Sunday, January 27, 2008

Betsy's Big Little Friend

The farmer came out the other day to see what is always an alarming sight: the tail ends of 13 goats in the down-below pasture, all lined up at the fence, bunched together, and staring as one at something down in the gully where the creek comes along the bottom of the hill. (Actually, to be precise, the tail ends of 12 goats; I wisely jumped into the hay feeder, a much better fortified position.)

Because the creek is in a dip, the farmer couldn't see what we were looking at, so came running - or, should I say, "running," since the farmer's style of "running" lacks speed among such other things as style, grace, and dignity - down the hill. When the farmer got close enough to see over the hill, the farmer saw an extremely large coyote, possibly the largest ever seen around these parts.

The farmer "ran" back up the hill to get the gun, and came "running" back down again, even more winded, even less graceful, and at an even slower pace. Nonetheless, the coyote had not left: he stood staring boldly at us and licking his chops, like a greedy guest at a lavish wedding reception, with an expression that said "should I start with hors d'oeuvres or dessert?"

The farmer hollered for Atty all this time, and Atty finally hove into view (he only works nights) just as the farmer got the gate open to come into our pasture. Right at that moment, little orphan Betsy - who is, after all, half Nubian - broke into a friendly trot toward the gargantuan coyote. She had apparently recognized him as a former neighbor or chum from school, and was halfway down to greet him by the time the farmer "ran" in front of her and took off the safety and swung the gun into position and fired off - well, nothing.

The gun wasn't loaded. So the farmer began yelling and waving the gun overhead and "ran" closer to the coyote, now followed by Atty, and we all watched as the coyote finally, grudgingly, turned and demonstrated how running is really supposed to be done.

The coyote, which was nearly as big as a German Shepherd, turned and coursed away effortlessly in artful zigzags - they know you are going to be shooting at them - across the wetland, sometimes ducking down into the canary grass and sometimes leaping mockingly above it, streaming out a long bushy red foxlike tail behind him.

And the farmer kept yelling at him, but somewhat admiringly I think, and threatened him with seven kinds of destruction should he ever return - sentiments echoed by Atty in a much more convincing tone - and stood and watched him for several minutes, until he disappeared into the big woods.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Big Chill

It is very cold here and the farmer is in a tizzy, trying to decide whether it is better to burst the pipes or burn the barn down with heatlamps. Sometimes it seems like these are the only kind of choices we get to make.

The other day the neighbors called with some kidding problems and the farmer went over to help. Two babies had been born and gotten chilled. Sometimes it is too cold and there is just nothing you can do. In the end, they could only save one.

If you are home alone on a freezing day and some baby goats get born, remember to do things in order and that will help.

1. Make sure the kids are breathing. If they aren't, slap them around like you mean it and puff some air into their lungs. I wouldn't ordinarily say this, but see if you can make them cry.

2. Get them WARM. A baby goat that is shivering will be okay. A baby goat that has stopped shivering will not be okay - do that one first if you have to choose. A wet baby goat that has stopped shivering is going to die soon.

3. If the kid is reasonably warm, and it's breathing, then you can worry about getting some colostrum into it. Okay?

Some farmers have a policy that animals have to stay outside as nature intended, and if they can't make it out there, then so be it. The farmer's friend came over yesterday and told a chilling story of a local sheep rancher - all the lambs are born in the pasture! How barbaric!

Luckily we don't have that policy here, but please don't tell anyone or some of the other farmers might make fun of us. Here our policy is: fleece jackets for the chilly babies and a box full of straw in front of the woodstove, with round-the-clock room service.

Just like nature really intended. Or nature wouldn't have made us so cute and adorable.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Penrose and Paula

Well, when it is nice like it is today you can almost believe that the spring will actually come. Personally, I think it will.

The spring is one of the most exciting and harrowing times of the year, because that is when the kids come. We never know what they will look like, or if they will have any trouble getting here. We hope not, because it puts everyone in a bad mood when they do.

I am not having kids this year, but two of my daughters - Hannah Belle and Blue Umbrella - are. So we know that at least some of the kids will be astonishingly beautiful.

The farmer is excited, I'm not exactly sure why, because it appears that Penrose has settled - this is what they say when you are going to have kids - on an AI breeding to a very prestigious buck. Penrose's kids will be the first AI kids born here, if in
fact they materialize. Penrose is very sneaky about her kids. When she looks like she's bred, she isn't. And when she doesn't look like she's bred, you come out one morning and a gaggle of tiny toggs has materialized out of nowhere.

But anyway, Penrose's frozen boyfriend goes all the way back to the most famous dairy goat in modern American history, the only goat ever to get a mention in Time magazine's "People" section. If you have a stack of these lying around, you can go and look up May 5, 1961.

That goat is Puritan Jon's Jennifer II, bred by Paula Sandburg (wife of poet Carl Sandburg and sister of photographer Edward Steichen), who was and is one of the most famous goat breeders - if that isn't a contradiction in terms - ever. Jennifer II, out of Paula Sandburg's legendary Chikaming Toggenburg lines, broke the all-time record for dairy goats of all breeds in 1960 by producing 5750 pounds of milk in a single year.

I am here to tell you that that is a lot of milk.

Jennifer II's record stood for decades, back in the days when the Toggs were the smallest of the dairy breeds.

But anyway the funny part is that even though Paula Sandburg was known for her Toggs and her Saanens, her favorite breed was the Nubians. Who could even guess why, probably because they didn't have Nigerians back then.

Oh well, to each his own.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Loving January

It is too bad it isn't summer because then I could catch a lot of cool delicious shade just by standing anywhere north of Scouty. She is throwing a big shadow. In fact you could just about park a car in it.

But it isn't summer, it's January, and the snow came down last night in cheerful little flakes, which I like, but now the flakes are turning to sleet, which I don't like. Because then they turn to rain, which this time of year any more rain is a little de trop, as they say in France. It justs makes more mud, and we are tired of mud, all of us, even the horses.

But we are trying to find a way to love January anyway, because the farmer's friend says if you stand around saying, " I hate this time of year, I wish spring would come," or anything like that that you might feel inclined to say on the 99th consecutive day of rain, then you are just wishing your life away.

And if you wish your life away you always get your wish.

So we are concentrating on loving January, which isn't easy, but one thing I love about January is that you never get too hot, even when your winter jacket is rich and luxurious like mine.

And another thing I love about January is that February comes right after it.

And if I come up with anything else I will let you know.

But in the meantime, it's January, and I love January, it's one of the best times of year.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Big Brownie came back from the dead, probably just for a visit, but long enough to run over to the hay barn and come back with some SWEET ALFALFA HAY!

Even I got some!


Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Brownie Study

First little Brownie, the F-150, blew its carburetor. The carburetor got fixed by the discount mechanic but now he doesn't have time to put it back in the truck. He's old and he doesn't like to work while it's raining, which should get him here sometime in May at the earliest.

Meanwhile big Brownie, the F-250, has been dying a thousand deaths. First the battery cables, then the battery, then the starter relay, and now nobody really knows what, but unfortunately Big Brownie has been being "fixed" by the free mechanic, who is even less reliable than the discount mechanic. He's the farmer's neighbor who stops by three or four times a week to break Big Brownie a little further. Then he says, "That wasn't supposed to happen," and goes to work until the next day or the day after, when he comes over and breaks something else.

So we have had to eat alfalfa PELLETS instead of actual alfalfa HAY as nature intended because pellets, unlike bales, can be transported in a Honda. Not that I get any (see previous post), all I get is a few miserly peas and a bouquet of tasteless grass hay.

On the bright side, the farmer was telling the crazy trailriding lady from over the way that the F-250 is getting much better mileage now. It used to only get 8 miles to the gallon, but now it hardly uses any gas. Since it won't start.

So that's what's happening on the sunny side of the street.

Where we don't live.

My World and Welcome to It

Well apparently it has been decided that I will not have any kids this year, which I think is a terrible mistake. My daughters Hannah Belle and Blue Umbrella will be having kids, though, so all is not lost.

It has also been decided that I am too fat, which is ridiculous, since everyone knows that winter fur adds at least ten pounds. But what can you do, you can't fight City Hall.

In other news the goat seminar is next weekend, which means that some people who want to learn about goats will be coming here to annoy us. The farmer already explained to Ayatollah Winnie that she will have to pretend to be nice for several hours, since she is one of the ones who has "volunteered" to be milked by the beginners.

Wronny and Peaches have also "volunteered" but they are nice anyway so didn't get the lecture. In other news, little orphan Betsy came back into heat - so her frozen boyfriend did not turn out to be a good swimmer. Or maybe her field goal kicking attempts on the a.i. stand produced some sort of negative whiplash effect that sent the boys in the wrong direction. Who knows. On the other hand, Penrose's frozen boyfriend looks like he might have crossed the Channel. We'll see.

So Betsy went down to see Junior, who isn't frozen, but might as well be for all the personality he has, not to mention those sad little LaMancha ears. Obviously I prefer the Captain, with his darling blue eyes and actual ears like a normal goat should have.

But anyway 2008 has been okay so far. I have my own little house - I don't like to mingle with riffraff - and so far it hasn't been too cold.

So there you have it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Happy New Year everyone! It's going to be a good one!

Be kind to all your friends and try to help your neighbors!

Within reason, of course!

Don't take advantage of the less fortunate (Scouty)! Don't worry about the high horse, whoever is on it (Winnie) will fall off soon enough! Don't let your good looks (all my children and grandchildren) go to your head!

And eat as much as you can!