Today was nuts

I have the kidding area setup so I can separate mammas with their babies at night, but open it up so the babies can mingle in there during the day.  When the mammas start wanting to go out to pasture with their friends, I send them out, and, if they want their babies to stay behind, the kidding area serves as a daycare.

It sounded good on paper.

The mammas don’t want their babies playing with each other.  They’re all being super-protective mammas.  I kept the mammas in the barn with their kids, and kicked everyone out when we had a sunny day.  That did not loosen anyone up.

It does not help that the kids can’t tell Meg and Kit (the red mammas) apart from a distance.  The mammas can’t tell Spirit and Bear (the black babies), or Meg’s boys and Kit’s girl (all red), apart at a distance.  Sweetie is fairly lovely about mistaken identity.  Meg and Kit think the kids are doing it on purpose, and they think the kids need to be put in their place.  “I am NOT your mamma!”

For the last week, I have been alternately ignoring or responding to various mamma’s plaintive wails.

This afternoon, I responded.  There was quite a LOT of screaming.

I found alpacas circling the wagons around goats.  Meg standing by the barn, complaining, but not more than usual, one kid by her side.  Kit racing down the hill to the herd, screaming, with occasional glimpses of a kid bobbing along at her side.  Sweetie bawling her lungs out, racing up the hill.  I knew it was wrong when Abbey raced into the middle of it.  Abbey may be a problem child sometimes, but she takes care of her herd before she head-butts them.

From a distance, all I could tell was that it was a really good-looking kid.  So I thought Kit was taking Spirit down to Sweetie.  “Aw, that’s sweet” ran through my mind.  When I got into the middle of it, Sweetie was already back up the hill, but the kid was so confused, he had run to the gate nearest the house.  Yep, he.  It was Meg’s boy.  Sweetie was panicked, trying to get through the scary-alpacas to the wayward kid.  The alpacas were trying to surround him for protection.  He was trying to escape the scary-alpacas.  By the time I got to him, he was so freaked out he ran from me.

My best guess?  He just followed a red goat.  Since she was the wrong red goat, she ran away from him.  “Don’t drink my milk, kid!”  But he kept coming, so she kept running, and, next thing you know, she’s really far away from her own kids.  “MAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”  Since she doesn’t care who’s kid he is, she doesn’t know which mamma to deposit him with.  Since she’s a new mamma, she’s over her head just keeping track of her kids and her hormones, so she had no clue where Meg was.  She just ran to the herd.  And maybe some part of her knew that taking another goat’s kid OUTSIDE, without his mamma, was a bad thing to do.    “MAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”  And then Sweetie thought what I thought – “A kid that good-looking has to be mine!”

Poor kid.  When a baby goat is scared, we get down low and talk calmly to it.  Chasing a scared goat just upsets them.  So I was able to snatch him up, give him a hug, and take him back to mom.  I put him with his mom, and he and the other kid went running in circles, hiding behind things, acting nuts.  I scooped them up and took them back into the barn – with a pack of angry mammas behind me, screaming like banshees.  It turns out, the kid that had been standing with Meg was Kit’s kid!  When I put them down, I didn’t even have to look to see which one had the big adventure; I could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

So I took ALL their kids away from them after a quick sort-out and a suckle of “nature’s valium” (mamma’s milk).  I sent the mammas outside to cool off, while I hugged baby goats.  Which, it turns out, is what the mammas wanted.  They wanted some “me” time away from their kids, but they wanted me to babysit so they wouldn’t worry while they were out kicking up their heels.

I got 4 out of 5 babies piled together in one hut for a nap, and let Spirit climb on me just outside.  Spirit loves her “me” time, too.  Seems she’s been feeling a little vulnerable, and I’m her “safety zone.”  Spirit tucks into her own baby hut to escape the melee – even though there’s no melee in her bonding stall.  As I spent extra time with the babies today, trying to bond them together, I realized that Spirit needs her safety zone.  She would play a tiny bit with the other (smaller, younger) babies, then run back to me.  She mostly just played with me, while the other babies mingled.

So, tonight, when everyone went back to their stalls, I went into Sweetie’s stall and sat with Spirit for a bit,  I sat on a plastic chair and let Spirit flitter around me.  She ducked under the chair and nibbled hay.  So I put her to bed.  And she ran back out of her hut and begged for more play time.  I sat down on the barn floor and gave her a little more huggies, and gave her mom some huggies, too.  It was the quietest the barn has been in days.  All the babies tired out, napping, except Spirit.  All the mamma’s content that their babies were where they were supposed to be.  Sweetie still feeling a little confused at her new home, but happy to get pets while her baby sat in my lap next to her.

Sweetie

Sweetie is new to us.  Most of our Mini Nubian goats are related to each other, so Sweetie brought us some “new blood.”  She’s wonderawful.  We love her, but she isn’t one of ours, so she has some annoying habits we’re asking her to break.

And she is fascinated by how things work here.  Sometimes, she’s terribly annoyed with us.  She tried to break into the milk room almost daily, and she thinks it’s terribly unfair we don’t let her in.  But she also looks a bit amazed when she joins the gaggle of goats swirling around us for pets at the end of the day.

And she is truly fascinated with baby goat bonding.  With the cold weather, I tuck each baby goat into my “mobile portable baby goat heater”, which is to say, I tuck them into my jacket.  It warms them up and gets them used to hugs.  (I do not think goats understand the concept of clothes.  Sweetie can see me put Spirit into my jacket, and she’ll turn around and scream “I lost my baby!” like she has no concept that Spirit is in my jacket.  She doesn’t even look for Spirit near me, even though that’s the last place she saw her.  It’s like she thinks I teleported Spirit when I picked her up.)

Now, I’m tucking new babies into my jacket.  And Sweetie comes over every single time, to look in my jacket. “What do you have there?”

This morning, I sat in Meg’s stall, next to Sweetie’s stall, and warmed up one of Meg’s kids.  Sweetie came over and poked her head through the stall divider.  I sat there awhile, hugging the baby and petting Sweetie.

Abbey v. Sweetie

Abbey loves me.  Not in a good way.  In a co-dependent way or something.  It’s okay, I love Abbey, even though she’s a little crazy (does that make me co-goat-dependent?).

To wit: We milked Abbey through winter.  Just Abbey.  Other goats were pregnant, so they made babies instead of milk.  Abbey did not feel unjustly singled out for extended work.  She felt vindicated – Abbey was the only goat worthy of milking.  She always knew she was special, and now we knew it too.

But Sweetie makes too much milk for her baby.  We HAVE to milk Sweetie because she makes so much milk that her udder gets big and full, and her teats get so stuffed with milk that baby Spirit can’t fit the teat in her mouth.  So we started milking Sweetie.

Abbey stands outside and stares daggers at Sweetie.

Why are we milking Sweetie?

Why are we fussing over Sweetie?

Abbey can make milk.

Abbey’s milk is better than Sweetie’s milk.  Right?

Meanwhile, Abbey tripped up our Abbey-breeding-plan, and I have to do a pregnancy test on her.  I really thought she spurned the buck, but now I’m not sure.  If she’s pregnant, I don’t want to milk her in case the kids need her to focus her metabolic energy on them.

So I’m milking Abbey a lot less, to help her stop making milk.  (She makes a lot, so she needs an adjustment period before we stop milking altogether.)

I’m not JUST milking Sweetie, I’m abandoning Abbey.  (Abbey was bottle-raised.  She isn’t a goat so much as a puppy-dog who thinks she’s a person.)

Abbey stares daggers at Sweetie.

Well, our milking routine is all jumbled now.  I didn’t plan to milk Sweetie so soon.  I didn’t plan to stop milking Abbey just yet.

I came out to milk Sweetie today, and she was in the pasture with the goats.  A good bit away.  So I called her.  Our neighbors already think we’re nuts.  Traffic was picking up, so it was getting noisy.  I whistled for Sweetie like I’d whistle for a dog.  “Whoo-ooo-woo.  Sweetie!”

Sweetie maahed back at me.  “Sweetie!”  And Abbey came running.  Like a dog.  “You need something?  Here I am!”  I hugged Abbey and waited for Sweetie to come in.  I milked Sweetie.  Abbey wandered off after staring daggers at Sweetie.

I went back out and called Abbey.  Abbey – as unfriendly as she can be towards goats – was waiting at the bottom of the hill for Sweetie.  Nobody likes to walk to pasture alone, so Abbey waited to walk with Sweetie.  “Abbey!”  Abbey looked at me with annoyance.  “Abbey, do you want to get milked”?

Abbey holds a grudge.  But not for long.  She’s a puppy.  So she stood at the bottom of the hill and made a big deal of ignoring me.  “Abbey, come get milked.”

She turned her head away.  Letting me know I had done her wrong.

“Come on Abbey.”

And she trotted up the hill.  I told her I’d meet her in the barn.  I don’t have to wait and walk her in.  I know she’ll come in.  When she got to the gate, I let her in, she hopped up onto the milk stand, and we got to work.  I milked enough to let the pressure off her udder, and let her finish eating what she wanted.  Then I sent her on her way.  She went out the back of the barn, and I took the milk out the front of the barn.

“Meeeehhh.”  Abbey called to me from the gate.  I looked back, and she was alone.  Phil was home by then, and the milk bucket is heavy, so he carries it for me when he can.  “Phil, can you take it in?  I’ll be in in a minute.”

Sweetie wasn’t waiting for Abbey.  Abbey was alone, no goats in sight.  “Sweetie!”  Silence.  It was raining and muddy and I was too tired to climb down the hill.  I took Abbey in the barn and gave her some alfalfa hay.  If it was Sweetie left behind, I would have had to walk her down the hill.  But Abbey is okay without her goats, as long as her people love her.

I love them both.  But Abbey will be there for me, even if it means being left behind.  And Abbey will stare daggers at Sweetie, but she’ll still stand alone at the bottom of the hill, waiting for Sweetie.  Goats are complicated.  Abbey scares Sweetie, and she’ll shake her head menacingly at Sweetie at the bottom of the hill, but she’s THERE.  Standing alone.  Making sure Sweetie doesn’t have to be alone.  When Sweetie comes in from the pasture, alone, desperate to be with her sleeping baby, Abbey idles up the hill.  Sweetie comes into the barn, joins her baby, realizes baby is still sleeping.  Sweetie maaahs with anxiety.  She wants to be with her herd.  She wants to be with her baby.  The herd is in the pasture.  The baby is sleeping in the barn.  A high status goat would have the herd with her, no matter where she is, but Sweetie isn’t high status, so her maternal instinct drives her up the hill alone.  We turn around, and Abbey is quietly munching hay as if she just wanted to come in from pasture.  Eh.  Abbey could be out bugging the other goats.  I joke that Abbey has Goatsberger’s syndrome.  She cares, but she doesn’t get along well.  She’ll never be friends with Sweetie.  But, in some ways, Abbey is the best friend Sweetie will ever have.

Baby Goat Video

We posted some cute videos of Spirit to our Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mamma-Goat-Milk-Soap/466067156859616?ref=hl

You can see the twitchy “I’m tired but I have to PLAAAYYY” energy and her lovely little face.  And her first meeting with an alpaca, complete with KISSES!

Be sure to “Like” Mamma Goat Milk Soap for updates when we post pics and videos!

Sweetie’s sweet baby

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Sweetie gave us a beautiful baby girl!  We’ve named her Sweet Spirit.  Little Spirit is already following her mamma around like a champ.  I swear, I saw her learning today!  She looked from where she was to where she had just been, like she was memorizing the distance.  She jetted across some of those distances sometimes, just for practice. Sometimes, her little face looked like she was concentrating hard.

And then I saw something funny in the barn.

Baby goats sleep in a “hut” or a small cave-like thing that lets them feel safe and draft-free when they don’t feel like interacting with the world.  Some farms make really fancy huts out of 50-gallon drums with a heat-lamp hardwired into the top!  We use what we’ve got.  So, when I setup the kidding area for Sweetie, I put in a small dog crate (without the door).  I put lots of soft barn bedding on the bottom of the crate.  And I don’t especially like the type of bedding we have right now, so I grabbed a burlap feed sack, folded it up, and put it over the bedding so her tiny baby feet wouldn’t slip on loose bedding.

And we have more kids coming.  So I setup two more “huts”.  Spirit’s hut is big enough to share when the new kids grow a little.  So I put out little huts, made by cutting a 50-gallon drum in half and cutting a little doorway in the side.  One has an open top, so I put a big bowl on it to close off the top.  That makes it short inside, but it’s strong enough for bigger kids to climb on without crushing it.  I put down soft bedding, and I decided that the burlap sack had been a success, so I took it out of Spirit’s hut and put it in the baby hut.  Spirit is walking just fine on loose bedding now, so I thought this would be fine.

🙁

And I put the two huts side-by-side while I worked.  And Spirit had a big, active day with her mamma.  When she started twitching, I took her back to the barn.  Twitching means their body is saying “sleep!” and their brain is saying “No! There’s so much more to do and see and explore and play and learn!”  They stomp their little feet to keep themselves awake, and twitch like little life-junkies.  So I take them to the barn for a nap when they’re twitchy.

Spirit walked to where her hut belongs.  But the new hut was there.  It’s a BABY hut.  Spirit walked in like she always does, but found it was shorter than she remembered.  She sniffed, backed out and looked around, as if she were checking her coordinates.  Convinced she had the right place, she got down on her belly and tried to wiggle into the baby hut.  It was still very short.  I imagine she felt like Alice in Wonderland!

She sniffed some more, decided it was the right spot, and collapsed for an overdue nap – with her butt halfway out of the hut.  I lifted the cover to make it taller, but she didn’t go the rest of the way in.  So I felt bad for her, and picked her up and put her in her own hut – the dog crate with soft bedding.

She poked her head out and looked around at where she was.  And the she sniffed the crate all over.  Something was off.  She sniffed and sniffed.  And she twitched and twitched.  And she kicked the bedding into a pile and flopped down for a nap.  But she kept twitching.  Her body was still saying “sleep!” but now her brain was saying “this isn’t right!!”   She started to get up twice.  It was fascinating to watch her!

I felt bad for her and put the burlap bag back in her hut.  When she went back in to her hut-in-the-wrong-spot, with the nice burlap bag on top of soft bedding, with plenty of room for her long legs and little body and big head with long floppy ears, she sniffed the burlap, sighed contentedly and curled up for a nap.

I know the goats sniff us.  I’ve seen them sniff our mouths to see what we’ve been eating.  But I didn’t realize just how much they use scent to take snapshots of their world!

All my goats are crazy

Pregnancy is kind of neat in goats.  Nothing much happens in the first 4 months.  The last month is when all the magic happens.  The babies don’t grow much at all until the last month.  Moms don’t even need much nutrition until the last month.  The first 4 months are just hype.  You know there’s babies in there – but they’re just seeds, waiting for springtime.  That fifth month, watch out!

Meg has been huge for several weeks.  Even though the babies just, really, started to grow last week.  She has also been hungry.  Really hungry.  Like, I am careful not to trip in the goat stall, because I just know she’d be all like, “Dinner is late.  Let’s eat Tracy!”  Seriously.  I check her weight all the time (in self-defense).  She’s a good weight.  But she acts like she could eat a horse.  “FEED ME!!!”  She’s gone nuts.

She sleeps under the hay feeder, so she can eat without getting up.  I open the barn in the morning, and all the normal goats leap up and run to me.  Meg lays there under the hay, waiting for me to actually serve breakfast before she wastes energy on rising to her feet.  Eventually, she gets up.  She eats.  All she can eat.  And then she goes outside, lays down, and grunts.  She is sooo barely pregnant.  If she is grunting with martyrdom now – oh, she’s going to be a drama queen as those kids grow.

I noticed this afternoon that she was covered in hay pieces.  All over her back.  I went to brush them off, and she got up and walked away in a bit of a huff.  And laid down, twisted her head around, and ate the hay off her back.  “I was SAVING that!”

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She’s a lovey goat.  Not anymore.  Now she hates me.  I try to get close to run a simple test (swipe a thingy under her while she pees) and she runs away like I’m the devil.  She used to love me.  I’m not allowed within 10 feet of her.  Unless she wants something, like a nice head scratch.  But she’ll let me know when I’m allowed near her.

Ice is our least-friendly goat.  But I told her today that she’d better have a white baby, so we can name it Caspar the Friendly Goat.  All of a sudden, Ice likes me.  Lately, she comes up to me, flashing her Baby Blues, acting like “Hey, old buddy old pal!”  Today, she was lolling around lazily – so hard she rolled over onto her back like a turtle.  This is how friendly she is: Goats should not lay on their backs.  I know this.  I walked over to her, perfectly capable of rolling her over, but I didn’t want to upset her by, you know, touching her.  So I asked her, “Ice, is this the position you WANT to be in?”

I guess not.  She rolled over again.  She was being so weird, I stopped what I was doing and followed her at a respectful distance.  She laid down.  I sat 10′ away.  She got up, turned around, faced me, laid back down.  And flashed the Baby Blues at me.

She came to the milk room yesterday, while I was milking Abbey.  I looked up, and Ice was leaning through the gate, big blue eyes wide and hopeful.  Can I come in?  I scowled at her.  “You can come in if you want to be milked.”  All day today, she was looking at her udder, like “damn you, udder, make milk!”

Well, quite frankly, that worried me.  So I brought her onto the milk stand for a look-see.  She seems fine and normal.  I gave her the icky mineral supplement, just in case.  That should be good for at least a week of Ice hating me again.  She let me lead her out of the milk room like the polite, friendly goat that SHE HAS NEVER BEEN.  And she came back a little while later and flashed the baby blues at me again.  “No way.”  She collapsed in a heap just outside the gate.  I WILL give in to the blue eyes.  She just knows it.

Sweetie – I swear, she might not even be pregnant  Well, she decided, if Meg is going to grunt her way through pregnancy, so is Sweetie.  She grunts without conviction.  But she puts up a good show.  “Uh.”  …. “Uh.”

sweetier

And, today, Mini joined in.  She’s hardly even pregnant.  “Uh. …. Uh.” 7 weeks to go, and she’s going to out-drama-queen them all.

Butters has become my little rock of sanity.  While all the girls go crazy, Butters remains a pleasant, lazy little butterball of love.  I sit down in the barn, and he runs up and pushes and shoves and squeezes and contorts until he’s in my lap.  Same as always.  I love Butters.

And then Maggie – in heat – runs up and head-butts him.  “My human!”  And runs away.  I scold her.  She comes back.  Touches the back of my head.  Tried to climb in my lap.  Runs away.  Lisa sneaks in while Maggie has me distracted.  Touches my back.  Runs away.  “Hi!  Gotta run!”

At one point while I was trying to figure out what grave disease might make Ice friendly, I sat down (a respectful distance from Ice) to observe her, and felt things on my back.  4 young goats were surrounding me from behind, touching me lightly, while Butters slipped into my lap.  Bart began nibbling the back of my shirt.  I looked down at Butters, and he nibbled my nose.  My last sane goat, and he’s still a nibbly-nibblet.  Still my baby lap-goat.  I won’t say he’s my favorite, but I sure do enjoy him.  Butters and Maggie are my best buddies.  I love them all, even when certain goats are acting a little harder to love.  And I appreciate the ones who act so easy to love, too.

 

I think my goats are spoiling me

I have been frustrated that Mocha isn’t cooperative the last couple days.  I call her, and she doesn’t come to me.  I go to get her, and she runs away.  I’m exasperated with her.

And it hit me tonight – I did Preventive Maintenance Service (PMS) on her over the weekend.  Toenail clipping, udder trimming, nutritional supplements – the works.  And some farms have mentioned to me that a goat I was going to see on their farm was acting up after shots or hoof trimming.  They say it casually, like it’s the most normal thing in the world.  Some little part of my brain accepts this without question.  Without thinking about it.

Duh.  Mocha’s being squirrelly because of the PMS.  Our goats don’t usually do that.  I mean, yeah, Fudge is crazy.  I expect her to be weird.  But that’s her personality.  Mocha has a sweet personality.  She loves attention and affection.  And suddenly she doesn’t.

I realized this, standing in the middle of the barn, and looked down at three other goats who also had PMS this weekend, leaning in for pets, being their normal lovey selves.  Even Fudge wasn’t crazier than normal.  Sweetie hardly knows us, but she loves getting petted, even after the weekend of maintenance work.

As I closed up for the night, Maggie tried to sneak through the milk gate, one last try to get back in, even after completely flipping out about hoof trimming over the weekend.

Ice is our worst goat.  She’s FINALLY coming around a little.  She looks completely confused.  She looks at me with big hopeful eyes, like maybe I’ll give her a cookie and a pet.  I trimmed her hooves over the weekend, plenty of drama, but not as bad as Maggie.  When I sent her back to the barn, she paused on the milk stand, picked up each foot, one at a time, put them down, and then looked at them.  Phil thought she looked happy with her “new shoes.”  A look of wonder.  “Huh.  So, humans, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can serve a useful purpose!”

I don’t know why some goats get over maintenance so quickly, and others take it as a personal affront.  Maggie really flipped out, but she’s still trying to get back in for more milk stand time.  When a goat gets all, “don’t touch me!” I squat down nearby and call them over.  They know I can’t chase very well if I’m squatted down.  They usually come over and let me make up with them.  Mocha did come over, but she didn’t enjoy it very much.  So I’ll just let her get over it.  The other goats are happy to take Mocha’s turn at getting petted.

Mistaken identity

We name our goats.  I want them to know who I’m yelling at when they misbehave.  The ones who didn’t have names when we bought them, well, they had to learn their names.  So we’d walk through the barnyard, petting each goat as we passed, saying her name.

And they spoiled me.  I call them by name, and they come.  Usually.  The other night, Phil called Meg, and she looked up, but stood where she was.  “Meg.”  She looked thoughtful.  “Meg!”  Nothing.  “Meg, come here!”  She was thinking about it.  She understood that he wanted her to come to him, she just wasn’t sure if SHE wanted to.  After a little thought, she decided, what the heck, she’d humor the human.

That’s what it means to call a goat by name.  It’s not like a dog, where they’re all slobbery-goo-goo to please you.  Most of the time, they come when we call.  Sometimes, they’ve staked out a nice spot at the hay feeder and don’t want to give it up.  A lot of times, they’re lazy.  “But you’re all the way over there!  Can’t you come here?”

But when we call them to the milk stand, we get pretty good response.  Actually, I have to guard the door, because 5 other goats try to slip through.

The other day, I trimmed Maggie’s hooves (it’s like cutting their toenails), and she flipped out.  Hoof trimming is kind of weird for them, but it’s not bad, it’s not painful, it’s simply a strange experience for a goat.  But Maggie flipped out.  Screaming and thrashing and acting like I was killing her.  So I stopped and sent her on her way.  I thought I had ruined her.  I had given her such a terrible experience on the milk stand, I would NEVER get her onto the milk stand voluntarily again.

Naw.  By evening chores, she was trying to sneak through while I held the door for Abbey.  There is some magical pull to the milk stand.  Even if they have the same food in the barn, they want to come to the milk stand.  I think it’s kind of like backstage for goats.  It’s the place the special goats get to hang out.  And I play right into that belief.  I fawn over the goats on my milk stand.  “Oh, you’re such a Milking Queen!”  “I love you!”  Or the goat will do some totally minimal thing, but, hey, she’s a goat and they don’t HAVE to do anything for me, so I thank her profusely.  I hug them and pet them and try to make things pleasant.  And the other goats watch and think “Someday, when I grow up, I’m going to be a star, too.”

But Meg has – an identity disorder, or maybe just a milk stand addiction.  Every time I call a goat to the milk stand, if she doesn’t come, Meg runs to the gate.  “I’m here!”  “But, Meg, I wasn’t calling you.”  And she stares at me like “I’m not Meg, I’m Hannah, and I’m here, so let me in.”  Meg is an imposter.  She needs to live on one of those farms that doesn’t name their goats.  That would be a luxury lifestyle for her.  Getting 3 turns because no one recognizes her.  But here, she just always hears “You’re NOT Cinnamon!”  And she replies by leaning on the gate so I can’t open it to go get Cinnamon.

It’s not just the milk stand, either.  If we’re out on a pasture walk, and I call another goat, if she doesn’t trot right over, Meg does.  Or Meg will “Mah” in reply when I call someone.  It’s like she needs as much attention as 3 goats, but she’s not going to fawn over me like the sycophant goats do.  Let Sweetie and Abbey and Butters and Maggie follow me around like puppy dogs.  Meg has a better plan.

And then Meg kind of got her wish.  Kit grew up with almost the same coloring as Meg.  Phil is always yelling at Meg “Kit, cut that out!” or telling Kit “Good girl, Meg!”  And I’ll whisper to Phil “that’s actually Kit.”  He looks confused for a moment, and then he brightens and repeats his memory technique “Oh, right, Meg has the white spot on the left, and Kit has it on the right.”  They don’t look that much alike, aside from coloring, but they both always have their heads stuffed in a feeder, so we identify them by white spots or hair length.  But poor Meg.  Kit almost never gets a backstage pass.  And Kit caught on – if I’m playing doorman, she stands by the door, ready to sidle through the velvet rope with a mild sneer at the common goats left outside.  I open the gate, and Kit looks up, hopeful and excited.  “Cinnamon!  Cinnamon!”  And Kit looks crestfallen, while Meg strides up to the gate like an A-lister.  “I’m here!”

Udder Perfection: A silly story

Cinnamon got pregnant last year.  We didn’t breed her.  She got pregnant.  Without our approval.  So our first hint was her udder.

We walked the goats to pasture one day.  As we walked them home that night, Cinnamon walked in front of me and I noticed a tiny, perfect udder.  “Look, Phil, Cinnamon has a tiny little udder!” I exclaimed happily.

Yep, happily.  I was oblivious.  I did not think “where did this udder come from?”  I was in that moment like many parents where such questions as “Mom, is birth control expensive?” are not a red flag, they are just moments in life.  And, like other parents, it was only many hours later that I thought to myself, “Hey, that was really strange! Oh crap!”  Because udders do not just crop up out of nowhere.  They grow to feed babies.

Babies!?!?  But Cinnamon was a baby!  My baby can’t have babies!

Well, she didn’t ask my permission.  And, clearly, it was happening.  “Goat berries! (that’s a polite way of saying “oh, crap!”) She hasn’t had prenatal care! I don’t know when she’s due!  Panic!!”  Also, I had missed the joyous anticipation.  I didn’t get to feel her babies moving for weeks before the big day, to say hi to tiny goat fetuses swimming in a big goat belly.  Hey, Cinnamon’s mom was kind of fat.  I had just figured that Cinnamon was kind of fat.  You don’t look at a 10-year-old and think “that must be a champion kart racer!” (I think Jeff Gordon WAS at that age!); you think “I hope he doesn’t touch my stuff, because they still pick their noses at that age.”  Fat OR pregnant were both possibilities, it was just that – we had kept the boy away.  Fat seemed more probable.

After it sank in, I scowled at the boy every time I fed him.  He looked at me like “Hey, she was game.”  And I wanted to scream at him, “Your sister is just a baby!!”  I still scowl at him sometimes.  He was just doing what bucks do – perpetuating the species.  I was just doing what people do – being grossed out at how utterly inappropriate it all was.  Too young, too inbred, too sneaky, too – ew!  I still don’t know how it happened.  He was separated.  He escaped a couple times, but I was always there.  I let him stay for a few minutes because he was nursing his mom and I felt bad for him, and then I’d take him back to his buck area so he wouldn’t make anyone pregnant.  Ha!

And I became a whirling dervish of calm, plodding research and chaotic, panicked action.  And, like many fathers in a crisis, Phil found my behavior mystifying.  He was supportive and followed orders, but, mostly, he stayed out of the way of his banshee farmer wife.  I spent days enhancing Cinnamon’s nutrition, giving her the best care, and checking for signs that birth might be imminent.  While researching all the ways birth could go wrong, what we could do about it if it did, and just how badly we had messed up our baby’s life by allowing her to mess up her own life when we weren’t looking.

Clean the farm!  Baby must have clean environment!  Build kidding stall!  Enhance nutrition!

And sometimes Cinnamon would step in front of me, turned the other way, and I would see her udder.  And, if Phil was nearby, I would stop my whirlwind of panicked work, grab Phil, and say “Look at her udder!  Isn’t it the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?”

And Phil would look at me like I was bat-[goat-berries] crazy.  Because it was the 10th time I said it.  In the midst of all this panic and thrashing, I ALWAYS had time to stop and love that little udder.  And he didn’t know why.  And he thought we had already covered “Isn’t it the cutest thing?” really thoroughly, so why were we making time for it in the middle of mucking the barn?

Because it was perfect.  Two tiny little grapefruits, perfectly rounded, like a dollhouse miniature of an udder.  Perfection.  I mean, if we went to Paris, and I took him to the Louvre on Monday, and we saw an amazing painting, and then we went back to the Louvre on Friday – the painting would still be amazing.  Right?  We’d still stop and let its beauty soak into our souls.  Even though we’d already seen it.

Well, maybe not 20 times, right?

1,000 times!  That HAS to be why people pay millions for paintings.  Can you imagine, a million dollars and one week later, you’re, like, “Okay, I’m over this one.”

Or maybe that perfect udder was a lucky rabbit’s foot.  Nothing bad could make such a lovely udder.  Right?  If the udder was perfect, everything else would be perfect.  Right?  Or, if I stopped for a minute and thought about how calm and perfect Cinnamon was, I could forget for a minute how panicked I was.

Well, Cinnamon made it.  Her perfect little udder stayed perfect.  We barely milked her, because I didn’t want to make heavy demands on the young mom – I just milked enough to train her “this is what it’s like to be milked.”  And she was good.  And she didn’t totally ruin her life.  And she didn’t have any trouble with birthing.  She was sneaky, gave birth overnight, and we opened the barn door one morning to find an extra goat.  He hopped right over to the door, and looked up at us with healthy, happy baby eyes, and then hopped away.

KopiBirth1

Well, hello there!

Cinnamon was a great mamma.

Now we’re getting ready for Planned babies.  Breed-ed babies.  I spent months and months searching for the right buck, planning timing and matings and researching pedigrees and I even made a spreadsheet.  And Kit jumped in with the buck when I was swapping girls.  She was verbally sold, to be picked up a couple days later.  Maybe she just wasn’t meant to go?  I canceled her sale.  But, at least I can give her proper care, so it’s not a crisis this time.  (And he is a nice buck, not a scoundrel brother.)

And Kit is starting to develop an udder.  I told Phil that Kit was starting to develop an udder.  And it was really cute.  He seemed wary.  When we went to the barn for evening chores, I called Phil over to see Kit’s udder for the first time and said “Isn’t it cute?!”  And he asked quietly, “are we going to do this again?”

Naw.  I’ll keep it to myself this time.  But, honey, could you muck the barn?

 

(Oh, yeah, and we still make soap.  We’re taking special orders for lotion for mid-March, and we’ll see you at the farmer’s markets this summer.)

My goatie warmed my heart today

Once upon a time, Bean (Goatzilla) was big and waddly and uncomfortable.  Every morning, we would walk the goats to a distant pasture.  Every evening, we walked them back to their safe and cozy barn.  The goats would race to see who could get to the barn fastest, and they would jump and play as the crossed the farm.

But Bean was big and fat and waddly with a belly-full of babies (or an udder full of milk, I don’t remember which).  One day, I noticed she tried to run, stopped, tried again.  I called to her.  “It’s okay, Bean, I’ll walk with you.”  And she stopped and waited for me to catch up.  I put a hand on her shoulder, and we walked back to the barn.  This became our routine. Phil went ahead with the fast goats, I stayed behind with my waddly-slow goat, and Bean and I walked, quietly and sedately across the farm.

It’s been a while since we did that.

I had forgotten it.

I love Bean.  She’s the Buddha of goats.  Big belly, big heart, gentle soul.  She’s a goat of few words, and she “mobs” me for pets and rubs by standing next to me with the patience of a mountain.  The fast goats push and shove and demand attention.  Bean, when she needs attention, stands still and quiet in the middle of the jostling, almost unnoticed.  And she waits.  Until I notice her.  She accepts her pets and rubs with the same peaceful spirit.  Mamma #1 grunts with pleasure and rubs me back.  Meg gets frustrated that I’m not scratching her just right, and she wiggles and jostles her head so I reach the right spot.  Bean stands still and calm.  Petting doesn’t make her happy.  It gives her peace.

Well, that’s Bean.  My little river rock, unchanged by the eddy of goat rapids swirling around her.

Today, I went to the far, far part of the goat’s pasture to work on some blackberry brambles.  The goats raced after me with joy.  They LOVE when I take them on walks.  They could have gone to the far pasture themselves, but they really, really like when I go with them and keep them safe.  So we went down the hill, and the goats leaped and hopped and scampered happily.  I love to watch that.

And I walked ahead of them around the bend.  They follow a little ways.  Someone decided it was scary, and they ran back to the barn.  I stood in the middle of the lane, looking back, calling them.  They didn’t come back.  But Bean was waiting for me.  I turned and kept going, further from the barn.  Bean looked back toward her herd.  Looked at me.  And followed me.  I knew she wasn’t doing it for joy – she didn’t pick a careful path, didn’t pace herself or look for something to nibble as she came.

She hopped onto a rock and stood guard while I worked. She didn’t graze or forage – just stood on the rock, keeping guard.

And then she walked me back to the barn.  I got tired, and I sat for a bit.  Bean stopped and waited.

“It’s okay, Tracy, I’ll walk with you.”

We finished the walk together, joined the herd again, and Bean stood by my side, quiet and patient, and let me rub her cheeks the way she likes.  Just looking at me with big brown eyes that I can never read.  With Bean, I know her by her actions.