Archive for the ‘Goats’ Category

Little Orphan Phoebe

It was a first birth for Claire and I was frankly surprised it went so rough. Her mom had always had an easy time getting her kids on the ground, and some of the time did it without any help. I was sure she would follow in her mother’s footsteps. This time I was wrong. It was Monday morning and I noticed that her udder was quickly bagging up (of course she was not going to do it over the weekend, when I had time off work- doe’s code of honor). She started to get “that look” in her eyes and I knew her time was drawing near. I called in to the office to let them know I would be late, and started my watch. By noon she was picking at her food and talking to her side- it should not be long now. By 2 pm she was down on her side pushing, but by 2:30 she was not making any progress. I got out the gloves and the lube. There was a tiny pair of feet in the birth canal but not a head to be felt. Not good. I let another ten minuets go by and still no progress. I have done this enough to know when it is time to call the vet. Dr. Bailey was not in the office but I did have his cell number. He was only a few minutes away and came right over. He could feel the feet as well, but not the head with them. He tried to turn the kid, and then only had the head, but no front feet.
There just did not seem to be a way to get this baby into the proper position. “Well” I said at last “Just bring the kid out head first.” Dr. Bailey always likes to have the feet as well, but decided to deliver the kid without then this time. After some pushing, and a few screams from the doe, a tiny doe kid was pulled into the world. Dr. Bailey was surprised to see she was still alive. He handed her off to me and reached back in for the next one. Again after much pushing and pulling, a tiny buck kid was retrieved, weak and sputtering, but alive. He weighed in at only 1 lb 6 oz, and she just under 2 pounds. I am not sure if it was the traumatic birth or just Claire’s take on being a new mom, but the doe did not seem to want to have anything to do with these newborns.  As Dr Bailey looked down at the two tiny, struggling babes on the blanket, he looked at me and said that I now had my work cut out for me. I think it was his kind way of saying these kids really did not have much of a chance at this point. If I could get them past the first 48 hours they might have a chance.

Newborn Phoebe

For the rest of the afternoon, I milked out the colostrum from the VERY uncooperative mother, and fed the kids with an eyedropper. I followed the doe around with the babes, hoping she would bond with them. Not only did she not want them anywhere near her- she actually turned around and butted them away, hard!
By that evening the night air began to chill, and I had no choice but to go to “plan B”, and bring the poor little things into the house. I found a large cardboard box, lined it with a plastic trash bag, and covered the floor with newspapers. Next I put down a heating pad, and then some large towels. this would keep them snuggley and warm. Both were too weak to suck on a bottle, so I fed them every 4 hours with the eyedropper throughout the night.
By the next morning, the little doe was strong enough to stand a bit, and I once again took her out and tried to introduce her to her mom. This time Clair knocked her for six, so I took her right back into the house. I came to the sad reallity that I would now be raising my very first pair of orphan kids.
The first 3 days were very tedious, keeping up with the feedings every 4 hours around the clock. By day 4, the little doe was finally able to latch onto the nipple of the bottle, but the little buck kid continued to grow weak, and he left us that same afternoon. It was touch and go every day with the doe. She did not gain much weight, and chilled easily. She was not able to stand up very well, and seemed weak in her front legs. Sometimes she did not want to eat at all, and I had to revert back to the eyedropper. I bought some Pedilite to keep her hydrated, and put a few drops of Red Cell in her milk at each feeding. Still she struggled.
I remembered when one of our goats had been anemic the year before, and we had given her injections of B-12, so I began to give the little doe 1cc of the B-12 every 12 hours.
At 1 week of age, she seemed unable to walk altogether, and was still not gaining any weight. I would hold her in my lap and move her little legs for her, so her muscles would not atrophy. This went on all through the second week of her life, until I noticed she was sometimes able to stand for a few minuets. I began to get behind her and just scoot her along so she would have to take small steps. I slept on the couch with her curled up in my arms to keep warm.
By week 3 she was taking more steps on her own, but was all but lame in the right front leg. I began to feed her a few teaspoons of greek yogurt every day, and continued the B-12 shots. She began to walk a bit more. Then one day I found her in her box laying stiff on her side. It looked she had seizured. She was still alive, so I got her upright and got her moving again. At one month old, I gave her 1cc of CDT and prayed. She still weighed a good pound less then the set of twins that were born a week after her. Her right front leg still buckled out in front of her, causing a limp.
More shots, more bottles, more prayer – day after day. I never even did name her, for fear every day that she would not live. Then the day came at last when she took a turn for the better. Her legs became stronger, she started to walk with ease, and then she delighted me one day when she jumped up the porch steps. At 5 weeks I tapered the B-12 down to 1 cc every other day, and then tapered off of it. We named her Phoebe, and she is now doing quite well. She downs 4 cups of milk replacer everyday, has gained weight, grown, and has started to nibble at some hay.

Our healthy, happy girl.

Now, at 6 weeks old, we go in back and have “play dates” in the nursery pen with the other moms and babies. We then race each other back down the driveway and into the kitchen. I marvel at her sweet but spunky personaility and try not to think back on those hard days we had together. Each day now she is less and less dependent on me, and goes off to explore her world more and more without me, but that’s ok. That is as it should be. As much as I enjoy the special bond we share I will be glad for the day when she will be able to go out and join the tribe.
For now I will just enjoy the last few weeks of the bottles, and the cuddling, and the sweet goat murmurs she whispers in my ears.
All the worry has been worth it, and it reminds me that I am indeed a goatherd, and to always be humble before God’s creatures.

 

 

 

We Welcome Summer!

Even though we are experiencing our normal “June gloom” this time of the year here in Ventura, we are still ushering in our summer solstice on Wednesday, June 20th at 4:09 pm PDT. This is the moment the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. This will be the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and then from here on out, the days will start to get just a bit shorter until the winter solstice in December. The north pole is tilted as far as possible towards the sun now, and those of us north of the equator get more rays of the sun in the summer months.
Every year when the sun finally does manage to cut through the overcast mornings we get our long, hot lazy days on the farm. The animals will be active in the cool mornings, and then again at dusk, but will spend the heat of the midday napping in the cool shade of the trees and shelters. It always makes for more work in the early mornings trying to keep everything watered down and cool, and we keep thick layers of mulch around the bases of the rose bushes and trees to keep their feet cool on these hot summer days. Each morning now I am greeted by small lizards basking on the back door steps and clinging to little niches on the wooden fences. Some of the more bold ones do little push-ups at me as I walk by but hold their ground. I can always tell a few of the slower moving ones by their stumpy tails –  courtesy of Lucy the farm cat.
The goats have shed their thick winter coats and are becoming sleek and shiny in their summer wear. The dog is enjoying once again raiding the berry patch, I think she loves this summer treat as much as we do! The chickens will soon be enjoying the leftover squash and other summer veggies as the warm season gardens are well underway now. I am longing for that first ripe tomato and looking forward to grilling some eggplant and squash. There is nothing quite like cooking summer veggies outdoors on the grill or sipping a nice cold glass of sun tea in the garden while sitting in the shade.

Welcome back summer!

Daylight Savings Time and Ready for Spring

I have always liked the concept of daylight savings time, but when it actually comes around it always messes me up for a few days. First, I always have to remember the “spring forward, fall back” thing, to be able to remember which way to turn the clock. Then I have to fight with the VCR, microwave, clock in my dashboard and my cell phone- I am really bad with all things tech, so this is a problem for me every year. It always takes a few days for my body to adjust to the “extra” or “missing” hour-but I never did understand why they say we gain or lose an hour, when there are still 24 hours in a day. We did not “gain” an hour in our lives-if that really happened we could just give ourselves more hours in time and at some point I think it would cause some time warp in the universe. I guess it is just something that the government cooked up so we would not have to drive to work in the dark in the winter months when the days are shorter. Anyway, to me it just feels like jet lag, but without getting to go on vacation. I do like getting home and being able to get a couple of things done in the goat yard before it gets dark though.

I am ready for spring. We have had over 2 1/2 months of freezing temps every night and no rain (and remember, we get to complain because this is Southern California.) Everything has been brown and crunchy for a long time. I am starting to see little signs that spring is trying to peek out in a few places, hoping that the freeze is over. The last frost date for our area is April 9th – so we may still get hit with some low temps again, but it has been 38 degrees and above for the last 4 mornings in a row. So this gives me hope that the worst is already over. The plum tree has put out a timid row of blossoms and the mulberry tree has broken bud. I planted out some artichokes that we started in the greenhouse a few months back, and put down very heavy layers of mulch to protect them. I also put some rose clones into the ground that had been hardening off outside near the house, and have moved more from the greenhouse to the front garden to get them used to the outside temps. I have tomato starts that I am chomping at the bit to plant out but I know full well I will have to drag out the Wall-O-Waters and keep a close eye on them if I do.

I have been eying the boxes of seed packets on the kitchen shelves that I have earmarked for this planting season but I don’t want to jump the gun. I will not let myself be seduced by their glossy photos and promises of days to harvest. I know the ground is still too inhospitable to plant warm weather veggies, no matter how tempting it becomes. It will only end in heartbreak otherwise.

We are on the dark side of the moon cycle this week, so I will spend this week battling weeds, pruning the last of the frostbitten canes and branches and putting up bean poles and trellises.

The incubator is now full of eggs that are set to hatch the week before Easter and the fertility is up in all of the breeding pens now. I got the first turkey egg of the season yesterday so I am sure the other game birds will follow along soon. I have been keeping an eye on the nursery pen, and have my birthing kit cleaned up and organized, and a stack of clean towels at the ready.

Spring is always a crazy time on the farm, but I am ready!

Quinn’s Twins!

Buckling #1

Buckling #2

Winter working and waiting

This was yet another busy winter clean-up weekend on the farm. Some very important things on the list got tended to- like cutting down the tree branches that were touching the roof so the insurance company would stop having a fit-and then some other less important work like pruning back more of the roses in the front garden. It was the perfect day for it. It was not too hot and the ground was still damp from last week’s rain, which made weeds with long taproots very easy to pull up. I love when I am able to get in “work mode” and really enjoy the pace of the day’s activities. Although I know we are still technically in the throes of winter – the night temperatures still drop below freezing and the days are still very short – but the gardening bug has bitten us early this year and we have a lovely raised bed of cole crops, garlic and onions planted now. We managed to plant a lettuce box as well. This will be a good distraction so we won’t be too hasty and try to plant warm season veggies too early. This year the greenhouse is full to the brim with lettuce and other bright green leafy things that can stand the low temps. It makes my heart feel full every time I open the door and step inside and see the benches covered with green, a real contrast from just outside its walls where the rest of the farm is still mostly brown and crunchy. There are also quite a few rose clones from fall growing out in a bright corner, and a few water baths with hopeful cuttings creeping along in the cold…..waiting.

The roses that were pruned back were in the “pink garden” next to the front of the house. They are mostly hybrid tea roses used for cutting and bringing into the house. This garden had been in a lot of shade until we cut down the big pine tree in front last winter, and now it gets a lot more hours of direct sun. The plants were scraggly and leggy from having to reach for the sun and it has taken the past few pruning seasons to try to get them back into shape. Some still look like they will take another couple of hard prunings before they will be just right. Right now they look like nothing but thorny brown sticks poking up out of the heavy layer of mulch around their feet…..waiting.

There are two does in the nursery pen this week, Quinn and Bunny. Quinn is dilating and has started to bag up so we keep a close eye on her these days. I am not sure about Bunny, I think she may fool us for a while still. This is Quinn’s first birth, so I am really not sure what to expect from her, but her mother never had a problem getting her kids on the ground, so we hope Quinn follows suit. The goat shed is clean and lined with fresh straw, the lights have been strung across the yard and set up in the pen, and I will make sure there is a stack of clean towels stacked and ready to go- but for now we just watch for signs and bide our time…..waiting.

Even though there are a few warm days here and there, winter still has a firm grip on the farm. There are only a handful of eggs each day and only the odd chick that hatches in the one incubator that we run through the winter months. We have eaten the last of the squash that was in storage, and feast sparingly on the jams and foods preserved from last summer’s harvest. We will be in full swing again before we know it, and looking for a chance to sit down all too soon, but for now we spend a lot of our time just waiting.

Winter’s “Tween” Week

December 21st  brought us once again to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The good news is, from here on out the days will slowly start to get longer once again. This is that in-between week when we start to put away Christmas and look ahead to the new year. Christmas cards have stopped coming but the good news is now the spring seed catalogs are starting to fill the mailbox! All the beautiful winter scenes – snowmen, stockings hung by crackling fireplaces  – are now being replaced by glossy pages of colorful spring flowers and plump, ripe fruits and vegetables. Stirring our hearts and minds into that euphoric state of happiness that helps us cope with the now freezing tempetures outside. The nights have been well under 30 degrees for at least the last 2 ½  weeks now (and yes, I do get to complain because this is Southern California).

During the morning feeding I get to go crunching across the frozen grass and push my way through stiff cold gate hinges to be met by frozen hoses as I fill mangers and de-ice water buckets.  The tribe of goats stay tucked down in the thick straw inside the barn and they don’t even budge when I fill the feeders with fresh hay. Nikki (the LDG) is usually somewhere in the middle of the pile of goats, all keeping each other warm, and only just barely lifts her head and opens one eye when I peek in on the group. They all know their breakfast will be waiting for them when they decide to leave their warm nest and venture out into the morning. For now, they will sleep in until the sun crests the mountain and the day warms up a bit more. To be honest, I can get these jobs done a bit faster when the animals are not all underfoot, but I miss the sounds of them pushing and calling for their morning meals.

As I look across the gardens and raised beds most everything is brown and crunchy and weary from the cold. Most of the dead plant matieral has been pulled up and tossed into the compost piles. The pomegranate trees were pruned back hard in the last few weeks and the piles of leaves and clippings have been burned as kindling in the fireplace. This week we worked on pruning back the roses and berry canes. I cleaned out the barn and treated all of the animals for lice since they are all sleeping together in closer quarters now. We took advantage of some of our time off to trim the spurs on all of the roosters and everyone in the barnyard received a pedicure this month (I have the blisters to prove it!) This coming week I plan to clean out the nursery pen and get it fixed up for the first babies of 2012 (due the end of January). There are currently three does in the breeding pens, and four more will go in late Febuary or early March for summer babies. This morning I dragged the plastic boxes from the garage back into the house and started to pack up the Christmas ornaments. Tonight I will try to finish this job, and then start to toss out the leftovers that have been pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about. I will eat the last of the christmas baked goods as I reflect on this season. Christmas is over, and the year is almost done. I am right in-between tired and happy this week. Not a bad place to be if you stop and think about it.

Helping Hands

I have come to discover that all work on this farm falls into one of two categories- a “job” or a  “project”.  A job usually needs to be completed in a shorter time frame, and a project can sometimes be left open-ended for a time. Both can mean a lot of hard work, and sometimes we put these things off for as long as we can before starting, knowing the work ahead of us. But just like in the song from Mary Poppins, if we try to have some fun while doing it, or at least make it interesting, it can go by a lot quicker and not seem as taxing on our minds and bodies. Also, more hands always make the work load lighter, so if you can get others to help out, it does make a big difference.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was a “work day” on the farm that started very early for us. After the morning’s first cups of coffee, it was time to finish the project of getting the large Joseph’s Coat rose, that has been overgrown and pulling his arbor down for the last 2 years, under control. I had already spent the better part of three or four hours (on and off) cutting back the overgrowth and bagging up the canes with their abundant sharp spines. Not an easy or fun task to say the least. Anyone who has ever tackled this particular species of rose knows exactly what I am talking about. He is a wicked spiny beast that is hard to tame – even the leaves have spines!

Now it was time to get down to shaping the main part of the bush, and getting the arbor back in an upright position. Since this was way too big a job for just myself, I enlisted the help of my friend Matt Boeck from Rancho Organica in Santa Barbara. He has much more knowledge then I do when it comes to pruning back canes. So, armed with long handled loppers and pruners in hand, we marched together into the battle against this massive errant rose. It took us a solid 45 minutes of clipping, lopping, and pulling, all the while being pricked, poked, scratched, and snagging our clothes before we were able to finally get this beastly climber under our control. Then we had to reposition the huge rebar arbor and tie the remaining canes to it. At last we were able to step back, tired and bloodied from the struggle, to admire our handiwork. A long hard project finished at last! In no time Joseph will make his comeback in a controlled way, and he will be much easier to deal with and tame in the coming years. Thank you Matt!

Next, it was time for processing the Christmas turkey and a few meat birds to go into the freezer. If you are vegan or a PETA person, please skip this part of the story and read below about the goats. This bird was scheduled to be done the week before Thanksgiving, but was given a stay of execution because we got rained out that day.  Our friend Katie from Zack Family Farm came over for this job, and Christy also joined in, and we spent the next couple of hours having what we affectionately call one of our “chicken pickin’ parties.” Again, the more hands, the easier and faster the job goes, and before we knew it, this job too was completed.

Then Dr. Rose (who happens to be our dentist) stopped by for a long overdue visit, and we gave her a full tour of the farm and all the animals. After that pleasant break, it was time for the last job of the day that we had been putting off for a week – time to worm. delouse, and trim the hoofs of all the goats who are out in the field (13). Christy graciously volunteered to help me with this. We moved the milk stand in front of the empty nursery pen and then brought out all of the tools and treatments necessary for this procedure. The goats were all bribed into the small pen with a bucket full of sweet grain and locked in. It is an old trick but they fall for it every time. Each goat is then brought out in turn, and either held on a lap, depending on how cooperative they are, or placed on the milk stand with their heads in the sanction while we treat them.  Most of the younger goats don’t mind these ministrations, but some of the older does do not like having their feet worked on, and in fact will fight against it. But in the end everyone gets treated and nothing is really hurt but the pride.  We also take this time to check eyes and noses, feel to see if everyone is in good weight under their heavy winter coats, adjust collars, and try to see if we can feel movement of the babies with any of the pregnant does. We were blessed to discover that all are in good health this winter.  After all the catching, dragging, hoisting, holding, inspecting, clipping and treating, it was the day’s end and we were beat. 13 goats times 4 feet each makes for 52 little hoofs to trim, so there is inevitably a blister or two by the end! As we walked wearily from the field and close the gate behind us, we are very tired, yet at the same time there is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that we completed this job. It needed to be done and we did it. As I dragged myself to my final reward – a nice hot shower to wash away the day’s dirt and grime – I felt good about the jobs and projects completed this day. I am thankful for all who joined in, their helping hands made these things easier and their company made the time go faster.  Thank you, one and all!

Farmwear

Each year in October St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai hosts their “Blessing of the Animals” service. It is a service conducted in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. He was said to have a great love for all animals and even preached sermons to the birds. Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. He knew that the bond between person and animals is like no other relationship.

No wonder people enjoy this opportunity to take their animal companions to St. Andrews for this special blessing. It is always held outdoors and I just love the sight of pairs of creatures – one human, one animal sitting close together, or held in arms. There is such a variety of dogs, large and small, that attend but each and every living thing is welcomed. Every year a large tortoise spends most of his time meandering through the rows of chairs set up on the grassy lawn. I remember one year a small clear plastic box being passed around with a very cool little horned toad, who looked prickly but felt more like rubber when touched. There have been birds, bunnies, snakes, and a large white goose in attendance over the years.

Katie with Junior

When the priest passes each animal for the blessing, he asks for the animal’s name, and then he welcomes them with a special prayer. As the prayer is offered they are gently sprinkled with holy water. Believe it or not, most of the animals take this sacramental spritz with dignity. During the singing of the hymns a few non-human voices can be heard lifted in song, and usually a very well-timed grunt or squeal is heard during the sermon, which makes everyone giggle. I think this is enjoyed by all who attend, regardless if they are pet owners or not…

Every year we go and take one or two of the baby goats with us. This year, I took Mercy and Val. Christy held little Val and I had the larger kid on a lead. She went from standing next to me to wanting to be held.

Christy with Val

Just as the service ended, I was sitting down with Mercy draped across my lap when a little boy approched us. He spoke softly so I leaned closer to hear him. He was around 4 years old with light brown hair and big blue eyes. “What is your goat’s name?” he asked me softly. “Her name is Mercy,” I responded. “What is your name?” I asked him. “Landon” he answered. “Landon, would you like to pet Mercy?” I asked. He immediately dropped onto his knees in the grass and made eye contact with her. He cupped his little hands and then gently put them under the goat’s chin, and brought their noses together until they touched. Then he gave the goat a gentle scratch on the head. He stood up again, and looked at me, “Ya know what?” he said. “What?” I asked. “I can tell that you are a farmer.” he said. “Really?” I asked, thinking that he was obviously discerning this from the fact that I was sitting there with a barnyard animal in my lap, “How can you tell?” He pointed to the overalls I was wearing. “Because you are wearing those, and that’s what farmers wear.” he stated confidently. “Yes, you are right,” I said, taken back a bit by this observation, “farmers wear overalls.” I was not even thinking that I had put on a pair of capri-length bib overalls and blue work shirt that morning. I didn’t do it to look like a farmer, just as something I wear to deal with the animals in. I guess somewhere along the way this little boy must have identifed overalls as something that only farmers wear- our “costume” for the job of farmer. I smiled at his statement as this was something that had never crossed my mind before. In another moment he ran off.I don’t think I will ever be able to buckle up into my overalls ever again without thinking about that exchange. Pointed out to me by a four year old boy, I will think of them always as my costume, my uniform that identifies me as a farmer. From now on I will wear my overalls as a symbol of my occupation, not as just a cover-up from barnyard debris. Thank you, Landon for bringing dignity to my farm clothes, I will wear them proudly from now on.

As Autumn Begins and a 12-Hour Road Trip

I picked the first ripe bright orange pumpkin from the garden today and brought it into the house. As I set it down on the edge of my dark brown wooden dining table, my eyes caught the two warm fall colors together for the first time. Very autumnish. Just at that moment I thought how the land is now signaling that we are officially headed for fall. It is funny how the plants and animals here seem to know this even before I became aware of it. The summer season had changed her gown before I even noticed. I just started to be aware of the fact that in the last two mornings it is still dark when the alarm goes off at 6 am. This is one of the first things that brings my mind to the awareness that the summer season is officially winding down and will began giving way to autumn.

The equinox was actually on the 23rd of this month (at 9:04 if you’re counting). All across the nation, folks will be wrapping up their growing seasons as they say goodbye to their summer gardens. Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of this passage for most of the United States. I guess it’s time for me to toss my white sandals into the back of the closet, and start to look for some of my sweaters now.

We are lucky here in parts of California, as we will still be able to plant in the fall, and coax at least one more round of summer veggies before the winter frost sets in. I am always thankful we live here in Ventura County because we can grow at least some veggies and herbs year-round! Onions, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, garlic are great for planting this time of year! We currently have bell peppers coming out of our ears, and much squash still going strong. Some years past we have had long “Indian summers” where the warm weather has remained – one year we had ripe tomatoes up until November!

The roses are all putting off a lot of red growth right now as they gear up for their fall blooms. These are the blooms they will set their winter hips with to save energy in to get them through the winter months, so these blooms will be large and longer lasting then most of the spring blossoms. I like my rose gardens in fall.

The poultry are about through molting, and it has been a real chore to keep ahead of raking up all the feathers every week. Egg production is still strong, and we are still getting a lot of nice chicks hatching in both incubators every few days. The game bird season is over, but we did have two turkey poults that hatched very late this year. We are still getting a few quail chicks.

In the goat yard, we have weaned the babies, and it has gone well this year. I think the moms were ready for this to happen, even though the babies complained a bit.

We welcomed a new face here a month ago – a young herd sire to replace the two older bucks we lost over a year ago. Desert Sun’s Royal Demand came to us all the way from Desert Sun Pygmies in Klamath Falls, OR. Linda Colville has been a breeder and pygmy goat judge for many years and has a beautiful herd of animals there. I had owned a buck from her for many years and already know that this bloodline mixes well with mine. Although young at 8 months old, Royal Demand has already done well in the show ring, has good structure, strong caramel genetics in his pedigree, and to top it all off he has a sweet personality. What more could we ask for in an upcoming herd sire! The only trouble we had with this buck was the actual act of getting him from Klamath Falls, OR to Ventura, CA. The airlines charge over $300 to fly an animal in the baggage compartment so we decided to try a different way. Linda had a friend who lived about 3 hours away, and she was headed from Oregon to a pygmy goat show in Watsonville, CA on August 19th. We would be able to pick him up there the next day on the 20th. Watsonville is about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Ventura. Woo Hoo- ROAD TRIP! A very dear friend of the farm learned about our plans and decided to make it an exciting adventure for us. We were provided with a beautiful new rental SUV to use, and enough gas and food money for our journey. Christy and I packed up a cooler full of food and drinks, and we hit the road at noon on Saturday. We drove all day, stopping along the way every two hours or so. We took Mandy (Christy’s dachshund) with us and enough CDs to keep us entertained the whole trip. We left right around noon, took turns driving and oddly enough, got back to the farm just about midnight-twelve hours later, even after being a bit lost once or twice. We made very good time. The new guy has settled in to the farm well, and we are enjoying this new addition to our herd.  Welcome to Blue Hill Farms, Royal Demand, we hope you will be very happy here!

Faring the Fair

Today is opening day of The Ventura County Fair, located at beautiful Seaside Park in Ventura CA.  The 2011 theme is “The Bounty of the County”.  This year we were invited back to Uncle Leo’s Barn, an area of the fair set up for children of all ages to come and get an up-close look at a variety of farmyard animals from this county. The helpful staff is always on hand to answer questions and tell the stories of the animals’ lives on their respective farms. Since I was a city kid growing up, many of my first and fondest encounters with farm animals happened at our local fair, so this is something that I am always happy to participate in. I love to see the children interacting with the animals and wonder which ones of them will possibly someday become our future farmers of America.
Our adventure began just after supper last night when Christy and I accomplished the arduous task of collecting the selected animals (Kitty the pygmy goat and her 6 week old twins)  and systematically loading them into the back of the Dodge Dakota for the short ride to the fairgrounds. Kitty was not very keen on the idea (to say the least) and she would not budge an inch, and needed to be hoisted up and carried-she objected to this to such a state that we had to get a rolling cart to stand her in to get her the rest of the way down the driveway (the only thing that got hurt was her pride). Once in the truck with her kids, having located some feed, she calmed back down. The next stop was over to our neighbor Katie’s farm to help her load up her three Emden goslings into crates, and then everyone into the truck!

Kitty was not really very happy about having to share her ride with the poultry, but there was not much she could do about it anyway.  Total- three pygmy goats, three giant white geese, and three silly gals- needless to say there was MUCH squawking going on in the truck the entire ride to the fair by both humans and animals alike.
Arriving at the Garden Street entrance of the fairgrounds, we were ushered in and allowed to park right out in front of the barn. Some of the staff was there to greet us and help us unload. The geese were carried in their crates and the baby goats were scooped up in our arms and carried in without any problem. Then there was Kitty, who once again would not budge an inch towards the barn. Even just 30 feet seems like a very long way when you are on the other end of the lead of a stubborn animal that is determined NOT to walk for ANY reason we could give her. We tried to coax with a feed bucket, we tried to let her follow her two babies – nothing. She would not budge. In the end, Christy hoisted her up unceremoniously and carried her stubborn butt all the way into the barn and plopped her down in the pen. No small feat, as she must weigh 65+ lbs, has a full udder of milk, and had all four of her legs as stiff as iron and unbending every inch of the way. Not to mention the evil eye she was giving everyone or the unhappy grunts she was voicing at all of us the entire time. But as is the ways of most creatures, once she found the feeder she was content with the new digs. The display pen for the goats is set up with a tall wooden ramp with a platform at the top, and also has a big rubber tire for the kids to play on. The doe kids were not too sure about this setup at first, as they only have had logs to jump around on in their pen at home. Diana was the first of the two kids to be brave enough to try out the ramp but I was sure by the end of the night she and Tess would both be playing “queen of the ramp”. After fair notice to the barn staff that Kitty is clever enough to not only open up the latches on her pen for untimely escapes, but if left unchecked she may also let the others out as well, we went over feeding and care instructions.  We left the animals to settle in a bit and went out and turned up the main thoroughfare to stroll along and cool off from our struggle with Miss Kitty.

Although the fair was not yet open there were tons of people all around. Trucks were parked over every foot of the walkways and the place was bustling with activity. Vendors were setting up booths and unloading boxes, rides were being tested and everyone else seemed to have a bucket or a broom in their hands. Officials in electric golf carts were swerving by on all sides and last-minute touches were being put on displays everywhere. Halfway down the fairway we ran into the small livestock superintendent, Elzie Daniels, who we then had a nice chat with about what has been going on in everyone’s backyards and barns for the last year, livestock births and deaths,  and things we wished to purchase. It is always nice to run into old friends and catch up on each other’s lives. He even had some photos to show us of his beautiful Jersey calf born on the 4th of July. Congrats Elzie, she is a beaut!

We continued our walk all the way down to the main gate and then turned around and headed back to the barns to check and see how the critters were doing. We ran into a couple of 4-H kids bringing in their animals in the rabbit and poultry barn and after a few more short chats we did one last check of our animals before heading back to the truck. The geese had found the wading pool and Kitty already had her head in the feeder. The twins were bouncing on the big rubber tire and it looked like they just might be the hit entertainment of the barn this year. I know the children will love them. Things were all in place as they should be, and we are all ready once again to fare the fair!