Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Enjoying Warm Spring Days

I love warm spring days. They are made for being outside.

That means cleaning out the goat barn. The warm sun is enjoyed on trips to the manure pile.

The next item on the list is clearing more garden paths. The dead nettle and chickweed are dying and seeding. It’s time to pull these and mulch the pathways to keep the weeds from taking over this summer.

Nubian doe High Reaches Topaz Willa

High Reaches Topaz Willa is getting old. She went to sleep. When she woke, she was alone. She came to the barn to find someone and found me.

This day I am rescued from the garden by a goat. It seems Willa has gotten separated from the herd. She came to the barn lot seeking help finding the herd.

The first warm spring days are special. Only dogged determination and the terrible mess keep me working in the goat barn.

A goat in trouble takes precedent. I empty the load of manure and go to the house to change into hiking boots. Grabbing my camera and walking stick, I am ready to take Willa back out to pasture.

goats reappear

I am amazed by how easily a herd of goats can disappear and reappear. Willa went to sleep and the herd disappeared. We passed this spot going to the ravine and no one was here. Now the herd stands here wondering what we are up to.

The herd had disappeared up a hill that morning. Two ways down are favored by around early afternoon. Lately the herd was taking the long route down into the ravine.

Willa and I go to the ravine. No herd. Willa is happy to have company and starts grazing.

Camera in hand I go down to visit several tagged trees. Last summer I identified these trees, tagged them and have taken pictures of their bark, buds and winter looks. Now these are ready to bloom.

goats like warm spring days

My Nubian goats are enjoying the spring weather. They race around gorging on seeding grasses and budding brush, then lie down in the shade to chew their cuds.

Two are in bloom and I take pictures. This is when my walking stick comes in handy. It has a hook on the end for pulling down branches as I have yet to learn to levitate and don’t climb trees.

Willa comes looking for me. We resume our search heading down the hill pasture toward the creek.

The herd has materialized by the creek. Willa is reunited with them and her kid.

I check out another tree. The shingle oak is in bloom.

greening hills on warm spring days

Overnight the trees have greened. The grass is lush. The breeze is warm and light. The clouds sail overhead billowing into shapes and morphing into new ones. Quiet surrounds you, fills you, heals you. This is my Ozarks in spring.

Turning to look back at the hills, a warm breeze ruffles my hair. The smell of dogwoods adds a little perfume. The trees are leafing out turning the hills light green. The goats are relaxing in the shade.

I turn back toward the garden. I walk past it and off onto another hill, up another ravine in search of lady slippers.

Warm spring days are too precious to spend working all day.

Watch for the new book “My Ozark Home” due out later this year. For now, check out Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Kids Find Playgrounds Everywhere

The fun part of raising goat kids is watching them play. They find playgrounds everywhere.
Goats trace their wild cousins into the mountains of Asia. Mountain animals climb. Goat kids love to be on top of things.
In the barn the kids use their mothers for playgrounds. After a big rainstorm, all my does are covered with mud from little muddy hooves standing on them as they try to sleep.
For the most part goat mothers are tolerant. They ignore the little hooves bouncing on them and leaping onto their sides and backs.
In the barn lot the kids race up and down the goat gym. When they finally wear out, the gym steps make great places for a nap.

firewood playgrounds are also nap places for Nubian doe kids

The fallen sycamores are cut into short pieces of firewood. After playing on the pieces, these little Nubian does find a good place for resting.

The pastures offer the most opportunities for finding playgrounds. The grassy parts are only good for naps. The woods and ravines are the best.
The ravines have wet weather creeks in them. These are usually deeply eroded channels snaking their way down the spaces between the hills.

Creek bed playgrounds are good places for a Nubian kid fight

Barely six weeks old these little Nubian bucks are already testing their fighting skills. the edge of the creek bed has good places for this and stumps for napping.Nubian

When water travels at high speed, it undercuts trees along the channels. It leaves boulders exposed. Kids jump down from the pastures onto these perches. They leap back up. They play king of the mountain.
Last year’s storms blew down many trees. It will be years before these fallen giants are gone for lumber, firewood or rot away. Until then, they are another source of kid playgrounds.
Kids leap up onto the trunks and chase each other up and down. Kids get up at each end and challenge each other or squeeze past each other. Their balance is amazing as they race at full speed up these rounded paths.

fallen tree playgrounds for Nubian kids

The fallen tree is wide enough for one Nubian kid. These two are trying to squeeze past each other and rejoin the other kids in play.

Some of the trees blew over, but lodged in nearby trees. Those at low enough angles become climbing places for kids. Luckily those trees aren’t so far off the ground that a kid falling off gets hurt.
Goat kids grow up so fast. They play a lot at a month old. They still play at two months old. At three months eating is more important than playing. I need to get out more to watch my kids play before they get much older.

Goat kids are playful and full of antics. Check out Capri Capers for Capri’s antics.

Chicks Grow Up Fast

My chicks arrived two weeks ago. They were little balls of fluff. Chicks grow fast.

Now those balls of fluff have tiny tails and wings. They love to race across the floor flapping their wings. They can’t get off the ground yet.

These pullets are a tough bunch. My chick house has no insulation. The walls are wood covered with metal. There are plenty of air leaks. The outside temperature is the inside temperature.

chicks grow and need less heat

Different breeds of chickens look very different. I like lots of them and have several breeds in my flock. There are four kinds of pullets.
The black ones are barred rocks. The plain buff feathers are buff Orpingtons. The brown with black bars feathers are New Hampshire. The chicks with cheek puffs are Easter Eggers who grow up to lay blue and green eggs. By three weeks of age almost all of the fluff will be gone and the pullets will become gangling adolescents.

The chicks huddled under their light when the temperatures plunged. Even with blankets wrapped around the cage, they were cool.

Well, one night I put an extra blanket on and they got too hot.

Chicks grow up fast. They don’t need a hot heat lamp now. Their feathers keep them warm. And they have doubled in size. Besides, the temperatures are approaching normal spring ranges.

Hazel is raising chicks in Mistaken Promises. Grandfather talked about chickens and fresh eggs until she thought it would be fun. After committing herself by talking Lily into joining the 4-H Poultry Project with her, she discovered the work.

Chickens are one of the easier ways to be a country person. Depending on the breed and standard or bantam, chickens can be kept in a small area. With handling many breeds can become pets.

chicks grow feathers fast

Ball of fluff chicks are cute. Larger chicks feathering out look disheveled. This is when they produce lots of dust. This is a Buff Orpington pullet chick like those Hazel Whitmore is raising in Mistaken Promises.

Hazel and Lily have Buff Orpingtons. These are one of the breeds easy to make into pets. The hens are a golden buff color. Their feathers are fluffy. They are docile and calm.

Grandfather built Hazel’s chicken house years before for his wife Helen. He built a sturdy building. He had a nice brooder hood. Hazel’s chicks lived in style.

I’m jealous.

County fairs in rural Missouri are the place for 4-H members to exhibit their livestock and crafts. Hazel will show her pullets at the county fair. But Hazel is being stalked by one who hates her and all around her. And that person is at the fair too.

Mistaken Promises is the third in the Hazel Whitmore middle grade series. It will be release this fall. The first two, Broken Promises and Old Promises, are available now.

Writing Mistaken Promises

Mistaken Promises is the third book about Hazel Whitmore. It is a long overdue book.

The series began with a simple premise: city girl moves to the country. A favorite series for me is Anne of Green Gables. It too has such a basic theme.

Broken Promises was my first attempt at writing a novel. Like all new writers, I had such grand ideas and little knowledge of how to realize them.

The book draft was a disaster.

Broken Promises

A couple of years later I resurrected the novel. The basic idea was the same. The plot was totally different. This time the novel came together and became Broken Promises.

The book had a major flaw. Hazel didn’t leave the city until the last chapter. A second book was necessary to put the city girl in the country.

And Old Promises was written. Hazel lives in the country. At heart she is still a city girl.

Old Promises

Many people move to the country, but never really leave the city behind them. Some try, but are overdoing it. This burns them out quickly and they leave or go back to being city people living in the country.

Hazel doesn’t know yet. She misses many of the things from the city. She finds she values some things in the country.

The plot in Old Promises centered on a family feud rooted in the past. It erupts at the end in tragedy. This does not end the feud or solve the problems.

Mistaken Promises was born in that tragedy. The feud and the bullying Hazel thought were over, are back and far different from the previous semester at Hanging Rock School.

Hazel, still the city girl, finds being part of the country is interesting. She can have her cats, her chickens and get fresh vegetables to cook. None of these was possible in New York City.

Internet service is slow. Cell phone service skips her house. Possible friends live far away. Entertainment such as plays, theater, Central Park are dreams from her past now.

What will the future bring to this transplanted city girl? At thirteen, Hazel is still deciding on her future and trying to survive to live it.

Meet Hazel Whitmore in the first two books of the series: Broken Promises and Old Promises.

Baby Chicks Arriving

Last year I let one of my hens set some eggs. A second hen started to set, but quit. That’s the problem with many of today’s hens: They don’t set and hatch baby chicks.

The seven chicks the hen hatched did fine. They grew quickly as the hen shepherded them around in their yard. Five of them grew big combs.

Three roosters argue over who is ruling the hen house already. More roosters aren’t wanted or needed. Hens are welcome.

Baby chicks cage

This arrangement worked fine on a warm day. It failed the chick test: they were cold. The light moved into the cage and blankets went up around the cage. The chicks were happy through a cool night in the forties.

Having new pullets in the fall is nice as they start laying and lay through the winter fairly regularly. Older hens don’t lay regularly over the winter, at least mine don’t. I prefer the heavier breeds, not the egg production breeds.

Eggs were in short supply this last winter.

Older hens lay fewer, but larger eggs. Many of my hens are not just older, but ancient for chickens.

This year I ordered baby chicks. As I don’t plan on dressing any roosters out this year, all the chicks are supposed to be pullets. There will be twenty-two baby chicks.

There is a chick house. It isn’t fancy as I was the carpenter. The last time I used it, the black snakes found a way in. And the roof decided to leak.

baby chicks huddle

The ultimate test of a chick set up is given by the chicks when they arrive. These chicks are huddling. They aren’t real cold, but they are not warm enough. They are not giving distress calls. The light was too far away. Moving it into the cage made the chicks much happier.

The house has new wire up around the eaves. Every hole I could find is plugged. The roof is tarred.

Still, black snakes are wily creatures. They can find holes where I see none. I have a wire cage.

The cage isn’t very big. It is big enough for a couple dozen baby chicks. The holes should be too small for the big snakes to get in. My chicks will start out in it.

happy baby chicks

Happy chicks cheep softly and rummage around getting drinks of water and eating food. Sometimes the entire flock will lie down on the floor to sleep.

Another advantage to using this cage is keeping the chicks warm. This spring has temperatures rivaling a yoyo tournament. Even the best days have stayed in the fifties and sixties, flirting with freezing at night.

So the chick house is set up. The floor is covered with feed sacks for when the chicks get big enough to get out of the cage. The cage is set up with cardboard around it, a heat light over it and supports for blankets at night.

The containers are full of chick starter. The glass waterers are cleaned and ready. The cage floor has layers of newspaper down so one layer at a time can be taken out revealing a clean layer below.

All is ready. And we wait. The baby chicks will arrive in a day or two.

Rural living is different. Livestock is a serious responsibility. Check out Dora’s Story.

Cute Goat Pictures

Each week I browse through a Sunday paper. The latest one announced a call for goat pictures specifying cute or funny.

I seem to have a lot of goat pictures. Are any of them cute or funny? Is my definition of cute or funny the same as that of the paper?

action goat pictures

Action shots are the hard ones. The goat is moving which can cause blurring unless the camera lens speed is high, but then less light is let in the lens so the picture can come out black. The action is often some distance away necessitating using the zoom. The higher the magnification, the easier it is to move the camera blurring the picture. This is High Reaches Silk’s Augustus as a kid.

Any excuse to browse through goat pictures is welcome. I went browsing.

Kids are cute. They are among the cutest baby animals around. They are notoriously difficult to photograph acting cute or funny.

flying ears action goat pictures

Nubian ears are long and seem to act as wings when a kid runs bouncing and leaping across the ground. For every acceptable action kid picture, I delete five or ten. Taking such pictures takes lots of time following the herd around until they get bored enough with having me around to start acting almost normally again.

This difficulty is due to the tremendous energy filling the kids. They are only still when snoozing, usually in a place difficult to use a camera. Any other time they are a blur racing around. By the time the camera is aimed at the cute kid, it’s moved on and is no longer cute.

Goats as a rule don’t like getting their pictures taken. I go out several times a year to get pictures to update my picture galleries. I walk by the herd on various hikes and stop to take a picture or two.

action goat pictures

Nubian bucks love to test their skills against one another. They love to play. Augustus and Gaius played like this for half an hour or more. I took lots of pictures and kept a half dozen. Augustus would rear up, then plunge down so fast he was only a blur. To get a good picture meant setting the camera up and waiting until Augustus was at the peak, then snapping the picture hoping to get it before he came crashing down.

The goats see the camera and turn their rumps to me. Another ploy is to walk up and lick the lens. Then there are the ‘scratch suddenly’ or ‘toss the head’ or ‘move into the middle of the group’ ploys.

doe and kid goat pictures

Nubian goat kids learn many difficult lessons as they grow up. One is how to follow mother goat both out and in from pasture. High Reaches Jewel’s Sasha is so unhappy being stuck in the barn lot while her friends are out grazing. Young kids get tired quickly, lie down, go to sleep and get left behind. They are hard to find nestled down in the grass. This afternoon was the first day Sasha’s kid was allowed out with her mother. Sasha is determined to find the herd and leads her kid down the trail. The kid gamely keeps up. This picture was a lucky one as I happened to be out with my camera and looked back to see Sasha and kid coming behind me.

I see the cute, funny, beautiful goat pictures on Pinterest. I think “If that person can do this, I can too.” Then I go home, get my camera and get laughed at by my goats as they dare me to try.

Still, I do get lucky from time to time. Maybe these other people get lucky too.

cute goat pictures

Goat kids can be so cute. This pair went out with the herd and laid down to rest while the herd grazed nearby. The first thing most people notice about Nubian goat kids is the ears, especially if they are frosted (white).

The secret to great goat pictures seems to have two sides. One is having help to set the goat up for a great picture as for a show picture. The other is luck perhaps with someone to distract the goats from the camera or trigger a great shot.

sweet goat pictures

This is one of those goat pictures both cute and special. Nubian does don’t often sleep with their young kids. Augustus was one of Silk’s last kids and she was very attached to him. Goat kids form play groups and tend to sleep with the group. Augustus always preferred Silk to his peers. But finding the two together, not waking Silk up and getting the picture was luck.

Unfortunately I have no help. I must continue to trust to luck and value the special shots I do manage to get.

Cute goat pictures are scattered throughout Goat Games. Check it out.

Frustrating Weather

Along the coasts frustrating weather between seasons is rare. The ocean is a huge temperature sink moderating the air temperatures. this lets one season merge smoothly into the next.

In the middle of the country, like Missouri, such influences are nonexistent. Frustrating weather becomes normal.

March is supposed to be spring. It is on the calendar. It isn’t outside – today. Yesterday was a balmy seventy-four degrees. Today the temperature sits at thirty-six degrees.

frustrating weather affects alder

Black or common alder and hazelnut bushes look very similar over the winter, same size, same gray bark. Even the catkins are similar unless you look carefully. The easy difference is the female flower. Alders have cones as in the picture. Hazelnuts have little cylinders with a spray of red threads – the split pistils – sticking out.

Even the wild plants don’t like this frustrating weather. The alders and hazelnuts are blooming. The spicebush buds are big yellow globes poised to burst open.

Frustrating weather has these plants and others surging into spring one day and sending them back to winter the next. Spring is trying. Winter is resisting.

spicebush blooms despite frustrating weather

Spicebush blooms in early spring, as soon as the weather warms up. The buds started swelling during the first warm spell. then they waited through the cold spell. Back and forth as the temperatures varied until the buds are finally opening in spite of the weather.

Gardening time is starting. Potatoes are already stashed under the mulch trying to grow. Peas are trying to germinate.

Mulch does help. The surface temperature varies widely. The underneath temperature stays fairly steady, at least under six inches of mulch, it does.

I don’t have a heated greenhouse for starting seeds. Tomato and pepper seedlings need two things to do well. One is warm temperatures. The other is lots of sunlight.

The first was easy. I put the seeds on damp sand in Petri dishes set on a shelf in front of the wood stove fan. The seeds happily germinated and went into cups of soil.

frustrating weather hurts seedlings

Cups of soil take up lots of room. Germinating the seeds in small containers works well. The seedlings are moved into the cups when the root is a quarter to half an inch long. I press a finger into the damp dirt, place the seedling against the side of the hole so the top is just under the rim, then back fill the hole, tamping the soil down. The seedling pokes up through the soil in a day or two. The cups are in various kinds of containers to make moving and watering are easier. The containers come in overnight and go out on the porch on warmer (57 degrees and up) days.

Usually I ferry the trays of seedlings out onto the front porch for the day. That way the seedlings get plenty of light.

But the temperatures must be sixty degrees minimum. Thirty-six degrees is not warm enough.

Seedlings don’t understand about cold days. They want to grow and do. They become spindly. If they get too bad, I must try again.

Frustrating weather strikes again.

I can only hope the weather warms up again tomorrow. It is supposed to rain off and on for the next week. The porch has a roof.

All the seedlings and I really want right now are some more warm spring temperatures.

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.

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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!