Goats

Our darling buds of May

Apple blossoms

For the first time since the kids were born, May gave us a true spring day (an afternoon, at any rate). Poor Darcy had been cooped up in the barn for nearly a full week. It was time to throw the doors open.

The rest of the herd was down in the pasture, so I closed the gate between the pen and pasture, just to give the new family time to adjust to one thing before the next. Then I opened the barn door.

Darcy fairly bounded out, loudly calling to her babies to follow her. It took them only a few minutes to let curiosity override fear, and then all three were out in the sunshine. In her happiness, Darcy did a twisting joy-leap off the high drive, and galloped down the hill to the back of the barn. The babies followed with their first real run down the slope, their sturdy little legs gathering and reaching beneath them as if they had always known how do to this.

After awhile, Darcy, with her gaze focused on the pasture, started calling. I’m guessing she was calling after her last-year babies (the 3Gs). Soon the rest of the herd had assembled on the other side of that gate and I let them in to the pen. Everyone huddled around the fresh kids and there was much sniffing. Darcy kept an eagle eye on the babies, nickering constantly, butting away anyone who was a little too interested. The unconcerned babies were everywhere, trying out their running and balancing skills on the rocks and ledges. I’m sure poor Darcy felt like she had toddler twins loose in a busy shopping mall.

Eventually, everyone got busy eating hay, except for Gideon, who was fixated on the little ones (whether it was interest, curiosity, or jealousy, I don’t know), so Darcy kept checking him, heading him off, butting him, pushing him away. She was gentle as these things go, but persistent. After a time, he got the hint and left to eat some hay. I hung out for quite awhile, sniffing noses with goats and snapping photos until my camera battery died. And then I went inside to leave the herd to themselves.

When I checked a little while ago, the adults were all lying in the straw and grass, sunning themselves, while the little ones explored the run-in stall and the rocks of the barn’s foundation.

Just beyond the pen, the apple trees are budding pink. Dandelions have sprung up out of nowhere and I saw honeybees sipping from them. The lawn is suddenly long enough to mow. The snowshoe hare we’ve caught glimpses of this winter has turned mostly brown again. The goldfinches are brilliant gold. There’s no stopping us now.

p.s. If you have an insatiable appetite for goatling photos, you can follow along as they grow by visiting their album on my Flickr page.

Surveying their kingdom Heels Both sides Meeting the family Mother and son, reprise
Darlings

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Goats

Here we are now

Darcy kept us waiting six days. She seemed unbothered by it all. It was just the humans who were anxious, all the way through yesterday morning when I suggested maybe we should talk to the vet to see if we should be concerned.

Of course, that’s what did it. Like taking an umbrella along to ensure it doesn’t rain, if you express your concern to the universe, the goat says, “Ok then, I guess I should oblige.”

It was around noon yesterday and I was going to give her one more check before going for my usual dog walk. No sooner had I stepped outside than I heard a bellow from the barn. I scooted out there with a confused dog by my side and found one wet baby lying in the barn bedding, with Darcy and several other members of the herd assembled around her in a protective semi circle.

I moved Darcy and baby 1 into the prepared birthing stall, then ran to call M home from work. Back out to the barn and Darcy was cleaning that first little one, a girl, whose fur was turning light as she dried.

M arrived in plenty of time to watch baby 2, a boy, arrive. He’s lovely, darker than the girl, and with funny ears that flop around and won’t stay out straight like his sister’s.

They are both doing well. Nursing, napping, being cleaned by their mother, working on learning how to use those little legs.

Outside, it’s raining. I hear it’ll rain for a week. That’s as good an excuse as any to hang out in the barn, listening to baby goats dream.

Being born is exhausting

Boy, still to take on goat appearance

Family portrait Learning to nurse

The ears Cleaning cleaning cleaning

Nap

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Life

Stasis

Stasis

Sometimes the only way to start is just to start.

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The cats and I are playing a game today. The game goes like this: they sit on the windowsill to my left, close enough to my ear that I can hear their ears twitch. I get out of my chair and they dash for their food dishes in anticipation of a meal that is at least an hour away by my clock. I sit back down. They spread themselves like speed bumps on the rug behind my chair. I get up; they scatter. I sit down; they start knocking things off of tables. I get up; they race for the bowls. I sit down.

I can do this for hours.

*

Darcy the goat is pregnant, so we believe. She’s round and her udder is full and by our calendar’s reckoning she was due to kid last Friday. She has not kidded. She remains round and calm, lying sedately in the stall we’ve prepared for her, chewing her cud like a bored receptionist chewing her gum. We check on her at all hours. Early morning, late at night, sometimes the middle of the night. We get up in the shivery wet, pull on our jeans, slip into our boots, flick on the flashlight. She rests, and chews, and chews.

She can do this for days.

*

Spring is notionally here. No, I’m exaggerating. Spring is definitely here, but so reluctant it’s nuts. The last few days have been cold, the last 24 hours full of (welcome) rain. If I weren’t so lazy I’d build a fire, but I’ve had it with splinters and now I’m not even sure where I put the matches on that innocent April day when I thought spring was a bird in the hand. Every few days, spring puts on a bit of a show, peek-a-booing a few new buds, pushing up something vibrantly green from the brown earth, sprinkling the evening air with peeper song. Then we swing back to sweaters. This morning I was shivering in a little cafe, waiting for my car to be repaired, winter coat around my shoulders, hot mug of tea in my hands. On my walk back to the garage, spring scattered daffodils along my path.

She can do this for weeks.

*

What we are doing here right now is waiting. This is a good place to be, even when it feels frustrating sometimes. We are waiting for things to begin without having used up any of the things we are waiting for. I’m greedy and want it all: the warmth, the rain, the flowers, the warm tea, the moment before everything begins, before the curtain lifts for the next act.

The cats just want their dang dinner.

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Goats

Domestic tranquility

Love shack

But get to the important stuff! I hear you shout.

What about the new little buck? How is he settling in? Do the girls like him?

What is his NAME?

He’s been here nearly three weeks and he feels like part of the family.  He’s sweet but shy. I don’t think he had a lot of direct human contact before, which is often normal for bucks; they hang out with other males and are only handled when their special skills are required. But he’s coming around.

Every time I visit him, I make sure to have a little treat (carrot ends, apple peels, an animal cracker) and now he comes right over to sniff my hand and gently take the treat. Yesterday, when I lowered my head to his and offered to sniff noses, not only did he not run away, he sniffed, then licked, then nibbled my nose.

Shy doesn’t enter the story when it comes to him and the girls. They’re separated by a fence and he’s mostly got his head through it, trying to get a good whiff of them. They’re  curious about him and come visiting—we put a hay feeder on the fence so they can share a meal together—and, when it’s their heat cycle, they show intense interest.

This interest takes the form of loitering near his pen all day, sniffing noses with him, and rapidly wagging (flagging) their tails. When we see a doe asking for a solo audience with his majesty, we let her in with him and then they start their dance. Much sniffing, circling.

He talks a lot, sticks out his tongue, makes a pathetic bleating that sounds remarkably like one of those old toys that looks like a can and you tip it over and out comes a noise that sounds nothing like a cow. Apparently it’s the sound of a lovesick goat. She keeps still for him, then circles around. Sometimes there’s running and chasing. Sometimes they just get down to business, which is a bit tricky because he’s quite small and they are mostly quite not.

Poor guy could use some stilts.

Still, where there’s a will there’s a way.

When we let Willow in with him, I tried to coax her out of the pen after about an hour and she said, “Why? I’ve got everything I need right here.” So I left her overnight. That’s the two of them at the top of the post the next morning, as content as any settled couple. He’s inside reading the newspaper. She’s gone out for a snack on the porch.

The same thing happened with Westwind. They spent the day together, then the night. She was lounging on the porch when I came to ask her if she wanted out. She said, “I’m just fine right here, thank you.”

Wellesley, Doris, and Darcy weren’t quite so placid, but they’ve each had some time with him. Doris has since gone to her new home in upstate, New York. Our hooves are crossed that she’ll have some kids for her new owner in the spring.

We won’t know for sure sure if any of the rest of the girls are pregnant until the spring, but it’ll be a good sign if none of them come into heat again next month. Maybe you could cross your hooves along with us, for caramel-colored kids in the spring?

And his name? Nope. We’ve thought of 50, and nothing’s stuck yet. So we call him “GG” (Golden Guernsey) and “Bucky” and “Little Guy” and he answers to anything because he’s a darling, and he’s fond of the attention, and as long as we keep delivering him food and pretty ladies, he’s a happy goat.

Porch sitting

On his porch

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Goats

House move 2.0

New view

This move was a whole lot simpler than the last one, particularly as most of it happened while I was out of town.

And we didn’t have to empty the contents into a shipping container.

And we didn’t have to live in a rental house with no oven for six months.

And we didn’t have to take out a loan.

But, in its way, it’s nearly as exciting and nearly as significant feeling because it means we’re stepping up to the next level of micro farming. A buck on the property means more complications (separate housing, fencing, etc.), but it greatly simplifies breeding. And a Golden Guernsey buck on site means we can move up the Guernsey breeding ladder much more quickly.

And, besides, he’s really cute.

So, a week ago, we scouted around the property and decided the best place to put the buck pen was within the main goat pen. This has a few advantages: we can use the existing fence for two sides of the pen, and the buck can be near the girls even when he needs to be separated from this. Goats need company.

Somewhere around here

Neighborhood

Buck shed

Over the weekend, Chip came by and leveled off the little hill he’d built in the goat pen a couple years ago, and then put down a layer of crushed stone for good drainage. And then lifted the little house, carried it across the yard, and planted it with its front porch facing the barn.

(And here’s where I remember back to a photo I took of a very little H, sitting on the front porch of that same house just after we built it for her, and I get that little lump in my throat and the dizziness from the whizzing years, and I have to pull myself back from that nostalgiac brink and remind myself about baby goats.)

This morning, Gordon the fence guy came with his crew and, in the matter of an hour-and-a-half, pounded in the new posts and put the fence in.

Westwind watched from her tower room.

Let down your beard!

Fence inspector

Walking the line

This afternoon, I painted the house’s floor with a whey-based polyurethane to help protect it from, um, fluids. When that dries, we’ll put down some thick stall mats for more protection, then a layer of bedding, and the house will be ready for its new occupant.

Tomorrow morning, we drive south to pick up GG (still unnamed) and bring him home, to our home, and his.

Oh, and the spot where that little house used to live? We have plans for that, too, come spring.

Cleared

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