Goat kids grow up so fast. There is a group of seven, yet already there are two kid play groups.
The three older kids – older is relative as they are only three days older – are going outside. Matilda’s single buck leaps up on the bench and spends lots of time outside exploring. Juliette’s twins try to follow her out to the small pasture but stop at the gate and run back to the barn.
The other four sleep more. These
were smaller kids being a set of triplet bucks and a doe from a yearling.
Kid play groups matter. When kids
are small, their mother answers their calls, comes running back when they are
lost and showers them with attention. As kids get older, their mothers start to
ignore them and get on with the serious business of eating. The play groups
then keep the kids together, answer each other’s calls and occupy their time
with various games.
The kids in a group are normally about the same age and stage. A smaller, more backward kid will often end up in a play group of younger kids.
By the time these kids are a month
old, the seven will spend most of their time playing together. Another two
weeks will split them up again into two kid play groups as the three older kids
get more serious about eating.
The groups will still merge for fun and games. King of the mountain, race down the log, tag through the herd and other activities are popular until kids get to be yearlings. Even then they indulge themselves at times.
The does watch the antics with such long suffering attitudes. They have forgotten when they were parts of kid play groups. As adults they are far too dignified to engage in such antics. Unless no one is watching.
Meet Star, The Little Goat, in “For Love of Goats” and read more about kids growing up.
The older I get, the more involved in writing I get, the more I like having things staying nice and orderly. Another good reason for doing this is so I remember to get everything done on time. Surprise kids don’t fit in the plan.
Very little about my goats stays on plan. In the Ozarks Nubians breed any month of the year and have kids any month of the year. My goat plan calls for breeding in October and November and kids in March and April.
Every year I do my best to stay on my goat plan. Every year
my goats do their best to disrupt my plan.
That brings me to the surprise kids just born. Matilda and Juliette decided to kid either early or late depending on whether I count these kids as part of this year’s kids or next season’s kids.
November is not a good time of year for kids to be born.
November is winter in the Ozarks. It can bring and has brought freezing temperatures,
snow and ice.
This November is like a yoyo temperature wise. It gets cold
for several days. It gets warmer for several days. Warmer is relative. Cold is
highs in the thirties and forties. Warmer is highs in the fifties and sixties.
Matilda is a big goat. She had seemed bigger than usual and slower than usual. I didn’t pay much attention.
Rain had moved in and stayed. It had rained all day. It
stopped in the evening in time for me to go out to milk without carrying an
umbrella. I appreciate this as trying to balance milk, flashlight and umbrella
calls for more hands than I have.
The goats were eager to come in and eat. There are eighteen now how come through every morning and night. Seventeen showed up.
Matilda wasn’t milking. My goats are a bit on the fat side.
She doesn’t have to come in and eat. Still, I check on any goat that doesn’t
come in so I know why.
I found Matilda having her surprise kids. Except she stopped
with one black spotted buck kid. I set up a pen in the barn, put Matilda and
her kid in it and went in to finish writing my NaNo piece.
In the morning I went out to check on Matilda and do morning
chores including milking. Juliette was delivering her surprise kids. She
decided to have a black buck and a brown doe. They are set up in a cubby hole
in the hay. She is delighted.
I’m glad too. Both does had kids when temperatures were in the warmer cycle. The cold cycle starts up again in December.
To make things more interesting, Rose had triplet bucks and Valerie a single doe. The warmer cycle is their best friend for another couple of days.
“For Love of Goats” is for those who love goats and playing with tongue twisters and the sounds of words. Look at the sample pages. The book is available December 7.
My favorite places to go shopping are used book sales and stores. One of the books I found was “We Took To the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich.
Written in the
1930’s, the book would seem to be very outdated. Except it isn’t, at least for
Not everyone has electricity and running water, two of the great innovations of civilization. The Riches were tucked into a lumber company’s land in what was once a lodge for fishermen coming to the wilds of Maine. Only a dozen or so people live in the area year round. Mail comes in by boat in the summer and must be retrieved by hiking out two miles on snowshoes in the winter. Groceries are a similar proposition.
This would be an
interesting challenge. Try to make out a grocery list for a month’s meals.
Remember bread doesn’t keep that long. No, you can’t freeze it as you have only
an ice box using ice for cooling. You make it. If you forget something, you
must do without until the next month.
There are places where this is the norm. I read once about a place in Wyoming where access to stores was once or twice a year. How much flour? Did you remember the salt? The leavening? Canned vegetables? Paper products?
heating are done with wood. Lights are kerosene with glass chimneys and wicks.
Snow is waist deep for months. Temperatures drop to ten or more below zero.
Would you be tough
“We Took To the
Woods” is done as though answering questions people ask about living this way.
How do you make a living? How do you keep house? What about the children? Do
you get bored? Do you get frightened?
For me it brought
back memories. We lived without electricity and running water for a time. I
learned to cook on a wood cookstove. Snow was waist deep for six months up in
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At least we could get out by car during the
winter although driving on a snow covered road between snow filled ditches is a
“We Took To the
Woods” also mentions about the logging. The lumber company still had logging
crews staying the winter in the woods, piling the pulp wood near the lakes,
ponds and rivers for the spring when all of it was floated down to the sawmill.
These men were not Paul Bunyon types, no matter what the movies portray.
I enjoyed reading
this book. It brought back memories I’m glad are now memories. Electricity and
running water had their luster restored as I’ve gotten complacent about them.
Complacent until the next time the electricity goes out.
I wanted to complete the investigations and activities for “The City Water Project” last summer. The air pump broke so my water rocket launches were delayed. Fall complied with a last really nice day.
Launching a water rocket is much easier with two people. Shooting off the rocket itself is a one person task. Timing the flight is easier with two.
While teaching a science class about
flight and the space program, we made and launched water rockets. The common
question was how high the rocket went. This is where the stop watch comes in.
The rocket was a two liter soda bottle partially filled with water. A stopper with an air needle through it is pushed in.
The rocket is placed on the launch
pad. The air needle is attached to the air pump. Air is pumped into the bottle
until the water rocket launches.
Learning science is a lot more fun
doing things like water rocket launches. Does the amount of water affect how
the rocket flies? What is the flight path like? Why is the path that shape?
If you stop and think about it, the water rocket goes up, hopefully straight up, then comes down. What pushes it up? It could be the air. It could be the water. Is it both? Why?
What brings the rocket back to
earth? What keeps anything from flying off into space? Gravity. And gravity has
a pull of 32 feet per second squared.
This is where timing the flight comes in. The rocket spends half its time going up and half coming down. We don’t knowhow fast it is going up. We do know how fast it’s coming down as gravity is pulling it.
The speed of gravity times half the
time of the flight will yield the height the rocket reached. My rocket didn’t
go very high.
Those at school went much higher. Of
course one person wasn’t trying to pump the air pump with one hand and start
the stop watch with the other hand, then stop it as a flight lasted only a few
My water rocket is still sitting in the launch pad in my workroom. Perhaps I will find someone next summer who wants to do some water rocket launches.
I didn’t start out to have bamboo thickets in the middle of my garden. I guess I was terribly naive.
My father had planted an edible
bamboo on his place. It was big and beautiful. After he died I dug up a small
piece of it and brought it home.
Bamboo seems to be hard to transplant. I’ve given pieces to several people and none have had much luck. Lucky them.
I didn’t know where to put this tiny
plant and put it into a small corner of my garden until I could decide. It
didn’t move. Instead it grew tentatively for several years.
Then the bamboo decided it liked
this corner of my garden. The bamboo thickets arrived and got bigger each year.
Bamboo is a grass. Like many grasses, it spreads by runners. The bamboo in my garden has never flowered. This is lucky.
The tiny plant now covers a ten foot
square and isn’t content. Every year I dig up ten and twelve foot runners going
out across the garden. They are tough, well rooted and a back killer.
I decided to get rid of my bamboo
thickets. It’s plural as some runners went undetected so there are adjacent
I discovered the bamboo is used by several creatures I want around my garden. Toads hide in it. Wrens nest in it. Praying mantises lay their egg cases in it.
I can’t keep pulling the runners up.
My back complains mightily. The solution is to kill out the bamboo. Where would
these creatures go?
This year I trimmed the bamboo
thickets back to a six foot square area. There are mantis egg cases in this
Next spring I will destroy any
bamboo that comes up anywhere other than in that area. Of course I said that
another year and failed. I must get serious or my entire garden will become
bamboo thickets. Where is that vinegar and salt spray recipe?
I do try to put new pictures up in the My Goats Gallery every so often. Two things keep me from doing this very often. One is the time to get the pictures. The other is my photogenic goats who hate to have their pictures taken.
The goats have a schedule. They eat breakfast then go out to pasture. I normally try to take their pictures out in the pasture.
Morning is not a good time. The
light is great. The goats are off on the hills in the woods.
Trees give my photogenic goats great
places to hide. And there is the ploy of ganging up.
The herd comes down from the hills in the afternoon. The light is more yellow. Shadows are darker. I must be on the south side of the goats with them facing east or west for a good picture.
Afternoon is also when the goats
start thinking about coming in for the night. My appearance is a good excuse to
start off for the pasture gate.
I went out early the other day because the goats were down earlier than usual. They were scattered around the old cow barn. How many pictures could I get. My photogenic goats looked great.
As soon as I got there, the herd
bunched up and started for the pasture gate. I followed for a distance hoping
for one or two pictures. No luck. I left.
The herd stopped. Every head turned
to watch me go out a side gate. A short time later the herd spread out to graze
Another favorite ploy is to face away from me. All I see are rumps.
Agate and Pest come over to check
the camera out. Photogenic goats or not, petting is much superior to having
your picture taken.
I have one last recourse. This is highly unpopular with the goats. I tie them to the fence one by one and take a picture. since I’ve been trying to get pictures for the gallery for a couple of months now, I guess I will do this the next nice day.
It’s late fall. Snakes are supposed to be hidden away for the winter. The milk room copperhead didn’t get the memo.
Copperheads do live here. They like it down in a creek valley. We rarely see them as copperheads are shy snakes.
Usually the goats come across the
copperheads. One or another will come limping into the barn with a swollen leg.
The afflicted goat mopes around in
obvious pain. I called the vet the first time a goat was bitten. He assured me
the goat would recover in a day or two. All he could do was give a steroid shot
to take the swelling down.
Partially reassured I waited. The
swelling went down a little by the next day and the goat insisted on limping
out with the herd. Most of the swelling was gone that evening. Complete
recovery took another day.
Years ago a copperhead haunted the
hen house. After a few weeks, it was rarely seen. On those occasions, it was
fat and brilliantly colored.
Copperheads are pretty snakes from a
safe distance. The light copper background with the irregular copper bands make
The milk room copperhead first appeared a couple of weeks ago. I turned from the feed barrel and started walking toward the far milk stand when the two foot long snake sped across the floor and disappeared.
Usually the six foot black snakes
are the resident barn snakes. They reside under the barn floor. One definite
reason to not have a raised floor in a barn is that the crawl space provides a
home for numerous creatures, not all of them good neighbors.
Naively I assumed the copperhead was
on its way to its winter headquarters. Snakes, from what I’ve read, have
regular spots to spend the winters. The milk room copperhead didn’t get this
The snake slipped up from between the floor boards again. I’m hoping it hasn’t elected to nest among the hay bales for the winter.
Harriet learns to milk in Capri Capers. check out the sample pages.
Many animal spring babies are off on
their own now. That includes a young skunk now staking out the barn area as
In spite of their reputations,
skunks are not really interested in attacking anyone. This young one is rather
I first came across this particular one on my way to milk one evening. It was after dark and my flashlight batteries were starting to dim. There was movement along the road.
The skunk stood motionless assessing the situation and blinded by the light. It stomped its front feet. This is not a good sign.
Skunks are common around the area.
They move in for a time. They move on. Occasionally they discover I put milk
down for the cats as I milk and come in to drink it. They have a different lap
sound from the cats, more of a smack, smack, smack. I say something. They look
up with a startled expression and depart hastily. One was a repeat offender and
ignored me in a night or two. It left after the milk was gone.
That night I backed off. The skunk relaxed. I sidled by on the other side of the road.
The next afternoon I let the
chickens out to forage for a couple of hours. They have adjusted to the short
times out well. The foxes seem to be ignoring them.
The flood of chickens rolled out
across the grass, came to a screeching halt and retreated. My pullets
complained loudly to me about the invader in their section of grass.
The skunk was busy foraging. It feeds on worms and grubs it digs up. Armadillos may dig bigger holes, but skunks leave a lumpy path behind too. However, an armadillo races off once it spots you. A skunk dares you to do something.
I moved in with the camera. The skunk looked up, arched its tail, seemed almost to shrug and went back to foraging.
The chickens gave it a wide berth that day. After a few days, they now ignore the young skunk as it ignores them.
City people seem to have the idea that country people can take it easy fall and winter. All that changes here are the kinds of things being done. I have a busy fall season.
Killing frost left my garden wilted.
I knew it was coming so bags of tomatoes, peppers, long beans and squash moved
into the kitchen.
These bags await my attention. Some
are already sorted. A few bags of peppers are now at someone else’s house. My
pepper plants wanted to make sure I had a busy fall season.
The new fall routine is clearing the dead plants out. Then the beds are rebuilt with manure, cardboard and mulch. Garlic is planted. Plastic covers the shade house where cabbage, bok choi and winter radishes already grow.
Dairy goats need attention every
day. Fall is breeding season. My busy fall season includes getting some does
bred while keeping my winter milkers away from Augustus. And at least one doe
will have November kids.
The goat barn must be winterized.
And the summer manure build up must be taken out to the garden. Two new lights
are supposed to go in, one in the goat section and one in the chicken section.
My busy fall season wouldn’t be complete without a book to complete. “For Love of Goats” is progressing. The front cover is done. Three quarters of the illustrations are done. Sample pages should go up in another week with a release date in mid November.
Yes, November. NaNo (National Novel
Writing Month). I’m not ready. What will I write? The subconscious is working
on this question.
By December I will be back to work
on “The City Water Project” for release next March. It’s half done.
Maybe city people can relax over the
fall and winter. My busy fall season will morph into an equally busy winter
Do you remember the story of the little engine that could? “I think I can. I think I can.” Doing goat illustrations has had me telling this to myself for weeks now.
Picture book illustrations are so common readers seem to flip
by them with scarcely a glance. I won’t do that anymore. Those illustrations
are the result of hours and days of planning, sketching, correcting and doing.
My new goat book has a series of ten flash fiction pieces about a little goat in it. These needed illustrations. This was a new challenge.
I had been doing goat illustrations for the other single
page, unrelated pieces in the book. Each letter has a short piece using that
letter and an illustration. As long as this related to goats and the written piece,
The Little Goat was different. These ten written pieces were
all related and about the same three goats: Ma and her twin doelings. As in a
novel, characters do not change names and other traits from one chapter to the
next. These three goats must look the same in all of the illustrations.
I spent days going over each piece and deciding on what the illustration would be, then drawing it. Every flaw in my drawing crept into these sketches. After several adjustments, each sketch was done.
What color or colors would each of the three goats be? Even
more important was how to mix the colors I wanted. For some reason watercolors
have a limited set of colors and expect the artist or illustrator to mix these
to get the desired color.
Ma was to be a red goat. I got out the red. Goats are more
of a copper color than pure red so I added some brown. And got pink. For some
reason almost any combination with red produces pink. Goats are not pink.
One kid was to be golden brown. This is when I discovered starting with orange worked much better than working with red or yellow.
One kid was to be black. The hard part of that is getting
details to show as black tends to merge into one black blob.
My goat illustrations are improving. I learned a lot doing the related series for the Little Goat.
Rescuing goats is not a common activity for me. It can be crucial.
Most often this means kids are lost.
They went to sleep and the herd had moved on without them. Or the herd crossed
the creek and they were afraid of the water.
Louie needed rescuing regularly as he easily lost track of where the herd was. Being blind he couldn’t see the herd was only ten or twenty feet away. Of course no goat would answer him so one of us had to go out and rescue him.
We finally took to staying with the
herd much of the time as Louie, for some reason, would take off up hill when he
got frantic looking for the other goats. He could really cover some ground and
was hard to catch up with. Being half panicked, he wouldn’t turn around or wait
for his pursuer.
One half grown kid got stuck in a
forked tree. Finding her was pure luck as she was Alpine and fairly quiet.
Rescuing goats is much easier with
Nubians. They announce their situation loudly enough to be heard back at the
house even from hills a quarter mile away.
That was the case recently. I was working around the barn making needed repairs. The nail supply was in the garage. A goat could be heard calling.
Goats call for lots of reasons, most
for communicating among themselves. Nubians like talking to each other. Except
this goat had a worried tone and kept calling.
Following the calls took us out
across the creek and up the first hill. A wind burst a few years ago knocked
down a lot of trees. One was forked.
Lydia had stepped through between
the forks. To understand what happened I need to describe my Ozark hill.
This hill has a fifty to sixty degree grade. It is covered two to six inches deep in loose gravel. Climbing it once a day would be great exercise.
Evidently Lydia’s hooves slipped on
the gravel and she fell on the lower trunk. It had no bark left and was
slippery. She slid down closer to the fork.
Being a normal goat, Lydia tried to
squeeze through. She slipped down to where the fork was too narrow for her to
get through. She started calling for help.
It took two people to shove her up
the trunk. The gravel made this difficult, but she got out. She took off to
rejoin the herd without a backward glance.
Rescuing goats is done as a service
to goats. It gains no thanks, only the satisfaction of saving a goat.
One of the most commonly asked questions of an author is where they get their ideas. Even for a goat novel there is no easy answer except life.
The germ of my novels is a character I find interesting. This may be someone I see out somewhere or someone I knew sometime. As this character becomes more real, the questions change to what would happen if? What would this character do?
“Dora’s Story” began with Dora and a
question of whether it was possible to write a gpat novel about the life of a
goat in the spirit of “Black Beauty” and a horse. I have known a lot of goats,
met quite a few goat owners and heard about other livestock owners.
A list of possible things that could happen to a goat started forming. Each thing brought in the type of owner who could trigger the event. The list got quite long.
The novel might have remained only a
list until Emily appeared. Then the story had a focus: Emily and Dora were best
friends, parted for some reason leading to a search and a final reunion. This
goat novel would be easy to write.
I was so wrong.
Confidently I started writing. The first part was so easy. The second part started getting sticky. The fourth part fell into shambles. Perhaps this goat novel was never meant to be written.
Except I knew the ending.
My list of story points became a time line. My goat shows became pages of classes, goats entered, goat owners, awards. The shambles got rewritten.
My goat novel “Dora’s Story” was
written and went into rewrites and more rewrites. The timeline was off. More
rewrites. More corrections.
My goat novel was like a movie in my
head. I saw the goats, the people and wanted to have an illustration for each
part as well as having a cover with Dora on it. Thanks to Martha Cunningham
those illustrations became reality.
Work continues on my new goat book. At the moment most of it is on the illustrations. For these I need some goat perspectives.
There may be artists who can draw
from memory. I’m not one of them. I’m not really an artist or even an illustrator.
I need references.
My references of choice are photographs. These have several advantages chief among them is their permanence. The goats don’t move.
Over the many years I’ve raised
goats, I’ve taken lots of photographs. They tend to be much the same views of
the goats: left or right side, broadside. This would not only be monotonous,
but not suitable for all of the stories, tongue twisters and other goat texts
in the book.
Out comes the camera. Off I go
stalking goats. And goats, my goats anyway, are notoriously camera shy.
I need pictures of goats in motion. They make sure to go too fast and blur the picture.
I need pictures of goats looking at me. They look the other way. Or they make some face like sticking their tongues out or exaggeratedly chewing their cud.
I need pictures from the front. They
face the other way.
The last ploy is to disappear up
into the hills and not come down until sunset. Cameras do need light to take
pictures. And shadows are immense close to sunset. And colors are yellowed near
Yes, most of the illustrations will be Nubians. I raise Nubians and am most familiar with them.
While working on “Goat Games,” I
took pictures, many more than I used in the book, of other breeds. And I did
have Alpines in my herd for many years.
Once I have pictures of different
goat perspectives, I can do the sketches. These outlines
are in pencil and act as guides for the ink and watercolor. The outlines can be
tweaked. That is where erasers come in handy.
My lack of experience shows when I
add ink and watercolor. That is what computers are for: fixing my mistakes.
Erase those ink blots!
I grew up with Rhode Island Red
chickens when they were still big and placid. Those, crazy Arcanas and white
leghorns were the three breeds I knew. Surprise! There are lots of chicken
By the time I got my hands on a catalog of chicken breeds, I knew there were more than three. The range both of sizes and colors still amazed me.
My flock normally runs around thirty
birds with one or two roosters. The hens were all brown, usually Red Hampshires
or Buff Orpingtons. These are nice chickens.
Curiosity ate at me. What about all those other chicken breeds? Why couldn’t I have some of them?
My primary goals then were eggs and
meat. My chick orders were straight run so I got some pullets for eggs and
roosters for meat. That kept me in the dual purpose pages.
Habit keeps me wanting brown eggs.
That narrowed the breeds available a little. Price narrowed it more.
I compromised. Half my chick order was a regular breed. Half was something different. My flock soon included Black Austrolorps, standard Cochins, Barred Rocks, Silver and Gold Wyandottes and crazy Arcanas.
Every breed is different. Cochins
are sweethearts. They are big fluffy feather balls on two little feather balls.
When I pick one up, it’s mostly feathers. They are calm and friendly.
Black Austrolorps melt into the
background. They are a nice chicken and seem to have personalities. The other
chickens overwhelm them.
Barred Rocks get into everything. I can lay out a banquet in front of them and they still go checking out other places in case there is something better.
This year I tried out Speckled
Sussex. They seem to be a smaller chicken than the others. These pullets
hustle. Food is what they love and what they look for. ‘If something looks
edible, eat it’ seems to be their motto.
Those crazy Arcanas? Yes, I have several in my flock. The blue and green eggs are interesting. Unlike the other chicken breeds, these never seem to tame down. Even handling them as chicks makes no difference.
Next spring? My Buff Orpingtons and
standard Cochins are down to one old hen each. Maybe I’ll try a different color
One nice thing about the Ozarks is the long growing season. It allows for a fall garden to usher in cold weather.
August was very wet this year. Tomatoes split. Peppers drooped unhappily. And fall planting was delayed.
Crops for the fall like cooler weather so it seems strange to plant them during a hot month. After the middle of August there is time for the seeds to enjoy warm weather for germination. September brings cooler growing weather.
Cabbage is a popular fall crop. Transplants are available for it, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I grow the cabbage and skip the others. They take too much room for too little in produce.
Instead I opt for turnips, rutabaga,
beets, lettuces, spinach, winter radishes and a variety of greens. The smaller
vegetables go into the shade house. The turnips and rutabaga get far too large
for there and are frost resistant so they go out in a garden bed.
The week the seeds should have been
planted brought over seven inches of rain. My garden does have good drainage,
but that is pushing it.
The seeds finally made it in as another storm came in. It was late in the afternoon. Thunder sounded to the southeast, a definite warning of rain to come.
I was half done. The goats needed to
come in. I tried to speed up.
Only one long row was left. The
first scattered drops skittered across my back. More and louder thunder dared
me to finish.
The last seeds went in as the first big drops fell. I wouldn’t have to water any of these seeds in.
Augustus was racing into his pen as
I arrived to swing his door closed. The herd was huddled under the persimmon
and hackberry trees as I swung the gate open.
The goats fled for the barn. I
walked. I was already soaked. But the fall garden was planted.
English has thousands of words from
many languages. Other languages can have plays on words, but they can’t rival
English for playing with words.
Standing in the cold watching the does eat during milking as most of them are dry is boring. Playing with words occupies the mind and lets the goats get away with little tricks which they don’t mind.
Dandy wether debates whether or not
a wether should go out in rainy weather.
Homonyms are fun. English has lots
Alpines align alertly.
Alliteration and tongue twisters are
old favorites. The challenge was to come up with one for each letter of the
Some were easy. C is for caprine. D
is for doe. G is for goat. T is for Toggenberg.
Others were real challenges. Yet
something worked for all the letters except one. No, it’s not Z or Q or J. I am
Now goats are ruminants and do have rumens, but these don’t seem to lend themselves to anything light-hearted using alliteration or homonyms or even tongue twisters. Perhaps there is some other topic? I need some ideas.
Playing with words gave me 26 pages doubled when illustrations are added. This seemed awfully short so I added some flash fiction about a kid.
The illustrations are another challenge. I’m working on the sketches. It’s tempting to make them rich, elaborate affairs. I’m not that good.
Tongue twisters and alliterative passages are simple word plays. The illustrations should match. They will be ink brush stroke done mostly in black ink but some color. After all, goats are in color.
I still think of this little book as
The Goat Alphabet Book, but it doesn’t really fit anymore. Buried somewhere in
this little book is a title. I haven’t found it yet.
And to think that this all started
because English has so many words with so many beautiful sounds and playing
with words can be such fun.
One of the advantages of keeping
goats more as a hobby than as a business is being able to keep special needs
goats from time to time. Such kids are rare.
Most often these special kids are
just small. They need bottle feeding and extra care. Most of those that survive
will grow up to be small, but normal adults. Juliette is as big as my other
Two special needs goats I remember here were born blind. The first was Louie.
Silk was close to due, but didn’t
look that close. She went out that morning, but didn’t come in. Intense
searching didn’t find her.
Early the next morning I went out
again. This time Silk turned up with a single doe kid. I had expected twins and
backtracked without finding a second kid.
My friend had started at the other end of the hill. He found a little buck kid. The kid seemed normal, but Silk rejected him. Bottle baby.
In the house we noticed his eyes
didn’t look right. Examination showed the corneas to be badly scarred and
Newborns have a short time in which
they learn to use their eyes. If their eyes are covered during that time, the
animal will never see well even if the eyes are normal. This is true not only
of goats, but people, cats, dogs and others as well.
Louie’s eyes were not usable at that
special time. They later cleared a little, but he could never see.
Louie learned to find his way around
the barn. He followed the herd out to pasture for a time. He got his name
because he would get separated and we could hear him trumpeting his distress at
the house and go out to rescue him.
Louie and Gaius were best friends for several years until Louie got urinary stones and died.
My other special needs kid was
Martha. She had several disabilities being born blind and mostly deaf. She
didn’t let it slow her down much. She couldn’t go out to pasture, so she
learned to play on the goat gym by herself. She amused herself for long periods
of time going up and down the ramp.
Martha was my shadow as I worked around the workshop and garden. Evidently she had no sense of taste either and I didn’t watch closely enough. She got into some poisonous plants when only a few months old.
Do I regret keeping these special needs goats? No. They did have disabilities, but were able to have good lives during the time they had.
Remembrances of these and other goat adventures will be part of the new goat book. For now, check out Capri Capers.
Months have gone by. Those small pepper and tomato plants have grown. Now they are big and the container bounty is ripening.
As I filled the containers, they looked so large. It took a lot of dirt to fill one. The plants were so small. So four pepper plants went into each one.
The surrounding wire is three feet
tall. Each circle is staked against the wind that never came this year. Instead
the plants are taller than the wire and pushing against it.
One tomato plant fills one container. When I walk out to milk or start backing out of the driveway, I see it. Often the leaves are just barely starting to hang in that “give me water” manner. I stop and oblige even though I’m positive I just watered it the day before. This too is container bounty as it sags under numerous clusters of tomatoes. Maybe all those tomatoes make the plant need more water.
Even four pepper plants don’t need
as much water as the tomato plant. The newspaper and mulch keep the thirsty
weeds from moving in. The rain comes by to help and the mulch holds the
Like the garden peppers and
tomatoes, the container fruit takes its time ripening. This waiting drives me
One consolation is the lack of
tomato and pepper attackers around the house. The container bounty has no bites,
is not torn down and tossed in the dirt.
The garden plants aren’t so lucky. The woodchuck still eludes capture, still digs up plants and mulch. Raccoons sample the tomatoes, find they are too green to be palatable and toss them aside. The young raccoons are captured and go elsewhere. The adults have learned to open the trap and escape.
Electric fence is my next option, but requires a pathway cleared through tall grass and other weeds. It is slow going in the heat.
In the meantime I admire the
container bounty around the house. A single tomato ripened to be savored at
dinner. Another has blushed. Three pepper plants have ripened fruit.
A freezer full of summer’s container
bounty may yet happen.
Why are quill pens so interesting? A
regular pen is much easier to use. Perhaps making quill pens is part of the
Then again this is fun to do as part
of colonial history. All of our country’s founding documents were written with
quill pens. They look so elegant in the portraits.
The first requirement for making quill pens are the quills. These are feathers, but not just any feathers. Birds are covered with feathers of many kinds doing different things for the bird. A quill is a large wing feather.
Birds have wings on both sides. The
quills on one side curve to the left and on the other side to the right. Most
people are right handed so the left curve was preferable as it curved away from
Another requirement was size. Bigger quills held more ink and wrote better. Goose quills were the most common as geese were raised for feathers and food. The best ones came from swans.
According to the 1912 Encyclopedia
Britannica making quill pens was quite an industry. The quills were obtained
and heated to a specific temperature. There was organic matter inside the
quills and the heat made it easy to remove this. Then the points were cut at
various angles depending on how the quill was to be used.
For “The City Water Project” activity
making quill pens, the special heating and cutting are dispensed with. The
quill is found, cleaned off and the end shaved or cut at some angle. Food
coloring can be used in place of ink, although real ink is much better as it is
I’ve used vulture wing feathers and wild turkey feathers I’ve found on the hills or in the pastures. Both work well. This time a friend gave me a peacock feather to try. It worked well too. The main thing is to have a large quill.
This time too I had real ink. It
worked very well even with the crude point I managed to cut. Making quill pens
is a fun activity, but I prefer my ball point pens, an invention that appeared
for sale in the late 1950’s.
Years ago I posted a science
experiment on my website every week. One summer these were
a series of water investigations.
“The City Water Project” was in its planning stages. The water investigations were being considered for inclusion in the book. They have been weeded down to ten investigations and six activities.
While teaching I came up with an
investigation format and still follow it. There is a question, a materials
list, step-by-step procedure, questions and tables to record observations
leading to analysis and conclusion questions. Each of the ten water
investigations has been rewritten in this format.
Writing out an investigation doesn’t
mean it will work. It should work. It might not. That means using the written investigation
to do the experiment.
Water is easily spilled. Besides, it’s summer. I set up a table outside to use for doing the experiments.
A few of the experiments need to be
done outside as they splash water around. I thought all of them should and could
be done outside.
There are some problems outside.
Rain is one. Wind is another. Insects come by to check the table out. Already
one of the Activities will have a recommendation to do it inside.
This is a fun challenge. Believe it
or not, you can boil water inside a paper pot. I’ve done it several times using
a candle to heat the paper pot.
This time I failed. The water did get hot enough to make little bubbles on the bottom. But the water didn’t boil.
Why not? A slight breeze kept
blowing the flame and heat away from the pan.
Another of the water investigations
uses paper towels. The breeze threatened to blow the paper strips away. The
investigation did get done.
There are a few more investigations
and activities to do yet. One will definitely get done in the house as it
requires using a stove. One really works better with two people or more as
shooting off water rockets is much more fun and easier that way.
Doing them outside in the summer is
mostly the way to go. “The City Water Project” is scheduled for release next
March just in time for next summer.
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.