"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Visiting Billy

Just to try and tie up any loose ends, I had my neighbor bring over her billy goat, Kramer. I'll get a picture of him up soon, because he is just the cutest little thing. If I were a doe goat, I'd be all over him like white on rice, but oh no, not my pack of nasty nannies. They butted him all to hell and gone, didn't even let him spend the night in the barn. Whenever I go out there, he tries to hide behind me. 

I'm just going to have to make do with however many goats are pregnant and quit stressing already.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is This Pony Pregnant?

When I bought Rosie Pony back in October (?), I was warned that there was a chance she was pregnant. She had "had access" to a stallion, but no-one had actually witnessed any breeding. Well, she's been getting fatter and fatter since she came to stay with us, and several horsey-type people who have seen her have said she is either severely overweight or pregnant. Or both, I suppose that's a possibility. What she could possibly be getting fat ON is a mystery to me, since all I give her is the same hay I feed the goats, which isn't really very good hay, and a handful of alfalfa pellets morning and evening. 

I kind of hope she's pregnant. 

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Hate Breeding Goats

Xana is back in heat, along with Django and her baby Valentine. So far, we've paid $150 in breeding fees and had two failures that we know of and two other does which may or may not have caught pregnant. Theoretically, we get our money back if they aren't pregnant after three heat cycles, but that's the whole breeding season, and then we won't have any baby goats in the spring. And baby goats - and milk - are the whole point of this stinkin' operation.

Friday, December 26, 2008

One Giant Leap

Well, not really. This morning one of my minor fears came true: I was up in the hayloft getting some hay for the goats when the ladder fell down. No possible way to reach it. Hmmm, now what? 

Don't get me wrong, the barn is only sixteen feet from the floor to the tippy-top of the roofline. The hayloft is probably seven feet off the ground. But the days when I could hang from my hands off a flat ledge are long gone. Even my armpits is pushing it. It was jump or stay stuck. 

So I sat there for a few minutes. There were two unopened bales of hay up there with me; I thought if I could push them off onto the floor and get them to land more or less side by side then I'd have a platform to jump onto, only about a three foot drop then. I pushed the bales off, and they landed about four feet apart from one another, and moreover, they landed on their sides, so they'd be extra tippy. Now if I tried to jump onto a hay bale I'd almost certainly go over backwards and whack my head. Plus, the goats all rushed over and started eating the hay. I didn't want to land on a goat and kill it. 

More thinking. Then I saw the chicken's roost along one side of the barn. It's a twelve foot dowel affixed to the wall with little cross braces, but thankfully it's a 1 1/2 inch dowel and the cross braces are made out of pieces of 2x4. It does sag under the weight of twenty chickens, but I'd have to risk it. Hanging by my armpits, I managed to get one tippy toe on the dowel, and from there it was a piece of cake. Basically. Okay, so I got chicken shit on my ass. Big whoop.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snowed in Again!

Unbelievable! Another seven or eight inches last night and still snowing like a mad bastard. When I went out to check on the animals, I was floundering around like a fish, wading through waist deep drifts. I have never seen this much snow in all my born days! Those are my front porch railings in the above picture, they are about chest height, so you can see how deep the drifts are. I absolutely hate to think about how much WATER there is going to be in a day or two when this all melts. It's warming up quick, up to 35 degrees now from a low of about 17 a few days ago, and they expect this snow to turn to rain any minute now.

And then freeze again, all over the roads, just in time for Christmas. Hooray, bumper cars!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Digging Out

The mountains are out today, for the first time in well over a week. It's been one record breaking day after another here, temperatures down in the teens, wind chill factors of negative 20, and approximately two feet of snow. It's kind of hard to tell how much snow we got up here, because of the wind. I have bare patches and drifts up to my waist. I can't open the gate to the alpacas, because it's buried in a deep drift which has frozen solid. I'm passing their food and water over the top of the fence. To think, I should be in tropical paradise right now. Well, okay, sure: I should be in my mother-in-law's house in a city which is not on the beach. But it is the tropics, anyway. 
Iris wearing polar fleece. I put polar fleece vests on Iris and Django, my two skinny does, and it seems to have worked great. They have both started to put on weight, finally. I was feeding them hot cooked oatmeal with raisins, and that didn't help until I got the jackets on them. Iris has been bred again, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she took this time. Eeryone I know on Goatbeat (the goat-related forum I've joined) is having babies already, posting photos that just make me so jealous I could scream.
The front porch. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Spoke Too Soon

Well, I'm not in Oaxaca. We are all still here enjoying the sub-zero wind chill factor. Travel document issue, and that's all I'm going to say about it. Well, that, and my husband is a mensch. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adios, Snow!

Well, we're off, like a herd of turtles as my dear mother likes to say. Leaving the farm with a foot of snow on the ground, more snow and high winds forecasted for the next week, and the temperature reaching new record lows every day. Can't wait to fly over the tropic of capricorn and start enjoying some HEAT. 

Of course, I do worry about my animals here at home. Poor guys. Especially the pig. He's not very fat, despite the fact that he eats like a pig, and he has no hair. He's naked bacon out there, and all he has for warmth is a doghouse full of straw. I've been trying to make sure he has a bellyful of hot food twice a day, at least, but I feel like it's kind of a lot to ask my farmsitters to feed him hot cereal. 

The alpacas have finally been transferred to the field with the three sided shelter, and they have it all to themselves. At last they can get out of the wind. The goats and the pony are together with the chickens in the big barn, and the goats are wearing polar fleece vests (yes, I'll get pictures up as soon as I can) so I think they'll all be fine. 

The only other animals I have to worry about are the new chickens from my sister. They are total rejects, the other chickens won't even let them live in the barn. They've moved into the old pig house in the old pig pen. I don't worry about warmth, but they don't come out to eat withy the other chickens when I feed them. I have to toss them their own food, which, again, seems like a lot to ask the farm sitters. 

Ah well. If I can't let go once in a while, I'll never get a vacation ever again. The farmsitters are totally capable people. I'm sure my animals will all be alive when I get back!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Arctic Blast!

Whoo-hoo! When we were looking at this house, the house inspector, a local guy, warned us "you get a lot of weather up on this ridge," and man, are we getting some of it now! Apparently, we pay for our extremely beautiful views with extremely severe weather that only exists in a 1/4 mile circle around the top of this hill. Right now, there is something falling from the sky which I hesitate to call snow, as it seems to actually be teeny tiny razor blades flying horizontally through the air at 70 miles an hour. The wind is the most bonechilling that I have ever personally experienced. I got home a little late today and just drove straight out to the animals to give them their evening feed, and in the five minutes or so that it took me to throw food at everybody, my fingers went through various kinds of cold, on through hideous pain, all the way to completely numb. I had to soak them in ice water when I got back to the house. No more chores without gloves and a hat! The animal's water is frozen solid, so I'll have to start toting boiling water out in the mornings. But hey, at least the mud is finally frozen as well! Thank God for small favors!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Failed Goat Sex

Iris isn't pregnant. She is out there "flagging," waving her tail around to send a message to any nearby bucks that's she's ready and willing. She's also turned a lovely seashell pink back there and swollen up a bit... and the timing is right for her to come back into heat, so it's pretty certain she isn't pregnant. Drat. I wonder what the problem was? Avatar definitely did the deed several times, that wasn't the issue. We'll just have to try again, I guess.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Maximum Chicken

We have four new chickens. That's not actually a picture of any one of them (camera still broken) but it is a picture I got off the web of a chicken in full molt, just to give you an idea how completely pathetic these new chickens are. They were my sister's chickens. Her old, worn out chickens. No, they are perfectly good chickens, two barred rocks and two araucunas, about a year and a half old, just what you like in a laying hen. But back in september, she and Marcus bought a whole flock of pullets, ten big, shiny, late-model rhode island reds. They were gorgeous as chickens can be all right, they just had one teeny little problem: they didn't lay eggs.

They kept waiting. The lady they bought them from said, "oh, they'll start any day now, my other batch that is only three weeks older are laying already. They'll start!" September went by. October went by. November went by. It was maddening, watching all these big sleek hens eat a fortune in organic lay mash and produce nothing but copious amounts of birdshit. Meanwhile, at least they still had the original four, which kept popping out two or three eggs a week even as the sun started setting around 4:00 in the afternoon. Nice, reliable, ugly-as-sin chickens.

But my sister, God love her, is mightily swayed by appearances and she just didn't like the shabby old chickens. The minute the first big brown egg slid out of a big red butt (last week - go figure), she offered me the old chickens. Of course, I scooped them up. I can't resist a free animal, even a molty chicken. 

Of course, the day I went to get them it was raining cats and dogs. And even though they were in a little-bitty 4x8 foot coop, I still couldn't just reach in and grab them. They all scooched to the back and huddled there. My sister couldn't help me; she is genetically incapable of handling a live chicken. She's tried, but she just can't touch them. It's like me and big hairy spiders, I guess. So eventually I heaved a big sigh and crouched down and got INSIDE the coop, squeeing right up against the filthy perches and grabbed them one by one. As chickens do, they went bersek, flapping and churning up gobs of crap. By the time I had them all in the cage in my van, I was liberally plastered. Enough so that I had to call the kid's school and tell them I'd be late picking them up, since I had to take a shower and change. 

Hope they keep laying eggs over here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Vacation Expenses

My goodness, but leaving the farm is expensive. Luckily, the couple I found to farm-sit will work cheap: they are staying in the house twelve days and charging me $200. I might have been able to haggle more, but why? The kids need the money and I trust them, so it's worth it. Doubt I could find anyone cheaper anyway. It might be only 30 minutes of work or so a day, but it's cold nasty work, likely to leave you muddy and freezing. 

Then I had to stock up on feed. One bag each for the chickens, the pig, the goats, the alpacas, and the horse. $97. Feed is almost twice what it was this time last year. I guess that isn't really an expense, because I'd eventually buy all that feed anyway, but it is an outlay. I still need to get a couple bales of good hay, too. The hay we have now is, well, of uneven quality. Some bales are good, others not so good. I can tell the difference easily and use the poor hay as bedding and the good hay as feed, but it would be hard to explain to the sitters. Better to just get a few bales of good stuff and have them use that.

I also want to worm the goats before I go. I heard coughing yesterday. Just a little, but that means it's time now. two of my does are so skinny, and I just can't put weight on them. I don't think it's worms, I think it's damage from the time they got into the grain and were so sick, but worms won't help them gain weight, that's for sure. So a tube of Ivermectin: another $15.

What am I up to?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Taking a Break

We are leaving town on the 17th, going to Oaxaca for christmas, a two week vacation. I'm looking forward to the trip; we haven't been to Mexico since Bibi was just over a year old... how long is that? Oh my God, it's two and a half years. How the time does fly. Which is also how we are getting there this time; no more month long roadtrips. Can't do that when you have a farm!

I'm actually getting quite nervous about leaving the animals for so long. Many people answered my ad for house and farmsitting, and I spoke to several. The person I finally hired however was Michael, a boy I've used as a farmhand on several occasions in the past. He's done fencing for us, and done a fine job, always showing up on time and working hard. He doesn't know squat about animals though. But his girlfriend does, some, and they'll be staying here together the whole time. 

I had them out last week and walked them through the routine, but they will also need detailed written instructions.

Detailed Written Instructions

Mornings: Mudboots are in the playroom. Let the dogs out with you when you go out to do the feeding. If it froze during the night, fill three milk jugs with warm water. Distribute among pails. If it didn't freeze, try the hose, but I bet it's frozen. In the small barn there are four big blue snap-top containers. Each has a picture of an animal on the lid: that's the kind of food you'll find inside. Also inside each bin you'll find a scoop. That's the right amount of food for each animal (two scoops for the alpacas). Feed the pig first if you want him to stop screaming. Oh, if there were any dinner leftovers, toss 'em to the pig, too. The alpacas and the pony will tussle over food, even though each has their own bucket. Don't sweat it. Just toss the chicken food right out on the ground. Scatter it well or the horse will try and eat it. The goats have two buckets. Split their food between the two buckets so they can all get some. Careful of the electric fence. There are extra bags of each kind of food if you run out. Hay for the alpacas and the pony goes in the big barn on the wooden pallet. Altogether they need two or three flakes. The goats also need two flakes, please put it inside their field shelter. Check the barn for horse-poop and fork it out the window onto the compost pile. I always scatter a thin layer of clean hay in the nest boxes because I hate shitty eggs. If it's raining, close the windows. Call the dogs on your way back to the house, they run off sometimes. Better yet, when you first go out, you could put them in the goat enclosure with the goats. Feed them when you come back in. Only Ivory is allowed in the house, and she only because she has no fur and would freeze to death. Dog food is in the playroom by the fireplace. Oh don't forget the bunny. Just a big handful of his food which is under the hutch and make sure he has water.

Evenings: Hay for everybody, chicken food for the chickens, pig food for the pig. Try to get on it before dark so the chickens are awake.  

Aside from this, I'll need to write out instructions for the house: how to use the washing machine, TV remote, computer, etc. Please please please PLEASE remember to turn off the heat every time you leave the house so there's still propane when we get back. That kind of thing.

Before we go I must: put pictures of the animals on the feed bins and find the right scoops for each. Make sure there are enough water buckets and feed bins for everybody. Worm the goats. Write out phone numbers for the vet, my sister, and the neighbor. Try to quit freaking out. Breathe deeply. 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shock Happy

Hooray! The electric fence has been working for three whole days now! And the goats are starting to wise up. At first they were getting shocked right and left, especially Iris because she loves to climb the fences. I was so fed up with them I just laughed and laughed whenever I heard a big

"Ble-a-a-a-a-a-h!!" from their direction. Now I have to train myself not to touch the wire when I lean over the fence to feed them their grain.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Goat Escape

Nobody I know has the troubles I do with containing their livestock. Remember the chickens that almost started a neighborly feud? Remember when Xana kicked out a window of the barn and cut herself to ribbons? The piglet in the bathtub episode? 

Well, it's happening again. The goats are escaping. The twins were out yesterday, bleating to get back in, and tonight when I got home, four goats were out. The twins, Xana, and Iris! Iris is not a leaper, which makes me think they must have mashed the fence down somewhere, but it's too dark to see. I'll have to wait until morning. 

For now, I'll have to lock them in the big barn (and hope that Xana doesn't just kick out the other window!). I'm terrified of the highway that fronts our property. It's pretty well traveled at all times of night and people speed along at 65. The goats could all get mashed flat, and not only that, they could cause a dangerous accident. 

The lady who owns the buck I bred my does to this year is sending her husband tomorrow morning to help me get the fence working. Homero gave his consent for me to seek help elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, after a full day of failed-fence-fixing in the rain. I won't repeat his actual words here, but they were along the lines of "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."