I skipped happy hour with coworkers… again… because of the goats. My coworkers are great, but factor in an hour commute and a passel of animals, my time is limited on weeknights.
Tonight, as I fed over-ripened cucumbers to the goats, and dropped the evening rations to the feral barn cats, a friend dropped by, and we watered the goats.
Then two stray dogs wandered through the pasture. This time, beagles. Their owner, a nice young man came into the yard just as one of the beagles touched the goats’ electric fence. Yelping, the dog, named Sophie, bolted through the cornfield amid 10-feet tall stalks. Cindy finished watering the goats and I headed into the cornfield in search of J’s wayward dog. No luck. She went through the back woods headed to the next road. I was not up for that much of a hike at dusk.
In this age of cell phones, I pulled out my phone and asked for J’s number and said if Sophie returned, I would call.
As he left, I spotted a new treasure: a new-to-me discarded wire spool, courtesy of the local power company. A childhood friend and classmate works for the local co-op and dropped a newly discarded spindle. This is how we recycle….a wooden spool used to hold power line transforms into a goat step stool. After rolling it into place, the bachelors, Bert and Ernie, began field testing the new addition to the goat tower.
hank you REMC for the fantastic service and the opportunity to recycle. And thanks to new neighbors who help water the caprines.
Tonight, I thought that Steve the goat would become the world’s first caprine beekeeper. Alas, he just pretended to be a pointer and stood by while I dumped a newly discovered swarm into a brood box. Different from the swarm we capped last night, this second swarm consisted of 1000 bees just hanging on a tree limb in the goats’ pasture. Convincing them to go into an empty box involved me moving an empty box, picking up the limb with the bees, and shaking them into the box.
With that success, and having managed to destroy a black widow spider, her 3 sacs of minuscule babies and a wasp attempting to take over an empty honeybee box, it was time for stage two of moving the hive from last night.
Armed with a smoker, a temporary board and the empty brood box, Daddy, Jim and I moved last night’s hive to a new location. Daddy did not even use gloves or a veil. Kelly dislikes getting stung more than I do, so he stood out of the way and graciously took photos. Jim ran the smoker to help keep the bees calm. They were much better than last night.
We added the top, slid the temporary board beneath the supers and strapped-down the lid. Then, we carried it to its new location about 50 feet east and walked away. After we let them settle, I pulled the rag-stopper out of the vent and we left them. Tomorrow, we will put them on the brood box and leave them in their current location until January.
There’s a poem about catching swarms:
A hive in May is worth a stack of hay.
A hive in June is worth a silver spoon.
A hive in July ain’t worth a fly.
At this point, I expect two silver spoons… if we can get them to produce. We will move that 2nd hive soon too.
Daddy’s text this afternoon indicated that he found a possible beehive swarm. In my phone call to him as I left the office he requested a brood box, a hive top and bottom, and instructions to pick him up after dark. Cryptic at least, fully instructed at best.
Jim and I arrived after dark with an empty brood box on the back of the truck, and veils and gloves. Oh sure, some beekeepers go into boxes barehanded, without veils, but to me, that is just asking bee stings to the face.
We discovered a new swarm of honeybees, completely moved into an abandoned pair of supers; the section of a standard hive where bees make honey, not where the queen lays eggs or brood (baby bees). Not bad, a swarm in a box was easier than convincing a swarm to move out of a tree. However, a chain had been laid on the abandoned boxes and the bees were beginning to incorporate the chain into the structure of their new residence.
My job at 9:45 pm: move the tractor chain from the bee abode, and add a temporary cover so they can be moved to a permanent location. Oh, and make sure that 10,000 bees stay calm.
I donned my gloves and veil over my long-sleeved collar shirt. Jim and Daddy provided instructions from a distance, “move the chain slowly” … “just move it quickly and drop it behind the box” … “don’t rile them, the bottom box is full” … “put the top on with the vent down.”
Did I mention it was 9:30 at night, in the dark and that I fought a migraine off and on all day? Truth be told, Jim worked a 12-hour shift, then pulled the box supplies from our inventory, and Daddy had been out working most of the day as well. So we were a bit tired.
Then a bee stung my knee, and the hive activity kicked-up a notch. Slowly moving the chain was not an option. I grabbed what appeared to be the other end of the chain and slung it on the ground. Buzzing amplified round my bonnet and they crawled on my arms and pants. “Now put the cover liner on and leave them until tomorrow .” I ducked away to clear the trailing bees. After a minute or so, I went back to them, put the cover on the new hive and ran.
As I removed my red chicken sloggers to rid my sock of a wayward bee, I asked daddy, “Did Papaw ever get stung?” Daddy replied, “Oh sure. ‘Good for the rheumatism’. At least that’s what Dad used to say.”
I guess that’s better than, “suck it up buttercup.”
Between feral dogs attacking daddy’s steers, hawks stealing chickens, and a donkey who lost his mind and injured 3 goats, the past few weeks have been interesting on the farm. With the spring kidding season, we welcomed 14 kids, plus daddy’s pygmy goats bore 10 (Yes, we have goats available). Now, as summer officially begins in a few weeks, we watch for the paragliders who loop low over the fields and buzz the animals from the air. These motorized gliders started out a few years ago high in the sky. Tonight, two of them buzzed the hay field lower than the power lines swooping in and around the terraces. One of them saw me and had to increase speed to raise above the power lines (generally poles are 40 feet tall). Another had blinking flashes, so I am guessing that they were recording video.
Daddy asked if I knew who they were or what they wanted. No, I do not know who they are or where they land and take-off. They are annoying and creepy. Last year, they buzzed the pasture and made the goats run. That infuriated me.
What to do? For the dogs, we are working with animal control to trap the feral dogs. And now, I have to watch for paragliders who circle the farm. They saw me tonight, making a large X symbol with my arms and waving them out of the air. They were low enough for me to see their sunglasses and helmets. If you know anything about the motorized paragliders in western Lincoln County, NC, let me know.
What’s in a Name? I wonder why Shakespeare never compared names to goats. Imagine it: Juliet standing on her balcony, Romeo hiding in the bushes, and Juliet sniffs the air. Instead of comparing surnames to a rose, she would have said, “dude, did you come from the goat field?” The play just would not have been the same. Yet I digress.
Those eight goats that Jim brought home a few weeks ago, they’ve all been named, except for one. Honestly, I thought she (the last one) was a boy, because one of the four kids kept escaping when we did vacccines, I couldn’t remember which white goat was which! My coworkers named the others: Madea, Sheri, Wanda Sykes, Wendy Williams, Lady Gaga, Ashy Larry and Tyrone Bigums; the last two were characters on the Dave Chappell Show. Wendy Williams was chosen because we realized that she’s a fainting goat and my co-workers insisted that we name our fainting goat after Wendy Williams. Still no name for the escapee. With 25 goats, and because I have no idea whether Madea, Wendy, Wanda or Sheri is the mother of “Skittish Brown-headed Girl”, we decided that we could name her anything. I just need something to put on her paperwork so that I know which goat received which vaccine. Yes, celebrity names make it fun when I talk about my goats and less awkward when one of them gets the worms. I named two animals after my lifelong friend LeslieR. It was a little odd telling my life-long friend Leslie that she didn’t make it as a chicken or a guinea pig. That text message was something like “had to bury Leslie today, she was attacked by a hawk.”
New Year’s Day, I texted my friend Lisa to say we were running late to lunch because, “we had to move Ashy Larry and Tyrone Bigums to the bachelor pad. Lady Gaga had the scours, so she got goat dewormer. ” Lady Gaga was identified as “the little one with the poopy-butt”.
Tonight, in the 15-degree evening temperature, I still could not come up with a name. I moved Bert, Ernie, Tex and Clara back to the main pasture and decided to ask the social media masses for name suggestions. With Jim as the final decision-maker, multiple entries and several laughs, we settled on (as you wish) “Princess Buttercup“.
At some point, two years ago, I became known as the “crazy chicken lady”. Last year, when we added goats to the menagerie, I gained the title of “Crazy Goat Lady”, and set about naming our herd after celebrities. Friends and coworkers helped name a few. I’ve studied breeding schedules, feeding schedules, goat health, nutrition, and I’ve helped deliver a few new kids.
Breeding season is in full swing. In my mind, I’m calculating the number of bales of hay required to feed them through the winter, watching for signs of illness and Jim is planning catch pen systems for herd checks and vaccinations. We’re considering retail sale of packaged meats (processed at an inspected facility) and visioning business strategies to make the farm profitable.
It’s common for me to sit in an operations meeting during the day at the office transforming notes and processes into requirements for developers, then hours later, I’m standing in a barn wearing overalls and shoveling manure or chasing a wayward goat by moonlight. On weekends, I’ve stood in pulpits and in front of groups of women listening to ideas for mission projects or facilitating small group discussions. At home, I have Gantt charts on the kitchen whiteboard for farm and house projects.
More than once, people have asked, “how do you do it?” And my response is often a shrug and a joke that I don’t sleep much. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I take phone calls by blue-tooth / hands-free while commuting and send emails at times when others are sleeping. Yesterday, I realized that my blog hadn’t been updated in months, actually, since the week before mom had surgery then went into hospice. Funny how illness, death and grief will rearrange schedules and priorities. Life gets in the way. Years ago, I started blogging when we were primary caregivers for my late mother-in-law during during her end stages of life. Blogging provided an outlet and opened doors for me to join a virtual community of caregivers.
More recently, when I became the farmer-professional-extraordinaire, I had bandwidth and space for sharing about the funny things that happen on the farm and how “city-folk” find my antics amusing. When Mom had surgery a few months ago, I didn’t have the bandwidth to share with others outside of my inner circle the daily routine of home-work-hospice/hospital-farm-volunteer-commute. Some days, it was all I could do to feed the dog and cat, make coffee, shower, commute somewhere (hospice, work, church, home), and repeat.
Coordinating mom’s care and being there for daddy became my number one priority. My husband, my dad, my brothers, my inner circle, my tribe (those close family and friends) … they are what mattered. They’re still what matters. They’re my world. When someone told me that I needed to remember that other-people-somewhere-unrelated cared about mom and they thought she should get “this or that”, I simply responded, “I know they are interested. They don’t get a vote. My role is to make sure that she gets the best care, and I will do that to the best of my ability until my last breath.”
I struggled to sift through grief, anger, doubt, and fear, just as others demanded to know why I didn’t pay attention to them. I recognized that I needed to stay connected, but I sought resources to help me deal with the day-to-day crap. There’s a great book by Megan Devine called “It’s OK that You’re Not OK“. I highly recommend it for anyone in the wake of death or for the caregiver sitting in hospice awaiting the last hours, days and weeks.
In the midst of it all, I posted random pictures on social media, listened to the news, went to work, and somewhere in there, I kept the clothes washed and gas in the car. Thank goodness for Jim… he washed dishes and made lots of meals.
I’m still that crazy chicken/goat lady. Life on the farm still happens, and I’m still amusing city-folk with normal things like having a goat-naming contest for the newest second-hand goats that Jim brokered. At some point in the next few weeks, I’ll finish year-end reports and maybe start sewing tote bags from chicken feed sacks again.
“What do you want for our 15th anniversary?” Jim asked in July.
“Rocks.” I replied while shoveling stalls.
“Like in a necklace?” He asked with a puzzled expression.
“Rocks for the driveway. Gravel…stone…just not crusher run or rip rap.”
“That’s what I want too!” Jim replied.
Thus began the search for our anniversary gift to each other. We made multiple phone calls, internet searches and I even had a conversation with a guy who told me, “you’re my kind of woman for wanting gravel.” Finally, we found Kerns Trucking in Kings Mountain who scheduled the delivery.
I remember that as a child playing in the sandbox, I drove my miniature metal Tonka truck over to my Barbie doll’s dirt house and dumped a load of grass, twigs and sand. Flashing to reality, on the delivery day, the driver deftly backed toward the house, tilted the dump truck bed and poured a stream of gravel as he slowly exited.
Now, I’m preparing to manually distribute that small remaining pile of 17 tons of gravel to fill a few water washed pot holes. As I shovel the wheelbarrow full, I think of the devastation left this week in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the potential devastation to come with Hurricane Irma. Filling a few washed-out places in the driveway is nothing compared to families in the great state of Texas who are ripping out sheetrock, throwing away furniture, photos and mourning the loss of pets, livestock and people. I see the images of piles of ruined possessions on lawns and remember that pile of ruined stuff as a child when my family home was engulfed in flames. Loss of possessions by fire and flood devastate us. But the comraderie, the outpouring of support, of rescuing animals, infants, and livestock, of feeding and providing shelter to strangers…these are the examples of hope, love, courage and endurance.
I’ve posted on Facebook several reputable charities through which to donate. From UMCOR, Red Cross, Houston SPCA and food banks, there are multiple reputable organizations through which you can donate supplies, diapers, formula, food and money. There are ways to volunteer to help clean-up and begin rebuilding. It is a matter of you taking the initiative to help.