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. 

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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. 

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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:

    Posted in Uncategorized

    You be You

    My great-grandmother was described to me as “a handsome, fierce woman who ran the family farm” and who struck fear in the eyes of many. Combine her strength with that of my maternal grandmother who encouraged my late mother to be the very best, and you get a glimpse of my history and genetics. Toss in my upbringing on the farm with my father telling me to get an education, stand up for what’s right, stand up for myself, to use the brains I was given, and the varnish of me can be explained (just a little). At the same time, I was told to act like a lady, stand up straight, and don’t take any crap. 

    In 1989, I was in Washington, DC at a national youth conference during a women’s march. It was a culture shock to a rural farm girl. I knew hard work, and I butted-heads with those who opposed my often independently bold ideas. Twenty-nine years later, I watched streaming world-wide women’s marches online. I raised my pitchfork and tossed 40-pound bales of hay to my herd of goats and donkeys. I was not there among the crowds, but I encouraged many to go. 

    For those who know me personally, you know that I encourage you to be bold. I encourage you to help. I encourage you to be the best you can be. I stand for equality among women AND men. 

    The culture shocks and experiences that changed my views on the world are mine. I defend my family, my faith and my friends. We do not agree on everything. Yet our ability to stand up for human rights and how we help one another is at the very core of what makes us human. 

    I volunteer with the United Methodist Women and serve as a district president. I served as a short term missionary to the Philippines in 2012, Cambodia in 2015, and visited South Korea both times. Connecting with women of villages in two of these countries, where advanced medical technologies of maternal health may never be available, reminded me of the first-world issues that we take for granted. Standing in the killing fields of Cambodia, where only 40 years ago a tyrant leader killed millions of his own people (educated, intelligent souls), shines a light on the blessings we have and the atrocities we never saw. They drained the swamps, and they found skeletal remains of people whose lives were cut short. When swamps are drained, the monsters remain; the water no longer hides the mystery. 

    In 1984, my mother went to Saudi Arabia on a medical team to teach CPR and first aid to the men and boys. During her two months there, she taught while covered in the traditional burkas and had male translators. As an American nursing instructor, she had been told that she would not have to cover her head. However, during a trip through the market, police tapped her on the head with clubs. The translator explained that the police were forcing them to cover their heads, or they faced arrest and beatings. 

    When a male student asked the translator why he should listen to a woman, my mother explained, “so that if your son chokes on a grape, you can save his life.” She first shined the light on the fact that not all countries allow women to have the same freedoms that we have. She first taught me that we were created as help-mates, but that being created in God’s image means that the Sovereign created us to be whole persons. And it is a well-known fact that our hearts all look the same on an operating table. 

    I can only be the very best I can be. I can only encourage you to offer a kind word. I can only ask that you be you and Ill be me…and together, we build relationships of understanding, appreciation and compassion. 

    Oh, and here’s a random goat picture of the herd impatiently nibbling while I tried to store the new bales. 

    Posted in Uncategorized

    Jake’s Gotcha Day

    A few weeks ago, a neighbor stopped by and asked, “is this your dog? He was chasing cars!” She held out this wriggling brown scruffy dog who wagged his tail.  “No, Scooby is right here” I replied.  She said, “well, I can’t take him home, I have two dogs there who would attack him.”

    We took photos of him, each posted them on Facebook, checked missing dog sites, and asked the neighbors. Earlier that morning, I noticed a strange car driving out of a pasture.  Most likely, someone dumped the dog. It happens in the country. It infuriates me when people get puppies, only to dump them as adolescents or older dogs.

    The next day, no one claimed a missing dog, and the local vet did not recognize him. He didn’t have a micochip. The vet tech expressed an interest in him, then suddenly, 5 people expressed interest in adopting little Jake with others telling me that we should keep him. My years of volunteering with the Col. Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue kicked-in…I began assessing him and the best possible home for him. He marked, so, I put a belly band on him.

    He had no manners, so we worked on commands of “Sit” and “Come”. He and Scooby played, but he was rougher than my senior boy could really handle.

    He failed the “cat-scan” and thought Mia the cat was great to chase. But he was shaping up to be a decent farm dog. The donkeys were fascinated by him and the goats just ran in the opposite direction.

    Jim started to like the little guy, but also expressed concern about Scooby really preferring to be an only dog.

    How to choose the right home? The vet tech decided it was not the right time to get a dog. Another lady was in the middle of selling her home. The next family in line had been looking for a dog for over a year. They drove an hour to meet Jake, and he loved on them immediately. His spiffy new haircut made him look like a new dog.

    Details worked-out, plans made, and Jake went home with his new family. Yes, we were a little sad to see him leave the farm. I informed the 5th family that Jake was adopted, and they were saddened and even a little upset that they were not Jake’s new family. Jim and I made the best decision for Jake’s new home, and he will be a good dog for this loving family.

    My best animals have been strays…those unloved 2nd hand animals who missed-out on the right home the first time. Mia showed up in our recycling bin on Halloween night as an 8 week old kitten 4 years ago. Scooby appeared matted an dehydrated in the garden 6 years ago. BiBi died in March of kidney failure at the age of 14 and lived her whole life with us. Dogs are integral in our lives. The right dog comes along for each of us at the right time. Jake reminded me to be careful running through the yard lest I trip and sprain my thumb; I tripped while chasing him as he was chasing a chicken in the back yard and landed on my thumb. We don’t know Jake’s history, but we were able to give him a home for a few weeks where he could be loved on his way to his fur-ever home.

    Since Jake’s adoption, he’s been visited by their extended family, featured in snapchats, social media and is learning to LOVE car rides.  He is loved beyond words by his new mom, sister and brother.  He sleeps through the night and has discovered a love of squeaky toys. He is smart and learning to obey his pack leader.  Hearing about the joy he gives brings tears to my eyes.

    To find local animals available for adoption in your area, search, contact your local animal shelter, humane society, or breed specific rescue.

    Posted in Uncategorized

    Animal Compactors

    Compost bins, who needs compost bins when you have chickens and goats? Our chickens love watermelon and cucumbers so much that they leave nothing more than skins. By the time they’re through,  the watermelon rind looks like a flimsy green paper bowl.

    After Halloween, a coworker gave me her leftover jack-o-lantern that her son named “JulioBulio”. In case you missed it, here’s a video of the goats sampling the leftover pumpkin.

    Now, if the chickens learn to sculpt those leftovers into shapes, they’ll demand their own YouTube channel. 

    Posted in Uncategorized

    Where there’s smoke

    Today, I traveled to Lake Junaluska, NC for a meeting. Less than an hour from home, wildfires are burning on 2,0000 acres of South Mountain State Park. First, I worried that smoke would block my route. Then I worried about my cousin, one of the many forest rangers, firefighters, and volunteers desperately working to contain and extinguish one of the many fires burning in the Appalachian mountains. 

    First, I dropped off 2 cases of water at the church that will be delivered to the relief workers. Then, I headed up the mountain. In the early morning light, smoke rose from the mountain like clouds.Stopping at the Glen Alpine exit, I could see smoke billowing over the mountain I just passed. 

    Further west, I saw a sign indicating road closures to Bat Cave, a small town south of my direction. 

    Arriving at Lake Junaluska, I checked in at the meeting and we could see the smoke settling over the lake. At a break, I stepped outside, and smelled and tasted the smoke-filled air. The usual mountain vista obscured by wafting smoke from a nearby wildfire. 

    We were safe, and being outside for short times could lead to coughing fits.
    We adjourned the afternoon session and I took the opportunity to head home with the fading daylight. I dislike driving down Black Mountain at night and feared it would be worse with the smoke. 

    As I left the beautiful mountains, the sky was eerily hazy and the sun appeared orangish-red. I could smell the smoke in the car. 

    The moon rose and was obscured by smoke.

    I spoke with a friend who told me of evacuations and of the teams of firefighters from around the nation. Those brave men and women who mobilize, await orders and stay in tent cities while fighting Mother Nature. When I asked my cousin what he wanted in particular (and I meant snacks), he responded with one word, “Rain”.
    Never did he nor any of us think that the fires would be in our state, in counties where we have family and friends. 

    To the men and women fighting the fires, thank you and be safe. 

    Posted in Uncategorized

    You Alright Back There Steve?

    After several months of searching, I located a pygmy goat for Daddy. His old buck (named Buck), became too old to provide sire services. Thus began the search for a new, young buckling. Ironically, I searched “pygmy goat for sale” on Craigslist,  Facebook and several other sites. I found Steve.  

    A 9 month old pygmy purchased and named by a little boy boy who loved Steve more than most goats are ever loved. Yet, as bucklings will do, Steve began to grow into his adolescence and started to display male-goat behavior. He frightened his best friend by ramming his horns and giving chase; typical goat and herd behavior. Goats like to be in a herd.  They need the companionship of other like-horned creatures, and a single goat is a lonely goat. 

    We drove 25 miles to fetch Steve on a windy Saturday morning. 

    After tearful goodbyes, we covered the wire-cage on the back of the truck with a tarp to cut down on the cold wind for the 25 mile drive. Five miles later, we stopped at a convenience store so that I could check the tarp, and secure the flaps. I jumped out of the truck, walked around and asked, “you alright back there Steve?” As I turned to get back in the truck, I saw the horrified looks on customers’ faces as I told Jim, “Steve’s fine in the cage.  Let’s go.” I burst into a fit of laughter as I caught a glimpse in the sideview mirror of a stunned person in pumping gas watching us drive down the road.

    Steve arrived to Daddy’s farm where my brother Kelly hugged Steve, and I checked his Famacha score. Eyes are the windows to our souls and an accurate test for barber-pole intestinal worms in goats; those blood-sucking parasites can a use anemia and death in goats.  He’s healthy. 

    I walked Steve on a rope to the house, and Steve munched on a few fallen leaves. Herd introductions happen slowly at Daddy’s so that the new goat learns the pasture layout and the new heirarchy can be established. Within hours, Steve met the herd and was eating with them in the pasture as if he had been there all along. Hopefully, by June, we’ll see new baby Steves in the pasture. If not, the search will resume.