Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kids, kids, and more kids!

Cicada and her quads
The current tally for Nigerian kids is 23 does and 9 bucks, and we're holding there until probably next weekend when Giselle is due. Then only three more, and we're done for another spring kidding season, except for the two mini la manchas that are due in March and April, so can't forget about them!

Two of Annie's quadruplet bucklings
I suppose it is not such a big deal that I haven't been able to keep up with posting about every single birth. We haven't had any complications this year -- other than does shooting out kids before we could get out there to help clean them up, so we've lost some to suffocation (still inside the sac) or hypothermia. By the end, Mike had rigged up a video monitoring system by borrowing a camera from one person, a microphone from another, and using a modulator (whatever that is) that he just happened to have sitting around. There may have been more parts, but I'm not really sure. Who knew I was marrying a modern-day Thomas Edison when I met him a quarter century ago? (Gee, that makes me sound old!) Anyway, I was able to watch the expectant does on television, and that was really helpful. We had the television on through the night for several nights, and that was a bit odd. Unlike the static-filled baby monitor, the television was so crystal clear, I kept waking up thinking that either I was in a barn or there was a goat in my bedroom.

One of Coco's quadruplet doelings
I know people probably think that I'm joking when I say that I don't think the does even know when a third or fourth kid is coming out sometimes, but based upon what happened with Coco, I am now absolutely certain that it is no joke. Katherine found her laying down and licking off two kids with two more kids at her back end, both in the sac, one piled on top of the other.

Two of Charlotte's triplet boys
And then there was Charlotte, who gave birth in the midst of our goat "Breeding and Birthing" class on Saturday. I normally schedule the class when several goats are due so that people can see newborns and see how the does' bodies are changing as they are approaching kidding -- looking at the udder, how the belly changes, and how the tail ligaments soften as the doe gets closer to birth. Of course, I've always thought it would be cool to have a goat give birth during the class but figured that it would never actually happen!

Sherri with one of her twin doelings
Mike also got a real initiation into kidding as both Sherri and Cicada decided to give birth when I was not home. Between me and our three children, he has never really had to deliver baby goats, but with all three children in college now, it was inevitable that he would find himself home alone when the blessed events occurred. That's why I told him last year that he needed to start helping out at births to learn what to do. Sherri and Cicada made it really easy for him. He only had to help dry off all the babies, and then he was able to get back to his maple sugaring.

Hopefully all of these adorable kid photos (courtesy of daughter Katherine) will help you forgive me for not posting as often as I should!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Giveaway and upcoming events

I am so sorry I haven't posted on here lately! We've had a LOT of goats giving birth, and prior to yesterday, our total stood at 23 does and only 2 bucks. Then Charlotte changed all that during my goats "Breeding and Birthing" class yesterday when she gave birth to triplet bucks. If anyone were going to have triplet bucks, it is good that it was Charlotte because she was my best milker last year, producing six pounds a day at her peak (almost three quarts) and producing more than 900 pounds of milk in nine months. So if you need a herd sire with a milky pedigree, these are your boys.

Most of you will probably agree that I can't write about babies without giving you pictures. Unfortunately I haven't taken any pictures yet, but once I do, I will post about the babies. In the meantime, I thought I'd update you on what's coming up on the farm.

But first -- I'm hosting a giveaway of the awesome book Idiot's Guide to Small-Space Gardening by Chris McLaughlin over on my book blog. The deadline is midnight tonight (Sunday), so please scoot on over there and leave a comment for your chance to win. This book is especially great for people living in the city, but I personally have started to employ some of the ideas -- like growing vertically -- because it just makes life easier.

Classes on the farm
Yesterday was our first class of 2012, and we're just getting started! On Saturday, March 3, we have classes coming up in home dairy, soapmaking, and homesteading. And we'll be hosting more goat classes on March 24 -- basic goat care in the morning and the breeding and birth in the afternoon. Two goats are due around that time, but no guarantees either of them will be as thoughtful as Charlotte to give everyone a live demonstration of the process. For more info on these classes, click here. And I'm currently talking to someone about doing a beekeeping class on the farm at the end of April.

Homesteading Conference
I'm excited to tell you that Cathy Lafrenz and I will be doing the Homesteading Conference at Illinois Valley Community College in Ogelsby, IL, on Saturday, March 17. Last year, we had 31 people show up, and we had an awesome time, so we're doing it again! And we are having Richard McGinnis join us to talk about beekeeping. For more information on the homesteading conference, click here. In April, I will also be teaching classes at IVCC in cheesemaking and breadbaking.

And if you'd like to keep track of other events as they are added, you can follow me on the Homegrown and Handmade Facebook page and the Antiquity Oaks Facebook page, as well as the Events page of the Homegrown and Handmade website. In the coming months, I will be heading out to Iowa and Washington State, as well as Pennsylvania again in September.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Clare's big surprise

 A few days old
Mike and I went to Chicago the weekend of the 21st to celebrate his birthday with dinner and a play Saturday night and to attend a book signing for Homegrown and Handmade on Sunday. Clare the la mancha was due, and although there were plenty of humans here to take care of her, she was sweet enough to wait for us to get home. In fact, she kidded on Monday, which was Mike's birthday.

Before I continue with the story, you need to know a thing or two about my dearly beloved. Although Mike is extremely supportive of everything we do out here, his involvement with the livestock has been minimal over the years. He's the carpenter and fence builder and will do whatever we ask of him, but he doesn't really know much about actually caring for animals. He's an engineer and his interest is really in renewable energy. He is also a great cheesemaker, but I digress. Last year, because our children are growing up and leaving home, I told him he needed to learn how to take of goats giving birth because there would come a time in the not-so-distant future when he may be the only one home as a goat is kidding. And last year during our goat birthing marathon in February, as I was collapsing with a migraine, he delivered a set of triplets with me sitting in the corner of the stall trying to convince myself that my head would not really explode.

The bucklings at a week of age
So, on January 23, I heard Clare over the baby monitor and asked Mike to check on her because I was working on finishing up the Ecofrugal manuscript. Mike comes into the house and informs me that Clare will definitely be giving birth today, but she's not doing much now. And I believed him. (cue ominous organ music) A few minutes later Jonathan went outside for something totally unrelated, and a minute or two after he left, I heard him yell over the baby monitor, "Clare's giving birth! There's already a baby out!"

Mike started shaking his head and gasped. "I swear she wasn't doing anything when I was out there!" He was putting on his boots as quickly as he could.

"You know," I said, "you really weren't out there long enough. You should have watched her for at least five or ten minutes." Brilliant of me to realize that now, but it's true. You do need to watch a doe for at least one contraction, preferably two or three, to know if she is really serious about giving birth. The really surprising thing about this birth, however, is that we heard nothing over the baby monitor as Clare pushed out the first kid.

Shortly after we arrived in the barn, a second kid was born. Both were bucks, and both obviously had horns. What rotten luck! I had bred Draco, a polled buck, to both Viola and Clare, hoping to get polled mini manchas, and I wound up with five horned kids! The odds of polled kids from a horned-polled breeding is 50/50, and I had been running a little higher with polled in past years, so I suppose it was time to even up the odds. I looked at Clare and said, "I don't suppose you'd still have a polled kid in there, would you? A doe maybe?"

Mike laughed. "She's done," he said. It's true that la manchas almost always have twins.

"She's not that deflated. She could have another one in there," I said.

"Or she could be fat."

And as I was double-checking testicles and horn buds on the kids, Clare plopped down on her side and gave a little push. It was too early for the placenta. I looked under her tail and saw a hoof! "It's another kid!" I shrieked like a fifth grader, "She's got another one!"

And it was a beautiful chocolate sundgau doeling -- polled! Yes!

This lovely little girl will be staying here, so if any of you have any suggestions for naming her, that would be great. Clare's kids are named after country songs, which is kind of odd because I'm not a music fan at all. Her kids from last year are Brand New Girlfriend and Casanova Cowboy. Got any ideas for this little sweetie?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lizzie's triplets

If only Lizzie's birth had been a stand-alone event -- meaning there was nothing else happening at the time -- it would have been perfectly glorious. But life on a homestead isn't like that. Of course, sometimes things happen at the perfect time when we have nothing else happening and when our heads are clear and we can think logically. But not the day Lizzie decided to kid.

If you read the post about Viola's death a couple of weeks ago, you know that right in the midst of that confusing mess, Lizzie went into labor. It's probably a good thing that I didn't write up the experience too soon, or I would have sounded like a -- hmm, I don't know -- let's just say I would not have inspired confidence in anyone that any goat could actually give birth without complications. I sit here typing today and know that is absolutely not true. But when you are in the midst of trying to save a dieing goat, and you saw a horribly deformed kid born only two days earlier, your brain can become horribly pessimistic. (You're probably thinking paranoid.)

If I would have written this sooner, I could have given you a minute-to-minute script of all the horrible things that were going through my head, but trust me when I say that you're not missing anything important. There are really only two things I remember at this point. The first kid was coming out head only, which can be a little challenging because the shoulders are kind of wide when the legs are against the chest. But it is not a big deal, especially for a doe that gave birth to a five-pound buckling last year! I know she has enough room to give birth to the caprine version of a draft horse. And the kid was born just fine.

The other thing that sticks out in my head is that while I was drying off the second one, Lizzie was standing there licking it, and suddenly -- plop! -- there was a kid in the straw behind her. I have no idea whether it was born nose first, tail first, or something in between. I'm not even sure that Lizzie knew she had pushed out another one, which is why a human needs to be there for these goats that have multiple kids. After the first two, they usually come shooting out with what appears to be virtually no effort on the part of the doe. Lizzie was busy licking one of the first two kids, so who knows when she would have noticed number three. Indeed, in our early days with goats, before we were halfway competent about figuring out when a doe was going to kid, we wound up with too many hypothermic kids that were part of triplets or quads. It was not fun.

So, Lizzie gave birth to three beautiful and healthy doelings. I had planned to keep a doeling, and now I have to choose one! Yesterday, I spent an hour with them, and I'm having a terrible time deciding. The tan one is definitely an aspiring herd queen. The creamier one is a social butterfly, and the whiter one is mama's girl. If only I hadn't broken my crystal ball, I could figure out which one will be the best milker when she grows up. I usually have such a terrible time deciding in these situations that I just let the buyers choose, and I keep the one that's left.


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