He is handsome. I don’t like his perfume, though.
Add comment September 28th, 2010
There is a spider in residence above my milk room door. I’m guessing that in this place the living is relatively easy; there are many, many small flying things in the barn. I’m not sure how the rules of real estate work in the spider world, but this space seems to be top notch — sheltered from the worst of the weather, a span across a large open space with good lighting. Things seem to be working out for this spider; she is fast and fat and her web is a thing of great beauty.
The biggest drawback to this exclusive space is that I walk through that door twice a day and my face goes right through the center of her web. This is not good for either of us. You can probably imagine why I don’t like it much and it is just as easy to imagine that my arrival is a great disappointment to her. She keeps her feelings to herself however, and in the intervening time between milkings, she repairs her masterpiece and continues to wait for what comes. Unfortunately, what comes is me.
Walking into her web twice a day has lost whatever charm it may have had and I have begun to ponder the intelligence of this spider. Why does she, day in and day out, continue to repair and rebuild this catch net in such a vulnerable space? Can’t she connect the dots, so to speak? Can’t she figure out that this piece of real estate is vulnerable to cataclysm every twelve hours? I wonder if her acquisition of this particular place was an impulse buy; after all, it should be pretty obvious to Everyone that I’ve been walking through this door twice a day for 21 years now. Maybe she moved here from out of town? Of course, the more I question her intelligence, the louder the shadow thought becomes: how can I, day in and day out, continue to walk smack through the center of her sticky web? Why haven’t I figured out that this piece of real estate is occupied?
I am relieved to report that, given enough time, she and I seem to be equally educable. The first day that I remembered that I was about to walk through her newly repaired glory, I looked up and found that she had altered the building of her web to include my entrance and exit from the room. It must have been the complicated building calculus that took her so much time. What took me so much time is still an open question.
Add comment September 15th, 2010
Tweedle is in a new mother’s daze. Newborn triplets are, after all, quite a responsibility for anybody. She keeps them clean and well fed and it takes up all of her time. We could say that she is “settled,” which is a happy situation for her and for me. Once upon a time, Tweedle was unmanageable, our resident barn lunatic.
She was handraised, which usually goes a long way towards making a goat a good barn citizen, but Tweedle was, apparently, the recipient of the ‘crazy’ gene that I find in some of my goats from time to time. ‘Crazy’ in this instance means extremely intelligent, highly reactive, and so, hard to manage — not the best ingredients for a calm barn scene. Typically, I move these types of kids to homes that revel in goat antics, and such was my plan for Tweedle.
She was probably practicing one of the tricks in her repertoire, like bouncing off the barn walls, but however it happened, there she was one morning with her rear leg dangling like it was broken. A goat on three legs can still move pretty fast, but we finally caught her and took her to the vet, who declared the tendon torn and put the leg in a cast, immobilizing it with the hopes that it would repair itself — in six months or so.
So now we had a crazy yearling goat in cast who needed a shot twice a day and just catching her was a job that took two people. It felt like a hopeless situation — we couldn’t send a crazy, gimp goat out into the world. So we kept at it, minimizing as best we could the trauma for her. She was pregnant, of course, which added to both the hope and trepidation we felt for her.
She kid one evening before dusk. I was alone on the farm, doing the evening barn check, and there she was, working on delivering her first kid. It soon became clear to me that this kid was not in a perfect position for easy delivery. I felt a wave of hopelessness; after all, I could never get within five feet of her without her bolting; it always took two people to catch her.
Time is the essence in a situation like this, at least for a positive outcome for the kid. I slowly approached her and in this miraculous moment, she stood perfectly still at my approach. I slipped my arm under her neck for security, support, and stability, and slipped my other hand to the kid’s emerging head, automatically clearing its nose and mouth, working my hand in slowly to find the source of the problem. Not a big problem as problems go, just a foot bent backwards. I straightened it out and she pushed out this giant kid. I ceased to exist for Tweedle as she began to know just what was the most important thing for her to do.
I was apprehensive about the coming battle of milking her but she never flinched, not once, not even in the beginning — as if she was born to to be milked, which, of course, she was. Tweedle is three years old now, with four sound legs, and she has developed into one of the best milking does I have ever had, producing more than one and half gallons of milk a day at the peak of her lactation and a steady gallon the rest of the year. She trusts me to do my job and I trust her to do hers. We don’t socialize – her preference – but we have a solid working relationship. All in all, a much happier ending.
1 comment April 4th, 2010
Every spring I work over the question, “Who is cuter, lambs or kids?” After a good ten years or more of pondering, I finally have an answer.
It depends who is looking at you!
Add comment March 31st, 2010
My favorite new technology is the Cell Phone. It is a convenient tool for calling the house when extra help is needed in the barn and it is a great tool in an emergency, when veterinary advice is necessary. This time of year, Stephen and I don’t go down to the barn without our cell phones; the ewes’ udders are getting bigger and tighter every day and two dairy goats are due next week.
So last night, when Stephen left to do the early evening barn check and a few minutes later the phone rang, I was sure that he was calling about lambs. “It’s getting kind of crowded down here,” he said. “Lambs?” I asked. “Kids.” he replied.
Does. Early. Triplets. Perfect.
2 comments March 7th, 2010
Late winter is a fitful time, a time between sleeping and waking — the bed is warm but the air is so cold. The mourning doves’ melancholy dirges resonate with my reluctance to shift into this new season, even as the curtain rises on daffodils pushing up complete with buds ready to open.
The sun is regaining its intensity and strength, climbing a little higher for a little longer every day. You can feel the heat through the cold air and the promise of too much heat later, but that is easy to overlook for now.
The birds and the light and the barn call to me insistently: Ewes will soon be lambing at dawn; Best to be Earlier than Early.
And so it is. Here She is — the end of winter — time to embrace the dawn to dusk schedule which comes, luckily, with lightly perfumed air, cool temperatures, and glorious, wondrous, beautiful babies.
1 comment March 6th, 2010
A friend once brought me a poster announcement of a play that she saw when in Toronto. The bill read, “Goat Show: An Odyssey Behind Barn Doors.” I thought that a pithy summation of my life; most of the work that I do originates in one way or another in the barn. And this past week, an odyssey behind barn doors is exactly what we had here. Barn Drama dominated our entire week — cold weather, weak triplets with a sick mother, shearing day, and finally a difficult lamb delivery which ended in an unforeseen happier ending for the smallest triplet.
Lynne Vogel was here for the whole thing; I am going to let her tell you about it. You can read more of Lynne’s wit and wisdom here.
Shearing Day at Three Waters Farm
The first time I walked into the fleece barn at the Black Sheep Gathering and stood in a room full of fresh fleeces I felt something come alive within me, an emotion powerful and ancient. This primal recognition lifted me as on a wave, awakening memories that could only be written in my DNA, memories of foggy moors dotted with sheep, guarded by the watchful eye of a border collie. I can smell the heather, feel the moisture bead up on my shetland sweater. My mind wanders to visions of hearth and tea kettle, a bite of scone, or a heavy crust of handmade bread and crumble of sharp cheddar beside a flaggon of brown ale. Even as I write I feel an upswelling of emotion.
Yesterday was shearing day at Three Waters Farm and I had the good fortune to be there. Mary Ann, Stephen and I watched as the shearer prepared his mat and clippers, put on his felt slippers, dipped a bit of Red Man with the reverence of one taking communion. Then he turned and said, “OK ladies, who’s first. With gentle confidence and manly strength, he caught and positioned a ewe and deftly buzzed away a year of buttery wool. Mary Ann took each fleece as though she was handed a newborn lamb, inspected, trimmed and rolled the beautiful thing into a ball, then into a bag with the ewe’s name. We watched Old Lady, Young Lady, Tawny, and the Inscrutable Romney (that’s her in the photo) lose their locks in a sweep of finery. And my heart filled with bittersweet emotion at the joy of our harvest and the sheeps’ loss of their
I arrived here Wednesday night for our yearly dye blowout. I love it here.Good company, good food. It’s never boring. Last year there was the goat that hurt it’s leg. We had to hold it to give it injections and it fainted in our arms every time (hey, I can relate). We watched Young Lady getting ready to lamb, but holding off until we finally went to town. I really wanted to see that lamb being born. We watched for three days. Of course, when we finally had to go to town, out popped a little racoon faced black BFL lamb. This year I watched that yearling render his hoggit fleece, soft, black, as we all spoke of chocolate and the caramel foam that graces a cup of well made espresso.
This year Old Lady had given birth to triplets on the second coldest day of the year and things were nip and tuck. The morning after I arrived found me not in the dye studio, but in the barn, cradling a 5 pound ram lamb in the bib of my overalls. And during one of my short trips to the house, Young Lady managed to give birth to another raccoon faced black lamb. Just like that! I came back to the barn and there was a wet, steaming lamb on the ground. Why?
Over the last three days Mary Ann has managed to save the lives of all three with bi hourly bottle feedings and plenty of attention to the mother. Even as we sat at the computer, Mary Ann perused the screen with a tiny ewe lamb looking on from the bib of her overalls, a bottle sticking out of her pocket like a misplaced udder waving in the breeze. Yesterday was magically warm, 70 degrees, and finally everyone looks great despite rough beginnings.
Add comment March 12th, 2009