Monday, March 7, 2022

From 16 to 35 animals in a very short time (not sure if that number is accurate)

It's been pretty crazy here lately and I think I need to get this down in writing so I remember who, what and how it all went down. This has all taken place within a month. Let's see. Breezy had quadruplet kids (3 girls, one boy), then Junebug had 8 piglets (4 girls, 4 boys). Both Breezy and Junebug delivered with ease and no complications. This past weekend was a doozy though. Delphi had triplets (2 boys and 1 girl) but one of them was in really bad shape and I'm not sure of the cause since I wasn't there, but I have my suspicions. The little girl was sopping wet and very cold and floppy. She couldn't even hold her head up and her body was limp. I brought her back to the house, dried her and warmed her up. After a few hours she could hold her head up. I fed her when she could hold her head steady. She has improved very quickly and now, 2 days later, follows me and Baxter everywhere. Baxter babysits her when I have other things to do. Her name is Florence.
I tried returning her to her mother but neither one wanted any part of that. So, for now, she's a spoiled house goat, who seems healthy, happy and very sassy. Today I took her to my studio while I worked outside. Baxter stayed with her. Here they are on the ride home.
Here are her big brothers, Ferdie and Felix.
Last night after dinner I went out to the barn to check on Gretchen, who I was expecting to farrow sometime soon. Earlier in the day she didn't have any milk but it can come in fast. I got to the field and everyone was out of the barn except Gretchen. Well, Gretchen and all of Junebug's piglets who were all nursing on Gretchen and stealing the colostrum which her unborn babies needed. Every time I pulled the babies off her they'd run right back and latch on. Even when their own mom came in they weren't interested. Finaly I got some food and bribed everyone out of the barn (unfortunately Gretchen followed) and closed some gates that close off half the barn. I was able to coax Gretchen back in. It was all very frustrating and stressful because I was afraid the 2 week old babies would push the newborns away and they'd die. Anyway, she ended up having 5 live babies - 4 girls and 1 boy (1 dead, don't know if it was stillborn or got squashed). I left at 10:30 when there were 4 babies. I sat in the barn for 4 hours waiting. It was the longest pig labor I've experienced. Everyone else was watching us from the other side of the gate. Here's my view of them - cows, donkey, goats, pigs and dogs eyes glowing.
She wasn't giving them any attention so I didn't have very high expectations this morning when I went out to feed. I was pleased to find 5 lively piglets. One of them is the tiniest thing I've ever seen and I was shocked to see her still alive this morning. She was pretty weak, eyes sealed closed (which I worked on getting opened) and just so tiny. She runs around now just like the rest. I've kept Gretchen closed up all day with them and tonight too. Tomorrow I'll open the gates and hope they can fend for myself and Gretchen won't feed the others, though I feel pretty sure she will.
They're pretty darned cute. Aren't all piglets cute though? It's pretty quiet in our house tonight. Florence is asleep. I will have to feed her one more time tonight and then again at 4AM, which I can't say I enjoy. So, that's where things stand now. None of the piglets have names. 13 is a lot of names to come up with. I'm sure you'll be seeing many more pictures and videos of them.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Losing our matriarch, Pessa

The last time I blogged here was 2 months ago when we lost our herd queen, Luti. This morning when I went out to tend to the animals I found Pessa lying in her final sleep in the hay. It was the way we hope all our animals will pass, in their sleep. She and Luti were half sisters and I brought them here together 12 or 13 years ago. They couldn't have been more different. Luti was bold and demanding of attention. Pessa was no nonsense, independent and an extremely easy keeper. One thing they did have in common was that they were great mothers, milkers and wonderful goats to have trained me as a goat farmer. In the photo above Pessa is the one on the left and Luti on the right. 

Pessa had a wide girth and everyone always thought she was pregnant. She never needed any assistance kidding. Babies practically fell out of her. When all the other mothers left their babies to go out to graze Pessa hovered near hers and wouldn't let them out of her sight. As a matter of fact, all the babies stayed by her. They climbed on her and she never complained. She was everyone's laidback babysitter. She never fought me when it was time to be milked. She came in, ate, gave milk and left. Done. Same with having her hooves trimmed. No complaining. Just give me my feed and do what you need to do. I don't remember her ever being sick either. She was sturdy in every sense of the word. She asked for very little.

Well, that's how she left this world. She didn't need me to pass on either. She was shivering 2 days before in the cold and I worried about her, but then yesterday she was out eating with the rest and all seemed well. While Luti was the herd queen, Pessa was the matriarch. She was the mother of our Breezy, grandmother of Delphi and great grandmother of Sally and Mander. The herd feels very different without these old girls. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

My Girl, Luti

 Today I said goodbye to one of the first 5 goats I began with. Luti was one and a half years old when I got her in 2009.  I can say with confidence she was the smartest goat I've ever owned, hence, she was the herd queen and everyone respected her. She was also my best milker. As a matter-of-fact, even though she hasn't kidded in 3 years, she still had milk in her udder this morning when the vet was checking her over. 

We don't know exactly what was wrong with her but she went downhill really fast overnight and had very little energy this morning and I could tell she was in pain. The vets ultrasounded her abdomen and had a very hard time understanding what they were seeing, but it appeared she had fluid in her abdomen and her bladder didn't look right. After I made the decision to put her down they asked if it would be ok if they did a necropsy on her so they might learn something. I said yes.  They called me later this afternoon to say we did the right thing. She was in bad shape and probably wouldn't have lasted much longer. In some ways, I felt really good about that. She had a very good life and I'm glad I owned her for most of it. 

Here's a photo of her in her younger years. What a sweet face.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Thunder BRidge, Our New Adventure

 I was going to begin a whole new blog for this, but I didn't have the energy tonight, so thought I'd just write about our new adventure here in Holes In My Jeans. We're getting many holes in our jeans these days so I suppose it's fitting to include it here.  

Many of our friends and family know we've been embarking on this crazy undertaking, but many of you may not. More than 7 months ago we made an offer on a piece of property 2 miles south of our home. After the long wait, today we are the proud owners of almost 100 acres and more than 30 buildings, first built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the '30s, and more recently it was the Natural Bridge Juvenile Correction Center and also a Big Brothers/Big Sisters camp, which closed their doors in 2009. More about that in another blog possibly.

I'll try not to be too long winded about this because I could go on forever.  For now, I'll tell you what our initial plans are for the property, though we have many dreams that may or may not come to fruition. First I'll say, the property is absolutely beautiful and the buildings on it and the work that needs to be done is overwhelming. It consists of 35 developed acres and 64 wooded acres bordering the Jefferson National Forest. Any pictures I post on here will not do it justice. 

I won't tell you the hoops we had to jump through to get to this point, but I feel like it will all be worth it one day. The first thing we plan to do is to set up a very small, primitive campground, where folks can experience camping like James and I remember doing when we were kids. We want campers to have space to enjoy the outdoors without being bombarded by close camp neighbors, loud generators and TVs, etc. In the wooded part of the property, where most of the campsites will be, are also 2 log cabins, 3 screened shelters and a pavilion with a bath house. We do have plans to have 10 RV sites in the clearing. At this point an RV could not maneuver in the woods. The tree cover is too low and the roads aren't wide enough. 

The rest of the sites in the woods will be tent and van sites, many of which will be in listening range of this creek.

Our son, Adam, will be hosting the campground and will live in one of the houses on the front part of the property. There are a handful of livable, albeit outdated, structures, along with a full gymnasium, commercial kitchen, auto shop, maintenance shop, ball fields, an obstacle course, a barn, barracks, sheds and on and on. 

James and I have already chosen the buildings that will be our art studios, which is pretty exciting. It will be nice to unclutter our home, which has become a dumping ground for canvases, art materials and to put it plainly, a general mess. 

Here are a few aerial views of the property. 

I have lots more photos of buildings and interiors but I'll save them for another post because it's getting late and this is getting longer than I had planned it to be. I just wanted to start somewhere so when we start taking videos and moving forward you'll know what I'm talking about. 

Way more to come. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Baxter, he's a mess, but he's loved

I'll have to go back through my blog to see when it was that Baxter came to live with us.  He was a stray that had been at the SPCA for 3 months before we adopted him. He's not pretty, he snores, he runs away and pretends he's deaf when I call for him. BUT, it's impossible not to like him. Here he is looking like a demon, taken today after he returned from his adventure. 

We usually don't let him out unsupervised, but lately he's been so obsessed with a groundhog living under our barn, I'd come to trust he'd stay in the yard. That was a mistake. I'm a VERY slow learner. He and my son's dog, Maia, ran off the moment we turned our backs. They were gone maybe an hour and a half and we looked all over for them. Well, it seemed like we looked all over. 

I went to the street across the creek from us because that's where Baxter always goes when he escapes. It's the only way I know some of those neighbors. There are 3 neighbors, in particular, that he visits. They all know to call me or bring him back home if he shows up. It's embarrassing and a relief when they call. 

Well, today was no different. I drove to their houses to see if they'd seen him. They actually seem happy to see me and say, "oh, how is Baxter? I haven't seen him in a while". They promised to call if they saw him. It was unusual for him not to show up at their houses.

Well, the dogs came home without anyone having to bring them back. The funny thing is, around dinnertime I got a call from one of those neighbors, whose name I don't even know. She wanted to be sure Baxter made it home ok and that she was worried it was getting dark. I assured her he was ok.  During dinner there was a knock at our door. It was a man asking if we'd found Baxter. He said he was a dog lover and wanted to be sure Baxter was safe. Again, we don't know this man's name and he doesn't know ours. BUT, everyone knows Baxter's name. No one complains that he shows up there. He loves people and wags his tail and some of them let him in their house. 

He frustrates us to no end, but we love him and I'm glad others love him too. He's sound asleep right now  It was a big day. 

Friday, May 14, 2021


 I love days like today. First of all, the weather was great for working outdoors, which all 3 of us did. James was planting in the garden for several hours.  I'm not sure what he planted, but I'm sure it will be on our plates this summer.  His spring garden is doing really well. 

When he was done in the garden he glazed windows.  

A large portion of one of our sugar maples fell during one of our recent windy days, so Adam spent the day cutting it up, a job neither James nor I would want to do, nor have the strength for (at least I don't). 

I spent my time building a grate for a fire pit. It's made from parts of an old gate, a wood stove, and other random pieces found here and there. Don't look closely at the welds. They're not pretty, but they're strong and once it blackens from a fire you'll never notice my amateur welding job. 

I plan to make more grates for a project I'll tell you about in a future blog. They'll all be made out of scraps we already have. Can you say, "cheap"?

Maia and Baxter did their part by protecting us from the groundhog that lives under the barn. They're obsessed with it and determined to catch it. 

All-in-all, it was a very productive day.  Now we're beat. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

I Got The Farming Blues

Maybe my brother-in-law, Tim, can write me a blues song about how I'm feeling today. It's been a challenging past week and a half. Raising livestock for the past 11 years has generally been pretty easy, or at least, not frustrating enough to make me quit, though I do have a pretty short memory. More weeks like this past one might make me consider it though. I guess I'll begin with Rory. My last blog posting was about having her artificially inseminated. The vet came out and ultrasounded her and she's not pregnant. This was just a small disappointment, since I knew that AI is only 30 to 50% effective. Also, we have so much else going on here I'm not sure I really need a cow in milk anytime soon. At least that's what I tell myself. That same day we had to deal with something much tougher. Our beautiful, gentle goat, Butter, has been having terrible joint pain for the past year and it was getting too hard to watch her struggle, so when the vet was done checking Rory, he very gently helped us say goodbye to her. It took me two days to get out of that funk and realize that it was a relief not to have to see her in pain anymore. Butter was 6 1/2. About 4 days ago James and I returned from a walk to find feathers - lots of them - along the side of the driveway. We followed them until we found a dead hen under a bush. We've had a very large hawk hanging around and I'm sure that's what killed her. Adam had just left with Maia about 45 minutes earlier, so the hawk waited for Maia to be gone to strike. I don't know if hawks are afraid of dogs or not, but I assume they're pretty smart. I hope today was the last of our bad luck. I've been waiting for our pig, Gretchen, to have her first litter. I had her due date written down as the 28th. Her udder was just beginning to show then so I figured she had another 3 weeks to wait, though her backside was giving me different information than her udder. I have less experience with pigs farrowing than goats kidding, so I never totally trust my instincts. This morning I went out to feed, and Gretchen met me at the fence with all the other pigs. Her udder looked pretty much the same. I entered the gate to feed the dogs and saw a dead piglet nearby. It was cold and rainy here today so this piglet didn't stand a chance without its mom nearby. I went in search of others. Mayday led me to another one far across the field. I don't know if Gretchen just dropped it there and went on, or if the dogs carried it there. A little while later Mayday showed me another one that had been in the straw in the run-in shelter. There were no live piglets. I checked Gretchen and she did have milk, but not a lot. She acted perfectly normal and showed no signs that she'd been in labor recently. I thought I still felt babies in her, but couldn't be sure. I gave her a shot to help her pass any dead babies, if there were still more in there. When I last checked on her late this afternoon she was still rooting up the ground and behaving like all the other pigs. Not a great way to start the new year. Tomorrow is a new day, it's supposed to be warm. I'm going to reset my frame of mind, look forward to the new year and hope for brighter days.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hoping Rory Is Bred (Artificial Insemination)

This has been a pretty exciting week and a half. I decided to breed Rory, our 2+ year old heifer - Raisa's daughter. We're giving Raisa some time off. I think we're going to let her retire and let Rory take over the milk-making responsibilities. Raisa was always bred by bulls, but I didn't want to borrow someone's bull or buy one, so we decided to give artificial insemination (AI) a try. I was told it's only 30 to 50% effective, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway. If it doesn't take, we'll probably buy a baby bull and raise him for breeding in another year and a half. AI is a process if you don't know when your heifer is going to come into heat. A week and a half ago we had the vet out to give the dogs their shots, check on one of the goat's ailments and deliver the materials I needed to get Rory pregnant. A week ago, Tuesday, I gave her her first shot and inserted an apparatus with progesterone on it to prevent her from coming into heat. Inserting the CIDR (controlled internal drug release) was simple, but she wasn't happy about the shot. She was a real trouper about letting me insert the CIDR. She moved very little. This is what it looks like.
A week later I had to give her a shot of Lutalyse, which brings a cow into heat, and remove the CIDR. Today the vet came out to do the insemination. I had been stressing out about it. I'd watched some Youtube videos to see how AI was done and was worried Rory wouldn't stand for it. I was so wrong. She behaved beautifully. Actually, all the animals did. When I rounded up Rory all the other animals followed me to the barn. Adam bribed them with food and that left just Raisa and Rory at the barn gate. Rory walked in without any coaxing and Raisa stayed out of the way. I tied her up and put a board behind her so she wouldn't back out of the stall. I probably didn't even need to do this because she never tried to get out. The whole process went so quickly. The vet was only here 25 minutes, and that included the time he spent in his truck getting the supplies he needed and thawing the semen. This is a Youtube video about how AI works. I found it fascinating. Click on the above link and it will help you understand what's going on in this video below of Rory being inseminated. My video just shows how well she behaved while the vet did his thing. I barely got into the stall and the vet had already begun the process. Rory continiued to eat and seemed to ignore the hand in her rectum. In another month to month and a half I can have the vet out to ultra-sound or palpate Rory to see if the AI took and she's pregnant. It will be so disappointing if she's not. We used Jersery semen instead of Dexter because our vet keeps it on hand and because a jersey baby will be a similar size to my dexters. My dexters are on the large size. The semen came from a bull named Valentino. I looked him up online to see what he looked like.
Stay tuned. Hopefully in 9 months I'll be posting a photo of an adorable calf.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Rex wants to show you his home.

Rex joined me for a short bit of my walk around the field this morning, so I'm going to let him give you a tour. 

You can't see me in this next picture because I'm probably hidden in all the goldenrod that has taken over
the field this month. It smells nice and my mom said it makes a nice tea, but I haven't tasted it. 

This is Butter. She came to live with us almost 2 years ago. She's a good girl and never bothers anyone. 
I'm pretty much the boss here, after my mom, but occasionally Raisa shoves me when I'm in her way. Most of the time I like her and Rory. We haven't had a baby cow since Rory was born here 2 years ago. Maybe next year. 
These guys can be headaches. They try to steal my food and they lie too close to me when it's hot.  A lot of people think the pigs are cute and give them a lot of attention and that makes me jealous. I don't think they're all that cute, though I have to admit, I did really like the babies when they were little. 
Behind me is my partner, Mayday. She and I are the very best of friends and play all the time. She lets the pigs steal her food. She's a much faster runner than I, but I bet I'm stronger.
I've never visited this campsite, but I can see it from my fence. I love having the campsite because it means people come visit me all the time. They feed me people food and bring kids. Mayday and I love kids and when they come in the fence we stay close by their sides.

More company this weekend. Hooray! I better take a nap now so I'm ready for them. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My 2020 Chickens

My chickens are 17 weeks old and I'm anxiously awaiting my first eggs. I've really been enjoying this flock. Maybe I forget what it was like having chickens in the past, but I don't remember being so fascinated by them. I should probably go back and read some of my old blog posts. 

I have 4 roosters and 14 hens. I had ordered only 3 roosters but the hatchery threw in a surprise chick with my others and it turned out to be a rooster, as all surprise chicks seem to be. I'll get back to this surprise rooster in a minute. Today I decided my roosters needed names. The hens all look pretty similar so I probably won't give any of them names, unless one of them does something to help me identify her. 

My favorite rooster, at this moment anyway, is Barack. He's a Buff Brahma rooster. Barack Buffbrahma. He's an independent guy and I see him wandering our property alone quite often. Sometimes he follows me, talking quietly. The chickens have divided themselves, and now sleep in two coops. Ten sleep in one, and 8 in the other, with Barack being the only boy with the 7 hens. 

I have 2 roosters that look similar. One is a Partridge Cochin, hence the name David Cassidy.

Sticking with the 70's TV theme, my surprise rooster, a Silver Spangled Hamburg, is named Davey Jones, because he's small and cute. 

The last rooster is a Blue Cochin and I'm calling him George, for no reason whatsoever, but the name George popped into my head. He's a pretty boy.

None of them have crowed yet and they all get along well. I hope that continues. We'll see what happens once they all mature. 

The 8 chickens that sleep in my older coop can let themselves out in the morning because there's a gap between the walls and the ceiling, so they wait for me at the back door before I've finished my first cup of coffee. I wish I had a picture of that because it's pretty funny. I do have a picture of them hanging out by our basement door. I don't know what they were doing down there. Maybe they thought I was in the basement.

Unlike my other animals, I'm not sure they like me more than anyone else they meet. They'll follow anyone anywhere. They greet every visitor or follow them down the driveway. I'm ok with that. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Piglets - not what I had hoped for

I was so looking forward to having piglets. It's one of the reasons I got pigs again. I missed having the babies. Of the 6 Junebug birthed, only 4 survive. Two mornings ago when I went out to milk, Mayday showed me the dead baby in the back of the barn. I'm guessing Junebug laid on him. She's not the most graceful or careful mother. I saw her plow one over this morning as she walked. In fairness, it could have been one of the cows that crushed him too. I really don't know.

Last night I went to the barn to check on them to be sure no more were crushed. There I saw Junebug nursing 4 piglets. I kept trying to get her to stand up so I could see under her. I finally had to bribe her with food to make her move. There was no dead piglet. I looked everywhere but couldn't find the missing boy. Neither Rex nor Mayday told me where he was either, so I'm assuming a hawk or something carried him off. They only weigh between a pound or 2. They're super tiny. When they were first born I was saying how I wished they'd stay tiny. Now I'm wishing they'd grow fast so I didn't have to worry about them so much.  Rex and Mayday also seem on edge since they were born. They bark and tear around constantly like they're always on guard.

The goats, cows and dogs are all fascinated with the piglets. Even more so than with goat kids. Maybe it's because they're so tiny and they make cute little grunting noises.

So this post doesn't end on a depressing note, here's a funny picture of Rory trying to nurse off Junebug. Junebug didn't mind Rory's rough tongue, but I worried about her stepping on the babies. Most of the day the cows are far from the babies. It's only at feeding time all the animals crowd into the barn.

 Our 19 chicks have moved into their new coop. I could only keep them in their Rubbermaid tub in the basement for a week before they outgrew it. The cute single chick in the 2 photos is Izzy. She's my favorite and the only one I've named so far. She flies/runs to me to be held and makes sweet little noises. The rest of them are mostly afraid of me. I should mention, I haven't named the piglets yet. I'm afraid I'll get too attached and they'll disappear. I'll wait another week.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Life With Pets - Growing a painting

This painting has been on and off (mostly off) my easel since February 11th. My inspiration first came from a video a friend posted on Facebook. She and her dog have been training in agility and they're amazing to watch. Of course, it's also inspired by my life raising all kinds of demanding critters. Those of you with pets get this, I'm sure.

Making up a painting can be fun and frustrating. It's fun because there's no photo or person, dog, etc, to compare it to. When a painting isn't realistic there's not as much pressure to make things accurate. It's frustrating because I have no idea about proportion, shadows, perspective, etc.  When I paint silly paintings like this it doesn't matter so much if my Australian Shepard is bigger than the woman, or a cat couldn't hold a box of popcorn, or a dog dressed like the master of ceremonies has arms more like a human, or a standard poodle would never sit still this long, or.........

Beginning the painting was hard for me. I had an idea, but didn't know how to express it, so I started gathering pictures. I needed to know what a human body would look like in this position so I asked Adam to pose for me. As you can see, he wasn't wearing a bikini like the woman in the painting, and he's a bit bigger. See what I put my family through?
Here are a few other photos I used for reference.

At first I thought there would be a crowd of other animals sitting in the stands behind them, but that seemed intimidating and didn't go well.
It probably came off my easel for a long time at this point. It stared at me from the floor and I'd pick it up again, not able to let it go.  A few days ago I decided I needed to either finish it, or paint over it so I didn't have to look at it anymore. I'm calling it done and ready to move on to something less silly - or not. I feel like maybe I should be painting fun things while the world is dealing with a health crisis.

What are you doing sitting here reading this? Don't you hear your dog scratching to the to be let out?