Thursday, December 23, 2010

Foggy Thursday Morning

This morning, I clipped leashes to all five goats.  Luna and Moonshine are tethered together, so not only do I have only one lead to hold onto, but they tend to keep each other in line.  When one doesn't want to move, the other is tugging in the right direction; when one decides they want to walk on the wild side, the other will usually hold them back.

Lily likes the deck.  She didn't hesitate to scramble up immediately this morning, before I could take care of the milking does.  This time, she stood in front of the sliding glass door, staring in at what I am sure was Breezy, likely staring back at her, quivering with excitement.

Mooney and Luna were slow enough this morning so that I could pick up their leash before they got into the muddy pen.  I much prefer to take the leads off at the gate, rather than have to wade into the muck and grab gunk covered leads off the ground!

My landlady leaves today for a four-day visit to family for the Christmas holiday.  I volunteered to help care for her critters, so our routines are going to be extended and should prove to be very interesting, possibly very entertaining.  The last time I did this, Mandi was here visiting and helped me the first night we needed to get 10 does and kids into their nighttime enclosure.  They didn't know me very well, and it took an hour of getting most of them in, having them escape and run around the pasture, chasing, slipping, sliding, laughing, and yelling.  I think we have experience and a better plan in place now, so I hope this won't be a huge ordeal.  Mina (Bette calls her MamaLlama), the female llama and the last remaining sheep are also in that area, along with the pony and mini horse.  Looking forward to seeing how this will all work out!

Winter Solstice Week

The rhythms of the ranch seem to ease the days into weeks.  Not much changes suddenly here, but then, after days of very slow movement, without expecting it, we see that things have, indeed, changed.

The uniform of light clothing for summer milking, feeding and moving animals has definitely gone by the wayside.  No more t-shirts and shorts.  We are solidly into the territory of a wet, muddy and often cold season.  The bottom of jeans tucked into the tall shaft of black rubber boots (covered in multi-colored polka-dots), a t-shirt under a long-sleeved T, and a yellow slicker with hood covering the ball cap that holds a small flashlight clipped to the brim.  We don’t wear this gear in public, that’s for sure, but it sure works well and the goats don’t mind at all.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed slight changes in the demeanor of the goats.  Normally ready and waiting at the door of the barn when I open it in the morning, these days I find most of them lying in the hay, looking at me with surprise that I actually want them to leave this cozy place.  Normally, Lily is the first out the door, leading the rest of the goats toward their pen and morning meal, nudging them along if she has to, me running to catch up.  This past Monday, I nudged and led the other goats out of the barn and walked about 20 feet before realizing that Lily wasn’t with us.  I turned around and looked at the barn, and there she stood in the doorway, staring at me as if I were nuts.  I have to hold onto Salsa and Imbri so they don’t fight over the milk stand, so this meant leading them back to the barn to grab Lily’s leash too and get her moving on.  At the milk stand, Lily walked onto the patio, paused and sniffed at the stairs leading to the deck while I loaded Salsa up and tied Imbri to a post to wait her turn.  It took a solid tug to get Lily to move, and we walked back out onto the wet gravel driveway to urge the two youngest (Moonshine and Luna) on to their breakfast.

I knew then that this spelled a change in Lily’s future behavior and in what I was going to have to do with my routine to ensure a smooth transition in the morning.  I had no idea what was to come.

Tuesday morning, I knew to take Lily’s leash in hand and tug to get her out of the barn and moving.  She again seemed interested in the steps, which I don’t want to encourage.

This morning, those subtle changes that have been building came to a head.  I am so thankful to be on vacation this week and able to deal with these things in the daylight, instead of pitch black and rain!

Lily came out of the barn with less urging, but I could tell that she was going to do more than sniff at the steps when I was securing Salsa and Imbri.  I saw Lily’s foot go onto the first step, and called out, “Don’t do it, Lily.”  As I moved toward her, she scrambled up all seven steps and onto the deck, rushing all the way to the other end, which ends in a banister that she couldn’t get through.  Grabbing her leash, I turned around to see ... Moonshine and Luna had decided to come have some fun on the deck, too.  I herded them all back down the stairs, and Mooney ran to the milk stand to try and steal some grain from Salsa.  She tried to head butt him, rattling the stand, and he turned away.  The little ones were slow, and I had to pull on Lily’s collar to get her to move.  As we neared the path to their pen, Moonshine slowed and started to turn, but Luna stepped up her pace as she went right by it.  Uh-oh.  She was headed toward the end of my driveway and into the land of 15 other goats, a pony, miniature horse, llama and sheep, and no fences to halt her progress for a very long way on over 200 acres.

I circled to Luna’s left as I caught up to her, Lily by my side, which usually causes Luna to turn around, but she started to trot, and then suddenly turned onto the path to the chicken coop.  With Mooney behind me now, curious as to what his sister was doing, I knew that I had to get at least 2 of the 3 loose goats secured, so I focused on herding him into his proper place.  Once he remembered there was food to be had, he scurried through the gate.  I urged Lily in behind him, closed the gate, and then looked at Luna, trying to figure out how best to round up the rascal.  She cautiously took a couple steps toward me.  I called her gently, and opened the gate up so she could see it.  Within moments, she trotted right to me and veered through the opening, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Tonight’s adventure?  Moonshine running back and forth at full speed, between me and Becca, trying to fly by me, rather than trotting to the barn like a good boy.

I have been enjoying the fact that most of the goats have learned their routine well enough that I don’t have to hold onto 5 leashes, especially in slick mud.  With this new development, I may well need to add at least one more goat to my leash collection.  I sure hope this doesn’t last long.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seven Weeks Already

Well, it’s hard to believe it’s been seven weeks since the bucklings made their way to a new home on that rainy Saturday.  Surprising, too, that it’s been that long since I’ve posted to the blog.  As sometimes happens, the days become routine, and blur into weeks, and - apparently - months without the muse tapping me on the shoulder to write and share.

I still miss the babies, though I have been grateful from Day One for the fact it takes much less time to handle all the goats in the morning and at night, especially now that it is pitch-black dark at both of those chore times.  I also don’t miss the smell, though I do miss their spunky playfulness and cries of greeting when we come home or step outside.  I have yet to move their crate from the barn to create more space for the other goats in there now that it’s no longer needed.  Perhaps this weekend will be time.

Salsa’s milk production is slowly lessening as time goes by, and I wonder sometimes if she will be as good as Imbri and continue to produce milk long after her babies were weaned.  I hope she will because, though she makes sure to remind me every three weeks that she can be bred again, there are no registered bucks within easy reach to breed any of the goats to this year.  Time will tell.

One reason I decided to update the blog is that I made a mental note this morning of something that might be of interest, which is something that hasn’t happened in a while.

My days begin when the alarm clock goes off at 5:00 a.m.  I look out the window and groan at how dark it is outside.  It feels like I should still be sleeping, and I don’t want to venture out with my flashlight to begin the rounds.  Rainy days are especially difficult, facing the chill, wet and mud.

The routine in the morning is that all the goats go out of the barn except Salsa.  I lead Imbri to the milk stand, while Lily, Luna and Moonshine stop and hang out nearby until I herd them toward their pen.  Even though they know the way, they seem nervous in the dark and don’t want to go without me or without my flashlight guiding their way.  I put the three goats into their pen, milk Imbri and add her to the group, then fetch Salsa for her turn on the milk stand.

Often I find half of the herd snuggled down in hay and reluctant to get up when I step inside the barn with leashes in hand.  Lily is usually up and waiting for me, so I often clip her leash on first, and scratch her neck and shoulders while watching to see who will get up first.  Salsa starts pushing the other goats around, head butting them to continually establish her position as “herd queen,” often sending goats careening into my legs.

The youngest goats (Luna and Moonshine) are most reluctant to go outside.  During the winter time, leashes are a must or they will refuse to leave the barn, or worse, go walking right by the entrance to their pen and up the driveway.  Being that she is in heat again, Salsa was in fine form this morning, jostling the other goats, and trying to get to the door and get outside, baaah-ing loudly the whole time.  I had a hand on her collar and was tugging on the leashes for the other goats, trying to encourage them to get out into the dark mist..... 

Suddenly, Salsa jerks forward and out the door, pulling me behind her.  I knew I didn’t want her on the loose in heat, because she travels far and fast, so I hung on and dug my heels in, skidding on mud as the rest of the goats decided that it was fine to go outside after all, and ran past us.  Muttering curse words under my breath, and glad that I didn’t fall on my keister in the mud, I got Salsa back to the barn and inside, hearing her jump on the door as I turned the latch.

Moonshine had his big head in the feed dish on the milk stand, and I shooed him away while getting Imbri up and situated, telling Lily that no, she’s not allowed to head butt Imbri while she’s on the milk stand.

Thankfully, the rest of the morning routine went as planned, and hard rain held off long enough so I didn’t get soaked to the skin.  The mud on my jeans is something I’m starting to get used to again, and the head cold I’ve been struggling with all week the biggest annoyance.  I will be glad to get extra rest this weekend, and hope that I can find the space for that, amongst household things that have to be done, transcription, and preparing for the holidays.

In case I don’t post before then, here’s hoping each of YOU have a wonderful holiday season, filled with light, love, peace, joy, and renewed hope for the best and brightest future for you and your families.