Goat Update: Loving Spring

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Chomping away on our walk home from the pasture

With the arrival of the ducklings, the goats have not been getting their usual amount of love on the internet. Never fear, the goats are still the livestock apple-of-my-eye and doing great. Lal is getting bigger and bigger with each passing day and now has a wicked set of horns. One of these days she is definitely going to accidentally maul us… so wait for the black eye pictures coming your way soon no doubt! Additionally, Lal is going to be a little escape-goat (Ha!). Beverly has to be sweet talked to leave the pen and go to the pasture, but Lal is more then excited to explore the world. We really worked hard at socializing Lal when she young and took her almost everywhere so she would willing go to new pastures/ places. This may backfire on us. Currently if she does get out, she doesn’t go very far, but poor mama goat she makes such a fuss when their is fence between the two. 

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Lal: escape goat

 With the nice weather we constructed a makeshift pasture for them between the rows on the farm. Unfortunately the current technique of a lead connected to a washing line means we cannot leave them out there all day. Fortunately, it means that I have an excuse to sit on a hillside, read a book, and drink a beer. The goats have almost completely cleared their densely wooded pen so next week will be installing another large pen to clear/ thin the woods by our neighbor’s deck. Hopefully soon our neighbors will have a clear view down to the creek thanks to our brush-clearing goats. I am curious to see how the goats and the ducklings will get along. The goats have a tendency to head-butt the chickens if they get too close to their food, hopefully the ducks will learn early on that is not going to fly. 

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Lal- Ball

I think that we have given the goats a pretty darn good home: nice dry shelter, plenty of water, access to brush, daily (but limited) access to pasture, climbing structures, grain, and table scraps. My only concern is that the herd is too small. Goats are herd animals and become depressed and distressed when not in a proper herd. Luckily there are two of them, but I will be glad at next kidding season when there are more goats to keep each other happy.

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Goat Vision

 

Duckling Update: Bath and the Big Move

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The ducklings are officially moved outside, which means my bathroom is now duckling free. I have to admit using the toilet and taking a shower with the peeps was a little unnerving. Their brooder was too small within days with the ducklings spraying water and distributing poop all over the place. The next solution was a larger brooder I found in the recycle bin at my job, but once again within days it was too small. Due to the smallish boxes their tummies would get gross every couple of days, so we gave them a bath every other day to they could be nice and fluffy. We filled up an old laundry bin with water about 8 inches and let the little sprouts go wild. Next we washed them tummies with a very diluted Dr. Bronner’s soup, they were less into having their tummies scrubbed. Though we now have a way to tell them apart: dirty belly, clean belly, and partially bald belly.

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Brooder Box II. Even with changing the litter every day, it would get too soiled too quickly.

 

Now that the weather is getting nice, we have moved the duckings to the portable chicken house that lives atop an old rabbit hutch. This works perfectly for this transition period of being large enough to be outside but not developed enough to be with the other animals. We started out moving them out there during the day, but it got to the point where they were clearly so happy outside that we left them there overnight. I was concerned about it being too chilly at night, but we loaded the “house” part of the coup with straw and they did just find. Poor guys, as soon as they are used to being outside a big ol’ storm comes slamming rain down for several days. Contrary to popular belief, ducks have a limit to the amount of rain they can handle. After running out into the rain to refill their water (despite the rain, they still went through a crazy amount of water) and topping off their grain I hadn’t seen the little squirts for several days. Then BAM, huge ducklings!!!! They still have their soft baby feathers, but their mature feathers are really starting to come in. Its remarkable the speed of their growth, it seems much faster then chicken- chicks I have dealt with, and much faster then the goat. It seems like I just got them, and now they are HUGE!!!! Still waiting for them to get big enough to sex, however I have a sinking suspicion that we have one female and two females.  Hopefully I am wrong! 

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Ducks taking a bath/ swimming practice

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Post bath shock

 

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Goats lounging for the last time in the chicken coup/ duck house

 

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Fixing it up for the ducklings

 

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Ducklings installed. Lal is confused who/ what is in her sunny lounging spot

Baby it’s Cold Out There

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View from the last big storm a few weeks ago

BREAKING NEWS: There is yet another winter storm!!! Surprisingly the joy and magic of a snow day is starting to evaporating now that I have hit snow day from work #5. While a snow day from a long commute and a luke-warm position is generally a blessing, there isn’t a snow day with livestock. When I first became interested in building a self-sufficient lifestyle I did what any person my generation do: INTERNET! What I found was  a rich community of bloggers, farmers, crafters, DIYers, and more that were sharing their stories both the positive and the negative, the joys and the heartbreak, and the good and the bad. One common theme that quickly developed was that no matter the time of night, weather, events, or scheduling that you no longer own your own schedule and have to go out and look after some animals. Most days this is a complete and utter joy, but some mornings it can be tough and we only have 2 chickens and two goats.  When Lal was first born we had to take her outside for feedings every few hours, going out into a snowstorm at 2am was not optional.  When discussing about my life goals of self sufficiency with a farmer several years ago we talked about just this issue. I would like to think my enthusiasm and choices were not TOO idealistic and that I didn’t fully understand the intense commitment to those choices. I framed it as, “I don’t know what its like to be sick and tired and have to get up at 5am go out in the snow, break ice in water buckets and look after animals. Once I do know what thats like and still want to do this, then I have made the right choice.” Frankly, I still don’t know what thats like. My brood is very small and very close to the house all I have is a little taste, a little nibble, a little soupçon of what that life looks like.

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2am Snowy Feeding for Lal

Right now, its snowing- not the pretty magical snowing, but the icy slushing snowing- and it’s almost milking time. All I have now is an open door, a mini snow storm, a goat that needs to be milked, chickens and goats that need to be fed, and ice to break in water buckets. I have to give myself a little pep talk before I step out into the elements- because after all, there is a hot cup of coffee, warm shower, and an indescribable sense of completion and joy after. Well, until night milking. 

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“Ok, let’s do this thing!”

“Hey Babe, Would You Like to get some Goats with Me?”

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Lal’s New Position Inside the Stall.

Baby Goat Lal is growing up so fast! At the ripe old age of 2 weeks old she is about 6 pounds. Kids grow really fast at about a rate of 10 pounds per month. Lal was about 2 pound when she was born and 4 pounds last weekend right on track. Not only is she growing up in mere size, but almost everyday seems to learn a new trick from Mama Goat Beverly. Currently climbing, nibbling, and bulling the chickens are her new tricks- if only we could get her to do them on cue we would have a circus ready goat!

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It’s a cold world out there for a goat.

I could watch Lal perform all day, she is a source of endless amusement. While that is pretty darn great, it makes leaving her difficult- especially when I am at work all day and miss her development. She is mainly active in the morning and early afternoon so by the time I get home in the evenings she is one tired baby goat.

Starting on Friday night, Lal began sleeping outside at night with Mama Goat! Honestly, she could have started sleeping out there several days prior, but I just wasn’t ready to loss little Lal yet! She would follow me around as I cooked or cleaned, try to make friends with the cat only to have the cat run away in fear, and attempt to climb anything and everything with little luck.

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First Homemade Goat Cheese! Sampled it plain and with herbs de Provence.

Mama Goat Beverly is doing great and is officially off antibiotics! She looks so skinny to us now after giving birth and it will take some getting used to. It seems like there was a hormonal shift or something because she is a lot more skittish and reluctant to come for milking. On the flip side she now being a more attentive mother. Now that she is off antibiotics we can start consuming her milk, so today we made our first batch of goat’s milk cheese! I have dabbled in cheese making in the past, so it was not overwhelming and we used a super easy recipe. It tasted great, and we got a surprisingly large amount from the amount of milk we processed. Cannot wait to make more! Her milk is so creamy, richer and thicker then half-and-half with a smooth full flavor- not goaty at all. It will be great in my morning coffee.

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Baby lal is exploring her world through her mouth right now… luckily baby goat teeth are not sharp!

Now that Lal is strong and healthy we are trying to get the goats comfortable outside their pen. Before Lal’s birth, we took Beverly on daily goat walks but has now become fearful of the greater farm. Using Lal as a hostage, we lead Beverly outside of her pen and encourage her to explore and nibble on all the spring new growth. Lal jumps, prances, and climbs all around her world making it hard to keep up with her. Luckily goats are herd animals, so we don’t need a lead for Lal, we probably don’t need one for Bev either but its good practice. Later in the season we plan on using the goats to help clear poison ivy from around the veggie fields.

I leave you with the song, “Hey Babe, Would You Like to Get Some Goats with Me” by the Carper Family Band.