Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Skin Deep

Well, after a few years of seeing baby goats born every year you start to notice the family traits. All of my offspring are beautiful and smart, for example. In Brandy's LaMancha kingpin family, many of the kids have the same habit: they like to stand at the door and grab the sliding bolt with their teeth, sliding the bolt back and forth incessantly so that it makes a clacking sound.

Wronny will slide the bolt until the farmer yells at her to stop. You don't even notice the bolt noise any more until you hear the farmer yelling: "Knock it off, Wronny!" The farmer doesn't even look to see who's doing it. When it goes on forever like that, it's always Wronny.

The Nubians are universally puzzled. Their puzzlement spans all the generations.

In the April family, there is never a generation that goes by that at least one kid doesn't get April's beautiful face. First Mabel had it, then Cammy had it, then Biscuit had it, and this year little pink Hermy has it.

And that brings us to the exception that may or may not prove the rule, although we are starting to think there may not be any rules. But anyway: Big Orange.

Big Orange is tall and elegant and orange and shy and retiring and unfailingly sweet. She is a pacifist, above all. She is the Gandhi of goats. Whenever there is any kind of line she runs immediately to the end of it; she would never think of cutting in front of anyone.

This morning, Winnie, who thinks she is all that and likes to swagger around pushing everyone out of her way even when she isn't going anywhere, came up to Big Orange and stood in front of her and for some reason didn't t-bone Big Orange but instead got a sleepy look.

Big Orange kindly began kissing Winnie's head and cleaning the top of it in a cheerful and solicitous manner, even though 99% of the time Winnie only comes up to Big Orange because she is planning to take her lunch money.

Anyway, Big Orange is a saint.

Now Big Orange had a daughter, a little orange daughter that we are calling Tangerine right now while we mull over some of the excellent name suggestions we have received. Tangerine looks just like Big Orange. She is slightly less orange, and has slightly shorter ears, but really those are the only differences. Any person off the street would be able to walk in here and pick out Tangerine as Big Orange's daughter.

But Tangerine is the OPPOSITE of Big Orange. Tangerine is the angriest baby goat in the world. She is like one of those terrifying human babies that people have sometimes where everyone tiptoes around looking ashen and whispering, "don't wake the baby! Please GOD, don't wake the baby!"

When the farmer goes out in the morning with bucket of milk for the big babies, Tangerine - who is the smallest of the big babies - comes like a BAT OUT OF HELL for the bucket, shrieking the whole way like a fire engine and flinging her body against any obstacle, animate or inanimate, that gets in her way.

Almost entirely because of Tangerine, the big babies are now referred to as The Piranhas. When she isn't hungry, or shouldn't be hungry because her belly is like a beach ball, Tangerine still shrieks like a fire engine whenever she sees a human or any other entity she thinks might be capable of milk propulsion. We cannot figure out why, but she seems to think she can somehow stockpile milk for future use, and that screaming is the best way to make powerful friends.

When in the few moments a day she overcomes her milk monomania, she is gregarious to the point of being annoying, chewing hair, lap hogging, prancing and dancing and making a show of herself. Again, the opposite of her mother.

Oh well. What can you do? Sometimes the orange is truly orange and sometimes the orange is only skin deep.

Friday, April 25, 2008

All Ashore

Well the SS Boo finally limped into harbor last night, late as usual and at the most inconvenient time imaginable. The farmer had surmised from the size of the cargo hold that there might be about 15 kids aboard, but in the end only two "miniature" Nubians toddled ashore.

Both are very pretty, like their mother. Both have frosted ears, like their mother. Both are fat and opinionated, and see if you can finish this sentence.

Anyway in unrelated news there was another Lamancha-Nubian-Nigerian IQ demonstration yesterday. The indoor kids (Winnie, Jr. with the broken leg, Tangerine, Widget, Hermy, Augustine, and Julius) played in their stall, where Winnie, Jr., being the biggest, is the king of the babies, a job she loves. Three of the indoor babies (Win, Tangerine, and Widget) are bottle babies. The other three are dam-raised.

Yesterday the bottle babies made the switch from the tiny pop-bottle nipple to the baby bucket, which has a bigger nipple and doesn't work in quite the same way. So sometimes it takes a while to catch on. Winnie, Jr. of course, being a purebred Lamancha, got it right away. Tangerine, being 7/8ths LaMancha, didn't have too much trouble but had to cry and sputter melodramatically a few times for effect.

Widget, being both a boy and 1/8th Nubian, was rather stumped, and jabbed his head desperately against the bucket, perhaps hoping to knock the milk out. To his credit, unlike a full-blown Nubian, he seemed to know that there was milk in there. He just couldn't figure out how to get it out.

Anyway, that was all about to be expected. What wasn't expected was that the rotund mini-Manchas (half Nigerian, half LaMancha) - Hermy, Augustine, and Julius - would watch for a few minutes, taking some simple mental notes, then scurry over as soon as the nipples were vacated and help themself to extra milk.

Hermy led the way.

Bottle baby, schmottle baby.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hannah Belle's Baby Blues

Well, my daughter Hannah Belle was never much in the running for the Mother-of-the-Year honors, except for a couple of weeks last year when she doted rather nauseatingly on little Peanut, nudging him along and making sure nobody stepped on him, and never letting him out of her sight, and washing his little head just about incessantly.

"It's clean already!" I told her several times, but she isn't a big one on heeding the advice of her elders. Or anyone else, for that matter.

But once Peanut was up and running she ditched him and his triplet siblings, and went back to her goating about.

This year she didn't bother doting on anyone, since the whole set of triplets was rather strappingly normal, just got them started with a couple of days of milk then split for greener pastures. It was her own Outward Bound program: if the little tikes could find her, fine, she was happy to give them some milk. But if they couldn't escape from their stall or pasture to track her down, then they could just go without. When it comes to milk, her policy was, you have to want it.

They quickly learned many of her escaping tricks: grab the chain on the gate and rattle it with your teeth until it pops off the hook; run upstairs to the hayloft to help yourself to the better hay; huddle down behind one of the milkers then barge out of the stall with your head down low when she goes to be milked.

And many more tricks, including spin moves, head fakes, the patented milkstand pick, and "bookcase baby" which is too complicated to explain here.

Hannah Belle knows them all: if she wants to go in the house, for example, she knows that she can open the back door by pushing down on the handle with her head.

Anyway I am getting off track as usual, the point is that her parenting skills were, or seemed to be, on the lax side.

But this year for the first time Hannah Belle's babies all went home within a few days. And we could not believe what we saw.

Hannah Belle noticed. Hannah Belle noticed very deeply.

She went on a mission. She scoured the entire farm from top to bottom looking for Cora Belle and Filbert, the last two to leave. She searched for them in every corner; she opened the tack room; she ran up to the hayloft; she squeezed through the pasture gate and came up to the front yard, where they had sometimes scarfed up last year's tired maple leaves. She even looked under the porch.

And all the time she called out to them in an angry chuckle. The joke is over, you kids. Come out.

Well, the farmer always says that the trouble with Nigerians is that they are too smart. This isn't true of the Breezy family, but in general I understand it. And there is one perfect illustration of it: disbudding.

There are quite a few not very pleasant tasks in the goat world, and one of them is disbudding the baby goats. The farmer hates it but it has to be done.

So every year the farmer puts each baby goat in a special box and burns out the horn buds with a special iron, a procedure that only lasts a few seconds but hurts a lot. And every year when the farmer takes the Nubian babies out of the box, the Nubian babies look up with surprise and relief from their bawling, as if to tell the farmer - oh, thanks for getting me out of there, you would not believe what happened, it was horrible, thank God you happened along.

Whereas the Nigerian babies give the farmer a black look and for several days afterward scowl and holler when they see the farmer. As if to say: why did you put me in that box? I am calling my attorney as soon as I can get a cellphone signal, and I will see you in court!!

Because they know what happened.

And now Hannah Belle knows what happened too.

After an entire day of searching, Hannah Belle gave the farmer the blackest goat look you have ever seen, and went and stood by the gate to the down-below pasture, which she normally hates. She stood there with quiet dignity, even though ordinarily she would have just squirmed and wiggled her way in. The farmer came down and opened the gate, and she immediately went in and found her baby from last year, the almost-yearling Boxcar Betty.

She has been sitting with Boxcar Betty ever since. And whenever the farmer comes near, Hannah Belle turns her head so she doesn't have to look at the farmer.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Welcome to the Chronicles of Narnia

Here in our corner of the frozen wasteland that is the Pacific Northwest, it is snowing steadily as the sun rises. Well, sort of rises. Peeks through the curtains and then goes back to bed.

Snow is fine and all but please excuse me: it is almost MAY. Some of us have our coats half shed out and now they are growing back. THIS IS NOT A GOOD LOOK.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Well there has been a lot of news that didn't get into the blog because everything was so busy. Lots of very pretty LaMancha babies have been born, if you like conceited goats with no ears. Their names are Yin (aka Winnie Junior), Yang, Yes I Know (aka Jessie), and You Bugaboo (aka Bugaboo). It is a Y year so all the big babies are getting names that start with Y.

Well, on top of that Peaches the mini-mancha outdid herself and had a set of triplets, all with correct LaMancha ears, which has never happened before. She has only ever had twins, and every year one has nice Lamancha ears and the other has gigantic ten-gallon-Stetson Nigerian ears.

These triplets look very different: one is the usual xerox of Peaches, a big girl with a pretty face and a kind of pinkish-apricot color; the other two are smaller and super-flashy black and white with blue eyes. The pink one is called Hermy, the black and white tiny twins are called Julius and Augustine. I have to say, as far as mini-Manchas go, those two are supermodels.

As reported previously, Big Orange popped out a set of twins, a little orange doe who is currently being called Tangerine (but remember, she will need a Y name sooner or later - we are hoping that Teresa Saum will think of one), and a little black buckling, who is currently being called "the little black one."

After two years of outstanding service, Peaches' charming son Wrusty had his cojones removed yesterday (the largest ones she had ever seen on a goat, the vet reported admiringly) and is recuperating nicely in the barn.

In some upsetting medical news, little Winnie Junior (aka Yin) broke her leg a few days ago and the vet said that it was not healing well in the sub-par splint the farmer made. She will be going down to Olympia tomorrow to get a special splint which we hope very very much will help the leg to heal. Meanwhile Winnie Junior is living in the house with Tangerine and LBO and demonstrating at every opportunity that even a three-legged LaMancha from a family of Goat Mafia kingpins (believe it or not) can sometimes have an adorable personality.

And of course in the most important news of all, my granddaughter Cora Belle and her brother Filbert are going to a new home. It's a good home, so it's okay, but we will surely miss them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Busy Orange Day

Well it was a busy day with lots of visitors and lots of baby goats leaving for their new homes. Big Orange was supposed to kid in a few days but she started looking starry-eyed late this morning and within a couple of hours, unlike most first fresheners, she popped out a set of twins. One of them is a duplicate of Big Orange, only smaller. Right now we are calling her Little Orange.

But she might need a better name.

The other one is a big strong boy who looks just like his papa (Junior.)

He doesn't have a name either. Maybe Junior, Jr.?

Big Orange was a champ.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Notification of Name Change

Like mother, like daughter.

Hannah Belle's little daughter Blue Belle has had a name change. Her name is now Cora Belle. But why?

Well, she was born on Valentine's Day, and Cora sort of means heart. You know, heart, love, Valentine's Day.

But the real reason is a little different. Hannah Belle as you may know was the world's friendliest baby goat, and as an adult she came to be known as Hannah Belle Lecter because she was so spoiled that she never heard, much less understood, the word "no." And Cora Belle is already showing the family colors. When she sees a person, she comes running. Through the fence, under the gate - she is undeterred by obstacles that would stop an ordinary goat.

She has no respect for boundaries. She wants to be where the action is, and that is with people. And she wants to be fed and coddled and picked up. Boxcar Betty, her almost identical older sister, was not against feeding, but she was never one for kissing and hugging, and would only tolerate it when absolutely necessary.

Not this girl.

So anyway little Blue Belle will now be called Cora Belle. Because some day she almost certainly will be known as Cora Belle the Horrible.