Monday, February 28, 2011

Ramblin' On

I know that there aren't too many of you out there reading this blog, and frankly, I can't blame you. Nine times out of ten I'm talking about a diseased critter or discussing the pooping or reproductive habits of my animals. Thanks for hanging in there through the gore!

It is my journal when I'm too tired, distracted or otherwise malingering to write things down in my actual farm & garden journal. Important stuff like critter birth dates, medications administered, egg production highs and lows; stuff I'd regret not making a note of sooner or later.

And while I realize that this might not be the most entertaining content, I hope that you all will still hang in there with me through my dream-farm building, and all of the stumbling and cursing along the way. This Spring is going to be a DOOZY. Our order of 25 baby chicks is due here next week and we've yet to build the new coop or even a makeshift brooder for them. Those 25 are just the egg chickens, by the way. We'll probably order our fryers & broilers in April.

Like our ever-growing assortment of critters, our family's little ones tend to be born in Spring, so this is the time of year that I often refer to as "birthday season". One after another, straight 'til the end of May. Keeey-rayzy.

So it's bunnies, goats, chicks and rapidly growing children every which way I look. And snow. WHERE WERE YOU AT CHRISTMAS, SNOW? Seriously, if this endless Winter doesn't clear out soon, we're going to drop dead of exhaustion and go broke at the same time. All of this cold means lots of extra calories, feedings and general care for our critters, which translates to us slogging food, chipping frozen water troughs and running to the feed store constantly. I think that we have just about maxed out what we can handle on a hands-on level without introducing technology or outside help to the equation. It's exhausting, but fun, and at the end of the mud-caked rainbow waits a pot of gold goat cheese.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Saga of the Boggy Hollow Bunnies

This week has been slightly rabbit-centric.

First, the bad news. We lost a baby bun-bun two days ago due to what looked like a prolapsed colon/rectum. By the time we noticed her lethargy and saw the protrusion, she was already extremely weak. She passed away within an hour.

In happier news, the rest of the baby bunnies are looking really good. They all had opened their eyes and started hopping about by the 23rd, which means that they were probably born on the 7th of February, even though they weren't discovered until the 11th. This litter started out at 7 and is now six, only one of which we're probably keeping. Scarlet immediately staked out one of the albino babies and named it - uhg - "Milky-Silky Jackson". We've agreed that her middle name/nickname is Snowdrop, since I refuse to call the poor thing such a humiliatingly cheesy name as Milky-Silky. Not to mention that it makes her sound like a disreputable character from Starsky & Hutch.

Last night after dinner we brought in all of the bunzos into the house and made them an impromptu hutch out of one of the goat kennels (yes, we have goat kennels) and set them up in the dining room. Everybody seemed very contented by their new surroundings, some, maybe a little too comfortable, as it seemed to be a bunny honeymoon going on in there. Prince Charming must have known what the next day would bring.

Bright and early this morning, PC went to the vet to be neutered. He was as calm as can be, calmer than me in fact, when the vet tech told us that the odds of Princey not making it through the surgery were substantial enough for us to pause and possibly rethink going through with the procedure. Apparently "prey animals", like rabbits are prone to shock. But keeping him seperate from his Cinderella for the rest of his life didn't seem like a viable option either, so with frazzled nerves, we consented to the operation.

When we got a call from the vet this afternoon, we were all strung as tight as piano wire. But we needn't have worried, PC came through the surgery just fine and is now back at home resting comfortably. The girls have been fawning over him and bringing him his babies and his lady-friend over to visit him one-by-one, so that everybody knows that everybody is ok. He's such a good Papa! The babies snuggled right up to him and one even shared his nibble of lettuce.

With all of the frisky bunny action last night, (I can't mentally handle the image that might be the sort of thing that goes on every night, so indulge me here) I suspect that we will have one last batch of babies in another 4 weeks or so. The first 6 won't be ready to leave Mama bunny until they are fully weaned at 8 weeks old, so if she has another litter, it's going to be bunzo madness around here.

Keep in mind that our current six will be ready to be re-homed right around Easter, folks. Call me! ;)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

This Week's Chore Checklist


*Finish stanchion (check! Thanks, Bill)
*Build another new goat pen (double check)
*Try milking Blue
*Soak Chardy's left foot
*Ivermectin (wormer/lice/flea treatment) shots all around, except for the tiny ones
*Forage for evergreen branches to feed goats (Done - brought home almost as much roadside trash as we did branches, but I feel like I did a good deed, and Livy helped.)


*Start new chicken coop (Started on 2/21)
*Set up brooder in anticipation of baby chicks' arrival (Due March 7th)


*Clean hutch
*Empty poo bin into compost


*Clean cage


*Sweep/de-clutter porch
*Start veggie seedlings in hot tub room
*Haul up and stack firewood
*Rearrange Liv's room

All this in addition to dishes and laundry and the rest of the usual stuff. I find that making a list helps purge all of the swirling don't forget's and what was I supposed to do's? from my overwhelmed noodle. Then again, looking at a list like that can be rather daunting, so I'm making the girls pitch in a little more than usual to hustle us through this pre-Spring push. I've bribed them with a possible trip to Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor water park), depending on how well we all work together and get these chores knocked out.

Alright, now I just need to heave my tushie off of this couch and get crackin'. Bleh!

Friday, February 18, 2011

When do I become for real?

In most professions, there is a moment, somewhere along the way, where you either declare what you are, or accept a job title based on the function that you perform - massage therapist, lawyer, beautician, cashier, etc. If it is your profession (as opposed to "just a job"; a way to pay the rent) you probably have something tangible like a license or a degree that deems you an official plyer of your trade. But there are a few job titles out there that sort of defy the standard process, and I think that farmer is one of them.

At what point is it fair for me to declare myself a farmer? I find this question equally vexing in the context of an artist or a writer. When it's something that you have a passion for, something that you must do or die, that you'd do whether it made you a million or cost you everything, at what point does it become your profession? When you turn your first profit for doing it? When it's the easiest way to sum up the way that you spend the bulk of your time? If a doctor must get her degrees and take an oath to be legitimate in her career, what vetting process must I undergo?

The reason that I belabor the point is that I have a great deal of respect for farmers and the work that they do, and I don't want to usurp a title that I haven't rightly earned. I've come up against this conundrum a few different ways and have always managed to side-step answering the what do you do? question. That is, until last week.

I'd gone out of town with my friends for a girls' weekend, during which we'd scheduled ourselves a trip to the spa. When it came time to fill out my pre-massage paperwork, in the box marked occupation I hesitated a moment before writing Farmer. My reasoning for not writing homemaker, as I'd been writing for nearly 11 years was because the sort of massage that I needed as a homemaker was almost strictly for relaxation - treating myself to a little pampering. The kind of massage that I needed on this most recent visit to the masseuse was for arthritic knees, bursitis and a sinus headache, in addition to some good ol' relaxation. In short, I really needed a massage to keep my parts functional so that I could continue to fulfill my growing list of child and critter care obligations at home, ergo, Farmer. I felt a little bit like a fraud.

So, at what point am I officially, legitimately a real-deal farmer? Is it even possible for someone who gardens and keeps animals on the small scale that I do to ever really be fairly described as such?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's Happenin' - 2/16/11

Chardy's right udder/teat are still showing signs of mastitis. Despite my best efforts to milk out that side and get the kids to drink from her right teat to help ease the pressure, her little booby is still filled to the gills.

I'm going to go buy a thermometer tomorrow so that I can take her temperature and try to determine how serious this is, and whether or not her infection (if it is indeed an infection) is calling for antibiotic treatment now. I've been using a great, natural udder balm from Fias Co Farm/Molly's Herbals on Chardy's udder twice per day, and if I could get her to sit still long enough, would like to try a warm compress, but she won't stand for it. It's obvious that she is still uncomfortable, and she's Mehhhing her head off at me, but when I try to intervene, she either bolts or tries to kick me. Aye, what to do? I've emailed the vet for advice, but still haven't heard back from her. I guess we'll just keep on keepin' on 'til we get some results.

The baby bunnies are holding their own. A friend of mine who also owns a bunny has lent us her special critter heating pad to see us through this latest cold snap. The bunzos are literally growing markedly bigger every single day - it's nuts! Their fur is filling in well, but nobody has opened their eyes yet. When their eyes finally open, we should be able to count back 10 days and get a better idea of when exactly they were born, since Cinderella was a sneaky monkey and kept them hidden from us for a few days or so before we figured out what was up.

On the brighter, all-things-chickeny side, today was our first three egg day in quite some time. Now if Rosie and Gracie could get their little butts in gear, we'd be reaping almost 3 dozen eggs per week.

We'd been keeping the ladies in the run, following last week's near miss with the hawk, and just yesterday finally turned them loose again. Apparently the sweet taste of freedom was so divine that they deigned to grace us with a few of their lovely eggs as thanks. I'll take it! As I've whined said before, even the best commercially available eggs can't hold a candle to homegrown. So I'm more thankful than ever to be back on the good egg track.

Next on my hit list - milk. Bill is building me a milking stand this weekend and then the fun can begin!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Care & Keeping of Goat Boobies

Poor Chardy has mastitis in one of her teats! One side of her udder has been milked bone-dry by her babies, and the other side is so full that the skin is stretched and shiny and her right teat looks like an Oscar Meyer wiener. (Don't say I never paint you glorious pictures with my words!)

Between googling and consulting my goat books, it sounds like there are two ways to go - the "natural" way and the "western medicine" way. The things that they both have in common is that you massage and "milk out" the infected teat (discarding the milk), then thoroughly clean the udder and teat and apply an udder cream and massage in well, followed by an application of teat-dip or anti-bacterial spray. The natural method also recommends applying a heat pack. The more medically invasive method suggests giving either intramuscular antibiotics (which Chardy just finished a course of) and/or injecting medicine directly into the teat orifice itself.

I'm going to start with the natural method in the hopes of avoiding having to give poor Chardy any more shots. Trying to give intramuscular injections to a rail-thin goat is hard on everybody involved, so we're going to do all that we can to avoid traumatizing or potentially over-medicating her further, but if I feel like she's getting any worse or simply doesn't start improving very soon, I won't hesitate to treat her with whatever antibiotics it takes to rid her of this infection.

And now I get to go milk a reluctant, under-the-weather doe, while dodging cranky kicks. What a way to spend a cold and windy evening!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Maternity Ward Runneth Over

Our girl, Fritzen, finally had her babies today. It was rather anti-climactic when compared to Chardy's labor and delivery, as I just missed the big event and though we were expecting something like half a dozen little babies to come flying out of her, Fritzen had just four.

I found them when I brought down their afternoon snack. I heard lots of baby bleating and squinted against the drizzle to make out the shape of a teeny-tiny black and white baby against the dark outline of Fritzen. By golly, she'd gone and done it all alone.

In total she delivered four kids, three does and a buckling, but one tiny black doe was stillborn. I picked her up from the straw to see if there was anything at all to be done for her, but there wasn't.

The other three babies were fairly perky, though on the small side. The itty-bittiest one has been named Oreo

Oreo, a doeling, less than an hour old!

To give you some sense of how teeny these babies are, the hulking beast at the green bucket is 9 week old Blackjack. Left to right - Blackjack, Buckley, Oreo and Fritzen, peeking in.

Oreo is quite thin and extremely screamy when you pick her up. I shot two squirts of goat drench down her throat to perk her up a little, and it seems to have worked, though I'm still worried for her. I'm not sure I'll rest easy tonight.

The other babies are also both small, but measurably more robust than Oreo. They are Valentine, a doeling, and Buckley, a buckling. They are nearly identical, with the main difference being that Buckley has a bigger white top knot than his sister. Unless they're right next to each other, I can't tell who's who!

Fritzen checking our her newborns, Valentine in the foreground, and Buckley just behind.

These guys got some goat drench and supplemental colostrum too, but seemed pretty perky of their own accord. I iodine-dipped everybody's umbilical cords, brought out the warming blanket, and brought all of the Mamas lots of extra grain, apples and hay. I'm hoping that this will tide everyone safely over 'til morning.

I can't believe this Boggy Hollow baby boom! Did I mention that we also had another litter of baby bunnies born this weekend? We've had 13 healthy babies born in just the past four days. Thankfully, unless Blackjack or Prince Charming sneak one by on us, we shouldn't have anymore babies until Gertie delivers in May, which is fine by me, because right now I feel like I'm hanging on by my fingernails. This old gal has had enough excitement for one week. Now the countdown to milking time is on! :)

Fritzen, plus all six babies, Valentine, Blackjack, Buckley, Oreo, and heaped in the corner Barley & Hop.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Crash Course in Goat Midwifery

Chardy had her babies today! We have a boy and a girl, both healthy and spunky.

I had a feeling this morning when we did critter patrol that today was going to be that day. Chardy was very vocal, which she is not normally. She was MEEEHHing at me the whole time I was with her, and switched into MEHHH hyperdrive as I walked away from the pen. I debated about whether or not to walk back down there and sit with her for a bit, but I had planned a morning walk with my friend, and didn't want to ditch her for a baby that may or may not be happening. So I went on my walk, but I thought about my goatie girl and worried a little that I might have up and left her when she needed my comfort most. Mommy guilt to the bazillionth degree!

I hustled home from my walk, and even before I went down to the pen to check on her, just had the feeling that this was really it. So I brought my camera, my cell phone and a bath towel just in case. It was a good thing I did.

I found Chardy shifting around in the goat house, pawing at the straw. I looked her over and saw that her udder was now SUPER full, and that she had passed her mucus plug. It was go time.

She plopped down in the goat house, and I pulled up a little folding stool that I use when I'm visiting and brushing the goats. I had a ringside seat!

Thankfully having brought my cell phone with me, I started texting everybody The babies are coming! My friend and her daughter were able to make it down just in time to see baby #2 pop out. :) What a beautiful and educational experience! I only wish my girlies had been home to see it. Luckily, I have a bit of video and a few pictures of the blessed event. The video of Chardy's various stages of labor and birth are rather intermittent, as my camera batteries died right in the middle of it all and I was naturally more concerned about being able to support Chardy and the babes that I was with being a stellar documentarian. If you are curious and not particularly squeamish, check out the videos below. ;)

What a contracting goat looks like.

Her first bag of waters.

Baby Boy, just delivered.

And hot on his heels (and back), Little Girl.

Checking out her wee ones. :)

Chardy is doing great. She dealt with labor like a champ, barely making a sound as she delivered her beautiful babies. She is presently snuggled up with them and eating like a horse. I wonder if she wasn't able to eat to her fill before because her abdomen was so full of babies, because she's eaten more than a full day's worth of hay, grain and apples since just noon today. And as if she weren't spoiled rotten before, now she's getting room service so that she doesn't have to fight Blue and Fritzen for every last bite.

She passed her placenta within 2 hours of delivering, and has had minimal bleeding and discharge since, which eases my mind more than I can tell you. It sucks to fret over something that you're powerless to do anything about, so I am thanking my lucky stars that nature and instinct have seen Char and her kids through the danger of birth safely.

Everybody's looking good, but just for peace of mind, we've decided to check on them all every few hours throughout the night to ensure that no one gets too cold or wanders away from Mama. Imagine trying to mother twins who could both walk within 20 minutes of being born! No thanks!

So we've safeguarded everybody as best we can, but still, every little peep and strange sound from the vicinity of the yard makes my heart skip a beat. Fear of loss and the joy of providence are two sides of the same coin. I don't know if I'll be sleeping worth a darn for a while yet, 'til I can convince myself that they will thrive and be with us for many happy years to come.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Maybe Baby?

Tonight during Chardy's foot bath I got an up close and personal look at her udder, and I think that we're very near go time. :))))

She has "bagged up" in just the past few hours. I was down in the pen feeding and brushing everybody late this morning and discreetly peeked at everybody's business to see if anything was happening. It wasn't, then. Now her udder looks fit to burst.

In the neck-and-neck race to motherhood between Chardonnay and Fritzen, I think that Chardy has just pulled ahead. Now I can only hope that she doesn't deliver while I'm out of town this weekend, leaving Bill to be Ob/Gyn and Neonatal nurse all by his lonesome.

If she's still pregnant tomorrow, I'll try to get a picture of her udder for reference. Thank God for digital cameras! Can you imagine me taking my film in to Costco and having a whole roll of up-close shots of goat jumblies developed? The cops and/or PETA would be kicking in my door.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming into Being

Winter is waning, and Spring is creeping in, and I can feel my energy beginning to build with the slow return of the light. The signs of Spring are everywhere - in my expectant does, my every-other-day egg from the hens and the snowdrops popping out of the ground overnight.

I'm so excited for this year's garden, and at the same time completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it and the amount of infrastructure that will be required to make it happen. The same is true for our massive chicken keeping upgrades - new coops, a giant brooder and lots of new equipment and feed to drain our energy and bank account - in the hope that someday we will see a return on our investments in the form of protein to feed our family and in being able to experience the simple joy of sharing our lives with animals.

The goats have snowballed well above and beyond any other project that we've undertaken at this farm so far. They've grown in number and are growing still faster than any other critter that we've ever raised. Their growth explosion is directly proportionate to the amount of money that they are costing us at the moment. Again, we are hoping to see this money again someday in the form of milk, cheese, stud fees, etc., but if we should not, will still be content with the experience and companionship that we've had with these guys and gals.

It's all a big gamble, but that has been true of farming since the beginning of time. Hold back a few seeds and, if you plant them at just the right time under just the right conditions, you will be rewarded with food. If you miscalculate or just have a run of rotten luck, you're done. You starve or you go broke. We are very fortunate that in this modern world and in our particular situation that the stakes aren't that high for us. But the pressure that I put on myself to fulfill my vision of feeding my family and animals with foods grown and made with my own hands does make this a venture at which I refuse to fail.

My Great-Grandmother, Erna, came to Olympia from Minnesota over 100 years ago and managed to coax the earth and animals to feed her and her family of 15. If she could do it back then, without antibiotics, electric fences and forced-air heat, why can't I do it now, in the same place as she, but with so many technological advantages at my disposal? Mostly because the knowledge of the old ways has been lost over the past two generations. They were seduced away from the way of life that had been for millennia by the convenience of tv dinners, disposable diapers, housing developments and corporations promising them better lives through technology, effectively infantilizing us all in terms of being able to care for ourselves in a very basic, off-the-prepackaged-teat sort of way. It's pretty depressing when you think about how the past century's technological advances have simultaneously saved our lives in the short term, while sending us down a doomed path strewn with chemical residues and yesterday's plastic. The very most basic skills for human survival, accumulated and passed down since the beginning of mankind were lost in a blink. I mean to get them back.

I want to make this life work for my children and theirs, and for my city and my own peace of mind, but I also want to make it work for her, Erna. Her first hand knowledge may be lost to me, but I feel her spirit when I gather the eggs and pick my tomatoes. :)

Chardy's Treatment Plan & Pregancy

Our blue eyed beauty, Miss Chardy.

Today is day two of treating Chardonnay's hoof rot. Her limping has noticeably decreased since Bill got all of her hooves trimmed up, and she's had two days of iodine foot baths. We also started her on a course of Penicillin today, which is not normally something you'd give a very pregnant doe, but the state of her foot unfortunately makes it necessary.

And so, we will continue with the once a day injections of penicillin and the warm iodine foot baths at least once per day until she's back up to full speed. I'm hoping that her lethargy is due to her big belly and impending kidding, rather than an indication of how bogged down she may be as a result of this infection. I got the feeling from her today that she is definitely very close to kidding. She (and Fritzen) have been uber-nesty and just sluggish for the past couple of days. The poor things are big as houses, and I can completely empathize with being over being pregnant. There's also just some underlying vibe that I'm getting from her, a nervous calm, if that makes any sense. She looks at me and gives soft little bleats, Mama, I don't feel right. Which means that I will be making multiple treks to the goat pens throughout the day to lay hands on bellies, feeling for contractions, and staring intently at caprine lady-parts to search for any signs of impending delivery.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Goats Cometh! Part Deux

Have you met our new herd yet? We've only had them for six days now, but they've all endeared themselves to us already.

This is Fritzen, a mini Lamancha doe -

Fritzen is a 6-year old with a very interesting back story. In case you couldn't tell from the photo above, Fritzen is pregnant - extremely pregnant!

According to the man that we bought our new goats from, this will be Fritzen's 6th kidding, and so far every year her kidding has increased by one kid. As in first year, singleton birth, fifth year, quintuplets! Quintuplets are heard of in goats, though are quite rare. Sextuplets would be crazy. A recent house call from our vet, Dr. Natalee, confirmed that Fritzen has at least three in there, and is expected to deliver as soon as this week!

She is very sweet and according to the doc, 100% healthy, though a touch thin for having to nourish all of those babies. We're doing our level best to feed her and the other mamas up without rocking their boats too much. Goats' bellies are not big fans of sudden changes in diet, and can suffer from bloat on account of it, occasionally seriously enough to die from it. Since we don't know exactly what they were being fed at their old home, we're feeding them tons of orchard grass hay, organic "all stock" grain mixture, small amounts of chopped apple & carrot, mineral supplements, and the odd evergreen branch now and then. They all seem to be handling their "new" diet ok. Now if we could only get a little more meat on their bones!

Our other mini Lamancha doe is Chardonnay, aka "Chardy" -

Chardy is two years old, also pregnant, and per Dr. Natalee, expecting either one big whopper or twins. She is nowhere near as huge as Fritzen, but is still due to kid within the month.

You can't tell from this picture, but Chardy has some amazing light blue eyes - a favored trait in Nigerians (which is half of what constitutes the mini Lamancha breed, the other half being Lamanchas, of course) and just plain lovely to look at. I'll have to try and get a better shot of her straight on.

Dr. N found Chardy on the thin side as well, and also noted a "hot foot", meaning that her right front hoof was infected with hoof rot. Her hooves were in horrible shape when we first brought her home and needed a good trimming, which Bill gave her with a little bribe of grain and hugs from me to quell the resistance. It was rather tricky, since the normal procedure for trimming hooves is to either put the goat in a stanchion (which we don't yet have), or straddle or sit on them to trim, which isn't an appropriate approach for already-stressed pregnant does. After trimming, we soaked her infected hoof for about 20 minutes in an iodine solution and will be giving her injections of penicillin to help her body fight back. Considering all that she's been through these past few days, it's sort of amazing that she is still so sweet. She will walk right up to me and rest her head in my lap and just sit their nuzzling me for a good 20 minutes. She is mamas lovebug. <3

In addition to the two preggo mini Lamanchas, we got Blue, a Nigerian Dwarf, and her baby, Blackjack, also a purebred Nigerian.

Blue is 9 years old, and to my mind, looks extremely similar to a teeny-tiny burro. In fact, I sometimes like to call her "Donkeh!", a la Shrek. Her baby boy, Blackjack, is an 8-week old buckling (un-neutered male) and will be the herd sire of our Nigerians, which at this moment only consist of his mother and Gertie, with Gertie being the only one that we'll be breeding him to.

Blue is very sweet and loving, and is a very good mama to Blackjack. When we pick him up to say hello, he bawls "MAAAAAAAHHHH!" and Blue ambles over to see that her baby is ok and will give you the stink-eye until you put him back down. Blue is still in milk, but seems like she's about ready to be done with nursing, as I never see Blackjack get more than 10 or 15 seconds per teat before she either kicks him off or runs away. We're hoping to get a bit of milk from her soon, but have been warned that she likes to sit down during a milking, and therefore might be a two-person operation, which is rather alot of trouble for 1/2 quart of milk, so we'll see.

Blackjack is a spunky little man. Shy, but also curious. He's not a big fan of being picked up, but I figure that if we're going to leave him a buck, that we'd better establish as personal a relationship with him as we can now before he morphs into Mr. Stinky-Fighty Guy.

We are all madly in love with our new herd, and will probably begin integrating them with our other three Nigerians as soon as Chardy's hoof rot is cleared up, with the boys co-habitating in one pen, and the mamas & babies in the other. So far this has been a very fun and exciting adventure, this goat keeping. Now, if we could finally get some milk out of the deal... ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Keepin' My Babies Warm

Just when you think that Winter's on it's way out, you get another 20 degree night out of left field. I've got babies and mamas galore to keep warm, not to mention my fellow humans.

I'm especially worried about our baby goat and our pregnant does, so I'm whipping up a batch of "goatmeal" for everybody. I've mentioned my magical goatmeal before, but now I have a recipe to share too! My recipe tends to vary, as I use whatever types of grain that I happen to have on hand whenever Jack Frost rears his ugly head. Here is what went into tonight's batch-

1 cup brown rice
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coarsely-ground cornmeal
handful of unsulfured, dried cranberries
2 tbsps unsulfured molasses
2 tbsps flaxseed meal
1/4 tsp of salt

I cooked all of the grains up in about 3 cups +/- of boiling, salted water. You need to cook the brown rice for a good 40-45 minutes before you add the oats and cornmeal, as they really just need to absorb the hot water and don't need to be cooked through like the rice. Let sit covered for about 10 minutes until all or most of the liquid had been absorbed by the grains. My consistency was spot on, even though I sort of winged the amounts based on what I had on hand. You may need to play with amounts to get it to the thickness of your liking.

After everything is cooked up, I stir in the cranberries, molasses and flaxseed meal, and set the goatmeal aside to cool to room temperature or just slightly above room temp. And there you have it - warm, nourishing goodness for your goats (and chickens!) on a bitter cold day.

P.S. - Husbands like it too! :)

Saved by the Squawk!

I just interrupted a hawk attack and saved my birds! :))))

I heard a distressed-sounding squawk and at first, thought that it might have been our baby goat, Blackjack, stuck in the fencing or being harassed by his aunts, so initially ran south to peek on my goaties. No disturbance in the force there, so I was about to head back in when I heard the sounds of a pissed off hen.

I started running toward the chicken yard when I saw a red-tailed hawk dart past and saw Amelia jammed up against the chain link fence so hard that she was at risk of nuggetizing herself. I got into the yard and scooped up Amelia immediately and shut her up in the coop. The other girls were slightly harder to find, but they too were jammed up against the fence under a sparse covering of grass, holding stock-still, willing themselves to be invisible.

None of the ladies were thrilled about being picked up and thrown back into the coop, but when you're a farm with only 5 chickens, you don't play fast and loose with your hens. I think that we were fortunate that this was a red-tail instead of one of the larger birds of prey that frequent our area, like the bald eagles. Small bird of prey + very fat and fluffy chicken = hard to grab and carry off, or at least I hope so.

The culprit or one of his brethren, sitting on top of our neighbors' Hemlock(?) tree, eyeballing our chicken yard. NOT ON MY WATCH, MISTER!

Nobody seems to have suffered any physical trauma, though I daresay this attack hot on the heels of the what we now believe to have been a fox attack that took Strawberry has left our ladies noticeably more jumpy, poor girls. At least today it was we who won. Chalk one up for the critters and farmers against the predator's three. It may be a small, and perhaps even temporary victory, but I'll take it anyway.