Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Goat Kid Play Groups

Goat kids grow up so fast. There is a group of seven, yet already there are two kid play groups.

leader of one of the two kid play groups
Single goat kids have several advantages. Often they are larger at birth. Then they get all of the milk. Nubian Matilda’s buck kid takes advantage of both as he is awake more, plays more and explores more than any of the other kids.

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.

kid play groups need kids like these
Only a week earlier these two Nubian kids were wet newborns trying to make sense of their new world. Now they are lively and curious about everything. They sample grass, hay, dirt as their rumens start to work. They spend lots of time playing and sleeping.

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.

kids sleeping group
Out in the barn kids dodge adult does. Young kids spend lots of time sleeping and want a safe, warm place. This old cobbled together bench offers a safe haven and the kids move in. It looks like they would smother each other, but each head is sticking out. The difficulty is getting up, especially if you are the bottom kid. Usually all the kids get up when one does and all of the kids go searching and calling for their mothers.

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.

Nubian doe kid
Nubian High Reaches Valerie is a first time mother. She is a yearling. She had this single doe kid that is a bit small. High Reaches Rose had triplet bucks at the same time. Valerie was happy to adopt one and much prefers the buck to her own little doe. The little doe has adopted me as I make sure she gets two or three big meals a day. She is growing fast.

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.

Surprise Kids Arrive

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.

Nubian doe Juliette's surprise kids
Just born goat kids are wet and trying to decide what is going on. The little buck was born first. he had a leg back and had to be pulled. The little brown doe did fine on her own. Juliette thought maternal attention did fine with her lying down. Temperature makes a big difference in winter births. These kids had warmer temperatures helping them out. Once the kids are dry, they can take a lot of cold.

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.

surprise kids buck a day later
With goat kids a day makes a big difference. The little buck is now fluffed up. Due to cold nights he’s wearing a goat coat. It’s a bit big, but the cold isn’t going away before he grows into it. He gets up and down, is thinking about playing and can find dinner on his own.

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.

surprise kids doe a day later
At a day old a goat kid still has trouble operating the legs. Standing up isn’t too difficult. Lying down seems to be. This little doe sleeps standing up until she falls down or is knocked down. In another day she will be an expert with the legs.

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.

buck kid seems awake
This little buck kid was asleep, but heard me and thought his mother had arrived from the pasture. He lifted his head seemingly alert and attentive.

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.

buck kid asleep
Nubian doe Matilda had not come in yet. Her little buck immediately lay his head down and was asleep again.

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.

“We Took To the Woods”

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 me.

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.

"We Took To the Woods" by Louise Dickinson Rich
The family lived in the small house over the winter as it was easier to keep warm. Summers were spent in what was one a lodge. One advantage to moving twice a year is how well you pare down your piles of possessions.

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?

Cooking and 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 enough?

“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 challenge.

“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.

Water Rocket Launches

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.

water rocket
Any size plastic soda bottle will work. The big ones fly higher. They can be decorated, even have fins added. Any add ons must be very secure or they will fall off when the rocket is launched and can make the rocket fly crooked. The air needle is pushed through the rubber stopper or cork.

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.

water rocket launches ready
The launch pad needs to be sturdy. It holds the rocket in place pointing roughly straight up. It has room underneath for the air pump hose to fit and attach to the plug.

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?

water rocket launches happening
Air bubbles into the bottle with every push on the air pump. It doesn’t take very many before the water rocket takes off with a sound much like a champagne cork being pulled out. Water sprays out of the bottle getting the launch pad and everything around it wet.

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.

after water rocket launches
I wanted a picture of the rocket taking off. I got one of the rocket after it landed. The flight took less that 3 seconds, I think. It is hard to start the stop watch when the rocket launches as it happens so fast.

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 seconds.

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.

Like hands on science with puzzles and stories? Try out “The Pumpkin Project.”

Bamboo Thickets Invade Garden

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.

Ozark bamboo thickets are dense
This is an Oriental edible bamboo, not the native giant cane. Ozark winters tend to kill the tall bamboo canes. The tallest ones I’ve had were ten to twelve feet although the bamboo is supposed to reach thirty feet or more. So most of my thicket is up to eight feet tall and bushy. The goats will eat bamboo, but are not fond of it.

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.

bamboo thickets spread with runners
A bamboo runner looks a lot like a bamboo stalk. The joints are shorter making it more flexible. The runners can loop over the ground like this one, go along about four to five inches underground or dive down a foot or more. Removing them is done by cutting it as close to the bamboo thicket as possible, uncovering the underground portions and pulling the runner up. Runners can be ten feet long or more.

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 patches now.

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.

praying mantis case on bamboo cane
Both Carolina and Chinese praying mantises live around here. The big egg cases are from the Chinese mantises. Bamboo is a favored site for the egg cases and the mantises are welcome in the garden. That makes keeping a small thicket tempting.

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 area.

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?

My Photogenic Goats

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.

Agate thinks photogenic goats need close ups
Agate won’t listen. I tell her people want to see all of her. She wants her chin scratched, not her photograph taken.

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.

goat herd leaving
When the picture taker is persistent, leave. So my herd takes off with the opinion I have to really get a move on if I want a picture. The ideal spot is in the middle so little more than ears are visible.

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.

photogenic goats are on the move
Lydia got left behind. I finally got a picture. She is doing her best to outrun me and nearly does. Now I need eighteen more pictures.

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 again.

Another favorite ploy is to face away from me. All I see are rumps.

Tails are in for these photogenic Nubian goats
My herd is busy grazing. Pictures aren’t important. They don’t care if anyone else sees what they look like. One way to get rid of me is to turn tail and eat. At least they think so.

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.

Add some spice to the holidays with a copy of Capri Capers.

Milk Room Copperhead

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.

copperhead snake on road
Copperheads usually show up on the road. They like to bask in the sun or cross to the other side. Some years we see several of them. Other years we see none. Only one has acted aggressively in 26 years. Most are shy, retiring snakes anxious to vanish from sight.

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 them unmistakable.

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.

milk room copperhead looking around
This is one determined and cautious copperhead. I surprised it earlier and it withdrew. This time it stuck its head up and watched. I waited as long as I could as the light was fading outside leaving the milk room too dark from its single light for pictures. The snake was still waiting as I left. It was gone when I returned and has not been back.

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 memo either.

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.

Young Skunk Scares Chickens

Many animal spring babies are off on their own now. That includes a young skunk now staking out the barn area as home base.

In spite of their reputations, skunks are not really interested in attacking anyone. This young one is rather nervous.

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.

young skunk startled
The skunk didn’t seem to notice much around it. I finally got close enough to be noticed. The skunk backed up a step and lifted its tail. In a few seconds the tail came down and it resumed digging in the grass. If a skunk gets really alarmed, it raises the tail much higher, stands square and stomps the front feet. If the perceived threat stays, the skunk turns away and lets loose.

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.

chicken ignoring young skunk
After the chickens ran from the skunk, they settled down and gave it a wide berth as they ate grass and bugs. The skunk ignored the chickens.

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.

young skunk digging for grubs
The stripes on the back of a skunk can be thin lines, short as on this skunk and up to covering the entire back making the skunk appear white. The skunk rustled through the grass, stopped and dug, ate whatever tasty morsel was uncovered and moved to begin again.

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.

Skunks appear in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Busy Fall Season

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.

Nubian buck High Reaches Silk's Augustus wishes for a busy fall season
Fall is breeding season for goats. Nubians will breed all year round, but prefer fall. Every August my buck Augustus begins to smell rank and ogle the girls. By September it’s hard to get him to eat his grain. He spends most of his time pacing the fence or standing on top of the gym watching for the herd to come back.

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.

"For Love of Goats" by Karen GoatKeeper
Watercolor is great for illustrations in my opinion. It takes practice and I’m getting a lot of it completing the sixty or so illustrations for this book. Professional illustrators deserve much more admiration for their work than they are given.

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 season.

Drawing Goat Illustrations

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.

goat illustrations of Alpines
A is so much fun for alliteration. And Alpines lend themselves for a fun story. The two Alpines were done by ink brush stroke.

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, it worked.

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.

one of Little Goat illustrations
Mother goats often seem to ignore their kids unless problems occur. The kids go through a phase when their ears itch. At that time the kid isn’t too steady on its feet and has a lot of trouble learning how to scratch an ear. At the same time the kids are ready to hop and run. This illustration is done with watercolor.

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.

last Little Goat illustration
Kids do a lot of sleeping. That seems to be when they grow. Star and Aster have had a long day out in the pastures with the herd. It’s night and time to sleep.

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.

Capri Capers” is another fun goat book already available.

Rescuing Goats

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.

blind goat listening for herd
Louie tried really hard to keep track of the herd. He listened for the sounds of the goats grazing ripping leaves or grass off. He followed the sound of the goats walking through the grass. But this had a limited range of about ten feet. After that he was out of touch and searching. He would first listen, then circle. If he couldn’t find the herd, he would start to panic and take off in the direction the herd might have gone. Panic would keep him from hearing his name called, even convince him he was being pursued. The best solution was to keep him in with Goat Town USA Gaius. They were best friends and rarely very far apart. Gaius always answered Louie and went back to get him any time he got lost.

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.

Rescuing goats list now includes Nubian doe Juliette's Lydia
High Reaches Juliette’s Lydia loves eating acorns. She is normally a quiet goat. When she got trapped, her big Nubian voice announced her problem to those working across the creek, by the barn, across the street and at the house.

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.

trap waiting to make rescuing goats necessary
This fallen tree is a freak accident waiting to happen. The tree alone isn’t a problem. The goats can easily walk through between the branches. The gravel is the trap. Lydia stepped through and her feet slid down the hill. A chain saw eliminated this problem.

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.

Writing a Goat Novel

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 the Alpine/Nubian goat from Dora's Story
Martha Cunningham is known for her horse paintings. I knew her when we both taught at Bunker High School. My original illustrator withdrew and I asked Martha for her help. She worked hard to get comfortable drawing Dora and the various situations found in the novel.

“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.

Emily from the goat novel Dora's Story
In Part 2 of Dora’s Story Emily gets and names Dora to participate in a 4-H livestock project. She and Dora become fast friends. When her mother sells Dora, Emily is devastated and tries to find her.

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.

Leonard from the goat novel Dora's Story
Leonard rescues Dora and they become fast friends in Part 4 of Dora’s Story. Leonard has had to give up his cattle and retirement is not where he wants to be. Dora and the other two goats provide Leonard with livestock and something interesting to do each day.

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.

Shawn from the goat novel Dora's Story
Shawn, from Part 6 of Dora’s Story, is the baby of the family. Dora becomes his goat. The two set off to conquer the goat shows.

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.

And “Dora’s Story” was written.

Read some pages from “Dora’s Story“.

Goat Perspectives Are Important

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.

Nubian goat perspectives
Goat heads really show differences between the breeds. No goat owner should mistake the Roman nose and pendulous ears of a Nubian for an Alpine’s sharp upright ears and straight to dished face or a LaMancha’s tiny ears and straight face.

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.

goat walking changes goat perspectives
I’m not sure how typical my Nubian buck Augustus’ walking stance is right now. He spends much of his time pacing the fence calling to does in heat. He is a fast walker. Notice how far back his ears are. Details are so important.

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 sunset.

Yes, most of the illustrations will be Nubians. I raise Nubians and am most familiar with them.

standing Nubian buck
Does seem much better proportioned than mature bucks. My Nubian buck Augustus seems to have a head too small for his body. The torso is more squared off than the body of a doe. Such details are important in my sketches as some are of bucks and some of does.

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!

Chicken Breeds Are Different

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 breeds.

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.

chicken breeds include Buff Orpingtons
Buff Orpingtons are a great choice for anyone wanting pet chickens. They are calm, friendly and live up to seven years. They do get big. I like their big, brown eggs.

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?

barred rock pullet
Plymouth or Barred Rocks grow into large hens that lay well. They have single combs. Dominiques have the same barred pattern, but have rose combs. They both are friendly chickens.

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.

standard size Cochin hen
Usually Cochins are seen as bantams. I don’t have a separate place to keep bantams and was delighted to find these fluffy, feather bootie chickens come in standard too. They do get big and suffer in very hot weather. This old hen takes cheese bits and horseflies out of my fingers.

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.

chicken breeds include Speckled Sussex
Speckled Sussex seem in constant motion. They tumble out the house door first every morning. They race out of the gate for grass before the other chickens know the gate is open. They are a smaller chicken.

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.

chicken breeds include Arcanas
Arcanas and Easter Eggers are known for laying blue and green eggs. Black Arcanas lay deep blue eggs. They are smaller hens, love chasing bugs and panic easily.

Next spring? My Buff Orpingtons and standard Cochins are down to one old hen each. Maybe I’ll try a different color of each.

Fall Garden Finally Planted

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.

tomato plants on shade house
Wet weather and humidity have spread blight early over the tomato plants. Still the plants are covered with ripening tomatoes. The plants sprawl naturally. I use baling twine to hold them onto the panels. The tomatoes can be picked from either side.

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.

Oriental radishes for fall garden
Regular radishes are a fast spring crop. Fall is the time to plant Oriental winter radishes. There are several kinds available. All prefer cool to cold weather and get big. They do not like frost, but can be covered.

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.

Playing With Words Leads To Book

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.

goat wether
Every goat person knows about bucks, does and kids. They should know about wethers too. I’ve used wethers for harness and meat. They make good goat pets. They don’t look or act like a buck, yet are more masculine than a doe.

Dandy wether debates whether or not a wether should go out in rainy weather.

Homonyms are fun. English has lots of them.

Alpines align alertly.

playing with words begins with A for Alpine
A has so many words to use for alliteration on the topic of Alpines. Gem shows many Alpine characteristics to help with the illustration.

Alliteration and tongue twisters are old favorites. The challenge was to come up with one for each letter of the alphabet.

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 missing R.

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.

Oberhasli does are for O with ornery and obedient
O is for Oberhasli with some obedient manners masking some ornery intentions.

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.

goat kids get into all kinds of mischief giving fodder for playing with words
Goat kids figure in many of the letters including I, K and Z. And two kids are the subject of a series of ten flash fiction pieces. This may be because kids are so cute, curious and ornery.

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.

Special Needs Goats

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 goats.

Two special needs goats I remember here were born blind. The first was Louie.

blind goat is one of special needs goats
The herd crossed the bridge so Louie crossed the bridge. The first time he turned before getting to the end and fell in the creek. As far as I know that was the only time. Louie wasn’t going to let a little thing like being blind stop him.

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.

blind goat listening for herd
A herd of Nubians keeps track of each other with numerous clues. One is by sound. Another is smell. Sight is an important one. Louie could hear, but couldn’t see. When Louie got more than five feet away from the herd, he was lost. His first reaction was to lift his head up high to listen and smell. If he couldn’t find the herd, he next started to circle and call. His ringing calls would echo back from the trees and confuse him sometimes sending him running off up a hill looking for the other goats. Calling him once he started this had no effect as he had panicked. He had to be caught and calmed down. Then he would follow back to the herd.

In the house we noticed his eyes didn’t look right. Examination showed the corneas to be badly scarred and white.

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.

another of my special needs goats was blind, deaf Martha
Even as a very young Nubian kid Martha was adventurous. Being blind and deaf was the way it was for her. She explored everywhere. She had no playmates so she found her own ways to play. The ramp on the goat gym was a favorite. She did get knocked off a time or two, but never fell off on her own. She climbed to the top and circled the platform then careened down the ramp bucking and kicking up her heels. Once down she turned around and went up again.

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.

blind, deaf Nubian kid playing
Every picture of my blind, deaf Nubian kid Martha coming down the gym ramp is blurred. She raced down that ramp. At first I cringed as she could fall off the edges, but she never did.

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.

Pepper Container Bounty

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.

Macedonian Dolga pepper in container
The Macedonian sweet pepper Dolga is not a heavy producer for me. It is a late pepper as well. I keep growing it as the peppers are large and taste great. My friend says they are the best for grilling. The plants do well in a container.

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.

Abraham Lincoln tomatoes show container bounty
This Abraham Lincoln tomato plant is doing well in a container. It needs watering every day or so. It is a heavy producer of red tomatoes with a rich, sweet tomato taste.

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 moisture in.

Like the garden peppers and tomatoes, the container fruit takes its time ripening. This waiting drives me mad.

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.

Macedonian pepper Aivar provides container bounty
A friend raises a variety of Macedonian sweet peppers. This Aivar is new to me this year. I am impressed. It does very well in a container and is a heavy producer. The other pepper in the pot is my ‘Prize’ pepper, another Macedonian sweet pepper I’ve grown for years as it is early, a heavy producer and tastes great.

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.

Making Quill Pens

Why are quill pens so interesting? A regular pen is much easier to use. Perhaps making quill pens is part of the appeal.

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.

choosing a quill for a pen
These two quills have the large shaft needed. One is from the left wing and the other from the right wing so they curve in opposite directions.

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 the hand.

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.

Making quill pens involves trimming the quill point
This was an older quill so the shaft was very hard. It tried to shatter, but a sharp knife did shave it down into a rounded point.

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 thicker.

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.

Making quill pens is tested by writing with one
The quill pen was easy to write with. The line was a little uneven. It did leave a small blot. I didn’t dip it very far into the ink so I couldn’t write much each time.

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.

Doing Water Investigations

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.

size of a water droplet
Are all water droplets the same? How big is one? Measuring one is a water investigation in “The City Water Project.”

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.

volume of water investigations
If you push the plunger, what will happen? This is one of the water investigations in “The City Water Project.”

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.

One density experiment of the water investigations
What is density? How does water density determine if this rubber ball will float or not? This is another water investigation in “The City Water Project.”

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.

Learning To Draw Goats

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.

drawing goats depends of getting the head right
An Alpine goat has a dished face but a straight nose. The ears are pointed and upright. Saanens have a similar nose, but the ears open wider and are more rounded at the tips.

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.

Nubians are different
A Nubian doe has a Roman or convex nose. The ears go down with an upward flair at the tip. They are wide and as long or longer that the nose.

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.

newborn Nubian kid
Newborn kids are different. They have long legs, difficulty standing and are often as miserable as this one looks as they are suddenly someplace new. By the next day the awkwardness is replaced by cuteness.

Who draws 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.

drawing goats means knowing meat from dairy characteristics
Boers are meat goats. They have short legs and thick, chunky bodies. They look heavy. Many of the body angles are rounded over.

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.

dairy goats are different
This Nubian shows some dairy characteristics. They have long legs to make milking easier. Juliette is an old fashioned Nubian so her body is heavier but still not meaty over the back. The muscles are thinner

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.

My solution 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.

Martha Cunningham drew the illustrations in “Dora’s Story.”

Woodchuck Attack

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.

woodchuck sitting up
“Who’s there? I know someone’s there. Where are you?” this woodchuck seems to say as he looks for me. This woodchuck lies out in the ravine near a pawpaw orchard which he ignores.

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 on.

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.

woodchuck attack damage
Tomato plants are beside the shade house. These poor plants have been dug up so many times. I replant them and water them. They are now big with flowers on them. Unless the woodchuck digs them up again.

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.

broken plant typical of a woodchuck attack
Yes, a woodchuck is a vegetarian. No, a woodchuck does not seem to like squash or pepper or tomato plants to eat. Instead the animal digs them up, breaks them off and makes a big mess.

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.

Getting Ready For Winter

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.

garlic plant ready for harvest
Normally the first three leaves yellow to say garlic is ready to pull. This year had lots of rain and the plants stayed greener longer. Pulling garlic on time is important. Ripe bulbs are tightly wrapped and solidly together. Over ripe bulbs have the cloves separating and falling apart. As long as the cloves are dried well, they do keep for a long time, but not as long as a ripe bulb.

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.

getting ready for winter needs a garlic supply
Freshly pulled garlic is damp. It must have a chance to dry thoroughly before storage or the cloves will rot. Soft necked garlic can be braided and hung. Stiff neck is trimmed and spread out. It takes a day to three days depending on humidity.

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.

Potato plant ready to harvest
The wet year has kept many of the potato plants green and potatoes under them getting bigger. Some succumbed to the hot temperatures. When the leaves yellow and drop off, the stems yellow, the plant is done for the year. The potatoes must be harvested before they get wet and start growing again. I pull the mulch aside around the main plant, pull the stems up and search the area for potatoes.

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.

getting ready for winter needs a potato supply
The last few years I’ve grown only Yukon gold potatoes. This year I found three buckets full of potatoes. I’m sure I missed some. I’ll take another look as I prepare the area for pumpkins and winter squash. And next year there will be a few ‘volunteer’ potato plants. These potatoes are damp and will be thoroughly air dried before storage.

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.

Summer Berry Time

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.

summer berry time begins with raspberries
Of all the summer berries I think I like the black raspberries to most. They are relatively easy to pick, taste delicious fresh and cook up in lots of dishes. The frozen berries are as versatile and good.

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.

green gooseberries
Strictly speaking a gooseberry isn’t a berry. Each one is separate from a separate flower. They are a fruit and can be used in many of the same ways. I prefer mine ripe and a translucent purple to the green and bitter used by most people.

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.

blackberries come at the end of summer berry time
Blackberry thorns are long, hard and sharp. They stab through clothes, scratch and hang on refusing to let go. When they do let go, cloth sounds like it’s tearing. The berries turn from green to red and darken by degrees to black. They are ripe and good only when fully black. It takes good light to tell almost black from black. Of course the ripe berry slides off the plant with hardly a pull. How much of a pull? Not much less than an almost ripe one takes. These taste good, but can be so frustrating to pick.

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 small.

Birds and other creatures like the foxes eat berries too. Luckily there are enough berries for all of us.