Posted in Raised by a village

Date Night

Jim and I went on a date. He called it an educational field trip. Kelly chaperoned our evening drive and we dined on chicken wings and fried fish. We went to the Livestock Auction where we saw a throng of people packing the auction block, a line to the restroom, big screen televisions, and the auctioneer was on his game. 

I learned at the young age of 4 to sit on my hands, don’t point, and to pay attention. Those three rules still apply in a different way. The Cleveland County Livestock Auction was known to us as children as “Dedmon’s” or “The Sale Barn” where we took cows no longer producing milk. Now, the auction company sells cattle on Tuesdays and other livestock biweekly on Friday Nights. I do not remember ever seeing that many people packed into the auction room. 

We arrived shortly before 7 pm, much too late to get a seat, but plenty of time to get a plate of food, walk the catwalk over the animal stalls, watch animals being run in and out of the auction, and to people-watch. 

In case you’re wondering, intake of animals for sale begins around 3 pm, so arriving at 6:45 pm with a rooster in the trunk of your car will get you a nasty look, a sigh and the explanation that they have registered 400 birds and yours will be last in line to the auction….probably around midnight. That’s why Max sat in a cage in the trunk all evening…and that probably why his story to the other chickens sounds a bit like an alien abduction. 

We didn’t buy or sell anything, but Jim learned all about the Livestock Auction.

Posted in Raised by a village

Steve’s Chasing Cars

Friday morning, while wrapping up a requirements meeting with my boss and a developer,  my phone vibrated and displayed the name of Daddy’s neighbor.  I excused myself and took the call. A million things instantly ran through my head. He said, “I hate to call you at work, but one of your dad’s goats is standing in the road, he won’t move and I think he’s chasing cars. I just don’t want him to get hit.”  This man whom I’ve known my whole life and whose wife was one of my teachers, has a calm demeanor and nothing ever seems to upset him. His genuine concern for daddy’s goat and our family immeasurable.  I asked, “is it the gray one?” When the reply was yes, I thanked him, assured him that I would take care of it and would let him know of we needed anything. 

My boss and the developer, a young graduate who just moved to the area from the Midwest, looked at me quizzically. I said, “Daddy’s goat Steve jumped the fence and is playing in traffic.” They cracked up. “How often does this happed?” I replied, “it’s not the first time. We used to get calls all the time from someone saying that the cows were out. Now, it’s goats.” 

I texted daddy, “Walt just called. Steve is in the road.”   

I texted a cousin. On her way home from a meeting in town, she checked the side-ditches looking for signs of an injured goat. I went to my next meeting and received the text from Daddy, “will take care of it.”

After that meeting, I called Walt to thank him and told him about Steve the Stud and his amorous activities. Walt said, “it sounds like he’s trying to avoid the responsibility.” I laughed and said, “he just realized how many baby-mamas he has!” 

Daddy texted with, “tied Steve to a cement block at the tool shed with hay and water. Will have to do until we get new fence. Got out one too many times.” 

My co-worker, Steve,  just shook his head at the goat’s antics. 

Now, before you say, “poor Steve” let me say that I do not like tie-outs. However, in Steve’s case, he prefers it. How can we tell? He is calm and he smiled.  He lived the first 9 months of his life with his prior owner on a leash and living in a doghouse. Steve is on the other side of the fence from his ladies and seems to love the single life of a “ball and chain”. He has shelter, food, water and is loved. 
Now, we’re prepping for a new solar-powered electric fence that will house both he and Sam in temporary-movable areas for cleanup of privet and vines. 

I’m just thankful for an employer who understands that you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. In my line of work as a business analyst,  some say that it’s difficult to find the right mix of IT/business process design. You don’t always get this eclectic mix. When you ger me, it’s that mix plus volunteerism and farming. At a volunteer event over the weekend,  someone commented, “you’re real.” I may not be Santa Claus,  but yes, gentle readers, Janet is real. 

Posted in Raised by a village

He’s No Dud, Steve’s a Stud

He’s no dud….Steve’s a stud. Remember back in October when Jim and I picked up Steve the Goat for Daddy? Well, we wondered whether or not Steve was going to be good sire material. Last month, Daddy admitted that he wondered if Steve was a dud. We feared that Steve had been pushed to the friend-zone of the goat-mating world. Well, the wait is over. Just over 5 months have passed, and the first new pygmy goat was born today. A sweet little nanny, mostly white with buff highlights walked alongside her long-haired mother in the pasture at Daddy’s. 

At first, we thought that maybe a few of Daddy’s nannies were pregnant. With goat gestation around 150 days, many times they do not show signs of pregnancy until around 4 months. Today, I confirmed that all of the remaining 9 goats are pregnant and due within a few weeks. 

No, Daddy doesn’t name his goats after celebrity-figures like I do.  He names them “Spot”, “Buck” or “Number 3”. His are mostly white and black angora mixed la mancha  pygmy goats. They’re smaller goats and of course I held the first of many more to arrive. 

Yes, in our pasture, Betty White is still pregnant.

Posted in Raised by a village

How’s Bert?

“How’s Bert?” 

“He’s showing signs of being a goat each day.” 

Last month, when Bert and Ernie were born, I never imagined the weeks of daily bottle feeding. And let me clarify that I say “bottle-feeding” as a nicety. Bert never latched on to a synthetic nipple, and I tried 3 different kinds. When Jim took Bert to the vet, she taught Jim how to run  tube down his esophagus, add a syringe and slowly inject 60 ml of milk replacer into the rumen. Jim them taught me. Each morning at 0530 and at night, Jim held Bert in a laundry basket on his lap in the kitchen, I ran the feeding tube down that little goat’s throat.  I  pushed 2 syringes full of warm milk replacer into this adorable little goat’s  first stomach. I removed the tube, sanitized it and the syringes for the next feeding preparation. Bert settled for the night in the laundry basket under the table. This was the twice daily “bottle feeding” routine that we maintained for nearly 3 weeks. 

One day at the office, a coworker asked about Bert. Another coworker walked into the room as I said, “He’s doing much better, we give him a bottle, and he sleeps through the night on a blanket in a laundry basket under the kitchen table.”  The other coworker asked, “do you need an air mattress? Or do we need to take up a fund for a crib?”  

I replied, “no, I don’t think my goat would appreciate an air mattress, but thank you.” 

Each morning, we put Bert back into the pasture and his bleating brought Julie Andrews running as if to say, “my baby, you brought my baby!”  Bert now trots a little and is able to keep up with the herd as they browse the pasture. The donkeys are the kid-sitters as ZsaZsa teaches them the art of jumping onto the backs of donkeys like a circus trick. I don’t know how many kids Julie Andrews has had in her lifetime, but she seems to be tired…and Bert’s early struggles were more than she could handle until we stepped in and helped him get a second chance. 

I tell you these things to show my frailty of humanity. This week has included the unexpected death and funeral of a beloved sister-in-law, news of a cousin’s  health scare, work projects that stretch my Excel formula-writing skills, and juggling volunteer responsibilities that would make a time-management guru openly weep. Bert has been my gift of seeing a sutuation from both sides: of not giving up and understanding how easy it is to give up. We could have easily left him and then buried him at a day old. But we chose to fight for a second chance. And this time, we’ve got a goat on the mend.  

Bert is a sweet goat. He is friendlier than others and still lets me carry him for a bit. Although,  he is beginning to smell like a goat, dirt and grass, more than my sweet milk-replacer baby. 


Posted in like-minded, Off the Farm, Uncategorized

I’m Here To Pick Up Chicks

We farm-chics stick together, because the things that happen to us are normal to those in our world, but completely foreign to  non-farm-folk. 

We all know that the post office handles lots of odd packages…including live baby chicks.  Baby chicks are shipped overnight and 2ND-day air around the country for small and large farmers to raise as organic meat-birds, game hens and egg-layers.  Hatcheries mail baby chicks in ventilated boxes with food in the bottom. These boxes are handled with extreme care and labeled “BABY CHICKS”. It’s when farmers like Audra show up at the post office after working in an office and tells the clerk, “I’m here to pick up the chicks” that it becomes a crap-shoot.  I thought it was hysterical and appropriate at the same time.

With quippy-farm-wit, we all expect our small-town postal clerk to say, “why certainly, I’ll get them from the back.” Instead, last week, Audra’s clerk asked, “do you have any identification?”  To which Audra replied, “my wallet is in the car. I didn’t really think you’d need my driver’s license to pick up my chicks. I know they’re in the back because I can hear them.” 
The clerk replied, “that package is for Ellis Farms. Did they send you?” 

Audra said, “I am Ellis Farms and the package is addressed to Rick, he’s my husband and he told me to stop and pick up the chicks on my way home.” 

The clerk countered, “We really need for you to provide your ID.” 

 Proudly, Audra did not lose her religion at this point, but asked the nice clerk, “Is there a chick-theft ring that I don’t know about in our town? How many people show up saying they’re here to pick up the chicks on the exact day and time that we received notification that OUR chicks arrived? I can hear them around that wall. Would you like to call the number listed on the parcel and speak with Rick about me picking up the chicks that he sent me to get?”

The clerk must have caved at some point. Because the clerk returned with a vented box of chicks, addressed to Ellis Farms and the clerk said, “We really need for you to bring your ID when you pick up packages.”

Oddly enough, I was in the same post office not 10 minutes later, to sign for a large envelope…and the clerk never asked me for identification. 

So my friends, remain vigilant against possible clandestine chick-theft rings. What strange things have you pick-up at the post office, and did you have to show your identification? 

Thank you Audra of Ellis Farms for sharing your story, allowing me to paraphrase when needed, and to share a glimpse into a seemingly simple pick-up that went sideways.  

Photos contribute by Audra Ellis. 

Posted in farmlife, goatlife

We Called the Vet 

After four nights of 3 am bottle feeding baby goat Bert, we did all that we could, and then we called the vet at 6:45 am. I expected to leave a message, but surprisingly, my call was answered by our mobile vet and I explained that Bert had an elevated temperature,  faster than normal breathing, and weakness in standing.At 4 days old, he’s behind the curve because he did not get colostrum within the first 24 hours of his life. That first mother’s milk provides mammals with immunities to fight off infections for the first critical weeks. Without that nourishment and fluid, he’s fighting exponentially harder than his twin brother.

It’s been a roller-coaster with 3 am feedings and supplements. I’ve rationalized our decisions to this point and have been my biggest critic. Did we wait too long, should I have done something else, I am hardest on myself. 

I wrote down everything that we’d given Bert, a brief timeline of events. Jim took Bert to the vet’s place and I headed to work. Steeling myself for the worst, and knowing that going 23 hours without food is a poor prognosis, I hoped and prayed that he would either be ok or free of pain. 

About an hour later, Jim called to say that Bert was in better shape than the vet expected. He still refused a bottle, so she taught Jim how to tube feed him. The vet gave Bert an antibiotic shot, some additional anti-inflammatory medicine and said that he has and touch of pneumonia, but we did everything right. He may be a little more susceptible to infections, and he may be small, but his prognosis is good. I have to give him another shot in a few days, and to call the vet with any questions.  

At lunch, I called to check on Bert and Jim said that he perked up at the he sound of the other goats and when he heard his mother screaming for him, he actually tottered to her and she stood for a few minutes to let him nurse. Wonders never cease. I arrived home after work to find Bert napping in the hay, snuggled to his brother Ernie. When Julie Andrews spotted me, they stood up and started nursing again.  He’s still a little wobbly than the others, so we brought him inside to sleep in a laundry basket for another night while his lungs clear. He won’t take a bottle, so we tube fed him again late tonight and he’s sleeping in the laundry basket. He’s making huge strides and his eyes are clear, his coat is soft and his breathing has normalized. 

So in terms of John Wesley’s teachings, we did all we could and then we reached out for help. Our mobile vet is a blessing, an asset to the community and we consider her an extension of the family. Buy that’s a story for another day. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Goat Daycare

Oddly enough, when you have multiple goats giving birth around the same time, the mothers seem a little more relaxed than when just one kids.In December,  when ZsaZsa-Noel was born, her mother Connie Francis seemed nervous. She was a first-time mother and it was cold. Now, Rita Rudner and Vera Wang are first-timers, and they recently established a babysitting schedule with Faith Hill.  I’m not sure how they determine whose turn it is, but they care for each other’s kids with more love and affection than some humans. 

Our goats have a routine of browsing the pasture, and one part is farther from the stable than week-old babies can travel. 

In the morning,  Faith Hill stays at the barn with the kids while the rest of the herd, including ZsaZsa-Noel, migrate to the lower pasture. Later, Rita Rudner watches over the kids while the herd browses. All the while, the donkeys split their attention between the herd. Rita makes small noises to indicate she is nearby and as the herd walks back to the barn,  Vera Wang and Faith Hill call to their does for a snack. 

Julie Andrews’ newest arrivals changed the routine a bit with Julie staying in the woods to hide Ernie. Bert has been staying inside the house with us at night, sleeping in a laundry basket beside the bed. Scooby noses him and is overjoyed to see me bring him to the house each night. At midnight and 3 am, I take Scooby and Bert outside to potty. Then, it’s and 5 am feeding and he’s returned to the herd at 7 am so that I can go to work. Bert and Ernie don’t venture far from the barn, but hopefully that will change once Bert gains more strength in his back legs. 

When Betty White kids in a few weeks, hopefully, her baby will be added to the daycare roster without much fuss. 

Already, Mae West, Texas Guinan and Clara are the best of friends. They bounce, run and snuggle with each other. Yes, I know, they’re goats. And they give a glimpse into the herd mentality and group dynamics for anyone interested. 

Posted in Uncategorized

All That I Can for a Floppy Goat

John Wesley wrote,

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can. 

These are words I reread and try to live out loud, even with goats. Julie Andrews gave birth Friday afternoon to two beautiful bucklings. I started calling them Bert and Ernie. Things were fine. I was starting to feel a little better than I had felt earlier in the week. Then, things fell apart.  Literally. I awoke Saturday morning to find water under the kitchen sink where a washer from the drain had rusted and separated. I dried everything and quickly realized that we needed new parts. I felt dizzy from the week’s cold (or whatever lovely virus hit me) and I napped for an hour until Jim came home from work. Kelly stopped by and I decided to give the newborns their vaccines (like normal). I noticed that Bert was standing back a little and Ernie seemed to follow Julie Andrews without problems. Nothing unusual. 

A trip to Lowe’s and we fixed the worn-out washers and drain. I walked to the barn for one last check of the goats. Bert was in the woods, laying down and looked almost dead. Julie and Ernie were further in the woods. I grabbed Bert, shook him and ran to the house. He made a few audible protestes, but he was floppy, like a wet dishrag. He was cooler than he should have been. I wrapped him in a towel, and we mixed a cup of powdered colostrum.  He wouldn’t take the bottle.  I force-fed him milliliters of warm colostrum with a dropper. 

I called two other goat herders and we talked strategies. This is where a laundry basket and a heating pad become staples on the farm. Scooby sniffed at Bert and each time I would try force-feeding, Scooby insisted on sitting on my lap beside the goat. Wrapped in a towel, I fed another few milliliters of liquid to Bert. He napped and we repeated the process. Let me tell you that 2 am feedings with a baby goat involves a trip outside to potty and a fluffy white dog who insists that he’s a nurse. More droppers full of liquid. 

Repeat the process for a 5 am feeding. At 7 am, Jim joined the fun and was able to get Bert to eat almost 2 ounces. I headed out of town for a meeting, with the promise of returning in the afternoon. 

I joined my UMW sisters for a quarterly conference meeting and worship. They asked about the goats. I am thankful to be part of an organization that loves me for me…Goats and all.

After lunch, Jim texted a photo of Bert nursing in the pasture. I was elated. Hope soared. By the time I was home a few hours later, she had abandoned him again. Ernie continued to follow her and started showing signs of normal playful 3 day old goat behavior.  I found Jim force-feeding Bert. Kelly and I put Julie on the stanchion and I milked a few ounces into a bowl. She would not stand for Bert to nurse. 

So, Bert is in the house with us again tonight. In the laundry basket. We’ll feed him another 3 ounces tonight and in the morning and put him back in the pasture again. 

He has a 50/50 shot. We take it one day at a time and hope he makes it through the night. 

Farming is not for the faint of heart. Growing up, Daddy warned me to not fall in love with animals because my heart would be broken when they die. Out of the 8 goats we’ve kidded, the countless puppies our dogs had when we were little and of the calves I helped pull into  this world, I felt love for all of them. Heartbreak has been another part of the journey. Long nights of sitting up with expecting mothers, sick animals and a possible floppy goat with a poor prognosis, that’s just part of this leg of my journey…to do all that I can. 

Posted in farmlife, goatlife, Uncategorized

Goats in the Mist

While we wait for Betty White and Julie Andrews to deliver their babies, we welcomed two new kids on Sunday: a surprise delivery by Faith Hill, and tiny Clara Barton by Vera Wang. Before you ask, “what is in the water out there?” Remember, goat gestation is 150 days, and when Sam Elliott arrived late last summer, he liked all the ladies….a lot. 

Many mornings, I use my binoculars to peer from the kitchen window to count goats in the pasture. When I couldn’t locate Faith Hill, my friendly/pesky goat, I headed out to the barn. Hearing a new baby scream, I was overjoyed to see 2 pound MaeWest toddle to greet me. With her umbilical cord still fresh and her coat still damp with afterbirth, I scooped her in my arms and checked her. At first, I was disappointed because I thought she was a buckling. We only keep one male on the farm, and I remember the distress that Faith Hill had last summer when we separated her buckling. Picking her up again, I found her tiny “girl-parts”. And I sighed relief. She has a sweet disposition and does not run in fear like some do. 

Later that afternoon, Kelly called to say that he heard what sounded like a bird in the woods, and that Vera Wang was away from the herd. We found her tending a 1.5 pound pure white baby girl with ears as long as her little legs. Clara, named for three prominent women:

  1.  Clara Barton, American Red Cross founder
  2. Clara Swain, physician and Methodist missionary who focused on women’s healthare in India
  3. Clara Oswald, the fictional Impossible  Girl from the Doctor Who series

    Sure, she may look like Snow White, but she is so tiny that her odds may seem impossible. 

    Since Monday evening, I’ve battled a sinus headache and mild fever. I’m not sharing my kleenex with anyone. After a night of pouring rain and very little sleep from the congestion, I trudged to the barn to check the herd at 4 am. Light from my headlamp danced on the thick February fog. I wondered if Naturalist Dian Fossey ever saw shadows in the fog as she studied Gorillas in Rwanda. Silently, I counted each goat. So far, so good. 

    #KidWatch2017 continues. 

    Posted in Uncategorized

    Texas Guinan

    Naming goats can be a lot like shopping for the perfect piece of cloth or dress.As a child and youth, Momma and I would go to a cloth store and she would tell me, “you’ll know it when you see it.” (See more photos by clicking the link to the blog)  Often, my cloth selections were bold and not the dainty calico prints one expected. 

    Thank you to all of the name suggestions for the newest goat edition to the farm. We tried out the top suggestions of Mary Tyler Moore, Bette Midler, Princess Leia, and Carrie Fisher.  It sounds odd, but our goats, Jim and I all come to a consensus on the final names. This time, we chose..Texas Guinan. 

    Now, you’re shaking your head puzzled and saying, “that wasn’t on the list!” Or asking “Who is that?”

    In baby goat’s first picture, she reminded Jim and I of Whoopi Goldberg’s character “Guinan” on Star Trek The Next Generation and her signature wardrobe.
    Shhh, we are closet Trekkies…ok, fine, we’re openly Star Trek fans. We also love Doctor Who (yes, the name Clara Oswald came up as a close second). Whoopi Goldberg was a huge fan of the TNG show, and Gene Roddenberry created the character of Guinan, named after Texas Guinan, “Queen of the Night Clubs“. We liked the Sister Act movies and decided that Texas Guinan would be a fitting tribute. 

    So, “Texas Guinan” it is! 
    Watch a YouTube clip of Guinan here (or by clicking the link on Guinan):

    Watch stock footage of Texas Guinan here: