Friday, September 23, 2011

September - Circle of Life

It's September. Fall is here as of today.  The days have been getting noticeably shorter for a long time, as I have been milking in the dark in the mornings again.  This has been an eventful month on the ranch.

I think it was September 3rd when Bette broke her ankle.  Of course, we didn't imagine that it was broken at first, but that's what it turned out to be.  Poor thing had to undergo surgery the following week and is chomping at the bit, and frustrated at being housebound and unable to do the things she loves.  It's rather impossible to care for 11 goats when in a cast and using a walker, so I have been helping fill in the gaps as the brigade of friends and family has pitched in to help out.  It feels like a real community here, with caring people doing what they can.

Just four days later, September 7th, I headed up in the dark to feed Bette's goats.  To my surprise I heard maa'ing that sounded awful young and tiny ... oh yes.  Madeline the goat had decided to give birth.  One goat was up and almost completely cleaned.  I saw another lying curled up, covered in birth slime, being ignored, and another poor thing that had died.  I tried to get Madeline to take care of the smaller baby, but she refused.  After consulting with Bette, I bagged and secured the dead kid, then after getting Becca's help scooped up the runt, and brought him to our house so Becca could clean him off and get some milk in him.  She got ready for school, then we delivered the little white bundle with plenty of milk and bottles to Bette to care for.  Really the last thing she needed, right?  He was a little slow and uncoordinated in getting to his feet, but appeared to be okay.

Becca was late to school.  I dictated a note of explanation to her in the car, which ended by saying that Becca had taken some pictures on her iPod if the teacher wanted proof of why she was late that morning, then signed it in the school parking lot before she hustled to class.  I asked her later what her teacher said.  Becca said she gave her the note when she got to class, and then after class approached her teacher to talk to her about the tardy and possible detention.  Her teacher looked at her and said, "Well, where are the pictures?" Then she smiled.  All was well.

Becca named the little white baby quickly and without hesitation - Hope.  He struggled to stand the first day, and then would scoot backward only.  The second day, he started to walk forward - in circles.  For a while I thought we were going to have to change his name to NASCAR or Mario Andretti or something, because he could only turn left.  By the end of that day he was flying straighter - into walls.  We were concerned that he might be blind, but he responded visually, and by Day Three, little Hope had passed Navigation 101.  He had a strong appetite, and I picked up some colostrum from the feed store the first day to give him the best chance possible.  Becca babysat him for a few hours when she could to give Bette a break.

In the meantime, his sister, who Bette has named Ella, was growing strong.  Her mother, who still thinks she's a baby and needs to be with her own mama, is not the best goat mommy, but she is adequate.  The second weekend I collected both goats and took them to the vet for disbudding, the cauterization (under anesthesia) of their horn buds so they won't grow horns (dangerous to goats and humans when goats are in captivity).  Upon returning Ella to her mother, Madeline promptly rejected her.  I'm sure she smelled funny, but she is a baby and needs her mama!  By the end of the first day back, Ella was limping and injured.  Nothing obviously broken, but the knee joint in one of her front legs was hurt.  Becca and I caught Madeline three times a day that weekend to hold her so Ella could nurse.  If we gave up and gave her a bottle from Salsa, there would be no going back, so we stuck it out until Madeline finally figured out either 1) it really was her baby or 2) that was the only way she was going to get any relief from full udders.  By Monday, Ella was skipping around on all four legs again and doing very well!

The caretaker's family at the Bishop's Ranch next door has been kid-sitting and spoiling Hope for the last week.  He will come back here Sunday night to spend the night with me and Becca, so he's ready for his debut at SRHS to share with Becca's ag Earth Science class and other agriculture classes.  He'll be spoiled some more, and then spend a couple hours in the courtyard at my office, much to the delight of everyone there who are looking forward to his visit.

Through a series of text messages that I started exchanging with Bette just as I was leaving after dinner with Jessica in Windsor, I discovered that one of her goats had died.  Because it was a strange situation, she asked me to check on mine soon as I got home and then asked that I check on Ella, as she didn't seem to be well today and Madeline didn't seem to be allowing her to nurse.  We flew up the driveway, dust flying, and were relieved to see our goats all okay and where they should be.  While quickly changing clothes, gathering garbage bags and gloves and leash and milk, Becca heard the coyotes starting up - too close.  We made the decision to get our goats into the barn immediately and milk after we took care of the other problems.  They were a bit surprised to be put in without food, but after Lily escaped and ran around a bit, we were able to get them all in, promising them dinner and relief later.

Unfortunately, my first priority had to be to secure the dead goat, or we would be inviting predators right into our protected area.  Bette had given me a good idea of where it was, which was at a far corner of the pen, but not too horribly far from a gate.  Becca was distraught and I told her she didn't have to go near, but just stay where she could see me, use the flashlight, and talk to me.  Talk to me!  I don't know what I would have done without her.  She kept me sane and focused while I put black garbage bags over both ends of him and lifted him into a bin to make it easier to carry.  Thank goodness most of our goats are dwarfs and not as big as small ponies.  I was almost paralyzed over what I had to do, afraid of every sound in the dark, and so grateful to have Becca there asking me questions to keep me going.  I didn't realize how steep the ground was until I was trying to drag the bin back to the gate, and had to go very slowly to make sure I didn't fall and didn't tip the bin over.  We eventually got clear of the pen and I dragged the bin through bushes and up the driveway, locking him safely in our shed until he can be collected for a proper burial in the morning.

Ella was fine, and I'm sure she was hot and tired today.  Bette's sister got some water set up so that Ella can get to it more easily, and we are sure that will help.  Ella is old enough now that she is beginning to nibble on hay and I'm sure she's ready to start trying water, too.

After checking in and letting Bette know everything is okay, we headed home to feed and do a quick milking of Salsa.  The shower afterward felt luxurious - one of the best ever.  Now it's time to try to get some rest.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer 2011

I'm not sure what it is about summer that makes me think more about blogging.  Perhaps that there's more to do, more interesting things happening, or maybe just because I feel best during the warmer months of the year.  Who knows?  In any event, here we go with what will probably be more regular blog posts. :-)

This weekend was a good one!  It's funny that I say that, since wasps and an ankle injury were both involved, but overall Becca and I spent most of it engaged, smiling, and active.  That makes for a great weekend.  Not everything we wanted to do was accomplished, but that just means more projects ahead to focus on!

Saturday I was determined.  Absolutely determined.  We had to make it to the dump.  Since the county centers changed their hours so they're closed on Sundays, making it to the dump has been a challenge.  My pattern has always been to do the major clean-up and truck load on Saturday, then make the trip to the dump on Sunday.  The last couple of months this has been on my radar big time, but there has been something planned each Saturday for most of that time, and when there was nothing planned, it was pouring rain.

Saturday morning bright and early, I was up and taking care of all of the critters, enjoying the beautiful sunrise and the promise of a great day.  The first item on the agenda was a trip to the feed store for hay.  Becca and I hopped into the old pickup and took care of that early on.  Once home, the hay got unloaded, and we started putting things into the truck that a) can't be recycled in the bin or b) were too big to go into a garbage bag.  Bex helped with the big stuff, and then I walked around the outside clearing the rest.  One problem was that there were a couple of bigger items that I just couldn't fit in this weekend, so we'll have to make another trip.

After I stuffed the last empty grain bag into the back, I noticed wasps hanging around the truck.  That was really odd, and a cause of some concern as we were going to be driving said truck.  I thought perhaps I'd disturbed a nest while picking things up outside and figured I'd leave the back of the truck open as we drove, hoping that any lingering wasps would clear out on the drive.  As we headed outside, I warned Becca to hop right into the truck and avoid the wasps.  She got in first, I opened my door, and a wasp promptly dove into the cab.  It went back outside and hovered in the doorway, then Becca gasped.  Loud.  I looked at her face and she was horrified, saying, "Watch out, Mom!!!"  I thought she was talking about a wasp and stepped out of the truck to see if I could wave it away.  She said, "No, look at THAT!" pointing to the door of the truck.  I stopped cold.  Just under the top of the doorway on the inside was a small wasp nest.  Apparently this is what was causing the consternation among these creatures.

Think fast.  Think fast.  I looked at it carefully and there appeared to be nothing in the nest that I could see - no movement in or out.  I grabbed a stick and knocked the nest off and to the ground, then jumped into the seat, cranked the starter, shoved the truck into gear and started driving with the door open (to prevent any wasps from hitching a ride).  At the end of the driveway, when it was clear nothing was inside, I closed the door and we high-tailed it down the driveway as fast as we could.  I've never seen a wasp nest anywhere except under eaves and inside storage sheds!  We breathed a sigh of relief and headed into town on our trip.

We were 7th in line at the scales for the dump.  Because the load looked bigger than it weighed, I opted for the weigh-in rather than the flat rate.  We held our breath and unloaded the truck as quickly as we could, and my time spent waiting for the weigh-in was rewarded with lower than the flat rate.  Hah.  We spent the rest of the day doing clean-up, reorganization, and me tweaking the garden sprinkler system a bit more.  We took a trip to the store for some garden items and a bathing suit for me (that I will wear at HOME only) and spent some time in the frigid pool.  We picked up a floating "disco light" for the pool that looks cool at night.  Hopefully we'll have some warm ones to be able to enjoy it.

The only thing that made me slightly cranky on Saturday were the 20% of the bicyclists that cause problems on our road.  Most are super professional, the way they try to share the road, and it's tough on Westside.  There is no shoulder most of the way, blind curves often, and little room to share.  It's those that ride like this that bother me the most:

See those two in the front?  They never went single file as I passed them, and I was driving a huge 1985 Ford F-150 pickup truck. 

Sunday morning, outside enjoying the day again and getting the animals all squared away.  I decided to take a look at where that wasp nest was the day before, and opened up the truck door.  I stepped back in shock when I saw a wasp in the same exact location REBUILDING.  In the picture below you can see the wing peeking over the top of the door, as the critter crawled to the other side.

It was time to think fast again.  I have bee/wasp spray that shoots 27 feet to handle nests, though I really don't want to use it.  It's there "just in case" nothing else is going to work.  Then I remembered the Cedarcide spray that I use for flea control on the dogs.  I love this stuff.  It kills fleas and ticks on contact and prevents them from coming back, is all natural cedar oil and not toxic to humans or pets.  I know that it works on a LOT of bugs, but didn't recall it being advertised for wasps.  Well, it was worth a try.  I hurried into the house to grab the bottle, and then back out to see the wasp still there.  One spray on the nest, and some of the Cedarcide hit the wasp.  It dropped like a brick.  I looked at it carefully to see what it was doing, and it staggered around a little, then flew off a bit lopsided.  I sprayed across the top of the door, being careful to saturate the nest area, closed the door and left.  I checked throughout the day, and there was absolutely no wasp activity anywhere near the truck, though the wasps were trying to figure out how to get into my car.  Success!

Sunday morning is Windsor Farmers Market morning!!  There are three things that we always look forward to:  Beignets, the ravioli lady, and the pepper jelly/pesto lady, Deb Backman.  Two out of three this weekend wasn't bad - Deb of The Sweet Factor wasn't there, and I fear she is no longer going to have a booth at the farmers markets.  Guess we will just have to go online to find her good food!  We did walk away with yummy ravioli, honey sticks, peaches ... and powdered sugar all over us from the beignets.

After the Farmers Market, we stopped by the hardware store to pick up some tomato cages and decorative lights for the back yard.  Back to the house to drop off perishables, and then off to the Healdsburg pool to cool off.  Becca spent a couple hours in the water while I enjoyed the start of a new book, The Help.  So far it's a good read.  Becca is getting better and better at swimming, and she went off the diving board by herself for the first time.

On the way home, we both talked about what a great day it's been, looking forward to the ravioli planned for dinner, with homemade pesto.  It was the BEST pesto I have EVER made, and I can hardly wait for leftovers!  After dinner, while I fed the chickens and cleaned their water bucket, Becca chased the dwarf goats around their pen.  They were being especially spirited, running around like they were playing a game of tag with her.  She was not amused.  She swung one of the leashes around, and the substantial metal clip hit her - HARD - on the top of her ankle.  It swelled up and was extremely painful for the rest of the night.  I brought out the crutches for her, gave her some Tylenol for the pain and an ice pack.  Luckily, this morning she seemed to be feeling a little better. 

All in all, an enjoyable, fun weekend.  The slight sunburn on my back reminds me every time I move... :-)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Salsa and Imbri Go To School

I got to work early this morning and hustled to get as much done as possible.  Being the end of the month, I felt badly about having to leave early, as some of the month-end work was going to go to my co-worker, who has enough going already.  I made it as easy as possible, knowing I would do the same for her.

First, drive home.  When I arrived, I backed the truck in and got the items from the house I would need:  milk bucket, sanitizer, paper towels, grain, a jar of milk, and soap samples for the class.  I grabbed my gloves and messed around with the wood pile, finding a more substantial piece of plywood to use as a ramp for the goats to get into the back of the pickup.  Even though we'd cleaned out the back, there was still plenty of damp alfalfa and mud to muck things up, so the gloves were a must.

I went into the goat pen and put leashes on all the big girls, intending to find a way to lead them out while leaving the youngest goats inside, and somehow do this without getting tangled up.  Normally eager to get out of the gate, probably because of the odd scheduling of my appearance, the goats scattered.  I eventually got leashes on Imbri, Salsa and Lily and headed to the gate.  Moonshine decided that he wanted to be first out, but he wasn't GOING out, the stinker.  I realized that I would have to put a lead on the youngest and tie them to the shelter so they didn't escape.  Easy, right?


When I came back in with their dual lead, both the little goats scattered and ran helter skelter away from me.  Moonshine, being the more loveable of the two, eventually came to me.  Then it was a matter of following Luna around, cursing at her, with Mooney by my side.  I owe Salsa a thank you for helping eventually to corner her.  While Luna had previously scampered by me when I cornered her, this time she couldn't get by me, and wouldn't dare try to pass Salsa, who was sure to charge at her.

"Babies" secured, I put the leashes of all the does around my wrist and led them to the truck.  They wouldn't go up the ramp.  Salsa and Lily were too busy trying to ram into Imbri.  I figured if I put Imbri in first, the others would come up after her, so up went Imbri.  Salsa followed.  Lily wouldn't walk up the ramp, but walked around the side of it.  So what happens next?  Salsa decides to charge back down the ramp to fight with Lily.  Imbri follows.  Then I can't get ANY of them into the truck!  It's warm outside, and I'm starting to sweat and lose my breath, and I'm tired of ducking and turning to make sure the leashes don't completely wrap around me.  I decide that the solution will have to be to leave Lily behind.  As I'm opening the gate, Imbri gets loose and runs into the pen.  I put Lily back in, and then Salsa.  Then have to chase Imbri.  Eventually, I grab her leash, and lead her and Salsa BACK out to the truck.  This time, both of them go up the ramp and mostly stay in as I try to push the ramp into the truck bed and close the back.  They start head butting each other, but at least they are in.

Grumbling to myself and worried about time, I hop into the truck, take a swig of coffee, and head down the driveway.  Halfway down, I remember that Mooney and Luna are still tied to the shelter, and I didn't turn the electric fence on.  Turn around, go back up, take care of business.  Imbri and Salsa start head butting each other in the back of the pickup again (they had stopped when the truck started moving).

Back down the driveway, and we wind through the back roads to avoid freeway speeds for the goats.  After falling once when a yellow light flashed so briefly (stupid light) and I had to brake quickly, Salsa settled in and laid down next to the cab of the truck.  Shorter, sturdier Imbri stood in the center, and sometimes walked to look out the back window.

I called the school to let them know I'd arrived, as I circled the parking lot for a relatively close spot.  Becca came out to the truck as I started to unload the goats.  Imbri jumped out right away.  I had to tug on Salsa to get her to get out of the truck.  All those strange cars and smells on that big black asphalt ground!  Becca's wonderful principal met us at the truck and helped bring the goats to the lawn in front of the school.  She really enjoyed seeing and petting them.

Becca's Ag teacher and the rest of the students from class came out.  They circled around us and I asked if they knew what breeds these goats were.  I was surprised that one student actually guessed Salsa's breed - half at a time.  His first guess was LaMancha, and when I told him he was partly right, he got Saanen.  Another student knew that Imbri is a Nigerian Dwarf, but then let it slip that Becca had previously told him.  The students seemed to enjoy the back and forth Q and A, and they had some good questions to ask.  Another teacher joined us - this was becoming a popular lesson.  The girls especially enjoyed feeding the goats grain, though unfortunately Salsa wasn't cooperative enough to allow some of them to try milking.  Some of the girls I was talking to giggled when I said teats.

At the end of our time, I gave the teacher a jar of milk so the students could see how similar/different it might be from cow's milk (they look the same to me).  They couldn't taste it, because it's not pasteurized, but I'll bring some pasteurized milk for the class later.  They cut the soap bars up for the students that wanted to take some home.  I'll send some cajeta and apple slices for Thursday's class.  Eating while being around goats is not a good idea, so we'll separate those activities.

Becca had the same teacher for her next class, and she said it was okay for Becca to leave after Ag class so I didn't have to wait an hour for her to get out of school.  We got both goats into the truck, and then Imbri  jumped out before the tailgate was closed.  I had already put the ramp up, so Becca and I lifted her round little body and put her inside.  The drive home was uneventful, and even though they were home, it took a while for the girls to come to the end of the truck to get out.  They seemed happy to be back with their herd mates.

All in all, not a bad afternoon.  I sure am pooped after all the goat chasing earlier.  Time for chores, dinner and REST.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Muddling Through

After hearing the rain pour down earlier this evening, we now have a brief break and some quiet.  I really shouldn't complain, as we have had a couple weeks of warmer weather, including some record breaking high temperature days, but now the rain is back.  I don't know for how long, but hope that we can get some breathing room in between storms.

The goaties are behaving for the most part.  Becca and I check in with each other before moving them, so that we are aware of who's in heat and most likely to try to run off.  No escapees.  I have started putting leashes on the younguns, Moonshine and Luna, because they are starting to wander off and not follow the typical routine.  There's nothing more frustrating than trying to herd two small, feisty, jumping, bouncy goats that act like kids (they are almost 2 years old) while holding an older, cantankerous, wannabe herd queen at the same time.  Clipping the "babies" together encourages them to keep each other in line.

We have been craving bacon sandwiches lately, and are hanging out this Saturday night after having enjoyed a BLAT(O) feast.  Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato (and red Onion for me).  The brownies just came out of the oven, so it's really a perfect rainy night, just hanging out together.  This morning I spent most of my time after chores sorting through a couple years of accumulated bottles and cans, getting them ready for recycling.   We got out too late to make it to the center today, but will go ahead and turn those in this week.  I was planning a dump run for tomorrow, but discovered too late the dump is now closed on Sundays.  Really?  I guess that will wait until next Saturday.

It's time to put some of the goats into Bugs' old pen, so they can eat down the growing grass and help get the area garden-ready.  This is the spot where my landlady and I plan to install our common garden this year.  I'm looking forward to the larger space and the camaraderie that I have missed from a previous home, where my then-landlady/friend/neighbor and I gardened together.  I really enjoy B's company and am looking forward to being able to spend more time together.

Becca is whining about cutting into the brownies, so it must be time to go.  I'll post more later about our planned excursion with the goats to her school next week.  It should be a lot of fun and I'm sure will generate some entertaining stories for me to share with you all.  I hope to remember to bring the camera to share some photos!

Happy New Year, everyone.  Here's to a good year for all!