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.


  1. Wow. You all have had trial by fire this month. You are stronger than you possibly thought - I would never have thought when you were younger you would be able to deal with this type of thing - you are so tender-hearted. I hope this is the last of the trials for a good long time. I hope you and Becca and Bette can relax somewhat - although I know you have a FULL schedule and Bette is in pain and tied down. Take care of you. Love, Mom.

  2. I wasn't sure I could do it, but often I surprise myself at what I am really capable of. Thanks for your comment, Mom. Love you lots.