Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Zen of Peaches

Well, everybody here has a different style. The Soprano Family of LaManchas is bossy and grabby, of course, as we have discussed. The Nubians are relaxed, when they are relaxed. When they are not relaxed, they are prone to panicky bawling and fleeing. Often they flee into danger; Scout once galloped hysterically into a wall and injured herself when she saw the farmer wearing a new hat.

The Toggenburgs are decisive, and they like to make lots of decisions, usually reversing other decisions they have just made: let's do this; no, let's do this; no, let's do this.

The Nigerians are all over the map. Some are smart and thoughtful, like me. Some are needy and self-absorbed, like Breezy.

But the most interesting and complex ones are the crosses, big girls crossed with Nigerians. The miniature Nubians, oddly, are pensive and thoughtful, and hardly ever bawl. The miniature Toggs are shrewd and kind and don't like outsiders. And the mini-manchas, they are something else.

Take Peaches, for example. Peaches is very pretty but ordinary looking, no flashy colors. She doesn't stand out in a crowd. She gives the appearance of being shy and mild-mannered and retiring. She never fights with anybody, she just stands on the fringes of the fracas, looking like she is waiting for a bus.

And she is, in a way.

An interesting thing happens when there is a big upheaval as there has been this week. Skirmishes have been breaking out all over the pasture, because everyone is battling to move up the ladder while Brandy is in the barn. Not Peaches, of course, she just watches the farmer and waits. And what usually happens is this:

The farmer brings the feed out and everyone rushes to the feeders. Winnie finds herself next to April, say, and she turns around - forgetting to eat - and gets into an argument with April. No one notices Peaches, because she looks like she is half-asleep, and her body language says, please ignore me, I am of no consequence, and I certainly would never challenge your authority, oh large important one.

So then April and Winnie get into it, bumping heads, rearing up, telling each other, look, stay away from this food, this is my food. You are a big nobody, and I am one of the most special goats in the world, I am a Goat Idol, and this food is not for you, it is for me, and don't stand that close to me either, by the way.

While they are preoccupied, mild-mannered little Peaches springs - if that isn't too strong a word - into action and eats all the food. She does it very efficiently, like a dolphin, not bothering to taste the food but just throwing it to her stomach, in such a way that by the time April and Winnie have decided who is going to get the food, it is gone. Long gone.

And so is Peaches, who has moved on, to the fringes of another argument, looking drowsy, and waiting for another fight to break out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And Your Mother Dresses You Funny...

Miss Brandywine is doing better today and eating reasonably well. She has adopted the farmer as her baby, even though she sometimes still hunts through her stall for her real babies. She does it very politely, trying not to hurt the farmer's feelings.

Obviously it is disappointing to have such a big ugly infant after years of delivering the most beautiful kids imaginable, but she is coping well and looking to the future as much as possible.

Meanwhile, out in the pasture, there is a seesaw struggle raging. With Brandy in a convalescent stall in the barn for the next few days, there is a power vacuum at the top of our hierarchy, and chaos has broken loose. On top of that, it is a nice day, so everyone is capering and making a big show of themselves.

As big as she is, Winnie is running back and forth between the barn and the lower pasture, just to show that she can do anything she wants and she doesn't need a reason. April has offered to beat anyone up (anyone a foot shorter than she is) and is strutting around in front of the hay feeder.

Even Boo, generally a pacifist, is rearing up on her back legs and looking for someone to rumble with. Eo has formed a faction with Peaches; they mostly go around giving people dirty looks. Clipper thinks she is the last king of Scotland. In general, the whole place is about like a 7th grade class with a faint-hearted substitute teacher.

Scouty, of course, is gazing into the distance with a puzzled expression, as always. My sister Snow Pea and I have taken advantage of the coup d'etat to help ourselves to extra alfalfa. I may beat Snow Pea up later if necessary. She will have to beat up Wendell if he is foolish enough to come out here.

It just goes to show that sometimes you don't know you have a good leader until the leader is gone.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

X1, X2, X3

There are some things that the farmer never talks about because of the fear of jinxing. One of those things was the fact that in the seven years since we have been on the farm, the farmer had never lost a baby goat.

Not even Snowy, the tubby round-headed Nigerian buckling who had to be delivered by c-section after he got stuck fast on the way out. No baby goat that was born alive ever died here.

Until today.

This morning Brandy the herd queen went into labor. This was very bad to begin with, since Brandy was not due until the end of February. The farmer went out in the morning to feed, and everyone was standing around the feeders, quite greedily, as usual, jockeying for position for when the alfalfa flakes are served, and doing the usual ear-biting and tail-pulling.

Except Brandy. Brandy was down in the lower pasture, all alone, and when the farmer went down to look at her, she was calling out softly to her babies, the way the does do when they have just given birth, or when they are about to give birth. This is an unmistakable sound, if you have ever heard it. So the farmer knew right away what was going on.

Brandy was whisked up to the barn, and the farmer ran inside to check the delivery dates again to make sure there was no mistake.

There wasn't. But on the other hand, Viceroy our LaMancha buck is extremely athletic and has long legs, and after all maybe he had somehow jumped out of his pen, and jumped the lower pasture fence, and jumped the upper pasture fence, and come calling on Brandy, and jumped back in before anyone noticed. This was what the farmer said, anyway, even though it didn't sound quite plausible. It was better than thinking that the babies would be born over a month premature.

Everyone agreed, this is probably what happened, even though it didn't really seem likely. After all, things don't have to be likely to happen.

But within an hour Brandy had started to deliver a very tiny baby, and before the baby was even all the way out the farmer could tell that it was dead. This first baby was a little doeling. She never moved or drew a breath.

A half hour later, Brandy delivered a little buckling. At first it seemed that he, too, was dead, but then he wiggled and twitched, and tried to take a breath. But within a few minutes he died.

A half hour after that, Brandy delivered another doeling, tiny and perfect and very beautiful. This little girl fought and fought to live. And even when you couldn't tell if she was still breathing, you could see her heart beating determinedly under her skin.

But in the end she was just too little for this world. So she went on to the next world.

The babies were not really here long enough to get names. So we were calling them X1, X2, and X3, because this is an "X" year in the goat world. But for some reason, the farmer has started calling the last little girl, the one whose heart didn't want to stop beating, Sophie. The way she fought, she just didn't seem like an X3.

Brandy is resting quietly, alone in her stall. Every now and then she calls out softly to her babies.

And that's what happened today at the farm.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Wow, Lulu is kind of cool. There are lots of unexpected little things there that you would never find in a "real" bookstore. The farmer just found a calendar for Herron Island. Herron Island is the teeny tiny island down at the end of Herron Road, about two miles (much less as the crow flies) from our farm, which is the Herron Hill Dairy. If you would like to see what our area looks like, you can go and click on the calendar and then click on "preview this calendar" to see some glimpses of the island. There are lots of deer there, they just roam free because it is an island and no one bothers them. Goodness, though, they shouldn't be eating that foxglove! They will all have heart attacks. The farmer was surprised to see that the little ferry got a paint job; it looks good in red.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Heat Wave!!!!!

We are having a heat wave! We had four inches of snow last night but the temperature shot up to 35 degrees today and everyone is trying to stay cool!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Note to Self

Next year, let someone else win the Goat of the Year contest.

When you are on the cover of the farm calendar (i.e. Goat of the Year) nobody looks at your picture. They just turn it over and hang it on a hook. Next year I will go for one of the nice months. September, maybe.

Goat of the Year 2008: Vote for Scouty!

How to Train a Boston Terrier

The horse trainers have a saying. The saying is, "accept any change for the better."

It's because in nature people don't sit on horses and tell them to turn left and right and back up and canter and walk and stand quietly by the gate and go get in that trailer, we're going to the vet. Horses don't naturally see the point of these types of activities, and why should they, it doesn't stop cougars from eating them.

It's like if a horse were training you and said, "come on, let's run as fast as we can all day long, and only stop to eat grass or if we see a pretty mare." You would say, why should I, I don't even like grass. What's in it for me besides a lot of blisters?

And if you just go and sit on a wild horse and tell it to turn left and right and canter when no one has ever done that, you'll probably wish you hadn't. You can try this yourself if you don't believe me.

So you wouldn't start teaching a horse to canter by getting on it and saying "canter." You would start by teaching the horse to walk and then trot and then canter. And you wouldn't start teaching a horse to walk by getting on it and saying "walk." You would start by showing a horse a picture of a saddle in a book from 30 feet away. And if the horse didn't get scared and run away, then that would be a good start. That would be a change for the better.

And then maybe the next time you could show the picture from 20 feet away. And then maybe at some point you could show the horse a real saddle. And then maybe at some point you could let the horse touch the saddle. And so on like that, accepting all the little changes for the better, and not expecting big changes all at once, until all of a sudden, what do you know, you got where you wanted to go without upsetting anyone.

It turns out you can go a long way, just by taking one step in the right direction at a time.

Anyway the whole point of this is I am trying to train Wendell the pest to stop running around me in circles barking like an idiot every time he sees me. At first what I did was run up to him and butt him in the ribs and yell, "stop running around me in circles and barking like an idiot, you idiot!"

Clipper also tried the same method, as you can see in this photo.

That did not work. Now I am using horse training methods. I will let you know what happens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

And Build it 24 Cubits High...

Well, we have put our ark contruction on temporary hiatus, because today, after floods and hurricanes and wind and hail and the creek rising and the trees falling and everything else from this winter that just started but already feels three winters long, we are having a new form of weather: thundersnow. Yes, that's right, we have a few inches on the ground already and it is still drifting down, and in the background you hear the distant rumbling of a summer storm.

Only it is January, and it is snowing.

Well, they say everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. We'll see about that. I don't plan to just take this lying down. Especially since the "Sopranos" are hogging all the good spots.

Which, by the way, little Wronny who seemed so sweet has now officially been welcomed into the Soprano clan, so now there are three of them instead of just two. As if we didn't have enough trouble.

Thundersnow Update: The Weather People promised quite specifically that it would stop snowing at daylight. But here it is almost eleven and the snow continues, in open defiance of the meteorologists. And the sun is also out, shining quite brightly. Hmm, how odd. I hate to say it, but it almost like they have no idea what they are talking about.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bad Idea Part Two

I hope the farmer forgets that idea of having "someone" learn to pull a goat cart. Look at this teeny-tiny little goat on YouTube. This type of thing, in my opinion, looks a little too much like work. And anyway, it would be completely undignified for the Goat-of-the-Year.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

The New Year is here and it's going to be a good one!

Here are my resolutions:

1. Have fun.

2. Eat more.

Since I am Goat-of-the-Year, I am on the cover of the farm calendar. Many of my friends and some of my enemies are on the inside. The calendar goes from February 2007 to January 2008. You can see it here.

We will start the year with some good advice for a rainy day from Paula Sandburg. Paula Sandburg was the wife of the famous poet Carl Sandburg and the sister of the famous photographer Edward Steichen. More importantly, she was perhaps the premiere goat breeder of her time, and remains a legend in the dairy goat world today.

Paula and Carl lived their later years on a beautiful farm called Connemara in Western North Carolina. If you are in the area, you can visit it - it is a National Park now, and has been preserved just as it was. Even a few descendants of the original champion goats remain.

Anyway, Paula wrote to a friend once with some good advice for what to do if you are feeling down or gloomy:

"When blue, there is nothing like working with the goats to make one forget. It is impossible to be blue in the kid yard - utterly impossible!"

We guarantee you that this is still true today. Just go and sit with some baby goats if you get to feeling down.