Sunday, February 19, 2017

One for the books (Luti continued)

Every year raising livestock I learn something new, sometimes good stuff, sometimes bad, but always something that is important for me to know if I plan to continue farming.

It's been a week and 2 days since Luti gave birth to Petal.  She's been showing signs of improvement
all week as I continued to administer antibiotics.  The past 2 or 3 days she's even gone out to graze with the herd.  This morning when I went down to the barn Keri was guarding a dead baby goat.  I quickly checked all the goats to see if any of them had kidded or were in labor.  Nope, everyone was still very pregnant and nowhere near ready.  Luti finally looked like she usually does after kidding; skinny.  She'd been carrying a dead baby around for 9 days and just today expelled it.  All the medicine we gave her last Saturday that was supposed to make her body do that made no difference.  I'm shocked this didn't kill her.  I pressed on her abdomen (which I also did last week) and felt no more kids in there.  I can't believe neither the vet nor I could feel this baby.  It was a good sized kid.
Hopefully she'll return to her normal self soon.

Today we're cooking down the small amount of maple sap James collected.  It hasn't been a good year for maple syrup because we haven't had the cold nights followed by warm days.  Too many warm nights.  Here it is February 19th and I'm too hot to get anywhere near the fire to check on the sap.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cleaning out the freezer

Those of you with chest freezers who raise their own food know how it can get out of hand.  We have 3 big freezers but only one of them is a deep chest freezer.  It can hold lots of fruit and vegetables.  So many that you lose track of what's in there.

I can tell you what was in ours.  Stuff from 2007 through 2016.  The freezer needed defrosting.  Our meat freezers were low on meat so it was a good time to move veggies and fruit to those while we cleaned the veggie/fruit one out.  I discovered all kinds of pig food in there :)  Mostly fruit and squashes that were very old.  The pigs didn't care one bit how old it was.  I made a pumpkin soup from 2010 pumpkin, which turned out pretty yummy.  We made 22 quarts of wineberry juice and strawberry juices.
I discovered we had at least 8 bags of peas; both shelled peas and snow peas, which we didn't know we had.  Peas are some of our favorites.

I told you we were low on meat.  Well, we're so low I decided to cook up some organs.  We had pork kidneys in the freezer, because we think we should try to use the whole animal if we're going to raise them.  Well, I can't say I recommend pork kidneys.  I opened the bag and smelled the overwhelming odor of pee.  I knew I was going to cook kidneys but for some reason I didn't expect them to smell like urine.  I don't know why I was so dense.  Here's what they look like before cooking.  They're shaped just like a kidney bean, only larger.   Inside was some white stuff I was told to remove, so I did.
I read that if you soaked them for an hour in milk with lemon juice or vinegar it would remove the urine smell/taste, so I did that. I should've known right then that this was a bad idea.  I thought if I cooked them in enough butter, garlic and capers they couldn't be too bad.  Putting them on a sandwich made from bread made from our own whole wheat (which we have SOOO much of in our freezer) would make it that much more palatable.  Even add a little mustard.  How could you go wrong, right?
We couldn't eat it.  It still tasted and smelled like pee. So we ate bread with mustard, capers, garlic and butter.  The dogs will get the kidneys.  Baxter sampled it and didn't seem to mind the urine smell and taste.
The peas were good though.

Update on Luti

This morning Luti was still lying in her little house and not very interested in nursing Petal.  Her eyes
were still squinty and she looked very tired.  She did, however, seem happy to get some hay, though she didn't eat it with gusto.  I gave her her shot of antibiotics and pain killer.  I'll be glad when I don't have to poke her anymore.

Late this afternoon she was standing in her shed and looking much better, doting more on Petal.   Petal begged for her bottle, which she's become accustomed to.  I offered Luti some baking soda (I don't know why I didn't have it out there before.  I guess I just forgot) and she attacked it.  She ate quite a bit of it so maybe all this time it's been something in her stomach or rumen that's causing the problem.  Maybe she was bloated from eating the afterbirth or something else.  I don't see how that would cause a fever though.   Hopefully this will settle things down.  She may not be back to normal but she's so much better than yesterday.  It took some coaxing but I finally got Petal reacquainted with Luti's teat and once she remembered what to do she gorged herself.  Luti seemed happy about it.  What a relief.

I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog some other new arrivals.  About a week ago I looked out our bedroom window and saw 3 chickens.

We haven't had chickens since last April.  Someone must have dropped them in our yard while we were still in bed, figuring "what's 3 more animals on a farm?"  They seem to be nice chickens but we're not sure how many are roosters.  Only one of them crows, but we haven't seen him mounting the other two.  He has an obvious rooster tail.  One of the others looks like a hen but the other is questionable.  He/she has one or two tail feathers that seem rooster-like.  We haven't seen any eggs anywhere.  Most of the time they hang out in the front yard.  They're not very adventurous at all.  We can't convince them to sleep in a chicken coop.  I've moved them there after they've roosted in a bush or tree for the night but they never go back to the coop.  They prefer trees.  We're enjoying watching them.  It doesn't make me want to get more chickens though.  While we've missed the eggs, it's kind of nice not having to close them up at night or let them out in the mornings.  I definitely don't miss cleaning up after them.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

New Arrivals

Luti gave us our first kid this season.  This is the first time she's ever had a single kid.  I missed the birth and now wish I'd been there to see how it went because things went downhill for Luti the day
after and I don't know why.  First let me show you her sweet baby, Petal.
By the time I got home Petal was all dry and cleaned up and I saw no signs of afterbirth or anything.  Even Luti's behind was clean, which is never the case after a goat kids.  I had no idea if she passed the afterbirth or ate it or the dogs ate it.  She seemed very lively and healthy that night.  The next morning when I went out to  milk she was in the mobile shed with her head against the wall, with no interest in eating or doing much of anything.  She very weakly got up now and then to nurse Petal but was very shaky.  I gave her some Lutelyse thinking it may cause her to expel the afterbirth or a dead baby or something bad that was causing her to be so sick.  Nothing happened.  I called the vet and he told me to reach in and see if I could feel a baby or anything.  This was probably 24 hours after she'd kidded so she was pretty closed up by then.  I put my arm in up to nearly my elbow but felt nothing.  Unfortunately, Luti DID feel something.  I hate causing pain like that.  I took her temperature.  It was 105.4.  Normal for a goat is between 102 and 103.  I asked the vet if he could come out and look at her.  He did the same thing, stuck his much larger hand in her and felt nothing.  Poor Luti.  He administered Oxy____something, which should have done the same thing the Lutelyse does.  I was a bit concerned about her getting all that stuff pumped in her but trusted he knew best.  He also gave her an antibiotic to fight whatever was causing the fever and Banamine to help with the pain and fever.  Shortly after he left she seemed to have convulsions and started throwing up mucous.  She no longer could get up and seemed pretty out of it and in more pain.  I felt sick.  I was so sure I was going to lose her.  I began giving Petal a bottle because Luti could no longer nurse her.  I checked on her at midnight, so sure she'd be gone but she surprised me by lifting her head and sipping a bit of water.  She no longer had fluid dripping from her mouth like she had earlier.  She didn't sound as raspy either.

This morning I went to feed and milk and there was Luti standing in the doorway of her shed.  I was never so happy to see a goat standing.  She's still not out of the woods.  I'm giving her antibiotics and Banamine.  She's weak and tired.  I'll check on her one more time before bed.
On a much happier note, we have some guests who've come to live here; Porter, a big gentle steer and his friends, Eli and Vegas, 2 small standard donkeys.  Their owners are moving here this week from NJ and needed to find a place for them to stay since there's no place at their new home for them.  They'll be living just a mile down the road so it's convenient for them to visit their animals here.  Introductions went pretty well, though Franklin was giving Porter a little more attention than he'd have liked (mounting him).  Porter came from 40 degrees and wet this morning to 77 degrees and was panting like crazy from all the action and heat.  This evening all have settled down and they're happily grazing together.  Eli and Vegas are really sweet and friendly and seem to be very relaxed as they explore the pasture.

The other girls seem very content in their pregnant state and basking in this glorious weather we've been having.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Painting a face of love

James and I watched The Face of Love on Netflix last week.  It's about a widow who falls for a man who looks just like her dead husband.  Afterward, James and I discussed what that would be like, and wondered if there was anyone out there that looked just like us.  It's hard to imagine.  Is it possible to think someone looks exactly like us or the face of our lover?

We think we know our spouse's face intimately and I'd like to believe I know every little detail of James' face, but do I?  As I mentioned in my last blog post, I've found a new addiction; painting.  I'm not sure why I decided I could paint a human face, but I thought I'd like to paint James's.  After all,
it's something I'm most familiar with so it can't be any harder than painting Franklin or the pigs, or so I hoped.  Ok, I'm not that naive.  I knew it would be harder but what I didn't know was how much more important it would be to me to want to get it right, or get it close, or at least make it not too offensive to James.

First I sketched him.  I thought I'd done a pretty good job of that and figured once I put paint on the page it would only improve it.  I thought I'd try and keep it more on the abstract side so it wouldn't be as noticeable when I didn't get a detail quite right.  I won't post all the pictures from beginning to now because I don't want to embarrass myself, but I'm going to show you where it stands at the moment.  At one point James had red hair, which was kind of fun, but I don't think he was as happy with that as I was.  Also, I toned down the really bold colors and softened him as today wore on.

Here's where my Face Of Love stands right now.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Instant gratification

I've known for a long time that I'm happiest if I get results fast.  I like projects that can be completed in a short period of time.  Even if it's something like building a barn, I want each step of the process to move along quickly and keep me interested.  I'm not one to spend months building a fine piece of furniture.  I'm thinking more like a week and a half or two for a small table.  Maybe most of us are like that, I don't know.

I know the expression, it's not the destination, but the journey, is a sweet sentiment and I believe that in most parts of my life, but in all honesty, I really like reaching my destinations.  Yes, the journey is fun too, but.......c'mon, once you get there you can sit back and enjoy, right?

Since building my mom that side table for Christmas and having to decoupage the birds on it instead of paint them, I've wanted to improve my artistry skills.  I asked my friend, Kathy, to suggest an art teacher and she so very graciously offered to teach me herself.  I can't tell you how much fun this has been.  I've had 2 lessons.  In the beginning I thought I didn't really care if I'm great at it.  I just want to be able to paint animals on things or improve on things I already know how to do. Now that I've done a little experimenting I'm finding it so much fun that I want to keep seeing improvement.  I want to be good at it NOW.

Well, you know how that goes.  I started off feeling kind of cocky.  My first painting turned out better than I had expected, though far from the kind of stuff my artist friends produce.  Still, I felt encouraged.  I was even happier with my second painting, then third.  This is where it stopped.  I wanted to make improvements on all 3 of these paintings but the more I work on them, the worse they look.

I've watched Youtube videos on how to paint clouds and, goodness, that looked so simple.  Ha!  They lied.  I suck at mountains, clouds and pastures.  I'm ok at animals, surprise, surprise.  Here are my works in progress.

Painting number one.  Franklin and Kathy in our field.
Number two, Roxie and Wendell at sunset.  Yes, I know the clouds and shrubs need lots of work.  I need more help.
And lastly, the blue-eyed, curly-haired goat I've never owned.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

This is a lot of bull

Tonight I walked over to the field to give Keri her pills.  She seems to have relapsed and is back on medication.  While I was over there I couldn't stop watching the bulls play.  All 3 of them, large, medium and small, Franklin, Lennon and Mo, were having a great time, mostly chasing each other.  It was often a different bull in the lead and when they put heads together it was very gentle play.  Trailing behind are the 2 pigs, also males.  It appears they like being part of the action.

Maybe you'll enjoy watching them play as I do.  I took several videos of them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Garden gate beginnings

I had planned to wait until the garden gate was finished to blog about it, but today a friend asked me to share the progress as it moved along.  Also, James told me it was time for me to blog again so here I am.

This may be boring to some of you but so far each step of making this has been fun for me.  Instead of starting from scratch and buying all new steel I decided to use something we already had.  We used to have gates at the end of the driveway but we took them down when we removed some fencing.  They've been sitting behind a shed just waiting to be used again.  Here's what they looked like before.
Using a cutting wheel on my grinder I cut off all the curly scrollwork and the rounded side of each gate.  This left me with 2 pieces that look like this.
They're now stacked one on top the other to make one tall gate instead of two short gates.  I chamfered the edges of the flat pieces of steel that were to be welded together.  This gives a larger
area to weld for more strength.  See the beveled edge?  When the 2 pieces came together they created a V.
I've stripped most of the paint from the gate and plan to let it rust.  I like rusty gates and I think rust will look better with the copper.  So here's what it looks like now.  I may remove some of the smaller bars to make it lighter but I won't do that till I know what the final design for the copper is.
I did have to buy one piece of steel to close up the edge where I had removed the arched pieces.  Here you can see the two pieces of plumbing I'm attaching to use for the hinge.
You can also see the homemade clamp (2x4s) I made to make the gate the same on the one side as the other.  I didn't have a pipe clamp so I made do.  Luckily we only had to close it up 1/2 an inch.  I still need to weld the piece to the side but ran out of shielding gas today so hopefully tomorrow I'll get it all welded up and ready for the real fun to begin - covering this "canvas" with a copper design.

I really don't have a plan yet.  I'm not thrilled with any of my drawings and keep waiting for inspiration.  I did, however, make a flower (or sunshine).  I cut out several petals.
I hammered and shaped them into this.
The center pieces are riveted together but the rest of it isn't fastened yet.  That will require brazing, which I've never done.  Hopefully tomorrow.  I've got my oxygen and acetylene tanks and tools and can't wait to give it a try.

That's about it so far.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Table for Mom

James is home holding down the fort so I could go to PA to celebrate a late Christmas with my Mom, sisters and nieces, for which I'm very grateful.  It's been a really great visit and my mom and I have gotten a lot accomplished, i.e., stripping wallpaper and painting her bathroom.

One of my sisters suggested I make a side table for Mom to keep near her recliner to store her remote controls.  Since I had no other ideas for a gift I thought, why not?  It took me a while to come up with a plan so it wasn't until a week and a half before I was to head north I decided to get started and see what I ended up with.  It was a lot of fun but I wish I would have begun a little earlier.  I'm pleased with the end result though and my mom says she likes it.   The birds are images I got from the internet and decoupaged onto the painted table.  I painted the branches with some acrylic paints I had a limited supply of.  I wish I had more colors to choose from.  The drawer pull is a large bead a friend gave me and I thought looked like an egg.  The top is some beech tongue and groove flooring some friends gave us.  The whole table was made from wood we already had in our garage, hence a painted table.  You can probably guess my mom loves birds.

Just a note on Keri, in case you're wondering how she's doing.  She responded well to the antibiotics and seems to have made a complete recovery, thank goodness.  If your farm dog eats a lot of poop and loses control of her back end I can recommend a good vet and antibiotic.  Yup, it seems the reason she was so weak was because of her love of a manure diet and parasites.  Yes, I feed her real food.

Friday, December 30, 2016

End of the year

We woke up to a very light dusting this morning.  I'd be happy if that's the biggest snow we get this winter.

I had really thought I'd be able to blog more regularly but I see I haven't written since Cooper died.  Last night a friend gave me a really special gift.  She felted me a Cooper doll.  He's awesome and even has a spot on his side where Cooper did and grass in his mouth.  Jan is an amazing artist.  I wish I had pictures of other things she's felted.
Yesterday I bought myself an early birthday gift from James :)  I can't wait to play with it.
I'm building a garden gate for James for Christmas.  It may be more like a birthday gift though, since it could be another few months till it's done.  I'm so excited about my new welder and imagining all kinds of things I can make.  I can't play with it too much yet because I have to finish building another Christmas gift first.  I'm just a little behind on gifts this year.  Sometimes it takes me a while to get inspired.

My oldest guardian dog, Keri, is having some health issues.  She's not even 6 years old yet so this is very discouraging.  She's been weak in her back end and is very slow moving.  I've seen her fall down
several times but bounces right back up, wagging her tail the whole time like nothing ever happened.  I took her to the vet on Monday and X-rays showed there's no hip dysplasia, tumors, compressions in the spine, or anything else out of the ordinary that could be seen with the naked eye.  They ran some blood tests to see if she might have lyme or some other tick borne disease but none of that is definitive by just blood tests alone.  They came back negative.  So for now we're treating her for parasites that can attack her muscles, by giving her an antibiotic and a pain killer/anti inflammatory.  She's looking a bit stronger and I haven't seen her fall lately, but I can't be sure if it's just the pain meds helping or if she's really getting better.  Yesterday she was wrestling with Rex and acting like a puppy so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  She loved going to the vet and all the special attention she got.  She would have ridden around in the car with me for hours and been a very happy dog.
I can't believe we're just over a month away from kidding season.  My first girls are due February 10th.  They're looking pretty round now and very healthy.  I think my goats look their healthiest when they're pregnant.

Remember my cute little house lamb, Rudy?  He's now a pretty big guy and still very friendly.  Soon it will be time to take him and the boy goats to the butcher and it'll be a sad day.  The other morning he greeted me at the gate (begging for food, of course) and I noticed pink on his ear.  Someone had bitten the end of his ear off.  I suspect Darla is the culprit.  She and Rudy are always head butting each other and she's a biter.
Every morning I wonder what I'll find when I go out to feed and milk, which is where I should be headed right now.  Hopefully all is calm and well.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

My boy, Cooper

Of course I can't possibly know what an intact male goat understands, feels or loves, but having Cooper as part of our Elk Cliff Farm family for 6 years, I think I can safely say he DID think, feel and love.  I've seen it.  Cooper was smart, he was sweet and he understood his place and what part he played on the farm.  At least that's what I want to believe.

I should also share that he was also loved and accepted by the others in the herd.  When I say herd, I don't mean just the goat herd.  I mean goats, dogs, cows, pigs and donkeys.  The whole crew.  Being a buck he had to be moved from one pasture to another, depending on what time of year it was, so he spent time with the girl goats, cows and donkeys part of the year and the rest of the time with the bulls and pigs.  Cooper got along with everyone.

I could tell lots of stories about him but one of the most significant ones which shows how my girls loved him is...... It was the beginning of breeding season and I was hoping to breed many of the girls with Cato, my young, black buck - Cooper's very good buddy and head-bashing-mate.  The day I saw Luti was in heat I introduced her to Cato and she wanted no part of him.  She stood at the fence begging to be with Cooper.  The two of them had been partners for 4 years and I guess she only had eyes for him, and so it was to be.  This year will be the first year she accepted Cato and that's only because I had Cooper over in our yard with Willo, his most constant and doting companion, which reminds me of another story.

The day I got my 3 mammoth donkeys in 2012 I wasn't sure how they'd react to my goats.  I put them in with my 2 boys, Cooper and Jimmy.  Willo quickly claimed Cooper as hers and the other 2 donkeys weren't allowed near him, nor was she interested in Jimmy.  If the other donkeys went near Cooper she kicked them.  Cooper seemed ok with it because the next morning when he was separated from Willo I found him up against the fence with her on the other side.
  Their relationship has been an interesting and sweet cross species love affair.  Love is love, right?

For a buck, Cooper was rather mild mannered most of the time.  There was only one year he was somewhat aggressive with me.  He would mount anything in sight and was equally attracted to me (or any other breathing object) as he was the girl goats. He was much stronger back then so I kept my distance.  It's hard to picture that this past year as his muscles atrophied and he wanted to be gently cuddled.

Another one of my favorite memories of him was the year I dressed him up as an angel for Halloween.  He was in rut and definitely not angel-like.
I still laugh like crazy when I watch this video.

This morning everyone was at the barn waiting for me.  Everyone but Cooper.  I did my milking and figured I'd find him up at the run-in shelter.  When I didn't find him there I knew we'd lost him.
It was a foggy, wet morning and no goat would stay out in that weather unless they couldn't get to the barn.

I kept asking the dogs and Willo where he was but none of them led me to his body.  I walked for about 30 minutes till I found him.  He was still alive, but barely.  I covered him with a horse blanket until Adam came to help me put him down.  It was really sad but a relief, in a way.

Cooper has offspring all over the place.  I still have two of his girls, Linus and Lily.  I'm going to miss  that stinky character.  He was one of a kind.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Update on Cooper

Several people have asked how Cooper is doing so I thought I'd give a little update.

He's hanging in there.  He seems to have lost all his muscle and is shrinking before my eyes but he still seems to have the will to live so if he's not ready to say goodbye, neither am I.  Every day he wants to eat, he follows the others, albeit very slowly and far behind.  He comes to me every morning begging for some sweet talk and a scratch, which I'm glad to give.

Cooper is a real trouper, that's for sure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sunrise - Sunset

Today was one of those days we had the pleasure of a beautiful sunrise and sunset.  Usually it seems we get one or the other, but not both in one day.

This morning I awoke to a clicking noise.  I feared James was taking a picture of me sleeping.  Go ahead and sing along, You're So Vain.  I looked up to find him aiming his phone at the large windows framing a beautiful sky of pink and blue spotted clouds. Of course pictures and words can't do it justice.  We sure love our big east facing bedroom windows.  Silhouetted in the windows are banana trees James brought in for the winter.  They love these windows too.
Driving home from Charlottesville this evening I pulled over to the side of the road so my friend could get a picture of the sunset because we knew by the time we got home (5 minutes later) the sun would have set, and we were right.  It's too bad we didn't stop a little earlier because we'd already missed the prettiest sky.
Those of you from Rockbridge County may recognize this spot on 11 South.  I can't imagine living in a place without mountains.

On a sad note, I'm very worried that my old buck, Cooper, isn't going to be with us much longer.  This morning he seemed so weak.  I let him in to have some grain this morning because he was really shivering and begging to come in.  The boys don't normally get pellet feed but sometimes I spoil Cooper because he's skin and bones and the sweetest old man.  When I tried to move him a bit so Raisa could come in he fell down.  I let him lie there against the warm hay bales and eat while I milked.  It's supposed to be very cold this weekend and I don't know how he'll survive that.  He shivers when it's in the 50s.

I can't even tell you how much I love this next photo of Raisa and Cooper sharing spilled food.
When we lose Cooper it will be the first goat we've lost to old age.  I knew we'd experience this one day but we'll see how prepared I am when the day comes.

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears....

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Miss Christmas

I can't decide if she's done or not.  I feel like she might need more color.  It was a lot of fun putting her together.  First I found some heavy duty wire mesh in the garage and made a longer skirt for her.
I had an extra strand of bistro lights so I wired them on next.
I kind of liked her like this but it was a little industrial looking and not very Christmassy so I covered her first with yews, and on top of that, put some branches with pretty little yellow and red leaves.  I don't know what the plant is.  Today those leaves are pretty dried up and if you bump them they fall off.  It still looks pretty, I think.  Next an addition of some pompous grass fluffy seed heads.
I had a scrap of burlap in the basement and made a top for her.  Her belt is magnolia leaves spray painted pewter and her collar is more magnolia leaves painted red.  More leaves were hot  glued to the yew part of the skirt.
I have a feeling I'll be primping her for the next 3 weeks until I think she's beautiful enough for Santa.