No matter what books I am working on, somehow I end up with another book about goats. This year is no exception on that score. It does leave me learning to draw goats.
In school I drew horses. Lots of horses. I didn’t draw goats.
Later I worked on cats. These were much more difficult. I didn’t draw goats.
So now I need
to draw goats.
This book is a little fun thing filled with alliterations, tongue twisters, short stories and short remembrances about goats. It isn’t quite done yet.
Since each short topic is on a different topic, each can be worked with separately. One series of flash fiction stories are related, yet each is still different. Each begs for an illustration.
Usually I use
photographs. I have none to use to fit this book. The illustrations will need
to be drawn.
The easy way is to have someone else who draws regularly draw these illustrations. Except the easy way will be the hardest way.
goats? Very few people around here. And goats are different.
Goats are angular, not round like horses, cats or dogs. Each goat breed is different and some of those differences are subtle. If the artist misses one, anyone familiar with the breed will spot it right off and know the artist didn’t know what a goat should look like.
That leaves me
learning to draw goats.
I do have lots of models, if I can get them to stand still for a time. Photographs are easier and I do have lots of those.
The other problem is breed. My goats are Nubians with their Roman noses and long, pendulous ears. Other breeds have dished faces and upright ears. And LaManchas have tiny ears.
will be to draw illustrations for the easy stories first. Build up my
confidence. I can do this.
After all, learning to draw goats will be like learning to draw horses. It’s a matter of practice.
A few years ago a family of
woodchucks moved in under the tractor shed. They lay waste to my garden.
Another woodchuck attack shouldn’t be a surprise.
Out in the woods or in the abandoned pastures, woodchucks are interesting to see. Baby ones are rather cute. Most generally they are spotted as a flow of dark fur streaking across the road and into the brush.
Once I got a chance to watch one a
few minutes before being spotted. They flow along busily sorting through the
grass. This is rare as they are very alert creatures.
Alarmed woodchucks live up to their
other name of whistle chucks. Their whistle is high, loud and sudden. The first
time I heard it I jerked upright looking all around wondering what was going
Nothing was going on. The woodchucks
had vanished. I never saw them.
My garden is heavily mulched. This encourages worms, roots, moisture. Moles love it which is annoying.
This year I kept finding my mulch
churned up. My tomato plants were dug up. My pepper plants were snapped off.
Woodchucks are vegetarians. They eat
plants. I found out before they love Brussels’s sprouts and will eat them to
the ground. They love runner beans, but not yard long beans.
I looked at the damage and thought skunk. Skunks aren’t so messy and can’t climb into the garden and don’t dig holes under the fence. Raccoons were a possibility.
It was a woodchuck attack. Friends
have seen the same damage from chucks in their gardens.
And woodchuck explains why the
chicory is all bent over. This one likes chicory. And grubs.
I’ve seen it, or rather the dark
flow disappearing out to the manure pile. The den under the tractor shed was
freshly remodeled. I found the hole under the fence.
The next challenge is catching the
woodchuck in the livetrap. My garden can’t handle a full scale woodchuck
attack. It has to go.
It’s summer in the Ozarks, hot and
humid. Last winter is a memory. But getting ready for winter begins now.
Finally the wet weather broke for a few days and the air filled with the sounds of tractors, mowers and balers. A barn full of hay is essential to getting ready for winter when you have livestock.
People don’t eat hay. We do eat
things like potatoes and garlic. These are early spring crops maturing now.
Normally leaves begin drying on the garlic stalks to signal when the bulbs are ready to harvest. All the rain kept the leaves green longer.
The garlic is still fine. Most of
the bulbs are still tight. They are much bigger than last year’s bulbs.
Once the bulbs are dry and in the
bucket in the pantry, they will bring dreams of spaghetti, lasagna, stir fry
and rich soups and stews. Getting the bulbs dry is very important or the cloves
will rot. Once dry, the bulbs will last all winter.
I used to grow several kinds of potatoes, but only have Yukon Gold now. The potato bugs are trying to move in. They haven’t much chance as the plants are dying back.
So far the potato crop is generous.
The tubers are usually smaller when grown in mulch, but harvesting is much
easier. Besides, we are older and don’t need a monster baked potato at dinner.
A medium-sized potato will do very well.
I like growing potatoes. They are nice looking plants and fairly easy to grow under mulch. Still, the number of seed potatoes I put out is going down. Older people don’t need to eat a lot of food.
Potatoes too need time to dry. I
have several old milk crates to hold them. I put some newspaper down on the
bottom, pour in the potatoes, top with newspaper to block light and stash the
crates in the pantry.
Getting ready for winter will
continue over the summer adding winter squash in the pantry and tomatoes and
peppers in the freezer.
Growing tame berries takes time and space. The space I have. The time I don’t. So I look forward to summer berry time on the hills.
Around here the first berries to
ripen are the black raspberries. The first few are waiting in the refrigerator
as an addition to morning pancakes.
The canes grow along the yard and along a fence nearby. These are challenging to pick as blackberries grow among them. The raspberries have thorns, but the blackberry thorns are fierce.
Sometimes there are more in the
house than we can eat. These berries freeze well. I spread them on a cookie
sheet and pour them frozen into a freezer bag. This takes summer berry time
into the winter.
The gooseberries are still green. Many people pick them green and add enough sugar to counter the bitter taste. I don’t use much sugar so I let them ripen before picking them. They are a bit bland then, but don’t require sugar.
The gooseberry bushes grow along the
yard and back in the ravine behind the house. These do have straight thorns,
but the berries hang down away from them.
The blackberries are the hardest to
pick. The canes interweave in large patches. They are
well armed. Ticks like to hide on them. And the almost ripe and still bitter
berries are easy to mix in with the delicious ripe ones.
Extra blackberries can be frozen like the raspberries.
There are several kinds of
blackberries along the road and on the hills. The small canes along the roads
are less dangerous. These berries are few in number, but a real treat.
Summer berry time includes the
lowbush blueberries. These are hardest to get. The bushes are small and grow up
in the hills. Not all the bushes have berries on them and the blueberries are
Birds and other creatures like the
foxes eat berries too. Luckily there are enough berries for all of us.
This year I have a problem. Unlike most years I have leftover seedlings.
Seed catalogs have such a variety of tomato seeds and all are tempting. Stores offer only a few kinds; the kinds that sell well. So I try to raise my own.
Without a greenhouse or special
lights, my seedlings are started late and often turn out spindly affairs. They
do grow fast in the garden and produce tasty tomatoes. Leftover seedlings don’t
My usual method is to fill a dozen Styrofoam cups with potting mix, water and two seeds each. If I’m lucky, one comes up in half of them.
This year the temperatures moderated. The seeds germinated in most of the cups, both of them in a third of the cups.
Warm sun let me set the trays of
cups out on the front porch. The seedlings grew. They thrived.
I had ordered three varieties: Speckled Roman, a paste tomato; St. Pierre, a red tomato; and Pineapple, a yellow and orange striped tomato. This was to result in eighteen plants in the garden, plenty for two people as there are always volunteer cherry tomatoes for snacking.
Then I came across a packet of Abe
Lincoln tomatoes, a red variety I had wanted to try. The seed company sent a
complimentary packet of Russian Blue tomatoes. A friend added two Paul Robeson
red tomatoes. Another friend added a Lime green tomato.
Gardens are finite in size. Mine is packed with bell peppers, summer and winter squash, potatoes, beans, various greens, garlic and onions. There were four areas designated for tomatoes.
As of now a pepper section has the
cherry tomatoes and the Lime tomato. Another section has ten red tomatoes
planted. One side of the shade house has six Speckled Roman with Pineapple on
the other side. A side bed has six, many double, Russian Blue plants.
I have sold and given away tomato
seedlings. And I still have leftover seedlings. They are tall and need planting
One solution would be to yank them out and toss them on the compost heap. Maybe I am too soft-hearted. They are trying so hard to grow.
I scoured the garden for any holes
big enough for some tomato plants. There are two much less than ideal spots. My
leftover seedlings will have a chance to grow.
When do chicks become pullets? I really don’t know for sure.
Chicks are these balls of fluff.
They quickly grow wing and tail feathers. Body feathers push their way out. The
fluff disappears as dust.
Not all of the fluff disappears.
Some is persistent. The feathered out chicks have these ragged bits of fluff
sticking out in odd places.
These chicks are still chicks. They are small and peep. They still like a bit of heat at night.
Once chicks have feathers, staying
inside is not popular. Rainy days keep mine inside. They sit up on anything
tall to look out the windows in the door.
Sunny days are a delight. The bottom door opens and a new world stretches out in front of these chicks. The chicks line the door sill, heads and necks twisting and turning as they look around.
By the second day the chicks are
waiting for their door to open. They generally stay inside as I fill feed
trays, but don’t stay there long. Grass is much superior to chick feed.
A week later I make sure I am not
standing in front of the chick door when I open it. Twenty-two feathery bullets
shoot out. The chick yard is too small.
There was a time when I would let
older chicks out into the grass. Grey foxes now live across the street. Quarter
grown chicks are snack size.
Now I put up a ring of chicken wire.
The chicks come out into a larger yard only when I am working close by.
Moveable electric fence posts make moving the wire into different shapes and
Now six weeks old have my chicks become pullets? They are almost half grown. They fly across their yard. They chase bugs as well as eat grass.
These birds still peep. I think they
are still chicks.
In another week or two, these pint
sized chickens will start clucking. They will not be happy in the larger yard.
Already they cast longing eyes at my garden. There is an invisible “Chickens
Keep Out” sign, except they can’t read.
I think my chicks become pullets
when they start clucking.
All my seedlings were ready to transplant at the same time. Tomatoes came first, then bell peppers in the garden, finally I’m planting peppers in the containers.
Containers are nice. They do have
their drawbacks. First is placing them. Second is finding enough dirt, compost,
manure etc. to fill them.
Planting in containers brings in another set of drawbacks. First is keeping them watered. Containers dry out quickly and must be watered often.
Weeds are second for several
reasons. Weeds compete for root space, leaf space and water. They usually win
competing against garden vegetables.
Third comes heat. In the garden the
sun heats the surface of the ground down a few inches. Containers are heated on
top and on any part of the sides the sun contacts. In extreme heat conditions,
the sides should be shaded.
I have a fourth problem: my cats. They don’t tend to dig in the containers. Instead they find the containers ideal places to sit for observations of the surrounding area. Containers are wonderful places for naps as well. Plants make nice cushions.
In the past I’ve watered extra,
weeded extra and chased the cats or place strategic rocks. After reading
“Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza, I’m trying something a bit new. First I
dumped a watering can of water on the dirt newly cleaned of weeds (Yes, the
weeds had already started colonizing the containers.). Next I laid down layers
of newspaper and poured water on them. In the book the newspaper is wet when
it’s put down. I find wet paper is very difficult to work with so I put it down
dry and add water.
A trowel slices through wet newspaper easily to make a hole for the transplants. Last a layer of mulch hay went on top of the newspaper.
The container was watered before planting peppers as transplants do better in moist soil. The newspaper and mulch should discourage weeds and help hold moisture in the container. The mulch also protects the newspaper and transplants from drying out or being pounded by rain.
A circle of woven wire serves two
purposes as well. It discourages the cats. It keeps the pepper plants from
falling over. I will be adding a stake to keep the wire in place.
Writing the Carduan Chronicles I
find these survivors need to master various skills including making rope. There
are two kinds: braided and twisted rope.
Normally I make braided rope as I
can make it slowly by myself. I use it to make lead ropes and long ropes to tie
down hay bales. When I had cows, I made a halter.
Making twisted rope requires a couple of tools and three people. A friend mentioned having the devices and offered me the chance to help make some ropes.
Both braided and twisted ropes are
strong. The twisted kind made by machine is the one sold in stores.
Hand made twisted rope can be single or double strand. The device my friend has requires each strand to be full length at the beginning so any splicing must be done securely before beginning. The alternative he uses is rolls of baling twine used in balers.
The length of the finished rope is
determined by the length of the working area. If the length is so great the
strands sag to the ground, they must be supported. Weeds and other items must
be cleared away so they don’t get incorporated into the rope.
The cranking device is clamped onto a sturdy post or trailer. It has a crank with a handle hooked to a toothed gear turning three smaller gears attached to three hooks holding the three strands. This is so the hooks turn at the same speed creating even tension on the twine.
At the far end is a hook that swivels. The strands of twine are attached to the three hooks at the crank device. The other ends of the strands are tied together and hooked onto the swivel hook.
A wooden paddle or traveler with
three slots controls the twist. One strand goes through each slot. The strands
can not be tangled.
Holding the swivel hook might seem
simple. In one way it is: you stand there pulling back to put tension on the
twine strands. In another it isn’t: you must keep that tension while being
pulled forward as the twisting shortens the twine between
Cranking is work. The arm gets tired but the crank must continue to turn at the same speed until the traveler starts getting close. Then the cranking must slow down to keep from making the rope too tight and stiff.
The traveler starts close to the
swivel hook to hold the twine strands apart as the crank turns the hooks
twisting the strands. They quiver and vibrate as they twist. When the twist is
tight, the traveler is moved forward. The swivel turns and the strands twist
around each other.
This is when making a twisted rope gets tricky. If the traveler is moved forward too slowly, the twists are tight making a stiff rope like a lariat. It the traveler is moved too quickly, the twists will be loose making the rope too soft and not as strong.
Three strands of twine make a
quarter inch rope. Double strands make a half inch rope. The more length or
number of strands, the harder cranking becomes.
My Carduans may read about making
twisted rope, but they will begin with braided ropes as these are easier with
the fibers they find to begin with. Still, learning to make twisted rope was
interesting and I will appreciate my new rope.
Mulch is nothing new to me. I’ve
used it for years. I never thought of it as gardening in layers until I came
across a book on gardening called “Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza.
It isn’t that I don’t have lots of
books on gardening. I do. The library display of gardening books was too
tempting. Besides, I like lasagna.
Except “Lasagna Gardening” isn’t about growing lasagna ingredients. It’s about gardening in layers as lasagna is assembled in layers. This is right up my alley.
The first layer in a lasagna garden
is newspaper. Those were the days when people subscribed to a daily newspaper.
A good substitute is cardboard.
The purpose of the paper or cardboard is to block grasses or weeds from growing up into the garden. No weeding!
Does it work? Yes, it does. I’ve done this for years. The problems involved include obtaining enough cardboard (The local feed stores get a supply regularly on the pallets of feed.) and weeds creeping up between overlapping pieces or at the edges. As the paper breaks down, some strong weeds like tree seedlings can grow up through it.
My normal next step is to dump on the mulch. My goats are happy to keep me supplied with any hay not meeting their exacting standards.
In “Lasagna Gardening” the next
layers are peat moss, grass cuttings, chopped fall leaves, compost, manure and
other organic matter. These are piled on to eighteen to twenty-four inches deep
before adding the mulch.
I no longer use peat moss. It is
touted as natural, which it is, and sustainable, which it is not. It is being
dug out of peat bogs (destroying the bog ecosystems) faster than the new peat
can be created.
The other ingredients are subject to preference and availability. Compost and manure are easy for me to come by. Grass clippings require raking. Fall leaves require asking around town for the maple and sweet gum leaves which will probably require raking.
Oak leaves are problematic. They are thick and more acidic. They are slow to decay. If chopped up with a mower, they do work fine. Chopped leaves don’t blow away as readily.
The difficulty with reading
gardening books in the spring is that my garden is already underway. The
potatoes are up. The cabbage is delighted with this cool, wet spring weather.
The other beds are prepared for summer crops.
I will definitely adjust this new
method of gardening in layers. It is an extension and improvement of my
methods. Over the summer I will stockpile cardboard for this fall. Manure is
not a problem as the goats produce a new supply daily. Mulch will need to be
Over the summer I can do some of it
on a small scale as various crops finish up and the beds are prepared and
planted with another crop.
Gardening in layers? Cutting back on
weeding? Cutting back on garden drudgery? I’m all for it.
Planting two different varieties of
peppers next to each other isn’t wise. They cross. This is why I went to pepper
My favorite peppers were the colored
bells. Unlike green peppers, they are not bitter. The different colors have
slightly different tastes. And they are pretty.
Then a friend talked me into trying
a Macedonian pepper. This is another sweet pepper (I don’t grow hot peppers.).
It is a long horn shape turning from green to lime green to yellow green to
rose red. It is delicious.
Two more Macedonian peppers have
joined my line up. I still grow the colored bells as I like them too. I needed
to have a place to grow the new pepper away from the garden where the bell
peppers grow. Containers were the answer.
There are several considerations for pepper container gardening.
Peppers like very warm and sunny
places. Here in the Ozarks all day sun is not necessary, but half the day is
Choosing the location is vital for
pepper container gardening as, once the containers are filled, moving them is
As I have three varieties of peppers to consider, I need three locations separate enough to discourage cross pollination. In front of the house, on the sunny side of the house and behind the house work for me. All get shade part of the day, but sun most of the day during the summer.
Since I grow four plants in each
container, I need a big container. Bigger containers don’t heat up in the sun
as much preventing the roots from cooking.
My containers are the empty plastic
tubs sold filled with cow licks. My feed store buys them back empty from
cattlemen and resells them to gardeners like me. The owner also uses a line of
them to grow left over transplants for himself and customers who want a quick
snack as they go into the store.
Drilling five or six half inch holes
in the bottom provides drainage.
Drainage is important. Putting a
couple of half size cement blocks or a few bricks under the container helps.
Next the pepper container needs
gravel. A larger piece goes over each hole. Four to six inches of inch size
gravel goes in on top. This will, in a few years, clog with dirt and need
Soil comes next. I mix mine. My
mixture has one part creek sand, one part composted goat manure and two parts
dirt in it. The amounts are not exact. Part of the mix is removed and replaced
each year with more compost.
Leave three or four inches clear at the top to hold water in the container.
I space four plants around the
container three or four inches from the edge. It’s a good idea to have a stout
pole in the center to tie the plants to.
The Ozarks can be a windy place. I
have used circles of fence wire, but this needs anchoring too.
Pepper container gardening is
different from garden based pepper growing. I do mulch my containers to help
control weeds, hold in moisture and keep the soil cooler. The containers need
watering every other if not every day.
With a little planning pepper
container gardening can yield enough peppers to spice up every meal and put
plenty in the freezer.
Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower
transplants show up the first of April at several places around town. Yet
growing cabbage in the Ozarks is a dicey affair at best.
Cole crops like cool weather.
Seventies is as warm as they like to be. Eighties is a disaster in the making.
There are several problems with cole crops in hot weather. First and foremost is the bitter taste. All cole crops seem to have a bit of bitter taste to them. Hot weather multiplies this to inedible.
A second problem is mostly a cabbage
problem. The heads rot. A series of cool days will encourage the plants to form
heads. One day of eighty degree weather might bleach the top leaf. A second day
starts the inside of the head to wilt down leaving a pile of stinky ooze the
Broccoli, cauliflower, pak choi
promptly send up flower stalks. They flower almost overnight turning scraggy
and dying a few days later.
A friend wants cabbage in the spring. I get the varieties with the shortest maturity dates, put them in and hope for the best.
Cabbage leaves are edible too.
This year has not decided what to do
yet. Through April the temperatures dithered from days in the sixties to days
in the seventies tossing in a couple of eighties.
Growing cabbage under these conditions is not ideal. My plants are heavily mulched to keep the ground cool. Since it keeps raining an inch or two a week, I’m hoping the mulch isn’t too wet.
Typically spring in the Ozarks is
short. We’ve had the usual amount, even a bit more. Any day could turn into
For now my growing cabbage is happy
and starting to think about making heads. I watch, wait and hope.
In the meantime the tomato and
pepper seedlings are doing well. They prefer eighty degree days, but tolerate
sixties and seventies once they’ve germinated.
April has pros and cons for raising chicks. A big pro is having the pullets start laying in the fall and continuing through the winter. A big con is the weather.
This year my chicks were to arrive
on a Wednesday. It was a nice warm spring day. Perfect for settling new chicks
The chicks were delayed. The weather turned cold. They arrived huddled in the box trying to keep warm. Their new quarters weren’t warm enough. Keeping them warm is critical to raising chicks.
Changing to a larger light bulb
solved the warmth problem. I do use a heat lamp so the heat is directed
downward. I do not use a heat bulb. Instead I have an array of wattages from 60
to 100 to 150.
When cold weather moves in, the
largest bulb goes in. When the temperatures go up, the size of the bulb can go
down. The chick house is remodeled against predators, but temperature
fluctuations move in.
It’s hard to keep all the chicks
together for the first day or two. So I move an old wire cage into the chick
house. This has three advantages.
First is keeping the chicks together and under the light. Surrounding the cage with cardboard contains the heat when temperatures really drop. Draping blankets over it will keep chicks warm through frosts.
Second is giving an extra protection
from black snakes. I have learned that these creatures can fit into crevices I
don’t even see.
Third is ease of cleaning. I put down layers of newspaper in three sheet groups. Each day I can roll up a layer leaving the chicks with a clean floor with a minimum of trauma for them. clean quarters is important for raising chicks.
This year the temperatures decided to soar when the chicks were a few days old. The cage was getting cramped and couldn’t be kept cool enough. So the chicks moved out into the chick house proper.
The chicks are delighted with all
the room. I haven’t changed to a smaller bulb as cooler weather is coming in.
Instead the top of the double door and a window are open. Small bugs fly in to
amuse the chicks.
This may be a makeshift arrangement,
but it works for me and the chicks. And that is all that matters.
Winter never gives up without a fight in the Ozarks. Spring and winter vie for supremacy the month of April giving me houseplant headaches.
All winter my few
houseplants have patiently waited. The grow light is never bright enough. Water
is either too much or too little. They hunker down and endure.
Freezing temperatures will kill my houseplants. Warm temperatures will make them grow into beautiful plants once again.
Spring blows in
with warm temperatures. The houseplants move outside. The fern puts up new
Winter tromps in
with freezing temperatures. The houseplants move inside drooping under the grow
light once more.
The houseplants move out again.
Houseplant headaches come in the form of poring over the weather forecasts. Will the temperatures stay warm for several days?
headaches come as heavy pots are carted out and the watch begins. Weather
forecasts are notoriously inaccurate in this frost pocket. Most accurate is the
feel of the air when I go out to milk. Ice in the air means racing back to cart
those pots inside for the night.
Winter is sneaky.
The air can feel warm in the evening. The wind can shift blowing in freezing
temperatures by morning. Such a set up turned all my plants black a few years
ago. Most of them did sprout back up in a week or two.
Many of my houseplants are gone now, given away. April houseplant headaches following the struggles of keeping the plants alive over the winter became too much of a hassle.
Now there is a new
source of houseplant headaches: fig trees. These are not the hardy figs. These
are the tropical figs grown for their delicious fruits. They reside in large
All winter these
trees lived in an insulated, heated room. Now the tractor comes over to move
them out for warm spring days and returns to put them
back in their room when winter returns.
houseplants that are strictly to look at, the figs repay us for the trouble
with fresh figs. The trees are already putting on a crop.
Spotted goats are pretty. Black with white spots is very popular. Kids with brown spots are not popular. Such liver spots may turn color.
Some of my kids are born with white spots. There are two doe kids covered with such spots this year. One belongs to Spring and one to Pamela.
Spring’s little buck has no spots at
first glance. His black is intense. Look again and several brown spots are
there in the black. These are liver spots.
Drucilla’s brown doe had such spots. As she got older, the spots seemed spotted with white. When I ruffled her fur in these places, the underneath was white. I’m confident her spots will be white when she is an adult.
Why do these brown spots turn white?
I don’t know. Perhaps someone has studied this.
I do know body temperature can
affect color. Siamese cats are not really that ivory with brown ears, tail and
paws. They should be all brown.
There is some factor about the brown on Siamese cats that prevents it from showing when the body is hot. Ears, tails and paws are cooler letting the brown show. As a cat gets older and bigger, its body gets cooler and more of the brown shows there which is why older cats are darker in color than young ones.
Maybe goat kid liver spots work the
same way. The color does change as the kid gets bigger.
Yet, I’ve read that some spots never
change color remaining brown on the adult goats. This wouldn’t be unattractive.
It would be an interesting color pattern.
Spring’s little buck is barely over
a week old. The color of his spots does not concern him at all. Being able to
jump up onto the goat gym is far more important.
And, pretty as spots on goats can be, they don’t put milk in the bucket. Those solid brown does can make great milkers. And brown is a nice color too.
Harriet raises goat kids in “Capri Capers”. They keep her very busy and play an important part in the story. Read the sample pages on the “Capri Capers” page.
Pulling weeds is no fun. Knowing the weeds shouldn’t be there if only you had mulched properly in the fall makes it worse. Gardening with goat kids makes it bearable.
Goats are not welcome in my garden. They like too many of the vegetables and trample the rest.
goat kids is different. Kids don’t really eat much until they are three to four
My bottle kid enjoys hanging around me for company. He relies on me the way other kids rely on their mothers for protection and daring to go exploring. Besides, he usually has a lot of fun following me around as I go interesting places.
The kids except
for the bottle kid were supposed to be out in the pasture with their mothers.
That didn’t work out very well. I ended up with all four.
The kids explore everything with their mouths. They eat dirt as they are establishing their rumen residents. They nibble on the weeds. It’s a shame they can’t pull the weeds too.
I used the potato
fork to loosen a row of weeds across a garden bed. One or more kids would come
over to check out the weed masses I pulled out, shook dirt from and tossed into
Dead nettle and
chickweed have fibrous roots. They sprout in the fall and spread out their
roots over the winter. The root mat is a couple of inches thick and continuous.
It must be broken into small chunks to protect the back.
Pulling weeds does get boring after a time, a short time. Gardening with goat kids lengthens that time. Then they get bored.
It becomes nap
time. There are four kids. I can carry two at a time. The bottle kid is now an
I pick up
Natasha’s two younger ones. The bottle kid (I know, he needs a name. I’m
thinking.) follows me. His sister follows him.
The kids move back
into their favorite spot in the barn and curl up for naps.
It’s rare for me to have kids in the house for more than a few hours or even overnight. This is a temporary affair to warm up or dry off cold kids. Having one in the house longer leads to a major problem: Moving kids out to the barn.
Those in for a short time go back
out with their anxious mothers. Dry, fluffed and warmed up these kids do fine.
Mother takes them back and raises them.
Kids kept inside for several days are forgotten by their mothers, especially if there is a sibling out with the mother. That was what happened with this kid. Matilda assumed she had only one kid and rejected the little buck entirely.
Mother goats do more than feed their
kids. They protect their kids from the other goats. Goats have a pecking order
with each lording it over those below her. Small kids, unprotected, are on the
bottom and knocked around by everyone.
Moving kids out to the barn
therefore takes careful planning. If a kid is dumped out, it will be lost and
attacked from all sides. All the kid knows is the house and people.
Keeping the kid in the house is not tenable. It is not housebroken. Half a dozen towels are needed for each couple of days.
Older kids are ready to run, play
and jump. Like small children, they explore and get into everything within
reach. The kid was up in the recliner and on the bed. The cats fled or moved up
as high as possible.
I took the kid out to the barn
during milking. This was fine. The kid explored the milk room and followed me
around doing chores. And went back to the house.
I took the kid out to meet his sister. Matilda was not impressed. She behaved only as long as I was right there. I do not wish to move into the barn.
The kid had to move out to the barn.
I was up against all the difficulties of moving kids out to the barn. He isn’t
big enough or tough enough to make it on his own yet. He can’t be kept all
High Reaches Pixie’s Natasha
delivered twins. She is a first time mother. She is not high in the pecking
order. She is trying to decide how to be a good mother.
The kid went to the barn and in the
kidding section with Natasha and her kids. He isn’t happy. He is overjoyed when
I show up and cries when I leave.
But Natasha ignores him. Her kids
will be big enough to play in a week. And the kid’s sister came into the milk
room while Matilda was eating and getting milked. The two kids sized each other
Moving kids out to the barn is tough. This little buck will make it.
Sprite’s Matilda had her kids the other night. The day was cool, but not bad.
The temperatures went down with the sun. One chilled kid had to go to the
A chilled kid is a kidding emergency. Kids are born wet, get cold, get hypothermia, stop responding to their mother and die.
In Matilda’s case
this was complicated by the sizes of the two kids. I read once long ago that,
if the developing kids share a placenta, one can get most of the nutrition and
get large while the other one is small. This is what I faced that night.
The larger doe was up on her feet, drinking milk and doing well. Such a kid is not a good house guest. Such a kid needs a goat coat, a sheltered place to sleep and will do fine.
The smaller buck
was second born. He got cold. He shivered for a time then stopped. He spoke to
his mother for a time and stopped.
Drying this kid
off didn’t help. Putting a goat coat on him didn’t help. He refused to eat. He
had to get warmed up.
I had a choice to
make. If I took both kids into the house, the larger one would be lively and
unhappy. However, Matilda would take both back in the morning.
If I took only the chilled kid inside, Matilda would assume she had only one kid. I would be stuck with a bottle baby.
The lateness of
the hour (nearly midnight) made thinking things through difficult. I chose to
have the bottle baby.
Once inside, I
fitted up a box with a towel on the bottom (I have a couple dozen bath towels
for emergencies such as this.), a heating pad under plastic and another towel
on top. The heating pad was set on warm, the kid was put into the box.
Heating pads are a
wonderful invention. Mine is old and I dread trying to replace it. This one
stays on for two hours and has a warm setting, perfect for a chilled kid.
In an hour the little buck was ready to drink some milk. Two hours later he wanted more. Three hours later he wanted more and I had to get up for the day.
There are several
problems with bottle babies. One is how often they need to eat for a few days.
As I had to be in town most of the day, the bottle baby went to town. He had a
wonderful time learning to walk on the rough carpet in the laundromat.
At home the little
guy is off and running. The linoleum still gives him some problems, but the wood
stove is a great nap spot. The floors are scattered with towels as baby kids
are prolific producers of yellow rivers.
My next trip to the laundromat will include at least a dozen towels. The chilled kid is now doing fine. His name has changed from Pest to Holy Terror. My cats agree as they vacate the house ceding it to him.
Poor Harriet faces her own goat emergencies in “Capri Capers.” Find out more on the sample pages.
My father loved gardening. I was not
impressed as I was used as weed puller and little else. He was practicing a
growing older gardening trick.
I have come to enjoy gardening. As I
grow older, I am coming to appreciate such tricks.
Older Gardening Trick 1
Younger gardeners seem to think the
entire garden needs to be done in one or a few days. They take that big tiller
out and plow up the whole garden. They follow this with raking, setting out
rows, setting out seeds and plants, watering and collapse in the evening with
My garden is divided up into pieces,
mostly four by ten. I work up one section each day. This takes a couple of
hours. Then I wander off to do something else like take a walk or read a book.
Oh, yes, about that tiller: Sell it.
Small spaces don’t need the use of a
tiller. Rich garden dirt containing plenty of compost does not need a tiller. A
potato fork works fine.
Older Gardening Trick 2
My father used children to pull his
weeds. That works fine, if you have children wanting to earn a little money.
Some gardeners use herbicides. These
are not necessary.
Mulch is the secret. My garden
sections are normally mulched fall and spring with extra as needed.
This is not wood chips, plastic or
other commercial mulch. My goats supply plenty of bedding (Do note that even
expensive alfalfa hay becomes bedding as soon as it touches the ground in the
opinion of goats. And goats do drop lots of hay on the floor.) However
commercial straw or free leaves work well.
Leaves do have problems as they blow
easily. One solution is to put down the leaf layer and cover with a thin layer
of dirt or straw. Another is to run the mower over the leaves and chop them
into small pieces, but they need replenishing sooner that way.
Mulch does have drawbacks. Bugs like mulch. Some plants don’t do well if mulch is too close, think lettuces.
Some weeds will grow up through
mulch. Locust trees and morning glories are my main culprits. Most will not.
Older Gardening Trick 3
Raised beds and containers are very
helpful when large scale gardening, even in sections, becomes difficult. They
are nice any time.
I love raising colored bell peppers.
I also like sweet Macedonian peppers. The bells go in the garden proper. The
others grow in large containers around the house. This way I can save seeds.
This would work for sweet and hot peppers.
Raised beds can extend the gardening season. Access is needed from all sides to put everything within reach.
Older Gardening Trick 4
This is the hardest trick to do. It
means putting aside a love of gardening and looking honestly at how much you
are growing. Crops that take lots of work or you no longer use need to be
discontinued. Cut back on how many plants you are tending as older people need
to eat less.
Growing older is not an excuse to stop gardening. It is a reason to change how gardening is done.
Gardening is creeping into the Hazel Whitmore series. Mother and Grandfather are competing in the County Fair with their tomatoes. Check out “Mistaken Promises.”
Early every winter morning Cloudy
Cat arrives to sit on the plant bench outside the window. He is patient. He
knows I will fill the dishes in the house and open the cat door. He leaps in.
I sweep up the debris from the firewood
littering the floor while Cloudy eats. He gets done first. And panics. The cat
door is closed. He begins meowing, demanding to be let out.
Woe to any other cat who needs to go out or come in. Cloudy is there at the door any time it opens impatiently waiting for me to go to the barn.
After starting the fire and eating
breakfast, I head to the barn. Cloudy Cat leads the way, tail up, triumphant.
His insistence has paid off. (Never mind that I go through the same routine
every morning and always go to the barn to milk.)
Now comes show off time. Roll on the ground to trip walkers. Race by and up a tree. Bat a snowball or rock or bit of wood around. Keep checking to be sure of being noticed.
The pay off is milk in a bowl still
warm from the goat eating on the milkstand.
Cloudy Cat does catch mice in the
barn. He must as he stays fat and sleek. I have seen him catch a few.
Mostly I see Cloudy showing off his technique. He crouches poised on a feed barrel top waiting for any mouse stupid enough to come out while the goats and I are tromping around. Amazingly, a few do.
When the weather permits, Cloudy
enjoys shadowing me on a walk down the road and back. In bad weather he curls
up in the hay or on a goat blanket to sleep. He insists on staying in the barn
and has ever since he arrived here five or six years ago.
Late afternoons Cloudy is back at
the house to eat dinner. He again retreats outside and waits. It is time to go
to the barn so he can have his milk.
Once warm weather gets here and the
cat door is open all the time, Cloudy Cat will stop sitting on the plant bench.
He will come in and sit on top of me. After all, he is determined to get me out
to that barn.
I like milk. To be more precise, I like my own fresh goat milk and use it everyday. Having a steady supply requires planning out when the kids arrive.
A doe produces milk to feed her kids. Dairy animals are bred to produce more milk than their kids require and for a longer period than kids need milk.
Long ago I found I could breed half
my does each year and milk the others through the winter months. This does mean
milking twice a day, every day, all year round.
The alternative is to purchase a freezer to freeze milk in to last for several months. The goats still need daily care. I milk every day and enjoy my fresh goat milk.
This winter has been trying. Cold
spells alternate with warm spells. Even some of the plants are confused as the
maples started to swell their flower buds by January. They got blasted by the
next cold spell.
It seems to mess the goats up as well. Normally my does have a big heat spell right after the first really cold spell in early September. They stand bawling up at Augustus for two or three days. They wag their tails. They need escort service to come into the milk room.
The rest of the winter the does
cycle regularly until they are bred, but at much lower intensity. This winter
that changed. Every warm spell, cold spell cycle brought my does into vigorous
Augustus produces that odiferous
musk over breeding season. The smell usually starts fading in February. Not
this year. He must continue to impress his does and abuse the noses of others.
Each big heat cycle cuts a bit of production from the does I’m milking through. It isn’t much, but accumulates. My supply of fresh goat milk is getting stretches thin.
Kids are scheduled to begin arriving
in mid-March with the last in early April. This assumes the goats will follow
my schedule. Drucilla’s December twin does show they are not overly impressed
with the schedule.
Additional fresh goat milk is iffy
while the kids are nursing. It depends on who milks first, me or them. They
The kids should leave in June. Then my kitchen will again overflow with fresh goat milk until November after October bred goats start drying off for the winter.
Find out more about goat milk and milking goats in “Goat Games.”
Dairy goats need lots of water. With
four inches of snow on the ground, the goats are inside and I am hauling water.
Except the goats ignored my buckets and stood aong the gym step eating snow.
Snow is cold. Eating too much of it can cause hypothermia. Advice for goat owners is to provide plenty of warm water to their goats.
So I do.
And the goats continue eating snow.
I suppose I could confine them to
the barn forcing them to consume the warmer water I bring. I did do that the
day it snowed.
Soon the goats were bickering. The
younger ones were bounding into the milk room and leaping onto the hay. They
were racing around the barn upsetting the pregnant does due next month.
I opened the gate. The goats poured out to bask in the sun that was so prominent yesterday.
And I hauled water. And dumped
unwanted buckets starting to ice over. I hauled more water to the milk room for
those who wanted some after eating their grain. And I dumped half of that.
My goats have eaten snow for years.
I don’t know why they prefer it to the warmer water in the buckets, but they
As with hay or grain, my goats are picky about the snow they eat. It must be clean, no hoof prints or dirt, definitely no goat berries. Since clean snow lasts only a day or two, eating snow is a short time activity.
The practice doesn’t seem to hurt
the goats. Hay continues to disappear from the troughs quickly. Grain vanishes
as though vacuums were at work.
My herd is doing fine. My pregnant
does are getting wide and their udders are swelling. My milking does still
produce milk. I will let them enjoy their few days eating snow.
Perhaps it is just
a coincidence. Most likely it has no relation at all. However a February ice
storm came by.
In “The Carduan Chronicles” the space ship arrives in the middle of a February ice storm.
This year’s February ice storm wasn’t much. It heralded a warm front coming in. About a quarter of an inch of freezing rain covered everything. During the day the ice melted and rain began.
In “The Carduan Chronicles” the ice storm drops a half inch of ice as a cold front moves in. The sun does come out and melt the ice off the trees. This is typical of such storms in the Ozarks. And that’s a very good thing.
That quarter of an inch of ice is treacherous. Any surface becomes slick. Walking is asking to fall and get hurt. Driving is not advisable from my house as the hills will be too slick for even four wheel drive to conquer.
There are drivers who believe four wheel drive makes any winter road passable. Ice removes all friction between the road and the tires. Without friction, the vehicle slides no matter how many tires are trying to find traction. I would rather stay home than slide off the road and twenty or thirty feet down into the creek bed.
The grass stuck up through the ice and made walking possible. The goats do need milking, hay and water, ice or no ice. The chickens need food and water. And I want those eggs and milk.
A February ice storm can be destructive. The ice is heavy and can break off branches, bend small trees to the ground or snap them off and break electric lines. This little storm did little damage.
Instead the storm
set the mood as I work my way slowly through the first rewrite of “The Carduan
Chronicles.” In that the ice storm is followed by snow. There is snow in the
forecast. I wonder.
January thaw. The garden beckons. Spring is coming. I’m buying seeds to suit my garden dreams.
Gardens have a finite size. No matter how many books come out about squeezing more plants into less space, the only way to have more space is to make a bigger garden. Bigger gardens mean more work. Mine is big enough.
Rationally I should calmly assess
how last year’s garden worked. What grew well? What did we eat? What did we
like? What was a waste of time?
Buying seeds is not done rationally.
Not by me. Well, a little.
The catalogs make everything look
fantastic. Those gorgeous vegetables look delicious.
We love corn. Corn takes lots of room. Raccoons love corn. I don’t grow corn.
Winter squash is wonderful. I love
growing pumpkins. Both take lots of room. How many can two people eat? The
goats don’t mind eating the extra.
My diet needs more greens in it. Not
everyone in the household agrees. However, I have friends who love the extras.
Rutabaga is one vegetable I rarely have any luck with. I love this root crop. It
hates the Ozarks. I persist.
Spinach, snow peas and peas are on
the early list. Yard long beans are on the later list.
Potatoes are definitely on the list. They grow so well. I do plant fewer as we can’t eat them all.
Four summer staples are on the list.
Okra, summer squash, sweet peppers –both colored bell and long ones – and
tomatoes will be in the garden. I always seem to end up with many more plants
than planned for.
Buying seeds is such fun. Garden
dreams are so wonderful. Reality sets in about June. By then it’s too late for
rationality. The garden will again become a jungle, a delicious jungle, a
Winter cold, ice, snow reign in the Ozarks for another month or so. Coats, hats, long underwear add girth and still the cold seeps through. The cats sit and play in the snow in their wonderful fur coats.
Tyke and Cloudy have shared the barn
for several years. Tyke was there first and is older. They stay in the barn by
choice pretending to hunt mice. They do catch a few to impress me from time to
Over the winter the two cats found cozy beds in the hay or on extra goat blankets and coats. The house was used overnight only in extreme cold and for cat food.
Running fingers through the cats’ wonderful fur coats is to find them thick and soft. A generous undercoat makes the coats like deep plush velvet. This traps heat. The outer fur sheds water to keep the undercoat dry.
Tyke is getting older and now sleeps
on the floor in the house. He prefers the cold floor to warm blankets. I don’t
mind as he doesn’t share well and thinks my side of the bed is his and I can
This bed stealing is a subtle thing.
He waits until I am asleep, moves up against me and shoves. I roll over. He
repeats. Lucky for me he starts on the outside or I would be on the floor.
Days Tyke goes out. He catches mice in the hen house. He catches voles in the pastures. Rain or snow, he goes out.
Cloudy is more of a clumsy clown
when I see him. He loves showing off bounding through show, racing up trees,
leading the way with sudden stops to trip me up. Days in the twenties don’t
slow him down.
As I put on the layers getting ready to go out to milk or put out hay or carry water, I look at those wonderful fur coats and sigh. I try to remember that next summer those fur coats won’t look so tempting.