Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.


Posted on | March 30, 2012 | 8 Comments

“You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.”

Charles F. Kettering

I like this quote.  Because I can relate to a stubbed toe.  A lot of quotes are a little too lofty for me.  But I just stubbed my toe the last week so I know how badly it hurts.  Actually The Other Half stubbed my toe for me, but, hey, whose fault is that?  I was the one walking barefoot on the deck and he was the one wearing size 13 steel toed boots.  (Obviously that makes it his fault.  Who wears steel toed boots on the deck??)

In any case, it is totally true.  You can’t get a stubbed toe sitting on the couch.  And you can’t get anywhere in life, sitting on the couch, with your foot elevated, complaining about your stubbed toe, and asking everyone in your family to look at it and give you their opinion on whether your toe is broken or not.  ‘Cause, I hate to tell you this, but no one really cares about your stubbed toe.  That’s why someone made up the quote “Life isn’t fair.”  No one knows who made up that quote or I’d give them the credit for it.  But I bet they knew life wasn’t fair way back when they were sharpening their arrowheads on a nice rock and, just as they were getting it to a perfect sharp edge, that arrowhead broke in their hand.  Bet they even kicked that rock and stubbed their toe.  Yeah.  Life isn’t fair.

So around here we focus on moving forward.  Even if we have to limp forward.  Which is exactly what it felt like we have been doing for the last few months.  We didn’t just lose Tasha.  We lost Little Bit.  Even though we had never seen him cross the road.  Even though he acted terrified of cars and dashed into the woods at the sight of our own car coming up the driveway.  Even though he was neutered in order to keep from straying in pursuit of female friends.  Despite all of that, we went down to catch the school bus one morning and found his little body limp in the road.

A week or so after that, we found Jack down on his side in his pasture.  He had no symptoms consistent with any kids of goat illness.  No obvious injuries or blood loss.  As a matter of fact, we had seen him standing and contentedly eating hay 10 minutes before he went down.  He never recovered and died within an hour.  It was absolutely inexplicable.

What happened next was not so enigmatic.  Josie made a habit of tearing through fences and gates to get to food when she felt like it.  As our largest goat, she was often hard to stop.  And when she broke into the chicken pasture and devoured a can of chicken food, it wasn’t the first time.  But it was the first time that she was in advanced pregnancy when it happened.  Only about 4 weeks left.  So there wasn’t enough room for a bloated rumen and her kids.  She was already in respiratory distress when I came out in the morning at 5:30am.  Oil and massage didn’t get the gas moving.  She was way beyond walking.  The after hours vet service was not answering the phone or I would have had them come out.  The local home improvement store wasn’t open yet or I would have tried to tube her myself, out of desperation.  I didn’t have a trocar and I don’t think I could have faced making the puncture and the consequences anyway.  She took her last breath in my arms.

It all sucked.  It was way worse than a stubbed toe.  But, although I am not always sure where we are going, we are headed somewhere.  Even if it’s just for the day when we are sitting on the deck, toes intact, chickens pecking in the yard, guineas searching for ticks in the woods, pony lazily scratching her back against her favorite white oak tree, goats nibbling blackberry canes on the dam, ducks paddling in the pond, barn cat sunning on the deck rail, livestock guardian dog sleeping in the shade, pig nosing around in his wallow, perennial flower heads bending in the slight breeze, and the vegetables in the garden flourishing so much so that you can hear the corn stretching for the sun and the peas climbing their trellis.  We do have days like that.  It’s just a matter of moving along to get to them.  Or as another smart person put it:

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”

Albert Einstein

See, I get that one, too.  Because I know how to ride a bicycle.  Although it’s been a while since I rode one that wasn’t stationary, keeping track of calories burned, and able to play my Seether CD to keep me motivated.  But I’m sure I could still ride a regular bike.  Probably.  Maybe.  If my toe wasn’t broken.

So we keep on moving.  Since we had more milk than we could use and a higher feed bill than we could tolerate, we sold a couple of the does in milk.  Magenta and Cocoa went together to a new home in South Carolina.

Their new owners came out to meet them and milk them and then drove off with them, feeding them animal cookies as they went.  A good deal for all.

All of the January and February kids were sold.  Ralphie, Rita, and Rosa, found homes.

And Eve, too.

Which only left us with Max, the blue eyed buckling.  Who we get more and more tempted to keep each day.

Then Julia gave birth to a miniNubian buckling.  We named him Joseph, in honor of Josie.

He’ll be for sale soon.  We generally can’t keep extra bucklings (since they are related to our does) but we do enjoy snuggling them while they’re here.  And Joseph will probably be the last miniNubuan kid born here.  With the loss of Jack, we decided to get a Nubian buck.  We always keep 2 bucks since goats are herd animals and one buck would be terribly lonely when it wasn’t breeding season.  Now we’ll breed our Nigerian dwarf does to our Nigerian dwarf buck, Merlin.  And our remaining Nubian doe, Julia, will be bred to this guy:  Captain.

We helped out a friend with disbudding at his farm and, in return, came home with Captain.  Captain is a little big to be bottle feeding.  He was still nursing but already on grain and hay at the farm where he was born.  However, since a full grown Nubian buck can weigh up to 200lbs we decided to give him a bottle for a few weeks to bond with him, keep him friendly, and easy to handle.  His presence also gives Max someone to play with while we make a final decision about him.  Should he stay or should he go?

Perhaps the hardest decision to make was whether or not we should get another barn cat.  Little Bit was perfect.  I didn’t think we would get that lucky again.  I also knew there was no way to keep a cat off the road.  I contacted the people who installed the invisible fence for our livestock guardian dog, thinking we could keep a cat within the barn and pastures using an additional collar.  They said it really wasn’t suitable for cats as they tend to get out of collars and also can clear the fence faster than the 3 seconds warning before the shock.  We were very unsure about what to do.

What finally persuaded us was the fact that our county shelter is forced to euthanize cats every single week.  We couldn’t guarantee a barn cat at our farm wouldn’t be hit on the road or some other accident.  But we could make sure there was one less cat dying unloved and unwanted on a steel table at the back of the shelter.

Make that 2 less cats dying unloved and unwanted on a steel table at the back of the shelter.  Meet Daisy:

and Penny:

For 2 cats that lived in an apartment until their owner moved to a place that doesn’t allow cats and were then surrendered to the shelter (I have never, never understood that phenomenon.  I have simply never moved to anyplace that doesn’t allow my pets.), they are doing extremely well.  They enjoy being outdoors, sleeping in the hay rolls, and get along with all the critters.  Perhaps they watched a lot of Animal Planet.  Or Nature.  Or maybe they just love being loved again.

In the midst of all these changes, a friend of a friend needed a new home for her flock of chickens.  So we ended up with some new Buff Orpingtons added to our flock.  Sampson, the rooster, says, “Thank you.”

She even brought us a Turken or Naked Neck chicken.

Apparently this breed of chicken is produced because it is easier to pluck and they are fairly common in Europe.  Well, it’s obvious they aren’t bred for beauty and are rare enough around here that visitors always ask us, “Awww, poor thing.  What’s wrong with that chicken?”  So besides being a good egg layer, she’s also an excellent conversation piece.  Works well to distract visitors when the buck starts peeing in his own face.  Just sayin’.

Of course, our farm isn’t the only one going through the ups and downs of springtime.  The amazing fiber farm where I am learning about Shetland sheep and Angora goats recently had to put down an ewe that was struggling after the birth of her twins.  I have been assisting at Avillion Farm whenever I can so I can learn about the care and raising of animals for their wool.  I had planned to eventually put 2 or 3 fiber animals on the pasture that runs alongside the driveway.  Eventually comes sooner than you think.  The ewe’s lambs needed a home.  Which means our final change (for this week) was the addition of 2 baby rams—-Simon and Isaac.

Simon appears to be single coated, very fine, and with lots of crimp.  Isaac looks to have a more intermediate fleece.  Their names were chosen in relation to their wool—S for single coated; I for intermediate—as that is how we are telling them apart at this point.  Simon actually has a bigger splash of white on his forehead.  Or maybe Isaac has more white.  Hmmmm…..raising sheep is trickier than I thought….

It really is astonishing at how fast things can change.  And a stubbed toe is no excuse for not getting up and moving along.  On a farm, the only one allowed to wallow is the pig.


8 Responses to “Changes.”

  1. Carolynn
    March 30th, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    My heart goes out to you with the loss of your animal companions. It’s never easy no matter the circumstances and my heart breaks every time.

    I do love all your new additions though. Your cats must think they’re in heaven! I like the way you think – better to give them a chance at a life than no chance at all.

    What a great place you have there.

  2. Jenny
    March 31st, 2012 @ 4:08 am

    So glad to make your acquaintance! I have enjoyed reading your blog and share in the heartfelt emotions of your lost farm friends. I believe we have kindred spirits. 🙂 My Oberhasli goats are due to kid mid-April and lambing soon follows. I look forward to Spring and re-birth on so many levels. Many blessings!

  3. Linda Kerlin
    March 31st, 2012 @ 4:49 am

    I always enjoy reading your posts of farm life —I do not own as much land as you so I call myself the pretend farm–and can relate to so many of your happenings—good luck with all your “new -ones” Linda

  4. Judy
    March 31st, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    You seem to have had more than your share of ‘downs’ in the ups and downs of life recently. It is so great that you aren’t giving up after all that discouragement.
    I totally understand the outside cat problem. We have two cats that we keep inside always because we live right on a busy highway. For a while we had a feral cat living under our porch. Even though he wasn’t ‘ours’ we felt really sad when he got hit by a car on the highway. Unlike you, I’m not brave enough to get more cats for the barn. And, our animal shelter, fortunately, is a no-kill shelter and they are specific to say that they won’t adopt out cats to be ‘barn cats’. Why I’m not sure, because we always treated our barn cats well.


  5. Chai Chai
    April 1st, 2012 @ 5:24 am

    I am so sorry for your losses, the loss of pregnant Josie had to be heartbreaking as you lost the kids as well.

    It must be interesting to have different types of goats as you get to see how different and devious the various breeds can be.

  6. Kim
    April 1st, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    Poor you and poor pets! Things go that way sometimes, but then you have to, as you say, move on. The new hairy family members look great ( as do the feathered ones!) and they are sure to have a great life with the Taylors.

  7. lin
    April 3rd, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

    Holy cow!! You certainly have your hands full of life and death! How fun/exhausting!!

    So, as farmers, do you get used to all of this life and death? I mean, more than me–or folks who don’t live on farms. Do you cry at the loss of a goat or the kitty? I know you are human, but do you find you get desensitized to it sometimes?

    I don’t cry much for human death anymore. I don’t know if I just see it as a normal part of life, but I still cry at the loss of an animal–pet or not. I don’t know that I will ever not cry for the loss of an animal friend.

    Well, I wish you a happier summer. One full of LIFE and not so many changes. 🙂

  8. admin
    April 3rd, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    Yes, we still cry at the loss of a goat or cat. When you spend every day, at least twice a day, caring for and protecting your critters you know them too well not to mourn the loss. But I do think we are better at accepting death and grief as a natural process of living. And I have to admit—–we don’t do duck or chicken funerals anymore. Gotta draw the line somewhere 🙂

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