It’s time to order my garden seeds for this year. Looking over the leftovers from last year I’m again amazed at the seed diversity.
I’m not thinking about the number of
varieties of each kind of vegetable, although these can be dauntingly numerous.
I’m looking at the seeds.
Radish seeds are round and red. They dwarf turnip and cabbage seeds which are round and black, virtually identical.
Those directions saying to space
these tiny seeds out are assuming a dexterity my clumsy fingers do not have.
Lettuce seeds are even worse, small and flat and football shaped.
Seed diversity reveals relationships
too. Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are in Solanaceae, the nightshade family.
Potatoes are too, but I don’t buy potato seeds. All these plants have flat, fat
comma shapes. The pepper seeds are larger.
Then there are the curcurbits: squash, melons, cucumbers and pumpkins. All of these have flat, pointed at both ends types of seeds. The sizes vary, but not the shapes.
In “The Pumpkin Project” I have a quick puzzle. The one here is similar. In the book the reader is to pick out the pumpkin seeds. For this one, try to identify the kind of seed by looking at the seeds.
Yes, I did pick out varieties of
seeds to show off the seed diversity.
It’s winter again as I look out the
window. Too cold to continue my chicken fence. Too cold to do more than wish I
could do some garden preparation. “The City Water Project” is nearly done.
Seven of the eight water stories are done except for some final fact checking.
Yesterday was a nice spring like
day. Spring fever is beginning to creep in. Looking at seed diversity eases the
itch to begin gardening a month too early. Hurry up spring.
Oh, yes, the seeds. A radish; B
lettuce; C squash; D pea; E tomato; F bok choi; G pepper.
Bottle kids are par for the course raising goats. My present doe bottle baby is doing well and is full of kid antics.
In the milk room this kid loves to stand up on me. She chews on my jacket zipper tag. I do know better than to let this become a habit, but…
The kid antics really get going out in the pasture. First the doe demands her bottle. After all, she needs energy.
Then it’s time to race around. Fallen logs are great places to play. Two old sycamore logs were rolled near each other in some flood a couple of years ago. Now they make a great place to race down and leap across to race back to bounce over and back up on the first log.
Once the bottle doe gets started,
the other kids join in. The problem is how fast they race by, faster than the
camera can catch them.
The does were scattered around scrounging for grass bits and leaves. They think these are better than the hay. Besides, getting out and wandering around is much better than standing around in the barn.
Agate decided the kids were having
such a great time she would join in. Kid antics aren’t just for kids.
There was a problem. Agate is starting to get big as she is due to kid in a couple of months. Leaping up on the log was too much effort. So she shoved herself across it interrupting the kid race before wandering off.
Another storm is due in overnight. The kid antics will be confined to the barn for a few days to the disgust of the does. One result is how eager the herd is to head out the pasture gate as soon as the storm clears although melting snow may delay them.
I’m losing the Great Chicken War. The enemy is sneaky, persistent, totally obsessed. Let me explain.
Speckled Sussex hens are hustlers. My seven go off in search of greens, bugs, anything they think is edible. Mulch and compost piles are magnets.
This is not a big
problem since the hens lay lots of eggs. And all the extra bits the hens find
make the eggs much better than commercial food alone. It also helps with feed
My hens are well fed. They get a mix of oats, sunflower seeds, scratch feed and egg crumbles free choice. Oyster shell and fresh water are available.
Grass makes egg
yolks deep yellow to orange. Bugs make the egg whites thick.
Over the years my hens have been allowed to roam for a few hours each day, I’ve learned to protect places the hens are not welcome. My garden is fenced off with 2″ x 4″ welded wire four feet high. The road is fenced off, but with woven wire.
Woven wire is not chicken proof. And one Speckled Sussex hen loves to go out along the road. Others join her at times, but one is adamant she must go out on the road.
When I let the hens
out, I watch for her. She heads straight for the road. I head her off and run
her down with the other hens now heading for the goat yard, the blackberry
patch mulch or the compost pile.
A few minutes later
the hen is back heading for the road again. The Great Chicken War is beginning
for another day.
I go out and chase the hen back up the road and in. She watches until I get busy and heads back out. I give chase. She runs back and waits.
If I am too
persistent, the hen goes down the fence to the goat pasture, through that
fence, then through the fence onto the road. She has discovered the roadside down
that far is much better than the roadside near the gate.
One thing good is
this hen knows to stay on the side of the road when vehicles come by.
The grey foxes are back. I must get serious about winning the Great Chicken War. I am putting chicken wire over the field fence.
Judging by the various copyright
dates in a variety of homesteading books, going back to the land has been
popular several times over the decades. It has changed character.
The oldest books like “Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold, “Plowman’s Folly” by Edward Faulkner and titles by Louis Bromfield are more about farming in the old way. They espouse using manures for fertilizers, smaller fields one man can take care of, conservation practices to reclaim and protect this land. They called into question the abusive, wasteful practices commercial farmers were using.
The farms got bigger. The reliance
on artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides increased. Irrigation
allowed raising water hungry crops in dry areas.
Another big push for going back to
the land came in the 1970s. One popular book was “The “Have-More’ Plan” by the
Robinsons. The book itself was part of the previous movement, but addressed the
needs of those moving back to small places seeking to be self reliant. That
last is a pipe dream.
Small homesteads are becoming
popular again with the same dreams of self reliance. It is possible to raise
much of your own food. An orchard provides fruit which can be eaten then or
preserved in jams, jellies and by drying for later. A well planned garden can
do the same.
Poultry for eggs and meat. Goats or
a cow for milk. Cow? Aren’t goats better?
A cow gives lots of milk and provides a calf for meat. Smaller breeds like Jerseys are good homestead cows. The cream rises for butter. And the cow must be bred and turned dry for two or three months cutting off the milk supply.
Commonly it’s said that six goats
can be raised on what one cow needs. I’ve never compared the two myself. I do
know six goats can be a lot of work. More than a cow? I don’t know.
Goats need better fencing. Goats need more attention. Goat meat is good to eat. Cream doesn’t rise in goat milk so butter takes a cream separator. However, breeding three goats early and three goats late will provide milk year round. Keeping a good buck can be a nuisance.
Why is self reliance a pipe dream?
List all the things you need every day. Would you raise sheep to make thread to
weave cloth to make your own clothes? Would you go back to using horses or
mules instead of a truck and tractor? Would you give up your electricity and
running water or else put in your own source of power?
Going back to the land does provide
a good way to live. Food you raise yourself tastes much better than you can
buy. You can raise varieties not available otherwise And you know how that food
is raised. I’m all for that.
Hazel Whitmore and her mother didn’t intend going back to the land, but had to in “Old Promises.”
There are lots of goat care books available now. That wasn’t always the case. Over the years I accumulated a few and do need to clear off some of my book shelves.
When I started with goats the only magazine was “Dairy Goat Journal” edited by Kent Leach. The book to have on goats was “Aids to Goatkeeping” by C.E. Leach. It was aimed for those with larger herds and much of the information has been repeated and updated many times since it was published by the magazine in 1975. The index leaves much to be desired. It did help me get started with goats, but quickly became only a reference for the tape measurements for estimating goat weights.
“Goat Owners’ Scrap Book” came out in 1971. It was a compilation of selected short articles about goats and goat care from the magazine “Dairy Goat Journal” selected by C.E. Leach before his death and his son Kent Leach later on. It jumps from subject to subject arranged as questions and answers. The index can be challenging. Still, it is interesting to read through. So much has changed about raising goats since then.
“A Practical Guide to Small-Scale Goatkeeping” by Billie Luisi published in 1979 by Rodale is an introduction to raising goats. It goes through the basics of breeds, housing, feeding, goat care etc. It is one of the first books for those wanting to keep only a few goats.
“Dairy Goats for Pleasure and Profit” by Harvey Considine published in 1996 is another beginning goat book. Even though I had owned goats for twenty years by this time, my goats had taught me they always had something new for me to learn. I used this book more for reference on goat care than for reading. It does tend to be more for the owner of many goats. More problems show up that way too.
“White Goats & Black Bees” is not a goat book strictly speaking. It is more of a homesteading book. Donald Grant and his wife were journalists and decided to give up their jobs and retire to a small farm in rural Ireland in the 1970’s. This book was about their decision, their preparations and first full year living in Ireland and was published in 1974. It doesn’t gloss over the problems encountered, but does reaffirm the joys of living a simple, rural life style.
Much as I would like to just pass these goat care books on, finances dictate selling them so they are listed on Amazon.
Being a long time goat owner and someone who loves goats, I have a few goat books. I rarely consult the nonfiction ones now. And it is past time for the novels to go to someone else.
Most goat novels seem to be written for a younger audience. The two more recent ones “Goat In the Garden” and “Me, My Goat, and My Sister’s Wedding” are both based on a goat’s miraculous ability to escape from any enclosure. They then get into mischief which is more believable.
The first is part of a series called
Animal Ark put out by Scholastic in 1994. The escape artist is named Houdini
and is a British Alpine although the illustrations reminded me of a pygmy
rather than an Alpine. It is fast, easy reading with lots of goat adventure and
information packed inside.
The second stars Rudy who is being goat sat by a group of friends who must keep him a secret and locked in their clubhouse. The group needs to raise some money and this sounded easy. Rudy is up to the challenge of turning lives upside down. Again the book is a fast, easy, fun read. This was put out by Simon & Schuster in 1985. My copy has binding problems starting.
Much older is “Brush Goat, Milk
Goat” by Ruth Thomas published by Sterling Publishing in 1957. It reflects the
goat keeping attitudes and methods of the time. Most people thought of goats
only for eating brush. The book follows a goat Em from when she is born during
a snowstorm through several owners with a good twist at the end. It is written
for middle grades, but with a larger vocabulary than common today. It has goat
information included in the story as well as some of the realities of small
Goat books aren’t that common, but can be fun to read. Nonfiction is essential for any farmer or rancher. I will list those next week.
If you are interested in any of these books, please contact me. I would appreciate being reimbursed for postage.
New Year’s Day is traditionally a time to make resolutions of things you want to do in the upcoming year. Resolutions are so rigid, easy to break and abandon. I prefer setting goals, some with deadlines, most without.
The goats, chickens and garden loom large in my plans. This year will add Buff Orpington pullets and standard Cochin pullets to the flock. All the goat kids will be sold.
Selling goat kids is really hard for
me as my goats are family. Bottle babies are even worse. In a way I am glad
five of the kids are bucks as they must leave at three months old or the barn
becomes a madhouse. Especially since more kids are due then.
Seed catalogs are sabotaging my garden goals of a smaller, more manageable garden of crops we like to eat. On the plus side is the large amount of mulch going out to bury any dreams of weeds to blanket the entire garden. My favorite feed store is generous with cardboard for under the mulch to thwart the more stubborn weeds.
Setting goals of a smaller garden
will probably fail. It might even get a bit bigger with more containers. And
the pumpkins and winter squash seem to do better out in the pastures and on the
compost pile than in the garden.
I seem to be a semi hoarder. Perhaps
I’m too lazy to keep cleaning out things I no longer use or am too good at
deluding myself I will get back to some hobby from the past. The end results
are piles of things I no longer use like piano music and a piano and a cedar
chest full of material. And a thousand books waiting to be read.
Then there is the shell collection. I last seriously collected in 1972 and have moved the boxes several times dreaming of moving back to the ocean, but I won’t. Missouri is home and it is not on the ocean. Setting goals means these things are searching for a new home.
What I love to do is write. For 2020
I plan to release “The City Water Project” in March, “The Carduan Chronicles”
in October and “Waiting For Fairies” in October. The last is a children’s
picture book. Setting goals for writing does include trying to let people know
about my books.
Walking is something else I love to
do in the search for new plants. I’ve gone over my botany project pictures.
There is a list of pictures needed to complete pages for plants I’ve found. No
list is done for plants I’ve not found yet as that would be too daunting. But
the search continues already looking at winter trees. So far Southern Red Oak
Setting goals is easy. Set backs are
common. Still, the flexible schedule helps make some of them happen and that’s
Anywhere around St. Louis watching cardinals means the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds have a large fan base.
Baseball Cardinals aside, my backyard is hosting flocks of cardinals for the winter. The birds live here all year, but are most noticeable over the winter because their bright red contrasts so well with the dull winter colors around them.
Like many other people we put up a bird feeder. Our feeder is a simple platform under a tin roof. The sunflower seeds are in an old rectangular metal cake tray. The scratch feed is in a small plastic dog dish. A suet cake is in a homemade wire basket. A lump of peanut butter is on a half brick. Water is in an old enamel pan without a handle. The array goes out in the morning and comes in at dark.
Shortly after dawn the birds begin to arrive. They are little more than dark shapes in the trees. As the sun rises, watching cardinals decorate the trees with their bright colors and search the ground for leftover seeds distracts me from making breakfast.
As soon as the seeds are put out, the feeder is filled with the cardinal crowd. More wait their turns sitting in the old apple tree. Others stand on the roof peering over to see if they can sneak in.
Food is serious business for birds
over the winter. They must eat a lot to keep themselves warm as well as active.
In cold and snowy weather the sunflower tray empties by noon and is refilled.
Watching cardinals working on the seeds is fun. Watching other birds sneak in, hang off the suet, climb the feeder poles, swoop by to grab a seed and fly makes washing dishes take more time as the kitchen window affords a great view. No wonder so many people enjoy feeding the wild birds.
All of the winter kids are now over a week old. Their mothers want to go out to pasture with the herd. The goat kids try to go out with them.
Normally I won’t let kids go out
when they are so young. They tend to get lost.
Winter changes things. The goats go out later in the day. The herd comes in earlier. They don’t go all over, but stay in nearby fields.
Noon is soon enough to open the
pasture gate. The frost is off the grass. The kids are sleeping – or were
I start off toward the gate to a
chorus of yelling. Every mother goat is calling her kids. They are hungry and
The herd delays while the kids nurse. The does are now ready to depart. The kids are ready to play.
Finally the does go out the gate. Mothers
are still calling their kids who seem to be ignoring them. Until they don’t.
The does go out through a gate to
the small pasture, turn left and go out the pasture gate. The kids don’t know
about this. They race down to the corner of the barn lot into the cattle
Panels will stop adult goats. Goat kids try to go out with their mothers by climbing through the panel holes. I can let them go or go chasing after them snagging them one or two at a time. I let them go.
The herd crosses the bridge. The
kids stop to inspect this new object. The herd leaves except for Juliette who
will not leave her kids behind.
The kids notice they are left.
Juliette takes them back to the barn lot. The kids climb back in through the
fence. Juliette comes in through the gate. All return to the barn.
The goat kids will try to go out some other day.
Goats and their antics are highlighted through stories and tongue twisters in “For Love of Goats“.
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.