happen once about 10:30 at night. Just finishing up and making sure babies and mother were all settled and doing well, only to realize the goat in the next pen was laying down pushing. That was a long night indeed.

One Stripe is doing great this morning.

This morning Copper hasn’t shown any signs of birthing. But the day is young, we will see what it brings. Today is forecast to be sunny, 65* and light winds. Another great day to have more baby goats. But then, for me, just about any day is another great day to have baby goats.

Good morning, Breakfast.

Good morning, Patch.

We look forward to having some fresh milk in a few days. We will wait until Friday to start keeping the milk for ourselves. In the meantime, I will be milking One Stripe, and Copper after she kids, twice a day. This milk will go to the chickens, cats and dog. Later on when Cricket, Lady Bug and Penny birth and I am training them to be milkers, we hope to have some pigs that can benefit from some extra milk as well. By then the garden will be half planted and spring will be well on the way. The seasons change, and this time of year brings new life on the homestead and blessings to our lives.

Until next time – Fern