This past Saturday something magical happened on the farm.
Something I've dreamt of since 2012.
Something I was skeptical would ever happen.
Our very first goat kid was born on the farm!
Friday morning I had a feeling kids were coming. I'm not totally sure why, but I just felt weird. I started checking her frequently, and as of about 3:30 AM, Lucy's udder was full and her ligaments gone, so I knew kids would be here soon! I hung around the farm all day, all the while Lucy acting fit as a fiddle. Eventually, my mom asked if I wanted to head to the thrift store and then grab lunch and I reluctantly said yes. I knew I'd probably miss something, but I was desperate for something to happen! By the time we were on our way back to the farm I knew I was missing something. I got my husband, got to the farm, and knew something was happening because Lucy wasn't at the gate to greet us. When we got to the goat barn, I walked around the hoop house and was immediately in shock! Not because there was a wet kid curled in a ball, but because it was a white kid! I figured it would look like Lucy, but instead he must have taken after his daddy.
For some reason, perhaps his light reddish brown coloring, I started calling him Buckwheat. He is thriving well, and Lucy is being an absolutely amazing mama. She is quite attentive and always has an eye on him. She has kept him warm, despite cold temperatures along with being well fed. In fact, that's one of the only issues we are having right now...
As you can see, Lucy is producing more than enough milk for the little booger! One side in particular, has been a bit more swollen as Buckwheat prefers one side more than the other. I've been milking out just enough to take the swelling out, but plan to start milking her out completely once a day. Hopefully that will keep her more comfortable and prevent any problems. Ironically, as excited as I was about milking I wasn't planning on doing it so soon! Thankfully milking hasn't been too difficult, and I've already decided to freeze what I do milk out to keep on hand for emergencies.
Yesterday was a nice enough we were able to go for our first big outing and spend a few hours outdoors. Buckwheat had an absolute blast and kept Lucy on her toes! He loves to just go bouncing off, and Lucy frantically tries to keep up. He wondered of to a few different places where Lucy couldn't see him and she started calling frantically, looking to me and pacing. So needless to say, he is ornery, she is attentive!
Back before the cold weather hit, I noticed our almost 3 year old leghorn acting off. She wasn’t foraging like normal, was puffed up, and lethargic. She had some yucky poo, and I figured worms were probably the culprit. She hadn’t laid eggs in a while, but I chalked that up shorter days and molting. I decided to worm all the chickens, hoping that would help, and then it was just a waiting game. Not long after she seemed more spunky and alert. She still wasn’t laying, but she was foraging well, and seemed to be headed back to normal.
This winter has been harsh, somewhat warm days followed by brutal single digits. In the past week or so I noticed she was started to look a bit off again. Puffed up, and more inactive. She seemed to still be eating alright, I assumed this cold weather probably wasn’t helping her feel well. I had the thought that maybe she should be culled. I hated the thought of culling her. I was really hoping the weather would warm, and she would bounce back.
Last Thursday morning I found her stretched out on the ground, alive but fading. It was only 5 degrees, so I’m sure it was just too much for her to handle. When I first saw her I (selfishly) hoped she was already dead, but she wasn’t. I knew that it was my duty to put her out of her suffering. I think that is the last gift we can give a suffering animal. I was ill prepared and didn’t have a knife handy. (Lesson learned, I will be buying a very sharp knife to carry from now on) I ended up finding a box cutter in the shop. I thanked her, cradled her, slit her throat, and held her as she died. Although I am not particularly close to the chickens, she was one of my first, and although she was flighty, she was such a good chicken. I will miss her, even as silly as that sounds.
I was grateful I was able to handle this situation with little panic or stress. Having already butchered chickens came in handy as I knew what to do and what to expect. I believe it makes it much easier on the animal if you are calm. I also wondered if I could have done anything else to lessen her suffering. I am a firm believer in having livestock live happy, healthy, humane lives. I would hate to have an animal suffer under my care. With that being said, I do wonder if I should have culled her when I saw her under the weather again. It would have been harder on me to cull her while there was still a chance of her recovering. On the other hand, as a farmer perhaps it would have been the most humane thing for me to do. At the end of the day, it seems there are always tough choices to be made. I can only hope and pray to learn from my mistakes, and make better decisions tomorrow.
My husband works second shift, in fact he's worked second shift almost our entire marriage. I've always matched my schedule to his, but farming...well farming has made that difficult. He has to be to work by 1:30 PM, and gets off about midnight. I've had to modify my schedule, and it has been exceptionally difficult. I have to be at the farm at 7 AM, and at about 5:30 PM (right now, once milking 7 & 7). After over a month struggling with finding a way to get 8 hours of sleep altogether, I finally mastered it. Wake up by about 4:30 PM, and go to bed at about 8:30 AM. It's almost inevitable, that when my husband goest to sleep at about 3 or 4 AM, I am also ready to go to sleep. I get so tired, the kind of tired where you fall asleep in the middle of watching TV or reading. So, I take a "little" nap, wake up and do chores at 7 AM, get home by 8 AM wide awake and unable to fall asleep. Finally get to sleep around noon, only to wake up by 4:30 PM. Then by the time I get done with chores, get home, eat something, I get super tired. Like, all I can do is exist, tired...or at least that's how it feels. I try to get a little housework done quickly, and then take a "little" nap. Then this nasty cycle repeats itself, giving me just a few hours of sleep at a time. I had finally gotten into the habit of 8 hours at a time, when I thought Lucy could be having babies. It threw my entire schedule out of whack. Add to that the weekends where I need to be awake during the daylight to get things done, and I've been exhausted all week. Add to all this that I have sleep issues. For almost as long as I remember, but insomnia started when I was about 15 and makes annoying appearances in my life at the most inopportune times. Often, when I can sleep, or want to sleep insomnia rears it's ugly head. I'm writing this post at almost 5 AM, trying to keep busy until 6:45 AM when I can get ready to do chores. I'm hoping to get myself reset and back on track. If there is one important, but difficult thing I've learned, it's that I have to have a schedule and stick to it. Extremely difficult, but I suppose it's all worth it in the end. I apologize for the lack of writing, but I have felt so tired blogging and social media have taken a back seat!
This weekend was exceptionally nice. We've had pretty cold temperatures lately, with a few inches of snow. Friday the snow started melting, and was gone by Saturday. And Saturday was mid-60's as was Sunday. It's the perfect time to get the goat barn ready for kidding. I meant to do it earlier, but wasn't sure exactly what I wanted. I was spurred to action, not only due to warmer weather, but because Lucy is driving me crazy! She is the only doe who I have no due date for. Towards the end of January she suddenly started growing an udder. This is normal, not necessarily a sign of impending labor. I was planning on using a ligament check on Lucy to decide when she would kid. And then this happened...
That area where my fingers are pressed in are where ligaments usually are. They are two pencil sized ligaments that run from the spine to pin bones. When labor is impending they soften and basically disappear. I felt her one morning, and thought, well, maybe today is the day!! It wasn't, and since I've felt the ligaments and not felt them a few times. I guess I will just keep watching her like a hawk. I figured, to be on the safe side, we may as well get things switched up and prepared if babies do come earlier.
As you can see we have a lot going on in there! The pen with the orange gate in front is the bucks pen which is now the new kidding stall. We scraped out all the yucky hay, and added some plywood. I sprinkled the dirt floor with lime, and we let it dry out overnight. Sunday we added fresh new hay and locked it up! If there is one thing I've learned it's that goats are just itching to poop in new places! The bucks are now in a smaller lot with a hut where they will spend the nights, and once babies are born they will stay separate for awhile. Once I separate the kids at night for milking they will go into the hoop house. Or at least that's how I hope it works out!
Thursday (or at least I think Thursday) we got some seeds started. I usually don't get them started until about the end of February, so I feel pretty good to be ahead of schedule. I was hoping to avoid setting a light up for them, but we just found one we could use. We just started getting sprouts Sunday, pretty sure it's broccoli and cauliflower. Saturday we noticed there were some kind of gnats in and around the plants. I've experienced that before, so I almost brushed it off. However, I am really hoping these seedlings make it!! So I did a little researched and found out they are a fungus gnat. They can kill your seedlings. I wasn't sure how to fix it, but then read someone used DE. That's what is sprinkled all over the plants up there! I had a couple areas that got...well coated. It did the trick! All the gnats are gone.
Saturday I opened my mailbox to an exciting surprise!! It's my first time ordering from Baker Creek, and so far so good. I was extremely excited about my free gift, parisienne carrots. That probably sounds so stupid, but they are a variety I really, really wanted to try. I didn't order them, however, because I have some carrot seed already, and planned to get a packet of rainbow carrot seed. I can't wait to see how they grow! (parisienne carrots are basically a carrot that grows round)
All in all, it was a very good weekend. I'm glad we got the goat pens taken care of, and I'm exciting to start some more seeds. I watched a gorgeous sunset, and enjoyed feeling the sun on my face! Well, how was your weekend? Get any projects done? Feel free to share in the comments!
Oh scrambled eggs, how I love you! Simple, delicious, and quick...you are one of the best breakfasts! Oddly enough, for a dish that is as easy as 1-2-3, no one really ever talks about how to make perfect scrambled eggs. It's not uncommon to see a plate of browned, rubbery eggs, that when bitten into taste overwhelmingly egg-y. Even scrambled eggs done properly aren't time consuming, it's more or less just a process of slowing down. Something most of us could use anyway.
The ingredients for scrambled eggs are easy and straightforward. Eggs, butter, salt and pepper. Although there are some rules!
Do not add any liquid to your eggs, we're using butter.
Do not season your eggs before cooking.
Do not whip your eggs before cooking.
Look, I just excluded a lot of steps for you...and trust me...they turn out great!
Toss your eggs into your desired cooking vessel. Turn your heat to medium. DO YOU HEAR ME?! Medium. Not medium high, not high, just medium. If your stove runs hot maybe a little under medium. You get tough, rubbery, egg-y tasting eggs when you overcook your eggs. Please don't overcook your eggs, ok? Please?
Now start stirring your eggs. Do not leave your eggs to just sit for any extended period of time, it's up to you to make sure they don't get brown on the bottom and soggy on top. Stir more often for a finer consistency, and less for a chunkier consistency.
We are halfway there!
Done! It's a good idea to turn the burner off before they are too your liking. The residual heat will cook them a little further. You can cook them a little more or a little less depending on your personal preference.
All that's left is to plate them, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add toast or bacon, a nice hot cup of coffee and you have breakfast! Oh, and let me tell you these eggs truly are delicious. They are velvety smooth, and have a lovely rich taste from the butter. So remember! Heat them slowly, add no seasoning, just butter, do not over cook, and you will have perfect eggs every time!
Perfect Scrambled Eggs
Recipe by Monica @ She's a Farmer
Yield: 1-2 servings
September 6th, 2013, just 7 months after getting goats, I went to do chores and saw Berta in the goat pen, slightly laying, struggling to sit up. I swear once she saw I was coming, she lay out and stopped moving.
As a complete newbie in the goat world, I lost it. I started crying and was too panicked to think clearly. She was so still and motionless I thought she was dead, but shallow breaths told me she was still alive. I went up to the farm house and told my mom Berta was extremely sick. She told me that the evening before, when my dad did chores he noticed she had acted a little funny. Apparently she was in their hut, while Juniper was still out browsing. When my dad put feed out she ran right through the pan, and then turned and started eating. He said it was almost like she couldn’t see, but he also thought maybe something spooked her, and that’s why she ran through her feed. Upon hearing this I was thinking the worse, that this was the end of something, not the beginning.
I got a few random supplies, and headed back down to the goat barn. Berta hadn’t moved and was still laying motionless. She looked so bad I called my mom and told her to tell my dad to bring the gun down. I was thinking the best choice would be to put her out of her misery. My dad came down, sans gun, but after taking one look at her asked if she was even alive. I made some panicked postings on a goat forum, the consensus was to treat for goat polio and listeriosis as they have similar symptoms. Of course we didn’t have the necessary supplies, so I made a mad dash to the feed store while my mom called the vet. The vet got there earlier than scheduled, but said he didn’t think she would make it. She was just too far gone, and goats are difficult to keep alive. He told my mom he could give her some shots, but it’d be a miracle if she made it. My mom called me and let me know, and asked if we should give her the shots or put her to sleep. I truly felt the right thing to do would be to put her to sleep, but a little whisper said to give her a chance. I gave the go ahead to give her shots and let her have a chance. I spent most of the rest of the day doing research, praying, and sitting with Berta.
We still weren’t sure what exactly was happening, but she had a fever, was unconscious, and drooling like crazy. Although it could have been goat polio, I was leaning towards listeriosis. Here’s an excerpt about listeriosis from the Merck Manual:
“Initially, affected animals are anorectic, depressed, and disoriented. They may propel themselves into corners, lean against stationary objects, or circle toward the affected side. Facial paralysis with a drooping ear, deviated muzzle, flaccid lip, and lowered eyelid often develops on the affected side, as well as lack of a menace response and profuse, almost continuous, salivation…” “Encephalitis is the most readily recognized form of listeriosis in ruminants...The course in sheep and goats is rapid, and death may occur 24-48 hours after onset of signs; however, the recovery rate can be up to 30% with prompt, aggressive therapy.”
30 percent chance of recovery? We didn’t know what to think or expect. Everyone probably thought I was insane even trying to get her better. But I decided to try, we gave her Vitamin B Complex for the chance it was goat polio, and large doses of penicillen every 6 hours for the listeriosis. I gave Berta a shot before I went home, and expected to find her dead in the morning.
I’ll never forget going back to the farm the next day. I lived farther away then, so had a 15 minute drive to the farm. I prayed, and made plans for what to expect. I didn’t even get any syringes ready because I figured she’d be gone. Imagine my surprise when I got close enough to the goat pen to see inside. There Berta was, standing. She wasn’t better, she could only stand, head down, drooling. I went back up to tell my parents, who were extremely surprised, and got her medicine ready. After getting shots and sitting with her awhile, I quickly realized that her road to recovery was going to be slow. Very slow. Although she was standing she could not swallow, so food, water, were all out of the question. I quickly realized we were going to have to figure something out when it came to the food and water. We decided to start tubing her electrolytes. We hoped at the very least to keep her hydrated. We had never tubed an animal before. It’s crucial to get the tube into the stomach, not the lungs. If you tube into the lungs you kill the animal. Talk about pressure. But it went well. My husband was so awesome, he stopped by on his lunch break to help tube her.
A few days after tubing her, she started moving her head side to side. She moved around better, but it was clear she couldn’t see at all. I’d heard they could regain their sight, but one eye in particular was cloudy. I was cutting branches and putting in the goat pen for Juniper, and poor Berta would amble over to the branches and wag her tail. She could smell those leaves, but was completely unable to grab and pull them off. Much less chew. I felt so bad for her. She kept showing she had the will to live, I couldn’t give up. So, like a completely insane person, I took a walk with a plastic sack picking leaves. I picked leaves from all the trees I knew they liked, and put them in the blender with some water and molasses. It wasn’t a completely smooth mixture, but no chewing would be required. I went down to their pen, and spoon fed her the leaves. She wagged her tail, and although it was messy, it did the trick. I spoon fed her a few times a day for about a week and a half. Finally she was able to chew on her own, but she couldn’t pull the leaves from the trees! At this point she could walk short distances, still unable to see, but I would continuously whistle or sing something silly so she would know where to go. I would pick her leaves and put them in her mouth. About a week later she was able to start browsing a little more on her own. By the end of September we stopped giving her antibiotics and held our breath. She didn’t relapse, but just steadily improved. It was slow, and afterwards she looked horrible. Here’s a before and after picture…
That September was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Everyone kept suggesting that she may still have to be put to sleep, because it was a very, very slow recovery. I was adamant that as long as she had the will to live, who was I to give up? Everyday it seemed there was one tiny, little improvement, and it gave me hope.
Berta has made a complete recovery. In fact, you wouldn’t know that she was ever so sick. She ended up not being blind in one eye, and can see as well as everyone else. She is pretty fat and sassy, and if it all went accordingly, should have babies in April. I’ve already decided if there is a girl, her name needs to be Miracle...because it’s a miracle Berta lived and had the chance to have babies.
When we started getting livestock, I was quite worried about how our dogs would take it. Duke, our oldest, is most likely a lab/chow mix. He does not like other dogs, strange people, busses, bicycles, or motorcycles. He had an incident as a puppy that really changed how he handled certain situations. Dutchess is also a lab mix and an impressive hunter. She has killed groundhogs that were almost as big as she was. I have read horror stories of dogs being around both chickens and goats, so to say I was hesitant would be an understatement. We brought 10 chicks home to a brooder situated in our living room. The dogs were highly amused, and watched it almost constantly for the first few days. I would take the chicks out and hold them safely in my hands and show the dogs. Duke always smelled them and was highly interested but didn’t seem dangerous, Dutchess tried to eat them. I wasn’t terribly surprised, they were dogs after all. It was partially because of the dogs that we created and kept the chickens in a hoop coop. They could free range fresh grass, but the dogs wouldn’t hurt them. As of today my dogs can be around the chickens with almost no worries. The same goes for being around the goats. I thought I would share a few tips and ideas today on how I keep the peace between our dogs and livestock.
I would say these are my top 6 tips for keeping dogs and livestock together. I am a firm believer that when you get an animal you are bonded and committed to it for the duration of its life. That means if it is being difficult, or causing problems on the farm, it is your responsibility to set boundaries and train your dog. There are always exceptions, and I understand that. Often times people are too lazy to put the work required into the dog, and label the dog difficult. If you truly have a high-energy dog, who is proving to be difficult to train, I do have one last suggestion. A shock collar. Now, before you enlist PETA, I do not mean for you to electrocute your dog! If a dog gets a small shock every time it goes after chickens, it’s going to start thinking those chickens are what is causing the shock. I do believe this to be a last ditch effort, however, and would always suggest trying positive reinforcement and other methods before trying a shock collar.
Now that I have said all of this, let me tell you a story. My dogs are excellent with our livestock. We do chores every day, the dogs wander through the chicken flock, and try to eat grain with the goats. About a year and a half ago we had a very difficult rooster. He was a large barred rock, and although we were working on keeping him from attacking people, he still would on occasion. Not long after we started free ranging, I opened up their coop to let them out. I turned around to go back to the house, when all of a sudden something sharp hit the back of my legs. It was the rooster. As I turned and realized it was him, Dutchess grabbed him and killed him. She has never bothered hens, only that rooster. Generally all is calm. Sunday morning the ground was covered with slushy snow. Although I figured the chickens would not go out, I left their coop open so they could go out if they wanted. When I went to lock them up, two chickens were missing. They were down with the goats. It had started snowing, and there was snow blowing everywhere and it was getting colder by the minute. We did the goat chores quickly, and tried to wrangle up the two chickens to take back to the coop. My husband caught one chicken, and I almost had the other. Once I got my hands on her, she started squawking and flapping. She wriggled out of my grasp. Dutchess, thinking there was danger, her instincts took over and she grabbed that hen and ran. Black feathers were fluttering everywhere, and my husband took off after her. He was yelling, and I was yelling. We looked like idiots. Dutchess wouldn’t let go because it was “hers” she had caught it, and she thought we were playing. By the time she let go, a very confused, dazed chicken wandered off. We looked in earnest for her, but with the cold and blowing snow, couldn’t find her. The low temperature was going to be 5 degrees, so I assumed we would lose her. Imagine my surprise when I saw her the next morning, fit as a fiddle.
It wasn’t my dogs fault that she got the chicken, it was mine. I shouldn’t have put her in the situation where her instincts could be too much for her. Lesson learned. Chickens are hardy, and dogs will always be hunters.
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I woke up Sunday morning to a winter wonderland. We got about 3 or so inches, it was quite slick and slushy for morning chores, and got crunchier as the day got colder. I don't know about anyone else, but there is something about a thick coat of snow that makes the world look completely peaceful and magical. As much as I love it, snow makes for some miserable chores.
It's cold, and wet, and most of the time the animals are less than thrilled. If there are just a few inches of snow, I walk to do chores, but heavy snow or extremely cold temperatures require driving instead. To make matters worse I have to carry gallons of water down by hand. Needless to say I can carry 6 gallons of water at a time...though 4 is much more comfortable!
If there is a heavy layer of snow, none of the animals go outside. Except for extreme circumstances, I do give them access to the outdoors. But goats are like cats, totally unimpressed by the snow, and the chickens agree! I've also been more tentative to let the goats out during really snowy/cold weather as Lucy could have her baby anytime. I would hate for her to get stuck somewhere and have the baby outdoors!
My other chore companions are our dogs. Duke and Dutchess are both lab mixes who love the snow and doing chores. They come with me to the farm, twice a day, to hunt, and play. Duke is more of a watcher, he watches everything and stays on the look out. Dutchess is our hunter, who kills groundhogs, squirrels, mice and whatever she can get her teeth on!
After having so many nice, bright, warm days, having snow and single digit temperatures is difficult. Not just for me, but the animals too. The only thing that makes it better is that it is finally February. You know what that means?! Spring is getting closer and closer, and I am counting down the minutes!
Did you get snow over the weekend?
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My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.