Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wonderful goats

The goats have slipped into our lives seamlessly. I was nervous on Sunday because Snowy's digestive system was clearly off, but her "issues" resolved quickly. In their previous home they were in a very small yard and all their food was brought to them. Here they have access to a lot of browse and weeds, that they are really enjoying. Snowy's tummies just needed some time to adjust to her new diet. I limited their time out of the pen for the first few days to make it easier on everyone, but now they are free to roam within a large fenced area.

The family from whom we bought the goats is a sweet and quiet family. The goats seem to have been infused with these characteristics. They are lovely.

This evening the children and I went for a walk around the pond to see if any of the dewberries (wild blackberries) are ripe. We did find a few, which means a trip to Dewberry Hill, on the other side of our property, is in order! Yum!

On a whim, I decided to bring the goats with us. They follow us everywhere and I wasn't really concerned they would run off. Happily, I was right.

Here they are, with their first look at the pond (for Sylvester, likely the first time in his life he has seen a body of water larger than a bucket):

I hade read that goats eat, and enjoy, poison ivy! Proof positive:

Finally a non-chemical method that does not entail long hours of me at the end of a shovel!

I love our goats.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Today we got goats..."

This blog post was a family effort, that took several days. We actually got the goats on Saturday the 23rd....

Farmer Boy (age 8):
Today we got goats. They're pretty scary. They bolt at you real fast and jump as if they were going to jump right on top of you and kill you. Cows aren't very scary to me. Horses aren't very scary to me. Goats: too scary for me. The goats chase the dogs! Except for one: Fred the stupidest of all of them.

The Princess (age 3):
Today we got goats.

Stephen (age 38):
Today we got goats. I wonder if we'll get to eat them.

(general response of rest of family: bulging eyes, gaping mouths then cacophony of horror)

Patti (age 35):
Today we got goats. When we went to pick them up I felt like the first time mother being sent home with a newborn, feeling undeserving, unworthy, and underprepared. :-) The long drive home meant I couldn't check on them for over an hour, and I was quite sure they'd be dead by the time we got home. Of course they weren't.

When we let them out of the trailer, the dogs were very curious and annoying and made the goats nervous. They stayed by my side, or ran to me if they had moved off and were startled. I couldn't believe it! They were sweet and gentle and clearly very attached to humans.

Snowy and Sylvester are both a year old. Sylvester is a wether, purchased for company for Snowy. Here he is:

I am thinking about trying to train him to pull a cart, but I am not rushing into anything. He is very sweet, and more cautious than Snowy.

Snowy may be bred, but is still not showing signs of it. She was exposed to two different bucks about a month apart. She could birth as late as the end of June. In that case she wouldn't show clear signs of being pregnant for another month. As a (hopefully) first freshener, it is not surprising that she is not showing, even if she is bred. Also, she was bred kind of young, so she is likely to only carry one kid this time. Here's Snowy:

Already I like having goats even more than I thought I would (and if you have spent any time with me, you know I was a little over the top about wanting to get them!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This is my life

When I was a college student, I was mesmerized by a photo that captured the kiss of a walking couple. What I loved about it was that it highlighted to me that our lives are in many ways a series of moments, ever moving from one to the next.

A "photojournal" of 24 hours in my life...

We get home from a long day away in the big city visiting friends. I hear a strange noise. I realize it is coming from behind our barn, and is likely on the neighbor's property. I dismiss it as the neighbor digging holes for fences. Farmer Boy, however, leaps into action. He adamantly inists that it is aliens, who are disguised as dogs. The only way I can convince him to turn around and come in for dinner is by entrusting Molly the real dog with the responsibility of taking Fred and Luke (the other real dogs) with her to conquer the aliens. To my amazement, after my solemn commission, she trots away from me in the direction of the sound.

As we walk back to the house I simultaneously hear:

Farmer Boy: "I've GOT IT! They're alien echo-ologists!"
The Princess: "And then the butterfly in the pink net flew away."

Many alternate universes here on the farm.


I try for 15 minutes to figure out where the cat peed only to discover that the smell was from the irises I cut from the yard, that are sitting on the table.


Walking through the mud room, I find a yellow plastic toy firefighter's hat upside down on a chair, with 7 eggs in it. A creative egg collecting basket.


I hear from the front, "I found Trill! I found Trill!!". I open the door to be presented with a chicken, sure enough, our long lost Trill!! She was our first injured animal on the farm, and she had seemed to vanish one day. I had not seen her for 3 months. But there she was.

You may wonder how this could be... so do I. We still have so many chickens it is hard to see them all at once, or distinguish them from each other. But there she was, with a little limp, and a strange crusty thigh, neatly hidden with feathers. It was definitely Trill.

I have no idea what makes me more or less attached to an animal. The chickens are on my nerves right now because of the poop that is everywhere, and because I can't plant anything until we build a garden fence (they eat everything, except for the irises... ohhhh, maybe I know why they leave THEM). But I spent 10 minutes watching Trill and taking pictures of her. In the laundry room. And she actually didn't poop (miracle!). It made my day to find her healthy and whole.

Injured baby Trill being offered some molasses water:

Trill in my laundry room yesterday:


I have to wait to turn off the car when we get to the park for our homeschool group, because the Princess and I are jamming to the beat of "Water for the Elephants" by Dan Zanes.


I open the trunk of the SUV at the library to put our huge bag of books in, and have to squeeze the books between empty recycling crates with a violin in them, and two 50 lb bags of goat feed.


[WARNING: If you don't have a farm this may gross you out; if you do have a farm, you're crazy]

With herculean effort, I manage to heave a plastic sheet filled with soggy nasty pine shavings out of the tub, into a big plastic container, and drag it to the compost outside. For "fun" I weigh myself holding the thing. No wonder it's next to impossible... I'm leaning over the edge of a huge tub and lifting out 75 gloopy stinky pounds of pine shavings on a wiggly plastic sheet. Back trauma, here I come.

You know that separation of church and state thing? This one has put me over the edge: time for a more firm separation of house and farm. No more livestock in the house. UGH!


I complete my day with a fine bedtime reading of "The Good Little Bad Little Pig", who is also a dirty little clean little pig. Hmmm, that rings true for me.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Super Hero Husband

I am married to a wonderful man. He just finished a week of vacation; a much deserved vacation. The man does not take vacation. He has so many vacation hours accrued for his off-farm job, they are no longer accruing.

So what did he do on his vacation? Go to Hawaii? Go skiing? Nope, he built fences. He built a lot of fences, and did it all by himself, and with no prior experience. They look AWESOME!

And now we can get goats! A week from today, on my mom's 62nd birthday, *I* get the present... two new goats!

Here are some pictures of my hero...

You can get very colorful when you have a three year old daughter:

You can also be a fierce dragon:

Working on the shed roof (don't fall!):

Hard at work on a conference call with colleagues (honest!):

One of my all time favorites, I call this "Mesmerized":

I love you, Stephen Brown! Thank you!!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Happy 70th Birthday Dad!

My awesome father, Bob Duce, is turning 70 today.

"Awesome?" you say. "Tell me more!"

Okay. He is in Australia right now, with my equally awesome mother, embarking on a four month driving adventure. Yup. 7-0 today. Heading to the Australian outback.

Rock on Dad!! "And many morrrrrrrre....!"

Whacky birth story

Totally off farm topic here...

You may have heard of this but it was news to me:

A woman in Romania gave birth to twins from two different uteruses 59 days apart. Wow!

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Seems there are many creatures destined to be our teachers. Each new family of animal that comes into our lives begins with a fearless band of warriors ready to train us in how to care for them. At their expense.

The ducklings were a bit of an impromptu purchase. We had planned to eventually get ducks, but hadn't really talked about WHEN, until the Saturday before Easter. The conversation went something like this:

"Shall we get ducklings to surprise the kids?"

"Yeah, if the store is still open when I'm done with this I'll go down and get some."

You'd think we were buying ice cream, not five living creatures.

So they come home in a little box, with instructions for baby chicks. Box says on it "Chicks and Ducklings." The feed bag says "Chicks and Ducklings." Great, we know how to take care of baby chicks. No problem.


Ducks are messy. I mean REALLY messy. They need water mixed with their food in order to swallow, which means that when they drink, they have food in their mouth, and the backwash pretty quickly "nastifies" the water. They also like to walk in the water. And dunk their heads in the water. And their poop is very, um wet. And squirts. MESSY.

They also grow really fast (at least this breed does). So they've outgrown their Rubbermaid tub already. They would have even earlier if not for the unfortunate early demise of one, at the hands of that menace to all waterfowl, that poultricidal three year old, The Princess.

Overheard talking to her grandmother:

"Well, I squeezed its neck a little too tight and it quacked really loudly and wouldn't stop, so I threw it on the ground a little too not gently and it died."

You know that thing I said about the fearless band of warriors? Exception here. Ducks are not fearless. Not at all. One is almost tempted to offer them valium they are so highstrung. I suppose given the aforementioned incident one can hardly blame them.

And while I joke about it here, I was really upset about it, which was compounded by the fact that the dead duckling was left outside alone for all of three minutes, and when I went out to bury it was already gone (dog undoubtedly). Despite the fact that chickens die at our hands on a regular basis, this was different and I'd really wanted to bury it. I also blame myself for not supervising the children with the ducklings. In one of those common farm drama coincidences, as I was cleaning the duck tub and the kids were taking care of them, our back fence neighbor came and told us our cattle were on his property, so I walked to the back with Stephen to look for them. I returned minutes later to a dead duckling and four VERY stressed live ducklings.

I have looked up duckling information, and even on the web, it has been scanty. I still have not found definitive advice for when to let them live at the pond, although I have surmised. I did find a good general site early on that the children enjoyed, called All About Ducks for Kids.

Last night I finally found this quite useful site on duckling care, and realized it was time to let them have a daily swim.

Here are the first two swimmers:

They were so happy. Absolutely delightful to watch. They are in a big rubbermaid tub (their former home), and the green stuff floating around is little pieces of lettuce. They love to "dabble". These little birds, who had never swum before, took to it like a duck to water. OH! ;-)

We sifted threw a number of ideas for places for them to live for the next few weeks (they still need some temperature control and protection from predators until they are bigger). In the end we settled on the bathtub. The lovely big jacuzzi tub that doesn't work. I lined it with plastic left from moving mattresses, poured pine shavings in, and voila! Our new and improved Chez Duckling:

Note that the water is already murky, the food is knocked over, and the pine shavings are rather "soiled". This set up was pristine four hours before this picture was taken. They don't waste much time.

I am enjoying them greatly, extensive poop cleaning chores notwithstanding.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves!

We have been killing roosters. As I've mentioned before, we have a lot of them. A week ago Saturday, Stephen killed 8, then last weekend, 10 more. We still have plenty to go.

Some of them are mean. Mean to each other, mean to us, and really mean to the hens. One scratched The Princess pretty badly the other day. I am ready to turn them all into stew. >:-(

One of the interesting things that happened after the first 8 were killed was that the pecking order was confused. A large portion of the hens had taken to congregating under some bushes a field away from the chicken house. A few roosters would hang out with them, but most of the roosters prowled around the chicken house and the back yard. After the first 8 were killed, the hens stopped going to that bush, and split into two big groups, one by the chicken house and one in the front yard. After the next ten roosters were killed, the split was solidified.

The chicken house girls learned a very clever way to keep themselves safe from the incessant attention of the roosters:

They mostly go up the ladder and fly down to the ground, but they sometimes go in and out the window. These girls mostly lay in the house, either in the nest boxes or in a corner. There is one rooster up on the scaffolding in this picture, but that is a pretty rare sight.

The other group is in the front. Remember Queen Suzanne, the Cornish Rock hen with a long history of barely escaping death? As I wrote a few weeks ago, Molly the Australian Shepherd is her self-appointed guardian, chasing off roosters, and even licking her wounds in the early days. For weeks Suzanne spent much of her time under the carport in a dog crate with hay for bedding and food and water, just to keep her safe from roosters and give her a chance to heal. Eventually she was well enough, Molly was vigilant enough, and perhaps the roosters were reduced enough that she wasn't being jumped on constantly, so we stopped putting her in the crate. She had become accustomed to the front by then, and roosted under the carport at night.

Molly expanded her sense of duty to include the hens who started hanging around Suzanne. At first we noticed one faithful RI Red Hen who would show up every day. Lady Robert. Soon the Lady stayed with Suzanne at night under the carport instead of returning to the hen house in back. One day I realized that there were a lot of hens staying in the front, and Molly was defending them so well that only a few roosters ever spent much time out there. These boys continue to visit the front and are about as gentlemanly as roosters can be. The rabble stays in the back, squawking and fighting and strutting about.

It is pretty fascinating to me that Molly and the hens have bonded against the roosters. I suppose I am anthropomorphising here, but the little feminist who lives in the dungeon of my past pipes up: "You go girls!" :-D

In reality, Molly adores me (undeserving though I am), and is very intelligent, so undoubtedly grasped the point when I spent days chasing roosters away from Suzanne at the beginning when I'd let her out to peck around in the grass. Still, it is cool that these critters have figured out how to survive, and more interestingly, how to help each other survive.

The split in the hens has led to some interesting egg laying spots. The scaffolding girls lay in the hen house, as I mentioned. The dog house remains a favorite for the carport girls, an occasional egg is found in a recycling box or straight on the ground, the jogging stroller sees at least two new eggs a day, and the most startling find was a solid 13 eggs on a feed bag! I actually watched a hen lay an egg there, and was shocked when she stood up!! I was careful with that find, smelling each egg before cooking, and had to toss three, so I think we had somehow overlooked this spot for a few days.

Today we broke our previous daily egg record... 23! We have to figure out something... I have 9 dozen eggs in my fridge! Time to start finding customers.

Want some eggs?

Inspiration in the dirt and on my shoes and on the mud room floor and...

A wee poem
from my heart to yours
inspired today
by my morning chores:

Poop here,
poop there,

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New Additions

We have some new faces around the farm.

The youngster we bought to replace our old bull:

These sweeties were a surprise for the kids on Easter. Our first feed store critter purchase. :-) We're pretty sure they're Pekins.

And... drum roll please... Farmer Brown is so proud to present his newest toy...

He has already used it to move round bales, pull our neighbor's horse trailer out of the mud and shred a badly overgrown pasture. In addition to this work, he found out they sold him the wrong drive shaft, had it replaced, broke the right drive shaft and bought a new one. Oh, and on the way home one tire blew out on the trailer. I mean blew... treads completely stripped. The tire was replaced for free. All this and more in a mere three days! Very industrious. ;-)