Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Doe Kid, Buck Kid, Misidentification

Now, any goat owner will tell you it’s easy to tell a doe kid from a buck kid. There are several very obvious differences.

Buck kids have scrotums. They are smooth under the tail. They urinate from the middle of their bellies with their legs planted out in a rectangle.

Doe kids have a tiny vulva under their tails. They squat to urinate. They tend to have smaller, more streamlined heads than buck kids.

buck and doe kid

These two Nubian kids are so alike in size. I assumed both were bucks. Wrong. The black one is a buck. The gray one is a doe.

Telling a doe kid from a buck kid is much easier than figuring out whether or not a kid is polled. For that the hair is swirled over the horn buds and smooth over polled. Hair can stick up or otherwise distort this look.

Three does had kids. Agate was first in the morning. Violet was acting like kids all day but had them in the morning. Lydia had hers that evening.

There was enough time to leisurely take care of each kid set. I took a cursory check and decided Agate had two little bucks. She moved into the large pen with Matilda and Rose.

Nubian buck kid

This little kid is definitely a buck. I double checked. High Reaches Agate isn’t concerned about it. She loves her kids.

That was a mistake. Matilda started chasing Agate. Hay was a temporary distraction. The chase resumed.

Matilda and her week old buck moved into the barn. Peace reigned in the kidding pen. The kids piled up in their cubby hole and slept.

Nubian High Reaches Agate with her kids

The problem with an Houdini buck is keeping him away from yearlings. So High Reaches Agate had twins at just over a year old. She had little trouble kidding, but didn’t know what had happened. She stood looking at the kids, then at me, then at the kids. She sniffed them, but didn’t talk to them. Finally one of the kids started talking. Agate is now a devoted mother goat.

Kids have trouble staying warm for the first few days. They can be stepped on. I build cubby holes for them.

A kid cubby hole is a line of bales against an outside wall. Two bales are put in front spaced apart half the length of a bale.

Two bales are piled on top of the wall line behind the space. A bale is placed over the space leaving a cubby hole.

Kids move into the hole. The hay provides insulation. The small space stays warmer than the outer temperature and keeps drafts out. Does can sniff their kids but can’t step on them.

This year I’m short on hay. Two straw bales backed by thick flakes of straw with a two inch thick board over the top did the job.

Nubian doe kid

How could I ever think this lovely kid was a buckling? All I can think is that I was very careless. This is definitely a doeling belonging to High Reaches Agate.

Kids grow fast. They want to jump on things and run. Even a big kid pen is too small in a few days.

I moved the kids out into the barn while the rest of the herd was out to pasture. My barn is set up with kid cubby holes.

A sunny day invited pictures of these last six kids. I moved Agate and her kids out. That’s when I noticed. Agate doesn’t have two buck kids. She has one buck kid and one doe kid. Oops.

This is a buck year for me. There are six buck kids. With the addition of Agate’s doe kid, there are three doe kids.

And I’m reminding myself to be more careful in the future.

Goat kid antics play a part in the madcap adventures in Capri Capers. Check out the sample pages.

Doe Rejecting Her Kid

High Reaches Matilda is a good mother goat. She has raised triplets. This year she is rejecting her kid, the little doe from her twins.

The day started out like any other day. Morning chores went smoothly. The herd was lined up devouring morning hay.

Toward noon I opened the pasture goat. The herd rushed out. Hay is great, but new spring grass is much better.

kid Nubian doe kept

High Reaches Matilda’s little Nubian buckling is her pride and joy. He thinks he’s something important too. This is the kid Matilda decided to keep.

I watched the herd file off toward the north, closed the gate and went back to the barn to let the boys out. Matilda was still in the barn munching on hay.

This goat has been playing the ‘any time’ game for two or three weeks. She is one of the first out the pasture gate. Kids were due today.

Bucks can be nuisances. I let Gaius out and ran him out of the barn. He was upset as he wanted to scrounge for leftover hay. Instead I put a barrier across the door.

rejecting her kid doe

Why would High Reaches Matilda reject this lovely Nubian doe? She is lively, alert, active and pretty. Still, Matilda was very busy with her little buck and didn’t notice this one. When her attention was called to the doe, Matilda seemed to think this wasn’t hers.

Augustus hung over the barrier. Anything new needs investigation. He finally gave up and went out to eat fresh grass.

Matilda hung out in the barn all day. She was in labor. She had feet showing. She wanted to wait for the herd to come back, so she did – almost.

The first kid, a little frosted buck, was born about the time the herd was wandering back from pasture. A barn full of goats is not healthy for a newborn. I picked him up and led Matilda in to the kidding section.

Matilda was going to have a second kid, but I had to put the boys up and let the herd in. I left to do early evening chores. Matilda was happily taking care of her little buck.

When I got back, a second kid was on the straw. Matilda was still taking care of the little buck and ignoring the cries of this second kid.

Nubian doeling

Nubian doe High Reaches Rose is delighted with her little doe. This is Rose’s first kid, but she is a good mother.

Picking this second spotted kid up made Matilda stop to look her over. She gave her a couple of licks and turned back to her little buck. She was rejecting her kid.

Usually a doe rejecting her kid indicates something is wrong with the kid. One first freshner rejected her first kid and was a wonderful mother the second kidding. Why was Matilda rejecting her kid?

As far as I can tell, this kid is fine. She is active. She loves to eat. Evidently Matilda bonded to the first one and didn’t notice she had a second so assumes this one is being foisted off on her.

Whatever the reason, I now have a bottle baby.

New Kids Coming

This year’s new kids are due any day. Which day is never certain anymore as Augustus is a master of escape. Maybe I should change his name to Houdini.

Usually the arrival of new kids is anticipated enthusiastically. This year is different. I know I can keep none of the kids, no matter how cute or endearing or special.

Someone else will have those special kids. I get to see them for three months, then say good-bye.

Nubian High Reaches Matilda expecting new kids

Nubian High Reaches Matilda’s kids have settled. Still she is playing the ‘any day’ game making everyone wait to see her kids.

My herd is as big as I can care for now. It’s easier to sell the kids I’ve known for only a short while than does I’ve known for years. The kids will all leave.

Since only Augustus was in on when several of my does were bred, I am left watching and waiting. The does know this and do their best to look like today’s the day for weeks.

Matilda and Agate look like they will be first. Matilda’s kids have settled. She has sunk around her tail bone. Her udder is taking its time filling up.

Agate has discharge from time to time. She has a nice udder.

Nubian High Reaches Violet expecting new kids

Nubian High Reaches Violet is starting to waddle, but is not concerned. Her kids will arrive sometime in March.

Then there is Violet. Her udder is starting to fill out. Her kids haven’t settled yet. Her history is getting both done overnight.

In the meantime, I’ve put the barn in order. There is a large area for the new mothers and their new kids.

Pens are better, but are more difficult to set up. Two of my panels are in use and unavailable. A third could be used, if I have to. That leaves me two.

Agate expecting new kids

Nubian High Reaches Agate is getting ready to kid.

The two can become one pen or the front of a kidding area. The area was picked.

March is a waiting game now. I’m watching Matilda and Agate. However, Violet, Pixie, Lydia and Rose are getting ready too.

New kids are fun. Will they be does or bucks? Will they have spots? Will there be triplets? All of us are waiting to find out.

Writing Prompts Challenges

The last time I remember working with writing prompts was fourth grade. Mrs. Adams would put a line of pictures along the blackboard. Each student chose one to write a story about.

My books now trace themselves back to an idea about a plot or a character. I don’t think of these as writing prompts, but suppose they are. That is what a prompt is: a topic idea to build a story around.

goat show writing prompts

This is a good writing prompt for me, being at a goat show. Rural topics are a big challenge for city dwellers.

A writing buddy likes writing from these prompts and talked me into trying a weekly prompt. We trade off weeks coming up with an idea.

My writing prompts are usually some happening like picking up a coin. Hers are one word. The latest was Cursed. We tend to drive each other mad as the prompts force us to approach our writing from a new angle, get out of our comfort zones.

writing prompts fawn

Could you use this picture as a writing prompt? This fawn is old enough to start losing its spots and be on its own, but young enough to not race away when come across by a vehicle.

Cursed was such a word for me. I’m not much interested in the horror, occult or similar topics. I like much more practical, everyday topics. What could I do with this one?

The thing about a writing prompt piece is its rough draft quality. Many times the piece is written in a short time with no editing review. I came up with this one:


I stand assessing the enemy. I am bigger than the enemy. The enemy has vastly more members. I have weapons to attack my enemies. They have only their roots.

And, in the end, the enemy will win.

I know before beginning, the enemy will win. The enemy always wins this war. Still I get ready and go out to do battle hoping to delay the inevitable.

Smart people are supposed to learn from their mistakes. I fight this battle every year refusing to learn, or accept, my defeat.

Every fall I put up barriers to stop the enemy. Every spring I put up more barriers. The enemy’s numbers are reduced, but the army still comes.

Every spring I plow up the legions of tiny enemies. Every summer I dig and pull hundreds of my enemies. The enemy regroups and launches a new assault.

Why don’t I admit defeat? Why don’t I give up and surrender?

Each winter I consider quitting. I tabulate the costs in time and money. Both are precious commodities.

Spring wafts into view. The land greens. The air lightens. The birds sing. The seed racks and transplants arrive in the stores.

I am doomed, cursed, fated to fight the war another year.

Why? Why can’t I admit defeat? Why can’t I resist spring?

That first sun-ripened, sun-warmed tomato is why.


Yes, it is gardening season here. My spinach and turnips are sprouting. Flood cleanup has delayed putting the Buttercrunch lettuce in.

writing prompts floods

Nothing like ending a drought with six inches of rain and a flood. This might make a good writing prompt, but not until cleaning up is a distant memory.

I wanted to see the ravines in flood for the Carduan Chronicles. Wading through the water wasn’t an option.

Scrounging Winter Pasture

For months the goats were out gorging on grass and browse. Winter pasture has little to offer.

Last year’s wind storm blew down big trees. The goats sampled the leaves. There were too many leaves for the goats to eat all of them. Those remaining are now brown and dry.

Normally the grass is deep in the fall from late rains. The rains did not come. The grass is skimpy.

fallen trees are winter pasture

Trina and Flame are munching on the last of these leaves on a fallen oak. The leaves are a sad reminder of better times for browsing.

Goats used to walking miles every day don’t like being cooped up. They soon pick on each other. Since several are heavy with kids, this is not good.

Winter pasture helps. There may not be much to eat. The goats must go distances to scrounge what there is.

Don’t think the goats wear themselves out. Goats don’t walk as though on a treadmill. They wander to one area, nibble, lie down and relax. Then they get up and repeat the routine in another place.

Nubian doe in winter pasture

Nubian doe Sasha, the oldest doe, relaxes in the remains of the winter pasture.

Over the warm months the goats eat breakfast then line up at the pasture gate. Now the herd lines up in the barn waiting for hay. Only after the hay is eaten, trampled and otherwise disposed of, do the goats entertain the notion of going out to winter pasture.

Nubian kids on winter pasture

The three remaining Nubian doe kids are getting big. They play tagalong after the does on the swings through the winter pasture and the woods.

My routine changes accordingly. I milk, put out hay and go to the house. A couple of hours later I go back to the barn. If the weather is good, I let the goats out. If the weather is bad, more hay goes into the troughs.

The bucks root for good weather. The does and bucks share the barn lot. When the does are in, the bucks are in their pens. When the does go out, the bucks get out into the lot.

Nubian herd on winter pasture

Hope keeps the Nubians herd scrounging through the winter pasture and the woods. Maybe something new has appeared.

The rains seem to be returning. At least, several storms have dropped an inch of water each lately. The temperatures are warm for February. The grass has noticed and is putting up a few pioneer blades.

Perhaps winter pasture will give way to spring pasture in a couple of weeks. The goats would be delighted.

Designing Carduan Ravines

Ravines abound in the Ozark hills around me. Small ones are merely folds coming down hills. Narrow ones are where two hills are close together. Large ones can broaden into wide shelves of land adjoining a deep graveled creek bed.

For the Carduans, their ravine will be their world for a long time. The distance they can go exploring will be limited.

At a bit over five feet tall, a mile is 2,100 steps for me. That makes each step about two and a half feet long or half my height.

Since my Carduans average four inches tall, their steps would be two inches long. A mile is 63,360 inches long or 31,680 Carduan steps long, about a 15 mile equivalent.

Admittedly Ozark ravines aren’t that long. The longest one nearby is a mere half mile. This would still be a seven mile Carduan hike.

Carduan combined ravines

Creating a world for a novel is always a challenge whether the world is our own or on an alien planet. No Ozark ravine is the same as any other Ozark ravine. That made designing one for The Carduan Chronicles easy and hard. This is the rough draft. Next it needs a distance scale and detailed drawings. I wish I could just take a picture.

The immediate Carduan ravine therefore will need to have everything they will need within a short distance. What will they need?

First is their landing ledge. This almost level rock ledge juts out of a hillside and overhangs the ravine.

Second is a water source. Springs and seeps are a common Ozark feature. adding one to the Carduan ravine is reasonable.

Third is level ground suitable for agriculture. The Carduans are an agricultural people raising livestock and crops for food and fiber.

Fourth is a safe place to build homes. Ozark ravines are prone to flooding so this must be high enough to stay out of the flood waters. It must be defensible from coyotes, bobcats, owls, snakes and other predators who would consider the Carduans tasty snacks.

I went exploring nearby ravines. One yielded the perfect ledge rocks. First criterion met.

Another had two ravines joining, one with a spring and the other larger one with the possibility of level land. Another had a wonderful series of rock ledges for the spring water to descend in a series of small waterfalls. The second criterion met.

The level land came from another section of ravine. This has several ravines feeding into a main one creating deltas. These are high enough to avoid small high water events, but will flood once or twice a year. The Nile River would do this and provide wonderful soil for the Egyptians. Third criterion met.

The fourth criterion solution was found on the sides of a ravine. It will be noted as solved here as it is a part of the story.

So now I get to draw out the map.

The first of The Carduan Chronicles is schedules for release in October, 2018.

Designing the Carduan Space Ship

Winter weather has returned. Except for chores that must be done, staying inside is the main plan of action. I am back to work on The Carduan Chronicles including designing their space ship.

Space ships are the things of books for me. Teaching science I covered things like lift, payload and thrust as factors in flying. Paper airplanes and water rockets made great labs.

But space ships?

The Carduans arrive in a space ship. It’s a short flight, supply ship equipped to carry up to 60 passengers and cargo. It has no heavy weaponry or long range capabilities. All it has to do is accelerate to speed, drift into the worm tunnel, then land at the destination.

So I need a simple, bare bones space ship.

Where do I start? Dimensions. The Carduans are four inches tall. The ship must be six inches tall, minimum.

Carduan space ship for The Carduan Chronicles

This is the floor plan of the Carduan space ship. for The Carduan Chronicles. I prefer to work with pencil – it is erasable. I inked in the main lines so I could scan my design. Please forgive the roughness. There are lots of crates in the storage area. If they are standard size like the food crates, the piles are five high and six deep. What is in them? I don’t know. It’s like finding a pile of presents under a Christmas tree. As the story progresses, the crates will be opened and discoveries made.

The ship must have a thick, insulated hull as space is cold. There needs to be an area for wiring and other pipes inside that hull. There are the observation screens, the control computer areas, the passenger/cargo areas.

Two door locks provide ingress and egress. Engines and fuel tanks take room. There are solar batteries, bathroom, water reclaimer and storage, infirmary, air tank storage, trash area.

Unlike the NASA Gemini capsule, the Carduans want room to move around. The space ship keeps getting bigger and taller.

And the size has constraints. An Ozark ravine can be large. Even the rock ledges can be large. But trees are a problem.

Finally the Carduan space ship was stuffed into an oval 30 inches long and 18 inches wide. All the interior areas were fit in. And there was plenty of passenger/cargo room.

How tall should the ship be? At first I thought 18 inches. That was over four times the average height and seemed excessive. It shrank to 12 inches.

side view of Carduan space ship for The Carduan Chronicles

From the side, the Carduan space ship is rather plain. It has no windows. It should have several raised areas for the sensors. There would be one on the top, two on each side, one in front and one in the rear. I decided to go with rollers rather than wheels as they would provide better support across the ship. It is designed to carry cargo, possible heavy cargo. This is why there are three rollers. The rollers are four inches diameter extending two from the base of the ship to the ground.

That gives room for the engines at the rear. And additional cargo space over the engine compartment.

Since the ship is a short flight transport, main engine access can be from the outside. That lets me make the engine compartment only 6 inches high.

The ship must be able to land. Perhaps wheels such as are on airplanes would be better. Still, I wanted rollers, three of them. And I am designing the ship.

Is this the best space ship? Probably not. Is it a feasible ship? I don’t know. Does it work? It seems to. And that is what matters.

You may disagree or see some problem I missed. If so, please let me know.

Winter Garden Planning

Winter garden planning in January? It’s too cold to start seeds or grow anything. March or April makes more sense for garden planning.

Not really. March and April are months for planting. Without winter garden planning, what will I plant?

winter garden planning with garlic

The first part of winter garden planning for me is putting those garlic cloves into the dirt in October and mulching them. They don’t look like much in the cold and snow. Just wait.

Plans for me actually begin in the fall. I clear out the remains of the year’s garden, manure, cover beds and mulch the garden beds. The manure composts over the winter. The mulch keeps weeds from growing.

Many weeds start growing in the fall. By spring these are formidable plants. The most common in my garden are dead nettle and chickweed. Mulch stops these.

garlic in spring

Now this is a garlic bed! And those unhappy, spindly, cold garlic plants look like this after a month of spring weather.

I do allow these weeds to grow in my garden paths as they bloom early. Bees need early nectar sources. The pathways are weeded, covered and mulched about April.

What do I do for winter garden planning? First I decide what vegetables were popular, grew well and would be good for the next garden. Second I think about new vegetables to try. These are usually long lists.

Garden catalogs are great places for vegetable ideas. They do try to make every kind and variety sound too good to pass up.

winter garden planning for potatoes

Garden beds look so forlorn empty, covered with mulch and snow. These beds will grow potatoes in the spring.

The third step for winter garden planning is to map out the garden. My garden may seem large. It still has a limited number of beds. Even with succession planting, something that rarely works out well for me, my lists must be trimmed.

Each garden bed on my map is marked with what will be planted in it. The definite repeats from last year go in first. Then others are added as room permits.

This brings up the next consideration. Just how much do I need to grow?

I love growing potatoes. They usually grow well for me and make good eating.

spring potatoes

In April and May, those snow covered garden beds will be covered with big, green potato plants with potatoes hiding under the mulch.

There are two of us. We do not want to eat potatoes everyday. I do not want to throw potatoes away.

I plant three beds of potatoes. That is about ninety plants. Enough for us and a few friends.

Tomatoes are another popular crop. I normally plant four kinds: a paste, a red eating, a yellow eating and a cherry. Three plants of each produce plenty for fresh use, frozen supplies and extras.

My favorite vegetables are the colored bell peppers. Last year I grew eight colors. These might be popular at a Farmers Market, but most of mine ripen too late so I gave away several bags of them. This year I will grow four colors, eight plants of each.

In a way, winter garden planning is as hard as the actual garden is. My plan never quite works. Cold, wet spring weather or summer drought or heat wave or invading creatures don’t show up on the plan, but still happen.

Why keep doing a plan? So I can try to keep the chaos in check. Besides, I need to order seeds and start seedlings.

Planning Cardua Science Fiction

Winter is down time mostly for me. The garden is done. The goats are eating hay peeking out at the bad weather. The chickens are on vacation. I write. This winter I am planning Cardua.

What is Cardua?

It is Earth, except the Arkosans don’t know that. All they know is the little piece of the Ozarks where they are now stranded. They call it Cardua.

planning Cardua landing site

The Arkosan space ship is 30 inches long and 18 inches wide. Still, that requires a good sized rock ledge for it to land. These rocks are a bit small, but the ideal set up. The Carduan Chronicles begins with their arrival.

Science fiction is one of the genres I read lots of during and after university. I liked the science base used by Isaac Asimov. A modern novel in that vein is “The Martian” by Andy Weir.

So “The Carduan Chronicles” became a science-based science fiction survival tale. Nine Arkosans are stranded in an Ozark ravine. They arrive during a February ice storm. Since they are very small, they won’t venture far from where they landed.

That leaves me planning Cardua.

planning Cardua view

Compared to the Arkosans, I am a giant. So I got down to their level to see what they would see out the door lock on their space ship. The trees look a lot taller. The rock ledge has no easily seen boundary. That brings a new challenge in writing this book as I must remember to see the world through their eyes, not mine.

If you were stranded out in the wilderness, no phone, no way to contact anyone or get home, no hope of rescue, what would you need to survive? My list includes water, food, shelter and protection from predators and weather.

Why an Ozark ravine? Because I thought I had the perfect place a short distance from the house. Except I didn’t.

Now I am planning Cardua by using parts of several ravines and creating the perfect place for the story. First, the Arkosans needed a place to land their ship. I found two large, flat rocks sitting one on top of the other that will do nicely.

planning Cardua ravine

This Ozark glacier was a surprise find up in a ravine with the perfect set up for the Carduan landing site, if I move the rock ledge into place. The glacier could add some spice to the story as well. Ice skating anyone?

Second, the Arkosans will need a water source. In the beginning they will use ice from an ice storm. Later they will need a more permanent source.

The Ozarks have lots of springs and seeps. One branch of the Carduan ravine will have a spring. I found this in a different ravine.

Third, the Arkosans will need a place to build homes. I’m still working on this but have a couple of places with possibilities.

Fourth, the Arkosans will need flat land to farm. I found this in a ravine, actually two ravines. The problem is flooding. The flat lands are the mouths of wet weather creeks.

Research is part of writing. The nice part of planning Cardua is the excuse to go out exploring the ravines in winter.

Feeding Starving Cardinals

Winter has decided to remind us this season is supposed to be cold. I think highs in the forties are cold enough. Winter disagrees.

I bundle up to face the cold. Non hibernating wild creatures try, but their main defense is eating extra food. The starving cardinals have arrived at the bird feeder.

starving cardinals wait

Starving cardinals line up waiting for seeds to arrive, then wait their turn in the feeder after the blue jays have come and gone.

There are lots of birds eating at the bird feeder this winter. Mourning doves, titmice, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees and red breasted woodpeckers are the most numerous. Cardinals have been around the last few years, but not in great numbers.

This year is different. This year a flock of cardinals has moved into the area.

Our feeder isn’t fancy. It’s only a platform with a roof over it. The roof is new this year.

starving cardinal

Male cardinals are in their spring finery already making them a vivid red in a gray world. They begin marking out nesting territories in February.

The roof sets down around the platform and is not attached to it. Wind finds the roof is an airfoil. Strong winds lift the roof assembly off the feeder and drop it to the ground a few feet away.

I do tie the roof down, but baling twine wears out. So, every few years I need to repair or build a roof.

Our bird feed isn’t fancy either. Sunflower seeds, scratch feed and peanut butter go out every morning and get picked up every night.

Birds have cleaned off the grass seed, the giant ragweed seeds, the thistles, the chicory. Much of the fall seed crop never appeared due to drought. Lean times are adding to cold this winter.

downy woodpecker

This smallest woodpecker in the area is the Downy Woodpecker. They are common visitors to the bird feeder loving peanut butter and sunflower seeds.

Around dawn each morning I look out the kitchen window toward the bird feeder. As light seeps across the yard, I can see the starving cardinals lining up in the old apple tree.

The other birds are there too. Brilliant red feathers make cardinals easy to spot. They give the now dead tree a Christmas look adorning gray branches with red ornaments.

Later the seeds are out on the feeder. It is rush hour. Birds swoop in, eat, glide away. Some swoop in, grab a seed and fly off to eat in the peach tree.

Simple as it is, the bird feeder does well. It lets me watch the birds, both the regulars and the surprise visitors like rose breasted grosbeaks and towhees. It makes sure the starving cardinals and other birds don’t starve in spite of lean and cold times.

Winter Deer Come Calling

One of the advantages to not keeping dogs is seeing wildlife in the backyard. Some like the possums raid the persimmon trees. Winter deer come to trim the lawn.

Deer do come through the yard late at night over the summer. I find their tracks in the driveway. These deer are no fools. Weekly mowed grass is much thicker and juicier than the wild grass left to go to seed.

Summer deer are tan to reddish brown. Their coats are sleek.

winter deer close by

Much of the time deer grazing through the backyard stay at the rear of the yard near the ravine. Winter deer come up closer to the house as the grass is still longer. This one went by under the bird feeder. Birds are sloppy eaters and sunflower seeds taste good.

Winter deer are different. These deer have traded their summer coats in on dark brown edging into black ones. These are bushy coats.

Hunting season is mostly over. The gun portion is. The deer seem to know this and come before dark.

The dry weather has dried much of the vegetation on the hills. The cold has withered much of the rest of it. Deer need to keep eating to keep warm.

winter deer grazing

Good winter grazing is getting scarce early this year because of the drought. The young deer was eating as much as she could on her way across the yard.

Lawns don’t grow much over the winter. Ours starts a bit long as we quit mowing before the grass stops growing. It’s about six inches tall when the killing frosts put the grass to sleep for the winter.

The yard is in a low area. It stays moist longer than the hills. The grass is still green.

After the sun goes behind the hill, the first winter deer wanders out of the wet weather creek and grazes its way across the yard. This is a younger doe. She goes back into the brush on the other side of the yard.

winter deer on alert

This young deer has spotted me sneaking around from the back porch camera in hand. Her bushy cheeks are part of her winter coat.

A second larger doe then follows a similar route. She is hard to see in the dusk.

There were a couple of younger bucks grazing in the yard before hunting season. If they are still around, they are coming through after dark now. Once it rains again, their tracks will show they’ve been by.

Winter deer like winter birds are a pleasant distraction from winter chores in the cold.

My New Polled Kid

Late kids, especially single kids, are at a disadvantage. They lack the large play group earlier kids have. The kid equipment such as disbudding iron and tattooer are cleaned and put away. This is a polled kid so some of the equipment can stay locked away.

When I first started raising Nubians, polled goats were not difficult to find. Horns are a nuisance at best and a disaster waiting to happen at worst. Disbudding, banding and dehorning are not enjoyable at all. Polled was the way to go.

There wasn’t much of a meat goat market back then. So the uptick in hermaphrodites was a problem. It seemed tied to polled. Polled fell out of favor.

polled kid standing still

Standing quietly beside another doe kid, my new polled kid looks so tame. In truth, I was lucky to get this picture as she is rarely still for more than a few seconds.

I still have polled does in my herd. High Reaches Butter’s Juliette is one of them. This polled kid is her daughter. I have kept another daughter, Lydia, also polled.

One problem goat owners have with a polled kid is knowing whether or not it is polled. The polled trait is dominant so three out of four kids from a polled parent will statistically be polled. Reality can be very different.

I look at the hair on the head. Horn buds have a swirl over the top of them. Polled horn bosses have a ridge over them.

Horn buds are pointed. Horn bosses are rounded.

Skin is supposed to be fixed over horn buds and moves over polled horn bosses. I have trouble with this as a kid’s skin is so loose.

Juliette’s daughter is now a month old. She has no horns. I was right. She is a polled kid. She is also a livewire.

polled kid playing

The edge of the creek is a great place to jump up and down according to this goat kid. She loves to jump up onto things. And she is good at jumping, getting up a stack of four bales of hay! Luckily she knows how to get down again.

The milking room is a great playground. This kid leaps on the milk stands under the does. She leaps onto the hay at the end of the section. She pesters the cats.

To everyone’s relief, the kid has discovered oats. She now spends at least part of the time eating. Unfortunately she still insists on eating out of her own dish and everyone else’s dishes, preferably with hooves in the dish, as well.

Being a live wire and a late kid has another advantage. She has been racing out with the herd from nine days old. She has never been left behind or needed finding.

At three months old, this polled kid must be sold. I hope she goes home with someone who values her lively ways and personality.

Goat kids can be lots of fun or give lots of grief. Capri does some of both in Capri Capers.

Rooster Politics

Somehow I ended up with three roosters. There is one too many according to the hens, but I can’t decide which one should go.

In the meantime, I get to watch rooster politics in action. This is rather complicated.

The oldest rooster is three years old. He is mature, big and solid. He rules the flock and terrorizes the other roosters.

Big Rooster

The old rooster is a magnificent bird. His colors glow. His bearing is regal. His body is wide and meaty. He rules mostly because of his size. His age has mellowed him for the hens, so they like to stay close.

The middle rooster is two years old. He is getting his mature size. He tries hard to get the hens to like him, but they don’t seem to trust him.

The youngest rooster is a year old. All he seems to think about is chasing the hens. Any time he sees a hen by herself, he races off after her.

The hens know this young rooster is after them. They are not happy about it. They play rooster politics to keep the young upstart at bay.

Dominique rooster

Like a middle child, the middle rooster is hanging around. He is too young and aggressive to attract lots of hens to his side. He is too old to pursue them with ruthless abandon. His dream is to succeed the old rooster who is well aware of this ambition and determined to keep it from happening anytime soon.

When the young rooster races off after a hen, she starts giving alarm calls and streaks across the yard toward either of the other roosters. The other roosters head for her to intercept the young rooster.

The middle and young rooster often end up with neck feathers flared and bodies low to the ground. A couple of sparring bouts later, the young rooster leaves. The hen meanwhile has gone back to bug hunting.

When the young rooster is really on the prowl, the cluster of hens by the old rooster gets large. He stands proudly in the center of what he seems to assume are his admiring wives.

In fact, the hens are mostly ignoring him as they busily look for edibles in the area. They are there only because it keeps the young rooster away.

Arcana rooster

The youngest rooster looks great with his fancy feathers. The hens are not impressed as he does little more than chase them. Being smaller and faster than the other two roosters, he gets away with a lot of activities frowned on by them.

The middle rooster announces he has found some delicacy to lure some hens away from the old rooster. The hens are reluctant to go over because, although he is no longer acting like the young rooster, he still likes to put on displays and mount hens near him.

The young rooster meanwhile is sneaking up on the group of hens by circling around them. One squawks and the chase is on.

The old rooster races off after the young rooster. The hens go back to bug hunting. The old rooster returns a short time later to take up his position once again.

Rooster politics seems to be a compromise affair. Each rooster has a place in the hierarchy. Each spars with the others seeking to improve his placing.

In the end, each rooster knows how he fits into the social network. The hens do much the same among themselves.

Finding Protective Mother Goat

November is an iffy time for kids to be born. Newborn kids get cold easily. Having a protective mother goat helps.

High Reaches Butter’s Juliette is such a goat. She is very proud of her new baby born November 1. She was not impressed when I put a goat coat on the kid because she was cold.

Luckily the next day warmed up. The goat coat came off. The kid fluffed up and is fine, even on cold nights now.

During the summer, goat kids must stay at the barn until they are almost a month old. The grass is so tall, they can’t see their mother. Even a protective mother goat has trouble keeping track of her kids.

Nubian protective mother goat and kid

Even in the barn lot standing next to the barn, High Reaches Butter’s Juliette is standing guard over her kid. The doe kid is not worried. She is lively and curious.

Fall is different. A fall in dry weather is even more different. The grass is barely six inches tall. A kid is twelve inches tall and gaining daily.

Like most goats, Juliette hates to stay locked in the barn lot when the herd goes out. She is a herd animal. She stands and calls all day. Since she is a Nubian, these calls are loud.

There is incentive to let Juliette go out for the day. There is incentive to keep her in to feed her kid.

Newborn kids aren’t very active. Over the summer they may lay around sleeping most of the time for a couple of weeks. Winter kids seem to get active much faster. Juliette’s kid was racing around at a week old.

Still, a week is very young to go out tramping around the pastures. I hate to go out searching for lost kids.

Protective mother goat talks to kid

Juliette talks to her kid a lot. At a week old, the kid still listens most of the time.

Late one afternoon, when the kid was nine days old, I let Juliette take her out for a couple of hours.

The kid came in with the herd. The kid had a wonderful time. The kid was standing at the pasture gate with the herd the next day.

Another difference with the fall schedule is morning hay. This means the goats are happily munching through milking time and a little beyond. They don’t go out until noon.

A kid has only three to four hours to keep up. A protective mother goat can keep up with her kid that long.

I opened the gate. The herd walked through. After all, they weren’t hungry.

An hour later Juliette was still by the gate. The kid hadn’t gone over the bridge with the herd, so they were standing by the gate.

I picked the kid up and took her across the bridge with Juliette following. I set the kid down. The herd was close by.

That evening the herd came in. Juliette and her kid were not with them. I went looking.

Juliette was at the top of a hill with her kid. Protective mother goat that she is, she could see the entire pasture from this vantage point. She refused to come down.

I had to go up. Me, in my mucking out the barn shoes with slick soles, had to scale a hill covered with loose gravel (This is the Ozarks norm.) on a forty degree angle. This required using hands and feet along with trying not to think about the trip down.

Juliette stood there and watched me. She yawned. She wandered over to the side of the hill and started going down calling her kid to follow.

protective mother goat in pasture with kid

The kid may think a nap is due. Juliette stays beside her, not grazing more than a mouthful now and then. Danger may threaten. She must be on the alert.

I followed lurching from tree to tree to keep from falling. At least Juliette had trained her kid well to follow her so I wasn’t trying to carry the kid as well as stay on my feet.

Thankfully Juliette and her kid stayed with the herd the next day.

Nubian goat kids can get into lots of trouble. Capri is in top form in Capri Capers. check out this wild melodrama filled with villains chasing Capri’s owner.

Twine Has Many Uses

Cold weather has arrived. Killing frost has eliminated much of the browse favored by the goats. Hay goes into the hay troughs and twine accumulates in the barn.

My old barn accommodates square bales. I prefer them as they are small enough for me to handle. The flakes are easy to count out for the goats.

Each bale is tied with two lengths of twine. Each piece is about five feet long. It’s good twine, too good to throw away.

So the piles accumulate. A long nail is covered. Another nail is covered. they are piled so high new pieces slide off.

twine gate hinge

Over the summer the end of the shade house is open for easy access. When the shade house becomes a greenhouse, a plastic covered piece of cattle panel goes up. Twine makes great temporary gate hinges.

One pile is almost gone now. It moved to the garden.

I started with two cattle panels bent to form a long trellis so the inside could have some shade. That end of the garden got far too hot for most plants during the summer.

Then I thought about covering this shade house with plastic to form a cold greenhouse over the winter. This worked well. In fact, on sunny days the inside was a balmy summer day.

Then the wind began. We’ve always had some wind. A few days here and there weren’t a problem. Breezes weren’t a problem.

Now the wind blows most days hard enough to blow the plastic off the winter greenhouse. Plastic is hard to hold down when its laying over wire panels.

twine over greenhouse

This temporary greenhouse is great for cole crops like turnips, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Wind is a problem as it lifts and destroys the plastic. The twine pieces should keep the plastic from lifting.

Watching the plastic made me think. The wind pulls the plastic up. It also gets inside and billows the plastic up.

I tried tossing some flexible wire pieces over the plastic. These helped, but would slide off.

Twine offered a possible solution. So the pile moved out to the garden.

Three pieces tied together would go over the panels. Each cattle panel had three of these lengths tied to on end.

twine ropes

Regular twine works well in the garden. Plastic twine is great for braiding ropes and lead ropes. These two 30 foot ropes are braided out of six strands of plastic baling twine and are used to tie down hay on my truck. I like a loop in the beginning end of the rope and tie off the other end.

Plastic went on the panels. Twine went over the plastic.

This did present a new problem as the twine kept the plastic from reaching the ground. The side garden beds are now buried under manure and mulch. This blocks the spaces.

The cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants weren’t happy about killing frost. Now they have their greenhouse to thwart the next round of frosts.

An old post has instructions for braiding a lead rope from baling twine. Find it here.

Goats Love Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are for feeding the birds. Except they can be fed to other livestock too.

My goats get fat easily. The usual ration of oats and corn makes them roly poly. This is not good.

Those extra pounds go on easily. They come off only with lots of effort. Goats aren’t concerned with their weight so they won’t put out this effort without coercion.

The corn disappeared from my goat’s diet.

Nubian doe High Reaches Violet likes sunflower seeds

High Reaches Violet is an easy keeper. And, yes, she is a little overweight. All right, she’s fat. But the pasture will put 50 pounds a month on a feeder steer. Her feed is cut back so she shouldn’t gain any more.

Corn does more than add calories to a feed ration. It adds fat which increases butterfat in the milk. Butterfat in the milk improves milk flavor.

Many years ago I put together a special feed mix for my goats. It had oats, corn, wheat bran and soybean meal in it along with some dried molasses and mineral mix. The goats liked it. It produced good tasting milk.

Wheat bran is hard to come by. Corn is off the ration list. I bought some soybean meal. This is high in protein and has fat in it.

When I was learning to milk, I worked with a man who used cottonseed meal for his cows. It made the butterfat greasy. Soybean meal didn’t seem to do that. This foray into soybean meal resulted in greasy milk.

I read some comments about feeding goats. The writers on the group kept talking about BOSS. I hated to ask what this was so I waited. Sure enough, someone wrote it out as black seeded sunflower seeds.

These seeds had fat in them along with minerals and fiber in the hulls. I decided to try them thinking the birds would like them if the goats didn’t.

My goats love sunflower seeds.

Nubian doe High Reaches Spring's Agate eats sunflower seeds

High Reaches Spring’s Agate stays sleek on grass and browse plus six handfuls of oats with a dribble of sunflower seeds a day. At eight months old she is half grown.

There was an unexpected bonus to that handful of sunflower seeds each milking. I’ve always kept old blankets around to put on the goats in the winter, if they got cold enough to start shivering.

The blankets are a hassle. They get covered with straw and manure, pulled off and trampled and torn. Still, the goats liked being warm when the weather turned nasty.

Feeding sunflower seeds has made the blankets almost into a memory. My goats don’t seem to get cold unless the temperature drops to below zero.

Another bonus are the shiny coats on my girls now. Their fur is softer.

My goats aren’t the only ones to appreciate sunflower seeds.

Do you enjoy goat antics? Maybe a few dastardly villains? Check out Capri Capers.

November Madness Writing

Killing frost will probably be this week. Taking plant pictures is almost done for this season. Now is time for November madness to begin.

Most people think about the coming holidays. November is Thanksgiving. December is Christmas or Hanukah. Then a new year begins.

I think of November madness. NaNo is coming! National Novel Writing Month will begin in less than two weeks.

November madness during NaNo

The Challenge: Write 50,000 words in 30 days.
The payoff: A short novel draft, a writing schedule, a feeling of accomplishment.

I am not ready. I am ready.

A writer is supposed to write every day. I do try over the summer, but other activities often interfere.

The garden needs tending. The goats and kids need tending. Wildflowers are blooming. Making cheese takes up one day each week.

This is why I anticipate November madness so much. It makes me get my writing schedule back on the front burner.

Edwina by Karen GoatKeeper

This has been a disappointing writing year for me. I started the year with such big plans. Only two books got done, Edwina and Running the Roads.

Running the Roads by Karen GoatKeeper

There was supposed to be those and Mistaken Promises, the third Hazel Whitmore book; Waiting for Fairies, a picture book; and my Planet Autumn series was supposed to be ready to write.

Instead I focused on plant pictures all summer. It did pay off. I have now completed all pictures for 150 plants with some or most pictures done for another 200. And I’m not finished going over all the pictures I did take over the growing season.

But my writing didn’t happen.

So, November madness is fast approaching. The imagination is working overtime. I’m having trouble staying focused on daily tasks as daydreams, those origins of writing ideas, distract me.

What will I write this November? My genre will be science fiction. My setting will be an Ozarks ravine invaded by aliens. They are in trouble. The Ozarks in winter can be a dangerous place, especially if you are only four inches tall.

November madness Ozark ravine setting

Imagine being four inches tall and negotiating your way around in this Ozark ravine. This is summer. Try this in February.

Will I post my rough draft? Sorry, no. My rough drafts are writing disaster areas. What about the first draft?

I’m planning a serial of short chapters. Yes, they will be available early next year, I hope. Each chapter will need a picture and that will depend on my illustrator’s schedule.

For now, I am creating the planet Cardua and those who will be arriving in the Ozarks.

Hurray for November madness!

Another Goat Winter Looming

What is a goat winter? It’s another winter of milking in the dark; doing chores in the cold, snow and ice; putting out hay; and all the other things that come up with livestock.

Nubian doe High Reaches Julliette

High Reaches Juliette stands looking toward the barn. She knows it’s milking time. She knows she should go into the barn. It’s more fun to make me go out and get her.

Why should I keep bothering with dairy goats? It’s not like I make any money at it. Far from it. They pay their way, if I don’t count labor.

Fall seems to bring up lots of uncertainty. Fall is the portal to winter. The days are getting shorter, colder. Everything is dying back, scaling back. Everything but the work load. That increases.

The garden must be cleared. The final harvest must be put up. The goat barn needs a final cleaning out with the loads going onto the garden. Goats need to be bred for those cute spring kids.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius hates goat winter

Goat Town USA Gaius looks out under the icicles lining his roof eave after a winter storm.

Did I say cute? Is there really a ray of light in this fall gloom? Is there a glimmer of a reason to put up with another goat winter?

For at least five months I must get up before dawn, struggle into long johns, heavy clothes and jackets. That’s before tromping out to the barn to roust the goats out of a warm spot to come in to be milked and fed. Each of those evenings I get to bundle up again and again roust the goats out of a warm spot.

So the annual assessment begins again.

Nubian doe High Reaches Violet

High Reaches Violet isn’t worried about winter coming. She will miss the grass, but likes the hay.

On the downside of a goat winter is doing chores in the dark and cold, watching the bedding layer mount up knowing spring mucking is coming and taking in less and less milk as the girls dry off to get fat with kids. I want to go places like attend a symposium, visit friends, maybe a book signing. Chores take longer, days are shorter leaving even less time between morning and evening chores, that window of time I can go anywhere.

spotted Nubian doelings will see their first goat winter

These three spotted Nubian doelings find storm downed sycamore trees great places to play.

On the upside of a goat winter is decent milk and cheese. There is that next crop of kids to anticipate. The garden would not do as well without the annual influx of manure.

Another goat winter is coming up. We will all survive. Spring is 170 days away.

Tomato Worm Time

The fall weather is holding at warm with no hint of frost yet. But killing frost can come any time. So the tomato worm invasion in the garden doesn’t worry me much.

I knew the invasion was coming. I was out in the garden one morning and saw a tomato sphinx moth by the tomato plants.

tomato sphinx moth

The tomato sphinx moth is large, nearly three inches long. The underwing has colorful orange stripes.

The moth flew up over a leaf, dipped the tip of her abdomen to the leaf, then flew on. She did this time after time going across the tomato patch laying her eggs.

A tomato worm is a voracious eater. Several can denude a tomato plant so only thick stems remain.

tomato worm eggs

Tomato worm eggs are small. Often they are laid singly rather than in groups as these are. they never touch each other. In warm weather, the eggs hatch quickly.

Generally I spot a worm, snap the stem off and deposit stem with worm in the chicken yard. Chickens like them once the ‘What is this?’ attitude passes.

By October my tomato plants are hanging over their cages. This year their foliage is especially lush. The plants hang over the cages and spread across onto the pepper plants.

We like ripe tomatoes, red and yellow, even striped. By October, when frost is imminent, the vines don’t need to set more tomatoes. They need to ripen the crop on them.

One way to encourage this is to nip off the new blossoms. I never seem to get around to this.

tomato worm

Tomato worms are colored for camophlage. They are the same green as a tomato leaf. They hug the stems looking like part of them. I can look at one and not see it, until, suddenly, my eyes refocus and the worm is obvious.

Enter the tomato worm. It happily nips all this new growth saving me the time and trouble.

There can be too many worms, but that hasn’t been an issue so far. The chickens are waiting, if it does.

The worms do nibble on some tomatoes. But some other critter is passing through nightly and picking a few. The losses aren’t serious at the moment, only annoying.

Besides, I have allies moving in. A small wasp lays eggs in a tomato worm. These eat the worm’s insides, put out white cocoons, hatch out to attack more worms.

dead tomato worm

The wasp larvae have fed, pupaed and gone. The dead tomato worm doesn’t drop off but still hangs grimly onto a plant stem. Tomato worm with lines of white cocoons on them should be left on the plant as the wasps will hatch out, killing the worm and go on to infect other worms.

So the tomato worm invasion becomes an event to watch, but not get upset about. I will probably find a few pupae in the ground later, tucked under the mulch. These are large, dark brown and overwinter in the ground.

Next May, when the new tomato plant crop gets planted, the tomato worm invasion will be a battle with the chickens the benefactors. Not in October.

Fall Feather Storm Time

Fall has arrived in the Ozarks. Between fall and the drought, leaves are turning and falling. Temperatures are cooling off. And the chickens have started their annual feather storm.

Feathers wear out. They get damaged and ragged. So birds replace their old ones with new ones every fall.

Chickens have lots of feathers. There are wing feathers. These are fun to make small quill pens out of.

The big quills are from big birds. Wild turkeys drop these out on the Ozark hills. Once I even found a vulture wing feather.

A chicken’s body is covered with feathers to keep their downy feathers dry. The down feathers look like a shaft of loose threads.

hen feather storm

Some hens never get real scruffy as the new feathers grow in before the old ones have dropped away. This hen has dropped many of her old ones and is still waiting for the new ones to grow in.

Molting time arrives in the fall and the feather storm begins. The hen house looks like the chickens have had a pillow fight. The hens are scruffy.

Everywhere the chickens go, the feather storm goes too. Along the chicken yard fence is paved with feathers. The milk room has pockets of feathers.

No, I don’t really like the chickens in the milk room. But the tin roof faces west and heats the room up to hot unless I leave the door open.

Feathers are made of protein so egg production has dropped. Some breeds stop laying now for the winter. I’m putting out more mice plus cheese to help supply more protein. Even extra milk helps.

rooster after feather storm

At three years old my old rooster is big. He now gleams under his new coat of feathers. His blue tail is starting to grow and will soon compliment his burnished bronze.

Roosters don’t lay eggs. My three have dropped their old feathers and grown new ones already. Their tails are the last feathers to grow in.

The old rooster has this spiffy new feather coat but no tail yet. The barred rooster has grown a single big feather so far. The arcana rooster never seems to have much of a tail.

It’s the hens who are still waiting for their new finery. The new feathers are starting to grow. They look like ranks of dark needles sticking out over their backs.

Once all the chickens have their new feathers, the feather storm will be over for this year. It will take longer to get rid of all the feathers blowing around.

Spotted Nubian Bottle Baby Agate

My book Capri Capers about Harriet and her bottle baby goats Capri and Agate came out long before this year of the spotted kids. So many people like spotted goats, I imagined Harriet would too. So two of her goats had spots and that meant spotted kids.

Yet Capri is not spotted. She is patterned after High Reaches Topaz, a deep red doe, and High Reaches Juliette, my house brat of a kid. I have always liked red Nubians.

Capri Capers cover

Capri needed a friend. So Agate entered the picture. Mossy agate stones can be black with white spots giving her a name.

Raising goats is full of complications. One that came up this year was Spring. She had her kids early one morning with no problems.

I found Spring with a kid when I came out to milk. I moved the pair into the pen I’d set up the night before. Then I milked.

bottle baby Agate as a kid

As a baby kid, some of Agate’s spots were white, but most were brown. Most of Agate’s spots are small and all turned white. Even though Agate’s mother rejected her, she formed a close relationship with her sister.

After milking, I went out into the barn and found a second kid in the far corner of the barn. This kid had to belong to Spring even though she was at the other end of the barn from where I found Spring.

Agate was already showing her independence.

I picked this kid up and took her into the kid pen. I set her down by Spring and tried to get her nursing.

Goats can count a little. Mother goats bond with their kids and know how many there are. Spring had decided she had one kid, not two.

Agate became a bottle baby, my bottle baby.

bottle baby Agate checks on me

Usually the herd wanders out the gate and stands around for a time. Not during acorn season. The herd took off for the far end of the pasture then up into the woods, running away from me as though I were chasing them instead of trying to catch up. Once in the woods, the herd looked at me innocently, pretending not to laugh at having dragged me out a quarter of a mile in order to take a few pictures. Agate now stays with the herd but is glad when I am around. she keeps looking back to see if I am still there and calls for me to return, when I do leave.

Bottle kids bond with people. This is nice when bottle time arrives as the kids come over right away. They will answer you out in the pasture.

Bottle kids can be a problem to get out to pasture. They want to follow you, not the herd. Getting them out requires subterfuge.

I wander out with the herd until the bottle baby is busy playing with the other kids. Then I slip silently back to the barn.

Agate would be right behind me.

bottle baby Agate in the woods

Acorns are falling. The adult does are eagerly eating all they can find. Younger goats like Agate browse on leaves.

My Agate does go out with the herd now. She looks back and calls to me, often waiting until the herd is past her before catching up, still calling for me to come and join her.

When the herd comes in, Agate is beside me. She insists on being petted, pushing other goats away from me.

And Agate is still a bottle baby. She is more than old enough to wean. But she wants that time of bonding so I give her a partial bottle. As my milkers dry up for the winter and getting ready to have spring kids, I will have to wean Agate. But that is another couple of months from now.

Spotted Nubian Kids

This has been the year of the spotted Nubian kids here at High Reaches. These kids are due to the escape artist Augustus.

Silk surprised me with that spotted buck. She did have one spot in the middle of her back. She did have spots in her background. But the spots had gradually disappeared over the generations.

Nubian buck kid High Reaches Silk's Augustus

Nubian buck High Reaches Silk’s Augustus was such a cute little kid. Those big white ears. Those little white spots. At 200 pounds, he has grown into those ears. The spots are still there. His neck is getting thick as he matures.

Then came Augustus. He was a frosted gray with white spots from the time he was born.

This year’s spotted Nubian kids are different. The background black or frosted gray is usual enough. It’s the spots.

These kids don’t have white spots when they are born. They have brown spots. From what I’ve read, these are called liver spots.

one of the spotted Nubian kids

Born July 4th, this frosted gray doeling does have spots. They are still brown but showing white hairs so they will turn white in another month or so.

These brown spots are a problem. They persist for two or three months as brown spots. Many goats are registered by that age and described as having brown spots.

Except, when the kids are two to three months of age, these brown spots can turn white. The description on the papers is now incorrect.

So, why not list them as white spots on the application? Not all brown spots turn white and you won’t know until the kid is four or five months old.

one of the spotted Nubian kids

This twin doeling is black with spots. They are brown but definitely changing to white. The twins were born July 4 to High Reaches Jewel’s Pixie.

This year all my brown spotted Nubian kids have become white spotted kids. The youngest ones are just now making this change.

It is fun to see the spots. Spotted goats are pretty and popular.

one of the spotted Nubian kids

Six months old, independent, grain lover and covered with spots, big on the right and small on the left, this doeling is out of High Reaches Spring.

At one time the rage was for black Nubians. Some people bred their goats for color only. Soon their goats were black but not dairy goats, only pets, as they no longer produced a decent amount of milk.

Will breeding for spots do the same? Or have people learned?

Dairy goats are supposed to produce milk. Having pretty colors may be nice, but the colors don’t put milk in the bucket.

I still have four doe kids to sell. Three have spots. One is a plain brown. The spotted Nubian kids will gather interest immediately. The brown one won’t.

not a spotted Nubian kid

This doeling is so like her mother, High Reaches Trina. She is calm, friendly, but has no spots.

Yet the brown one is from a good milking background. She is friendly like her mother, Trina, who always comes over to stand by me to be petted and fussed over.

I am keeping Agate – yes, Agate, like in Capri Capers, black with white spots. I can only keep one kid.

Perhaps someone can see beyond the spots. Even plain brown can be a lovely color for a goat.

Find out more about Capri Capers and read some pages from the novel here.

Armadillos Eat Japanese Beetles

Lately numerous little holes have been appearing around the house and barn. An armadillo has been spotted nosing along in the yard. Another has been working through the goat yard.

I know. I know! Armadillos are resented here in the Ozarks. They can be terrible pests because of the holes they dig.

armadillos have armor

In spite of big ears, armadillos hear poorly. They do stand up on sturdy legs and can run very fast. Their bodies are covered with stiff, pebbly armor. The nine bands act as joints so the armadillo can bend. The ringed armor on the tail lets the tail bend.

I’ve heard people brag how their dogs kill armadillos. I’ve seen the carcasses along and on the road.

I’ve also heard people complaining about Japanese beetles. These insects destroy roses, okra, grapes and other plants. This has been a bumper year for them.

Japanese beetle

Japanese beetles eat out the leaf tissue between the veins. They are voracious and can soon leave a plant with only the skeletons of their leaves.

Japanese beetles lay eggs in the ground. These hatch into grubs that live and grow in the soil over the winter. When warm weather arrives, the grubs molt into beetles to fly off and devastate plants.

An armadillo is interesting to watch. It’s possible to get very close to one as they have very poor eyesight. Their hearing isn’t a lot better. Their noses rival a dog’s.

The armadillo is covered with front and rear pebbly armors. Ozark ones are nine-banded so they have nine narrow plates forming strips between the front and rear allowing the armadillo to bend.

A triangular plate lies down the face. The tail is a series of circular plates. Hair sticks out under the armor.

armadillos stand up

The armadillo is suspicious but hasn’t spotted me yet. It stands up to smell the air hoping to catch my scent. You need to stay downwind to sneak up on an armadillo. Notice those big claws on the front feet.

The front feet have long claws. These make them digging machines.

The mouth has stubs of teeth for grinding up insects like grubs. Young Japanese beetles are grubs.

The armadillo shuffles along. It’s nose sniffs the ground. It can smell a grub several inches down in the ground. A few digs with the claws reveals the grub. Dinner.

armadillos hunt by digging

Smelling some insect down in the ground, the armadillo tears out some grass and dirt to push its nose in further until the prey is exposed and consumed.

Armadillos don’t hibernate. It takes a lot of grubs to keep them from starving or freezing over the winter.

Over the summer armadillos hunt at night. That armor gets hot in the summer sun. When the weather cools down, armadillos come out during the day.

The holes have been around all summer. Now I get to watch the armadillos at work. The one around the house was so intent on hunting, it walked up within a foot of my feet. It realized I was there, turned aside and went another direction a bit faster than on the approach.

armadillos hide from danger

I startles this armadillo. It first backed into the goat-trimmed giant ragweed and hid. When I came another step, it bolted out into a bigger stand of ragweed and disappeared except for the rustling of ragweed plants.

An armadillo is not aggressive. It does not bite, sting or attack unless grabbed. It’s main defense is running away at amazing speed. The claws are formidable weapons used in self defense.

The little holes are annoying as the lawn mower bounces along over the yard. Even without the armadillos the mower would bounce along because of the moles. Between the two pests, perhaps the Japanese beetle population will be less next year.

Chickens Love Mice

My barn is over a hundred years old. It still stands only because oak is tough. Mice infest the area under the wood floor.

Burrowing rats tried to move in. These are large fierce rodents and attack the cats. The black snakes are the only defense against them.

The cats do catch mice in the barn. It’s a hard job as the mice have so many hiding places.

Mouse traps do a fair job. The problem with them is the pile of dead mice.

Chickens grab mice

Chickens are very competitive when it comes to food. It is more than “first come, first served.” It is “first come and can hang onto the morsel” or the morsel is soon carried off by another chicken. This hen is good at grabbing and racing off to a secluded spot, head away from the other chickens to keep from being noticed.

Enter the chickens.

I don’t really remember the first time I saw a chicken catch and eat a mouse. Adult mice have a small chance of outrunning a chicken. Young mice are dinner.

Most chickens have a hard time eating a large mouse. they generally don’t have the problem long as several chickens divide the mouse can enjoy dinner.

chickens eat mice head first

As most birds and reptiles do, the hen positions the prey head first and in a straight line for sliding into the gullet. With neither hands nor teeth, the hen jostles the mouse around until it is in the right place then starts gulping to move the mouse in.

I have a motley group of chickens as I like many different breeds so have a sampling of several. One of my favorites is standard sized Cochins.

My buff Cochins are getting old but are still tough. One seems very laid back until a mouse appears. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for the mice, she is getting too old to catch them any more.

mice go down slowly

Most of the mouse slides down smoothly. The back legs are a problem as they stick out and catch on the sides of the beak. The hen must work hard to get these in too. She is persistent.

This hen is not too old to be first to pounce on mice from the mouse traps. No one steals her mouse or even a taste of her mouse.

Like a snake the hen positions the mouse and swallows it head first. Her mouth and neck look much too small but stretch out snakelike inching up the mouse until the tail disappears.

mice snack consumed

Only the tail is left and it soon slides out of sight. The hen’s neck reduces to normal looking too small to accommodate a mouse. She doesn’t eat more than one at a sitting but will grab another in the afternoon, if there is another available.

Happily the hen settles down in a warm spot to digest her meal. Who needs to chase bugs? Not her.

The mouse traps are again set out. The next mouse course may occupy them in the morning.