The other day, Adrian came in and told me (in his own words) that bucks are capable of self-administering fellatio.

I thought raising him on a small farm would be educational, I just didn’t realize how educational it would be.

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The weather is in the teens and the goats are experiencing their first snow and freezing temperatures. Worrying about them in the cold kept me awake at night, so I got out some unused polar fleece scraps and got creative.

Here is a pictures of the does and bucks sporting their new polar fleece blankets.

Goats in polarfleece jackets

The does in polarfleece jackets

As you can see, Pan thinks Calypso looks HOT in his new outfit.

Bucks in polar fleece jackets

The bucks in polar fleece jackets

For months, now, I’ve needed to give the goats a pedicure. But not knowing how, I put it off again and again. Finally, I decided to check YouTube, to see if anyone had posted a movie on trimming goat hooves, and you know what? Someone had!

I don’t know what possesses people to film themselves as they do things like this, but I’m so grateful they do! The goats have now had all their hooves trimmed and I feel much better.

We have a long list of things we need to do to get our little farm ready for winter. Among the items on the list was putting “baseboards” on our quonset-hut style goat shelters to make sure the wind doesn’t blow in. Goats hate the rain, and I knew ours would be spending quite a bit of time in their shelters this winter.

I forget how curious they are. They often positioned themselves smack dab between me and my work. Here is a picture that Adrian took of me drilling holes through the boards, so I could wire them to the stock panels and fence posts that make up the shelters. It’s a wonder that I didn’t drill a hole through Pandora’s nose.

Adrian took a picture of our livestck guardian pup Emma, too.

She has the sweetest personality, and we adore her, but her puppiness drives us insane. Her playfulness means she can’t yet be trusted to be alone with the livestock. She chases and mouths the goats, ducks, and chickens. She plays with Adrian as if he’s a puppy and sometimes inadvertently hurts him. We get mad at her for a minute. Maybe two. And then, well, look at that face. She is as sweet as she is cute. She doesn’t mean to hurt anything, it’s just that she’s 7 months old.

Only 13 months to go until she’s an adult . . . Oy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went in on a hay shipment with Molly (of Blackberry Moon Farm) and Stephanie (of Sweet Breeze Farm). Delivery was free if we ordered five tons or more, so we each ordered two tons and had it delivered to Stephanie’s.

Above are cell phone pictures of the truck being unloaded  and Adrian and Connor (Stephanie’s son) on top of the stack.

Now, what to do with two tons of hay and no barn? Well, you have to borrow Stephanie’s truck “Bob,” and then hire neighboring teenager Rob Crane and his friend Skyler to move the bales to . . . our basement.

That’s right. We have two tons of alfalfa on pallets in the basement. There was no other place to put them where they’d stay dry. Of course, the goats have figured that out, so every time we walk to the basement door (which is outside) we are greeted with a chorus of “meeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhs.”

Coyotes pose a real threat to livestock on Whidbey Island. There are three types of animals that people turn to for livestock protection: donkeys, llamas, and dogs. Our neighbor has two donkeys for protection animals, but lost 11 or more sheep to coyotes last year. You can hear those donkeys braying at least half a mile away. She has acres and acres of pasture, and the way I see it, there’s just too much territory for two donkeys to guard.

We know three people who use llamas as guard animals. Both donkeys and llamas have a natural hatred for canids, and will kick them into orbit if given a chance. Our farm is too small for llamas or donkeys, so we decided to get a dog–one that could both guard our livestock and fill the dog-shaped hole that my son has had in his heart for a number of years. We decided on a Maremma Sheepdog.

Maremmas originated in Italy, where they’ve been bred for centuries to protect sheep, goats, and other livestock. They’ve also been used as estate guardians. Our dog, Emma, was born on Windance Farm in Goveurneur, New York. If you follow the Windance Farm link, you’ll see Emma’s father, Crisco, on the front page. Crisco came directly from Italy.

Emma spent the first five months of her life among livestock, learning from adult working dogs. It just about killed us to miss her cute puppy stage, because there is nothing cuter than a Maremma puppy. But I felt that the training her breeder, Jackie Church, could provide, as well as the influence of adult working dogs, was in Emma’s and our best interest.

Finally, on July 11, the day arrived for Emma to come home. Jackie’s husband Tom drove two hours from their farm to the Syracuse airport to drop Emma off that morning. Emma flew to Detroit, had a longer than expected layover, and then flew on to Seattle. It was nip and tuck, because the temperature in those three cities had to be lower than 85 degrees to ship her, and it was in the eighties in Syracuse and Detroit. But we managed, and in rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon, we made our way to Northwest Airlines Cargo in SeaTac.

Adrian moaned about the traffic, and I told him, “Trust me. As soon as you meet Emma, you’ll think that it was all worthwhile.”

When we arrived, Emma was lying down in her crate and looked a bit shell shocked. We got her out and gave her some water with Rescue Remedy in it (she’d received Rescue Remedy just before departure, as well).

We didn’t realize she wasn’t leash trained, which would’ve explained the fact that we couldn’t take her to a parking strip to relieve herself or walk her to the car. Finally, one of the Air Cargo employees came over, picked her up, and carried her to the back seat. Another man, assuming she couldn’t walk, said, “Man, that is some serious jet lag.”

Once in the car and settled, we began our trip home.

Of course, we were in rush hour traffic on the way home, too. But Adrian said, “You’re right. I trust you. It was worth it!”

Once we got Emma home, we called Jackie to let her know we’d arrived safely. Emma was excited to see livestock again–so excited that she started to chase the goats around the pen. It was nice to have Jackie on the phone to coach us through that.

Emma spent the first night in the doe pen. The next day, I finished the fence for her “moat,” which is a four- to five-foot-wide area that completely surrounds both the buck and doe pen. This enables her to guard all the goats from all sides.

She’s an official working dog, now. She is still a puppy, and definitely exhibits puppy behavior, such as jumping up on us occasionally. But by nature, she’s a mellow dog, and will grow up to be a fine guardian and companion animal.

Here’s her official “working girl” picture:

Of course, we didn’t know there were odds to beat.

The other day, I almost stepped on a baby bunny in the grass. It was young, hairless, and far away from anything that could be considered a nest. So, we picked it up, of course.

 

                                                          Photo by Carolyn Gayle

Since there was no way to return it to its mother, we took it in the house and named it “Scooter” because of the way it scooted across the floor. But what do we feed it–and how? It was Adrian’s bedtime, but we ran up to the grocery store and bought some powdered goat milk. I found an eye dropper, and Scooter figured out how to drink from it. All was well.

Scooter lived in the shower, because that’s the only place he was safe from the cats. We put him in a box with towels for bedding, and I got up several times to feed him warm milk that first night. We fed him throughtout the next day, and that evening, Adrian said, “Scooter is so cold.” It was true. Being hairless, we were always able to feel the temperature of Scooter’s skin, and it was unusually cold. I lay with him on my chest until he warmed up, put him on a hot water bottle, and again, fed him throughout the night. Early the following morning, he wouldn’t eat. He was cold again, so I got back in bed and put him on my chest to warm him up. Eventually, he began to spasm, and then died. It’s a strange feeling to have something die while lying on your body.

When Adrian awoke, I had to give him the bad news. He held Scooter’s body for a long time, exploring it, and later buried the bunny on his own in our newly designated animal graveyard under a cedar tree.

What we didn’t know is that wild baby rabbits have only a one percent chance of survival if you rescue them. Leaving Scooter alone would’ve given him a zero chance of survival, so we tried. At least this way, he died gently and loved.

RIP little Scooter.

When Adrian was about six months old, beginning to move around on the floor, and putting everything in his mouth, I caught him sucking on carpet tassels. Since then, we’ve had a no-shoes-in-the-house rule, and now, the very idea of wearing shoes in indoors kind of disgusts me. Ironic, in light of the fact that we’ve been living with four goats in the house for the past six weeks.

We don’t have a livestock guardian dog yet, so we can’t leave our goats outside safely at night. (Coyotes would find them tasty.) To protect them and make bottle feeding easier on us, the only logical place to put them was on our screened porch.

I covered the floor with a huge tarp and spread two bales of white shavings on top of it. This formed the very large litterbox in which they live. During the day, they go outside, which means they need to walk from their temporary home through the living room, dining room, kitchen, and mud room, to the door that is closest to their pen.

Goats in the house!

Rhea, Calypso and Pan walking
through the living room

What happens in the process is that wood chips stick to their feet and get dragged into the house. And of course, the thing that makes the wood chips stick to their feet in the first place is, well, poop.

So, for the past month and a half, I’ve had poopy little goat feet treking across the floor of our house and have had to numb a large part of myself to make that possible. At least I could control when the goats were in the house and make sure they got to the back door as efficiently as possible, right?

Wrong. Pandora, who used to stick her head through the cat door and use it as a sort of intercom, figured out how to come into the house that way.

Goats are smart. Maybe too smart. Ours are a cross between standard Nubians, which are not known for their intelligence, and Nigerian Dwarfs, which are veritable goat Einsteins. Some say that “a fence that won’t hold water won’t hold goats,” and that is especially true of smart goats. We’re going to have to keep an eye on that Pandora.

Pandora stepping through the cat door.

Pandora climbs through the cat door
Pandora enters the living room through the cat door
Pandora checks out the living room, while her
admiring herd mates look on and take notes

We have started taking the goat children for “walks.” They got so wrapped around me the first day that Adrian said, “Mama, they think you’re a maypole!” Trapped in a tangle of colorful leashes, I reminded him of the maypole at his school’s Mayfaire celebration.

Like puppies, they get their legs wrapped around the leash and the leashes wrapped around each other. But they’re already getting the idea and enjoying an occasional change of scenery. They’re nibbling curiously at cedar and Douglas fir branches, tasting sword ferns, sampling salmonberry bushes, and delicately eating grass one blade at a time.

We don’t get far on these walks. Right now, the point is mainly to get them used to feeling the tug when they reach the end of the leash and to let them browse a bit. Unlike farm animals that survive mainly on grass–such as cows, sheep, and horses–goats eat a variety of plants, including bushes and trees. They are much adored for the enthusiasm with which they eat invasive plants such as blackberries, and for their ability to clear brush.

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                                         Photo by Chris Pollard

Thirteen moons is a reference to the natural cycle of time. For every trip the Earth makes around the sun, the moon makes thirteen trips around the Earth. Thus “13 Moons” represents the wholeness of the natural world and its seasonal rhythms.

Indigenous peoples marked time by the moon for millennia and had wonderful names for them, including: Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs (Cheyenne), Little Moon of Deer Horns Dropping Off (Kiowa), Moon When Buffalo Cows Drop Their Calves (Sioux), Corn Popping Moon (Winnebago), Moon When Birds Fly South (Cree). Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon (Wishram), and Moon When the Trees Crack Because of the Cold (Lakota).

The Gregorian calendar that we follow today was decreed by Pope Gregory XIII on February 24, 1582 by papal bull. The Gregorian calendar reformed the Julian calendar, which, in turn, reformed the Roman calendar. I believe these calendars come between us and nature. They separate us from the natural rhythms of the earth and keep us from looking to the sky to find our bearings in space and time. There is a movement afoot to reform the calendar and synchronize it to our lunar, solar, and galactic reference points. Check out the Flash animations on this page, and a 13-moon calendar will make perfect sense.

The name “13 Moons Farm” affirms our connection to the Earth and its place in the universe. It acknowledges the natural rhythms that affect our everyday lives. If I could figure out a way to live every day of my life by a 13 moon calendar, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I wish we all could