Gonna Feel That Tomorrow!

Einstein smI put it off as long as I could.

I waited until the new goats were happily eating out of our hands, enjoying (or at least tolerating) a good scratch.

Then I found other excuses for a couple of weekends—excuses to put off trimming the new goats’ hooves.

I knew it would be a circus the first time I trimmed their hooves.

I’ve been spoiled by the dairy goats so used to the routine I didn’t need to even hold onto them when I opened the gate—out of the paddock, onto the milking stand, stand calmly while I do whatever needs doing, then trot calmly back to the paddock.

But of course the three new boys aren’t used to the routine. For them, hoof trimming means being herded up, and slung onto their backs. I could have done that, but training them to stand nicely while I trim their hooves will make life much easier in the long run.

For today, though, it was killer. It was a day of many firsts for the new goats—first time on a lead, first time on the milking stand, first time to have their hooves trimmed standing up.

Their personalities came out. Newton was the timid one. As soon as he found himself on a lead, he stood stock still and refused to budge. I practically had to push him all the way to the stand. Einstein was a bucking bronco, lunging and twisting to get free of the lead. He sent me sprawling to my knees, and then cracked me soundly on the chin with his horns. Darwin was happy to go, but not ever in the direction I wanted him to.

In truth, it was exactly as I expected, and no different from a dairy goat her first time on a lead and on the milking stand. I was thankful that angora goats are small—nothing like being dragged across the yard by a 70 kg saanan. Still, my chin is black and blue, my back is sore, my knees are skinned, and I have a rope burn on my arm. I have a bad feeling that tomorrow morning, I’m going to feel every bruise and ache even more.

Tell me again why I do this…?

One of the Herd

He wants to be a goat and a writer...

He wants to be a goat and a writer…

My daughter and I have been feeding the new goats by hand every afternoon, to help them become more friendly.

But it seems everyone wants to get in on it now.

Of course, Artemis, my remaining Saanen, is quite jealous of the attention ‘the boys’ get, and feels the need to eat the majority of the food, or at least keep the other goats from getting it. She alternates between gobbling up as much as possible, and beating the stuffing out of the others.

That’s no surprise, really. Artemis is a goat, after all.

But today, the cat decided he needed to get in on the feeding, too. He meowed from outside the paddock for a few minutes, and when we didn’t come out, he came in.

He and Artemis have always had an adversarial relationship—she’s been known to tear after him if he gets in her way as she’s going to the milking stand. But the new goats, after a few rather curious sniffs and head-butt feints, seemed to accept him as just another goat, albeit a rather odd one.


The Naming of the Goats

2016-05-07 12.47.01 smIt’s been over a week since we got the new angora goats, and I was beginning to stress because we still hadn’t named them. At lunch today, we talked over the options, and nothing seemed quite right.

Pavarotti, Carreras, and Domingo (the three tenors)? Meh.

Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (the three musketeers)? Too hard to remember.

Larry, Mo, and Curly (the three stooges)? Too dumb.

Well, we named all our dairy goats after goddesses, perhaps the wethers should be named after gods? But their behaviour isn’t godlike, and who can imagine a castrated god?

Bumble, Fagan, and The Artful Dodger? No.

Mars, Neptune, and Uranus? Er…no.

So we sent my daughter out to the paddock to ask the goats what their names were.

She came back saying the goats were giving confusing answers. She said that they claimed their names were Dennis, Darwin, and Dale.


That was it! Scientists!

So out in the paddock there now graze Darwin, Darwin sm

Einstein, Einstein sm

Newton sm and Newton.

New Arrivals

IMG_1139 cropThe Saturday Story will have to wait until Sunday this week, because there’s excitement in the paddock today.

I made the difficult decision a few weeks ago to sell my dairy goats and switch to angoras. The daily grind of milking, dealing with mastitis, kiddings, and all the other stress that goes along with breeding and milk production was getting really old. It was time for a new adventure.

So today, we drove to Rangiora and picked up three lovely wee boys (wethers) from Mohair Pacific. My elderly dairy goat, Artemis, will remain with us. The last of the other dairy goats is due to be picked up on Monday morning.

We’re still getting to know the new boys, and they’re still settling into the paddock. We’ve been tossing around names for them, with such notable trios as the three musketeers, the three stooges, and the three tenors being among them, but I think we’ll wait and learn a bit about their personalities before we stick names on them.

This will be a new adventure for me—learning to spin and dye yarn. I love mohair, though, and I’m looking forward to weaving and knitting with it.

Ahh…sweet love!

'Tis the season.

‘Tis the season.

I swear I’m going to kill my goats.

They caught a whiff of buck a couple of days ago, and all hell has broken loose in the paddock.

Last night, I barely even heard the d*#&$ cat howling at the window over the F@#$^&*ng goats in the paddock. I finally gave up trying to sleep at four this morning and got up and fed them. I figured if they were eating, they’d have to be quiet, right?

Unfortunately, love-sick goats aren’t interested in food. The novelty of it kept them quiet for a few minutes, at least. Around five, I went out and hung out with them for a while—again, it was good for a few minutes, until they decided I wasn’t nearly as interesting as the prospect of a buck. Somewhere. If only they could call loud enough for him to hear.

They’ve worn a path around the perimeter of the paddock—pacing and calling all night.

And they’ve worn a path in my nerves. I’ve warned them. Another peep out of them, and we’re having goat for dinner.

Death in the Paddock

100_1931smI buried a goat today—Ixcacao, my little toggenburg. Well, I considered her little until I had to dig a hole big enough for her, and drag all 65 kg of her deadweight over to it.

I’ve found that, for most of the goats, digging their graves gives me the time and exercise I need to face the loss stoically. Usually, anyway. But each death is a blow.

There was Hebe, 9 months old, dead two weeks after I bought her. No clear cause. Just dead one morning.

Quickly following her was Hebe 2, four months old, who tore the ligaments in one of her knees. “If she were a rugby player, we’d operate on her, but…” was the way the vet delivered the verdict. I had kidded her myself at the end of a long struggle with three tangled kids. She was weak and couldn’t stand properly for the first few weeks, and I’d hand fed her until she could hold her own against her two big brothers. I held her while the vet put her down.

Hebe is the Greek goddess of youth. I should have known no goat named Hebe would live to adulthood.

There was Demeter, eight years old, who poisoned herself on green acorns, destroying her liver and causing her to waste away. She had always been a sweetheart. I sat next to her in the goat shed, stroking her head while the vet injected her.

There was Delilah, three years old, who wasted away, probably from Johnes disease. She was never particularly friendly, but I sat with her, too, when the vet came to put her down.

Ixcacao, four, went too fast for me to call in the vet. She had been off her feed a bit yesterday, which I attributed to being in season. Now, I think she must have had a tumour—she’d been looking a bit lopsided lately. And I wonder if it had been there in the spring when she delivered a dead, malformed kid. I won’t ever know, I suppose. She gave me no signs of trouble until late yesterday.

As a breeder once said to me, “If you have goats, you have dead goats.” It just goes with the territory, I suppose.

And tomorrow we will get up and carry on with another ordinary day.


sunflowersI am of the opinion that you can never have too many sunflowers.

I have Golden Toasted sunflowers in the vegetable garden, with big fat seeds for eating, and I have half a dozen other varieties of sunflower in other places around the property.

Sunflowers don’t like the wind here, and they tend to grow short and stocky or to fall over unless they’re staked or well protected from the wind. Still, I plant them wherever I can.

Sunflowers serve many purposes in my garden, beyond the seeds for eating. The blooms look great in the garden—pale yellow through orange to deep russet—and make stunning cut flowers, too. They also attract lots of insects. Though there are many pollenless varieties, I steer toward the varieties that produce copious pollen, because they are more attractive to insects. Pollen provides important protein for—bees flies, parasitic wasps, beetles, ants, and many other insects.
2016-01-22 07.43.48 cropThe pollen attracts some insects, and they, in turn attract others. Preying mantises regularly visit my sunflowers.

When autumn comes and the blooms are spent, the sunflowers (the entire plant), make a nutritious snack for the goats.

Beauty, food for me, food for my livestock, and food for the wildlife—what more can you ask of a plant?