Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meet the 2014 Kiddoes

We took advantage of the sunshine to get some pictures of the kiddoes. They are all officially just over a month old and we have to start thinking about finding them homes. Last year was so very easy, I kept the does and my mom took the two wethers. 

See, I have this little problem: I want to keep them all. I bond with them. 

I love them, but I know I have to find them homes this year. We are thinking that Wrong Way should be a buck, so we need someone to commit to him BEFORE I have to wether him. He is such a super friendly and spunky goat, just like his dad, Ben. He probably weighs twice what the other Mini-Manchas weigh. Sturdy and stout, with a great personality. I love it when he calms down enough to nap in my lap.

Wrong Way Feldman: Son of Vaca and Ben
 Skipper is a cutie-pie and begs for attention. He has markings just like Gypsy's kid Valentine, his older sister. He seems to know that they are alike and he bugs her relentlessly. Given the chance he will crawl right into my lap.

Skipper: Son of Gypsy and Ben

Gilly is Wrong Way's brother. Even though he is about half the weight of WW he has about twice the energy (if that is even possible). He lives to climb up me and chew on my hair, but when he's pooped he will konk right out in my arms. He is likely the sweetest kid yet.

Gilly: Son of Vaca and Ben
 Luke and Han. Now here it where we get into trouble. I've already said that I want to keep them all, but I'm finding reasons to keep these two. They have to be wethered, so they will need a job. Also, Luke has a genetic defect called entropion (inverted eyelid) and though we are working on it, there are some hard decisions ahead in that regard. I think that is a subject for another day.

I really want to try my hand at training a goat to both pull a cart and carry a pack. I'm thinking these are my boys. Fanny's 2013 kids are both strong and sturdy. These boys are already gaining weight like crazy. I would really like to have them pull ME in a cart....wouldn't that we cool?

Luke and Han: Sons of Fanny and Rhett
 If I sit down anywhere guaranteed I will get at least three little wriggles sitting in my lap and climbing up my body. It is hard to think of sending them off to new homes when we play like this 2 or 3 times a day, when they trust me and think of me as part of their herd. Sometimes these little goat piles are the only times I laugh in a day and goats have been the best medicine for me these last few years.

Goat Pile!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Miss Melly

Guaranteed to make you smile!

This is Miss Melly, though around here Ms. Melly might be more appropriate. 
She is a Nubian yearling.
She is the daughter of Ruby and Rhett Butt-ler. 
Sweet as sugar, this one.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2014 Kids: A Season of Learning

Wrong Way Feldman

Although I have a job outside the farm, I want to be a full-time farmer. I spend a lot of time thinking about what that means. I've lately fallen into a trap of comparison. Comparing myself to some ideal farmer image, the ones I call the "real" farmers and another group, the "good" farmers. These aren't real people. Nope, but they might as well be. In my mind, the "real" farmers don't cry and grieve when they lose a kid. They don't worry that their kids will end up on the supper table. They don't want to keep ALL the kids, because they love them. They run efficient, maybe even profitable farms. The "good" farmers are the ones who never make mistakes. They don't do dumb things. Good farmers are kind, but not so attached. They can sell their kids without too many qualms. "Bad" farmers make lots of mistakes. They're forgetful and miss medications. They lose kids. They do all the dumb things that "good" farmers avoid. They get attached and can't let go. 

I spend a lot of time worrying about who I am as a farmer. Real or good or bad. I don't think a day goes by that I don't wish to be a "real" farmer or admonish myself for being a "bad" farmer. Kidding was a stressful time and I labeled myself almost daily a "bad" farmer.  I made mistakes, lots of mistakes. When I started writing this I was hoping to write a post that might allow someone to avoid the mistakes I made, but to be honest that isn't where this post is headed. 

This year, I cleared my calendar and anxiously awaited the signs of labor. I was here when Vaca went into labor. She had twins boys, a tiny guy we named Gilly and a huge kid we named Wrong Way because he came out backward.  

At that point I began checking on Gypsy and Fanny with a flashlight every night at bedtime. I'd tiptoe in and peek under their tails, listen closely, rub their bellies, and generally just tuck them in if there were no signs of labor. But one night, I saw a mucous stream from Gypsy's backside. I was tired by then, but it is no excuse for mis-remembering what the mucous meant. I said, "She's going to have those kids tomorrow," then I went in and went to bed. 

The next morning I went out to find her with triplets; one dead, still in the sac. She probably had those kids shortly after I left her and had I been there the third kid probably would have made it, because it was cold and I would have helped her clean them, thus breaking the sac. I spent a lot of time beating myself up over that one. I labeled myself a "bad farmer." I wobble back and forth though, heart over head, then head over heart. I can almost convince myself that it is better that way, that twins will be stronger and grow faster than triplets. I tell myself that a "real farmer" would get over it and maybe even be glad that the twins would put on weight faster. We named the two: Skipper and Ginger

A week later, Fanny finally kids while I am gone. I come home to find triplets; healthy, but cold. I get them in and warm them up. They nurse and all is well. We named them Luke, Han, and Leia. A week later our weather turns bitter cold again. The forecast lows for that night were 12 degrees. Even knowing that goats can and will pile up to keep warm and with that pile comes the danger of someone getting smothered, I made the decision to leave mamas, kids, and yearlings together. 

The next morning I found our little doe, Leia smothered under a pile of yearlings. Again, a certain type of farmer, a "real"one,  would be okay with the loss of a triplet, because the twins would be stronger, grow faster. A "good" farmer wouldn't have left the yearlings in with the kids. Yep, my head knows the argument, but my heart was broken. See, that's my problem. I want to be a "good" farmer, a "real" farmer, but I keep being the "bad" farmer.

The next week, we took 10 roosters to be butchered. These were roosters hatched from eggs I turned three times a day for 21 days, fathered by Pip, who grew up in our bathtub. A few of them had names. One of them was mean. I wasn't attached to them and frankly, I was tired of the extra chores. I wanted to do it myself, but we knew it would take days to butcher 10 roosters. We stayed with our roosters through the whole process. We brought them into the world and ushered them out. It wasn't pretty and when we returned home, I had to put the whole lot in the freezer, not quite willing to cook chicken that night. I had to take a nap afterward, I am such a "bad" farmer.

By now you've likely noticed that I've not posted a bunch of cute pictures of kids, just WW and I having a chat. Not today. Today I need to paint the picture of what it means to me to be a farmer. I need to leave the adjectives behind. This is already hard work physically and mentally; relentlessly hard. But I can't keep doing it if I have to beat myself up and continuously compare myself to some fictional farmer.

For me, this is work of the heart. I've often said that a "good" farmer  or a "real" farmer wouldn't get so attached to the animals and perhaps that is so. But I can't do this work without being attached to them. I need the connection and so do they. I believe that even though I'm not exactly sure what I mean by it.  

Today I'm leaving the adjectives "good" and "bad" behind. I AM REAL. I AM a farmer. That makes me a "real farmer." 

Since this is a new blog about a relatively new farm I would like to make a vow to you, my readers. I vow to be as authentic and truthful as possible, to be "real."  I think we are doing something special here, something genuine and true.

I guess I needed to get this out of my system, because as I said before this was not the post I sat down to write. Next post, I promise cute pictures of goats that will make you go "SQUEEEEE!"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bucks and Boys

Well, let's talk boys or bucks or billies. 

Because we felt like the girls should be over a year old before we bred them and we planned to breed in August or September we found ourselves with plenty of time to look for bucks. We needed both a Nubian and a Mini-Mancha. It wasn't as easy finding one as I thought it would be. 

We searched and searched and finally put a deposit down with a lady nearby in hopes her one doe would have a buckling. When her Lamancha doe kidded though, no boys. She was expecting a family from TN to come and pick up another doe and suggested that they might have a buckling. I contacted them and they happily delivered Ben, one month old and still on the bottle. 

We bonded over that bottle and he is quite the Mama's boy. He was such a pip squeak it is hard to believe that he grew into this "big," ol' stinky boy. Ben-Ben is a sweetheart and even at the peak of stinky-ness I let him give me his Ben-kisses. Officially, he is 64% Nigerian dwarf, so that means he is small....maybe 2 feet tall....maybe.

Ben: Mini-Mancha Buck
Jasper: wether

Because Ben-Ben was going to be all alone in a barn and pasture by himself, we contacted our friends and got this little wether to be his companion. Jasper was just weaned and a little shy at first, but he is the goatiest goat we have now. By that I mean, Jasper is the goat most likely to sniff, touch, push, or taste weird things. He's eaten a plastic phone company flag and painted his own nose red checking out the fence posts. He's friendly and curious. He's also the goat mostly likely to get your attention for petting, even if it means pulling your hair. Even though Jasper started out with the boys he is currently living in the big barn with the girls. 

Rhett Butt-ler: Nubian Buck
A few months after Ben and Jasper came to the farm. We went and picked out Rhett B. Rhett was dam raised on a large farm/ranch. He had only been handled when he was vaccinated and then when he was culled out of the herd and penned to sell with the other bucks. I chose him for his stunning good looks and his willingness to eat leaves from my hand when none of the others would even approach me.

When we got him home he was still very reticent.  It took months of work to get him gentled down. Now, he is still a little more jumpy than the others, but we can handle him fairly easily and he is even leash trained.

As I think about the differences between Ben and Rhett, I am reassured that the choices we have made about raising kids are good ones. While Ben is almost overly friendly and Rhett is still standoff-ish and skittish, our kids from last year fall somewhere just in the middle.

Now, that just seems like a perfect segue. So, next post....the 2013 kidding season.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Owl Tree Farm: Goats!

November 2010: 

We had moved here to the house and land because we wanted to stretch our legs, grow more of our own food, and maybe have some chickens. We hadn't thought much about anything more than that, but once the little seed was planted it was all we talked about. We discussed and researched all kinds of livestock and weighed the merits of each. I spent the winter daydreaming about Spring and the future farm. The daydreaming turned to planning and we decided to build a barn.

July 2011:  

In the spring I pointed out a barn whose shape I liked. I then added that it had to be red and have white Xs on the doors. It was my idea of the perfect barn. My husband sat down and taught himself to use a CAD program and drew up some plans. It looked small on paper. 

During one of the hottest summers on record (with the help of our parents) we built a storybook barn...shiny red, with white Xs, and a hayloft too. 

In the meantime, we had settled on raising dairy goats. They are gentle on the land and would give back in milk, yogurt, cheese, and soap. We found a Craig's List ad for Nubians and the farm turned out to be just around the corner. We fell head-over-heels in love with the Nubians...gentle girls with long, floppy ears. We picked two girls they had named Isis and Floppy and renamed them Ruby and Fanny. We began to dream of a whole herd of Nubians.....

Ruby and Fanny

Ruby and Fanny settled into the otherwise empty barn, but we found them reluctant to venture out into the pasture or up to the trees. Most days I walked them up to the trees to browse and finally starting taking a chair and a book with me. Watching the girls browse was (and still is) one of the most peaceful things I do on the farm. After a couple of weeks, we decided that two goats was not a herd and we called the other farm. She had no other Nubians for sale, but she did have a cross between Nubians and Mini-Manchas. Now, at the time we were very opposed to the little LaMancha elf ear (we can talk more about ears later), so we chose two girls with "airplane" ears. Gypsy was the same age as Ruby and Fanny, but Vaca was a year older and she became the herd leader and guardian.

Gypsy and Vaca

For the next few months, we learned all we could about goats... We still spent a lot of time "up pasture," but Vaca led them out and watched over them and everyone quickly settled into a routine. It was sometime during this fall that we realized our "mistake"...we would need a Nubian buck AND a Mini-Mancha if we wanted to close our herd and breed our own girls.

There was more dreaming and planning. Another barn, smaller this time, was built and in the Spring of 2012 we added bucks to the herd. 

Stay tuned for the next post: All about Bucks and Boys!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

November 2010: Owl Tree Farm

The owl for whom we named our farm.

We bought this house and land, 11.5 acres in November of 2010 and immediately started talking, dreaming, and planning. At the time we knew we wanted gardens and chickens, but we didn't know what else would come to live at our farm.

In the summer of 2011 we built a fairytale barn, red with white exes on the doors.

Later that summer, after pulling fence and finishing out one stall in the barn, we bought four goats and Owl Tree Farm officially came into being.

I'm Jen and my husband's name is JC and we have come a long way from that barn raising in 2011. My intention for this blog is to first write about our beginnings, but also to share what we are learning in our homesteading journey. 

Check back soon.