“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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After a long dry spell the rain is falling and everyone but the new stray kitty seems pleased (so we set up a box on the porch for him).

The tiny zinnia shakes her little head free of dust and dirt. Doesn’t she look bright?

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And from her tucked in place beside the porch she listens to the pitter-patter.

The lambs don’t mind the rain a bit . . .

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but the promise of a little grain sends them running to the yard to beg.

The ducks and goats say hello, but goats don’t like the rain so it is a short hello, indeed.

The barnyard is dark now and all the animals sleep in their cozy barn listening to the rain. Good night.

Kitty Makes a Decision

Oliver sees something.
Oliver sees something.

Kitty spends a lot of time in the garden chasing chipmunks and killing innocent Garter snakes, but sometimes he just strolls around taking in his little paradise. What’s that?  It smells like a funeral. It must be those lilies.

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Just around the corner kitty’s tricky owner has a fake bird watching over the clematis. Kitty isn’t happy about things that look like things they are not.

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A guest arrived and brought a mobile with fake dragonflies that light at night (something about solar power was mentioned). Kitty’s owner was thrilled with the gift. Kitty found it provoking (since he couldn’t eat them) but said nothing.

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Kitty then heard a ruckus in his yard. There he found Ferdinand splashing around in his “pond.” Kitty pointed out that it was a discarded plastic saucer for snow. Ferdinand told Kitty where to go and continued with his bath.

Kitty wondered if Ferd knew the consequences of Sophie suddenly going off to be with her eggs for hours on end. He decided to leave the happy duck in his ignorance as soon he might be a father.

033It occurred to Kitty whilst muttering about Japanese beetles on his owner’s  zinnias that he was becoming a fly in the ointment sort of cat. Must he always notice the beetles and the plastic and the quacking of those insufferable ducks?

He decided to turn a new leaf. He promised himself that from now on he would never, ever complain about Friskies Pate when he only really loved Friskies shredded beef.

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“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” John Galsworthy

Wake me up when this week is over.
Wake me up when this week is over.

The other day I read somewhere that most goat herdsmen give up at the three year mark. Goats will stand at their gate demanding your attention (for hours) while you work in the garden. They love just being around you. This is why I love them. Now here’s why I hate them: parasites.

Damn. I let those cute ears charm me.
Damn. I let those cute ears charm me.

Parasite suck–literally–suck the life out of goats. When I first started I went all natural with them–herbal wormers– and felt pretty great about avoiding evil chemicals. I’m the kind of person who tosses and turns at night thinking about wormers and parasites. I’m also the kind of person who has too much pride. I hate asking for help and bringing in experts (I’m the same with my own health, btw, self-treating for puncture wounds and pleading to be left in a corner to mend myself after dislocating my elbow and breaking my arm when I fell on the ice chasing a chicken).

If I kill myself while self medicating that’s my problem, but when you let your pride and fear screw-up someone else’s life then you know you’ve gone too far. I’m not a scientist or a vet and I don’t always follow my gut. This is not the best combination when dealing with animals that can’t talk.

All of our animals had shiny coats and happy dispositions until this spring. Their eyelids weren’t as pink and their coats not as shiny. I thought worms. Now here’s where I went wrong. For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to collect a fecal sample and take it to our incredibly wonderful, non-judgmental vet. I kept avoiding it. Maybe I didn’t want her to tell us that we were the worst goat people ever and that our goats were filled with an insane amount of worms because we sucked. Yes, that’s why I didn’t bring the sample.

After using chemical wormer they all seemed to rebound–except my favorite goat Daphne. She sorta rebounded, gained some weight, produced a lot of milk and seemed happy for a while, but then she looked like this:

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With goats things can go downhill quickly, but Daphne kept giving us hope. She’d always been a fussy eater. I wanted to believe she didn’t like the grain anymore, but my gut was saying “CALL THE VET!”  Now at the same time my husband’s company downsized. He was the new kid on the block so he was the first to go (with a fantastic reference, but still). He found work a few weeks later since he’s highly skilled, but spending a few hundred dollars at the time was just not going to happen. We tried worming her again.

Another rebound, another slide back into painful thinness. Avoiding pain doesn’t make it disappear, of course. Finally I stopped timidly asking advice from my friends and reading endless web pages offering often opposite goat advice and with my ashamed head held low called in our vet.

She may have been judging on the inside, but on the outside she said we’d done everything she would have done (of course she was surely thinking we should have done a fecal sample). I’m leaving out a lot here, but Daphne had the symptoms of a few different things from copper toxicity to cancer to . . . the vet wasn’t sure. So we injected her with penicillin and Vitamin B and Banamine. We drenched her with molasses water and Sulmet and force-fed her Probios. All the while the poor thing suffered, only a little happier after I dressed her in an old sweatshirt and my puffy green coat over a puffy blue vest.

Why can't you help me?
Why can’t you help me?

Then there’s the economics. When, with a $250.00 goat, do you pull the plug on expensive tests, etc when most goats displaying her level of distress usually die? I have no answers.

Our other goats  under the same exact conditions are if anything a little chubby and strong.

That's a really bad angle--Mikey's not THAT fat!
That’s a really bad angle–Mikey’s not THAT fat!

The worst part (aside from feeling extremely depressed about my stupidity and at the same time seeing that ebola’s made it to NYC at the bowling alley?!) is the lingering suffering of a sad animal. I LOVE animals and really go back and forth about eating them. My best friend Huckle the Cavalier King Charles dog died after a slow moving illness only two months ago. I had to watch him choke out his final breath and see the light go out in his eyes. It sounds bad but every morning I wake up almost hoping Daphne is dead–that she died peacefully in the night. Every morning  I open the door to the milk room to find her still alive with that sad but awake look in her eyes. It’s torture.

The vet said after a week of trying to force things on Daphne that it’s probably the death watch phase for the weekend–if she lasts that long. The weather here in Upstate New York had been beautiful all month.

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But things have taken a turn for the worse. Rain and mud abound as the last leaves are blown from the trees.

 

 

 

Wild Asters for Bees

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I have a confession. Up until quite recently if a bee got too close I’d often run and scream. My best friend still has the scars on her arm from when I in panic grabbed her arm so she wouldn’t run from the bee crawling up my arm.

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Now I think they’re so damned cute. Pollinators are cute even if they don’t produce honey. This year we lost two hives and my husband with a busy schedule has avoided the ones we have left because being responsible for thousands of tiny lives and seeing so much death is so depressing. At least when you kill a cow it’s only one life, he says (we haven’t killed any cows, btw).

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I’m thinking maybe I should step up to the plate, suit up and help these little guys and gals since I’ve learned to enjoy their company. There’s something so comforting in the days of the final fall flowers, the asters and the goldenrod, to hear the busy buzzing of bumbles and honeys.

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Natural in Black and White

Goats in their natural habitat. Actually, Nubians originally came from Africa.
Goats in their natural habitat. Actually, Nubians originally came from Africa.

What is the natural state of things? Who decides and when? There’s nothing natural about taking photographs and pretending the world is in black and white, but then, to me natural isn’t always better.

Foraging is fun for goats.
Foraging is fun for goats.

It’s not natural to see movement in blurs, but I like the way it documents the passing of time. In a car things blur by, but cars aren’t natural. Is riding a horse natural?

Food for gatherers
Food for gatherers

Foraging is enjoyable now and again, but in general I like to pretend that lettuce grown in rows is cleaner and better than just any old acorn in the woods. When the acorns begin to fall our dogs think someone is mad at them and bark at the sky or run indoors while the squirrels laugh in the trees.

Itching a scratch or scratching an itch.
Itching a scratch or scratching an itch.

Goats have problems, too–even those with access to nature. They hate bugs–especially gnats and horse flies. They prefer it when you spray them with chemicals or concoctions of witch hazel and expensive oils that don’t work as well but smell like lavender. What is witch hazel, anyway?

Oak leaves there for the taking
Oak leaves there for the taking

Oak leaves are either poisonous to goats or just not very tasty (I can’t remember), but the goats sometimes eat them anyway. You would think they’d know better. Getting back to nature is supposed to make us better or smarter, right? I will say it makes me happier until I get restless and suddenly need a walk in a crowded city full of ideas and bustle.

Princess Kate pauses . . .
Princess Kate pauses . . .

Does she have a new idea? A brilliant insight into the suffering of man and beast? Would she prefer some cracked corn in the barn? Who knows. We live in an unnatural (or supernatural), ever-changing and perplexing world and even the goats have no idea what’s going to happen next.

 

 

Never Wear Rubber Clogs Near The Hen House

Dead rooster weapon.
Dead rooster weapon.

I raised Tommy from a mere chick! I wiped his vent! We were friends until he stabbed me–REALLY stabbed me in the Achilles tendon and got stuck. The moment he broke free the blood started gurgling out through my sock and I suddenly felt faint for the first time in my life. Both of my legs were badly bruised as well.

I usually have slender legs, btw.
I usually have slender legs, btw.

The shot above is about a week into the injury–when I could walk but still not wear proper boots. We don’t have a great backup plan for milking the goats since I’ve trained them to depend on me to do everything just so. This meant that I had to be carried in my rubber clogs down to the barn the first day. Yes, carried. I initially fought against it, but I REALLY couldn’t walk. So first it was piggy back and then fireman style. Pretty embarrassing, indeed. Daphne the goat has been very upset since we took her babies and thinks now that I’m her baby so whenever I leave she worries–loudly.

The babies we stole (and brought back) to the herd. They have no idea who their mother is.
The babies we stole (and brought back) to the herd. They have no idea who their mother is.

The rooster Tommy had to go. My husband had to kill him. And just as he was doing the butchering in the yard he noted a ruckus in the house–dogs flying into window screens, books and plants being toppled and a chipmunk running scared for its life in the living room. He was halfway through the dirty deed and could only yell at the dogs to STOP. They didn’t listen of course.

Brief interlude: pretty little flower.
Brief interlude: pretty little flower.

Then we heard a buzzing noise. A very LOUD buzzing. Yes, the last of our bee hives decided to swarm, which meant a new queen was born and the hive was splitting and one half was going to search for a better home. We have two empty hives–bees, where are you going? Well, they went to a tall tree at the edge of our field. The last swarm we had went to the neighbor’s hives and our neighbor says they’re giving him excellent honey.

What you’re not supposed to do is chainsaw a tree down to recover the swarm, but  hey, we wear clogs around roosters. My husband cut the tree down and here is the swarm:

What not to wear.
What not to wear.

And here again:

Docile bunch of rascals.
Docile bunch of rascals.

Bees aren’t stupid. They don’t just randomly leave home and then wonder where to live next. Some scouts go out, record the best real estate in their little brains (or whatever they have) and come back to the swarm doing a cute little dance that actually tells the rest of the bees about their find. The bees then decide based on the wiggly dancers which place they’d prefer.

My husband was really pleased to have a new second bee colony–for about  an hour. As he stood in the garden taking an important work-related call he witnessed to his horror the bees escaping and swarming again and this time they went to a far away place–no idea where.

On the positive side, my husband discovered the BEST cheese we’ve made yet and it can be made in the CROCK POT!

Deliciousness.
Deliciousness.

All you do is bring the milk to 185 degrees, keep it at that temp for 10 minutes which is really easy to do in the crock pot. Then for every quart of milk you add 1/4 cup of lemon juice and then just wait till the curds form.

Then you drain the curds in cheesecloth and put it under your home-made cheese press and wait about 2 hours.

Note the LOWES patio bricks.
Note the LOWES patio bricks.

The cheese is pretty good the first day but by day three in the fridge it takes on a muenster/mozzarella taste (great dipped in garlic infused olive oil). Most goat cheeses we’ve made in the past have a tang–but we’ve realized that many recipes called for vinegar and really the lemon juice is SOOO much nicer. You should try it.

Pretty cheese discovery.
Pretty cheese discovery.