archives for 02/2017
"You have to clean out your
ashes every morning too, right?" Mom asked me a few weeks ago when we
were talking about daily chores.
Our fancy steel wedge is
still in the process of being shipped.
We've cut Artie down to
two thiamine shots a day. She's not 100% healed --- she still spins when she gets excited. But
she's able to eat and go about her daily business. So I've moved on to
long-term rejuvenative care --- providing as much fresh greenery as
Aurora's having a hard
time figuring out how to eat kale that's not attached to the ground.
But Artemesia is older and wiser. "The leaves look tastier," she told
me. "But if you start at the stalk, you can engulf the whole thing in
one slow gulp."
Huckleberry saw his shadow this morning.
Time for six more weeks of napping.
I didn't want to admit
it in my previous goat post, but Artemesia is starting to trend worse
again rather than better. The downturn began a few days after we cut
out the penicillin...which leads to the unpleasant conclusion that she
may be suffering from the more serious listeriosis (a bacterial
infection) rather than goat polio (a thiamine deficiency).
Now that the Kubota has
proven itself we need to find a new home for the ATV.
The first hint of early
spring crops in the garden seemed like a great opportunity to finally
learn how to cook an omelet.
I've been spending a lot
of time worrying myself sick over Artemesia's health. I don't really
want to go into the details until everything pans out one way or
another. So, instead, I'll share the best technique I've found so far
to block out worries between hand feedings --- income tax returns.
Artemesia woke up this
morning feeling a whole lot better.
I thought the circling was bad. But watching my doe
twirl in place was nothing compared to arriving with goat breakfast in
hand Friday morning...and only having one goat meet me at the door.
Artemesia was hidden beneath the milking stand, her eyes open but no
other movement when I approached and begged her to get up. She ate a
couple of pieces of carrots out of my hand after much coaxing.
Once again, I walked her
down to the trailer. It was nearly sunset at this point and I couldn't
bear the thought of her freezing up in the barn all night while in her
weakened state. But clouds rolled in and the temperature warmed.
Meanwhile, Artemesia started feeling good enough to tramp around
underneath the elevated sofa where we'd stashed her. She wasn't
sleeping, I wasn't sleeping, and poor Aurora was crying up in the
pasture where she wasn't sleeping either. So, at half past midnight, I
limped my sick doe back up the hill and sent her to bed with her
We'll have word back on
her fecal sample today. In the meantime, I'm just keeping my fingers
crossed that Artemesia continues to improve. I feel like she's already
proved the medical world wrong twice --- according to the vet, once a
goat goes down she usually doesn't get back up. Artemesia has picked
herself up and brushed herself off twice now, so I hope she's willing
to settle in for the long haul of frequent honeysuckle feedings and a
return to full health.
I managed to bottom out the
Kubota Sunday when I was driving in the doctor.
While my stomach healed
this previous fall and winter, I devolved into the world's laziest
cook. But now that I'm able to eat real food, I figured it was worth my
time to cook up last year's old layers (who have been patiently waiting
in the freezer).
According to some book
that has since faded into obscurity in my memory, the traditional
Japanese method of reproducing shiitake mushroom logs is simple. Just
cut a fresh log and set it beneath the old...and the fungi will move
down to colonize the new substrate.
The last few tomatoes are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
I find it easiest to
return to health by taking her out and watching her graze. Three
days ago, she was so weak that it took a major effort to cut off leaves
of wheat, oats, or grass. She ended up gumming most of them instead of
eating them and soon gave up.
Two days ago, Artemesia
almost couldn't make it back up the small hill to her pasture after
grazing in the yard. Only after I let her nap for a couple minutes at
the midpoint did she finish the trek. This time, she still got tired
near the end but soldiered on through...planning for an
afternoon nap in the dry comfort of her barn.
We got the hitch extension
last night which allowed the Super Winch to slide into the hitch
receiver like it was meant to do.
I've learned a lot from Artemesia's
case of (probably) listeriosis. With 20/20 hindsight, I wouldn't
have bred a goat who wasn't in peak health. I would have paid more
attention when extra rations weren't enough to get her weight back on.
And even though a fecal exam suggests worms aren't implicated after
all, I definitely could have dosed our doe with B vitamins and perhaps
some with other supplements as well to get her back on track early on.
But the biggest lesson
learned is that two goats really might not be enough goats. Goats are
herd animals, and I wonder whether having only her daughter around
isn't a low-level stress that cuts into Artemesia's peace of mind.
Something to ponder if
Artemesia bounces back and pops out a girl kid or two. In the meantime,
though, my attention will remain riveted to the new leaves on the
honeysuckle vines, which are providing such excellent goat fodder
during Artemesia's rebound.
One problem we had while
hooking up the Super Winch was the hitch extension getting stuck when
we slid it into the Kubota receiver.
Now that I've let the
cat out of the bag about my alter-ego, the time seemed ripe to add
an author photo to Aimee's various bios. The trouble is...all of my
photos look like homesteader-Anna rather than writer-Aimee. What to do?
Kayla came through with
costumes, makeup, and even an enthusiastic niece to make the day even
more fun. Add in Mark and his artistic eye and we soon had more photos
than we knew what to do with.
Time to narrow them down
and give my alterego a face! I hope you'll drop by Aimee's
facebook page and vote for your favorite.
It took a little over two
weeks for it to get here but it was worth the wait.
When I was in college,
one of my student jobs involved helping out at the school's arboretum.
There, I learned all kind of handy planting techniques, such as
moistening your potting soil thoroughly in the sink before starting
The secret sauce of the new Estwing Steel Sure Split Wedge is the asymetrical placement of the wedge enhancers.
After a little manipulation
with the GIMP, I think I came up with an Aimee
author photo that
looks like me...but with flare. A huge thank you to Willie Ellis for
lending us his homemade helmet to turn a so-so costume into something
It was easy to use jumper cables to connect the Super Winch to the Kubota power.
Artemesia is still getting
better, very slowly but hopefully surely. In the meantime, I've had
a lot of questions about her hypothetical kids, so I thought I'd give
you all the dirt.
The Oregon battery powered chainsaw
comes through once again.
The male hazel flowers
are opening up, both on wild hazelnuts and on the hybrids in our yard.
Finally, a good source of pollen for the honeybees who have been
unusually busy during this warm winter weather!
We cut out the top of yesterday's sycamore for mushroom logs.
The base will turn into firewood for 2018.
I'm ashamed to say that
my fish started ailing right about
the same time as Artemesia and my reaction was, "I can't deal with sick
fish right now." Predictably, not dealing meant they all kicked the
bucket, then rotted within the tank (I really didn't want to deal with
them) and fed the plants for a while that way.
It's possible the high
pH is just a remnant of the cycling
process not quite being complete. In the past, I'd lowered pH with
lemon juice, but Aquaponic Gardening suggests citric acid (the
acid in lemon juice) is a bad choice since it kills the good bacteria
in my grow bed.
We installed another tire to help Aurora feel special and tall.
We didn't order any
spawn, so how do we plan to get fungi into our new
mushroom logs? The
idea is to riff off our
recent mini-log success and see if we can get
mycelium to run from existing logs into fresh new wood.
Speaking of old logs, we
stacked three of those on top of the cardboard layer. I was careful to
choose all logs of the same variety since I want to get a triple dose
of inoculation rather than having different types of shiitakes fighting
it out for the fresh wood.
Our old farm truck broke a
serpentine belt today.
Our month-long goat
rollercoaster is on another downswing at the moment. Artemesia was
doing much better, with the exception of serious weakness in her hind
end, earlier in the week. So the vet prescribed selenium (for the
weakness) and recommended trying to take her off the antibiotics.
We've been using the chain
suspended counter for a year now.
Holding a sick goat in
your arms for a long February day is like experiencing a road trip
as a child. You have a vague idea of where you're going and why, but no
control over the route or how long it will take to get there.
The sights alternate
between seemingly endless monotony and moments of surprising wonder.
Like when the chickens travel far outside their usual stomping grounds
and come to call.
Despite a niggling sense
of deep disloyalty, we decided Saturday that Aurora needs a new friend.
So I called up the folks who were disbudding their Dwarf Nigerians at the
same time Aurora's little horns were being burnt off.
June 2014 - February 20, 2017
We loved you, Artemesia. You were far more than a goat and I feel lucky to have enjoyed even such a short time as part of your herd.
May the honeysuckle be copious and the pastures green on your side of the fence. We'll never forget you.
So, you know how they tell you not to jump into a new relationship
right away after a very important breakup? That's extremely good
advice. The trouble is that Aurora started screaming the minute we
carried her mother out of the barn. For her sake, we couldn't wait. So
we went to check out John and Jeanne's farm in Lee County.
I'd already cried a couple of gallons at that point, but was doing my
best to put on a good face. Still, I have to admit I wasn't 100% as I
picked out our new doeling from a herd of twenty contenders.
How can I be so sure I was off the mark? Well, when we got our new
doeling home, she peeed...without squatting...and I realized we'd
accidentally purchased a wether. Oops. Now what're we gonna do?
We got a little closer to
normal today after some late Winter gardening.
When life gets tough...I
take off my shoes. The weather gods very kindly sent a Tuesday with
high around 70, which meant bare feet and short sleeves were a perfect
fit for the garden. After a couple of hours of sun and mud and frog
calls, I was feeling astonishingly better.
The belt broke on the truck
due to a broken pulley.
Lettuce isn't quite
hardy enough to survive even a mild zone-6 winter despite quick-hoop protection. But the
row-cover fabric produces a protected microclimate that pre-heats the
soil for spring...while also growing quite a sturdy crop of dead
nettle, chickweed, and speedwell.
I've hand-weeded beds
like this in the past...and it's a bad idea. One of my goals for this
year is to think of smarter ways to handle body-breaking tasks, so I'm
experimenting with two early spring weed killers.
We got a head start on Winter
2018 with some firewood cutting today.
Meet Edgar, named after
Edgar Allen Poe.
Yes, we decided to keep him. In part, this was just the
course of least resistance. By the time I'd stopped crying at the drop
of a hat, Aurora had accepted the newcomer into her herd...although
she's still chasing him away from any source of food unless I give her
something more tasty to keep her occupied.
But, mostly, Edgar is
part of my plan to change several of my goatkeeping methods to prevent
another disaster like the one we recently lived through. While many
factors were likely at play, I think my biggest management error with
Artemesia was thinking I could leave a four-month-old kid with her
mother and think the former would be weaned naturally before her
high-production mother used up all of her fat and stored nutrients to
feed a growing kid.
Adding a wether gives me
more options. Assuming we do find another doe to increase our herd to
three, a kid or kids could be separated to hang out with Edgar while
their mother recuperated from heavy-duty milk production. A boy kid
could be kept around longer using the same technique without worrying
he'd impregnate his mother or sisters. And I have a feeling that a herd
of more than two goats will also be less scared of predators and more
able to keep their cortisol levels low.
We met some nice goats today as part of our effort to expand to a herd of three.
I adore Bogs boots, even though they only
last a year under our hard homesteading conditions. Every winter, I buy
a new pair and my feet stay dry until the next fall. Except this year,
when one of my six-week-old boots developed a crack right down the
One of our hens has been
cheating on us!
in my aquaponics setup keeps fluctuating and trending alkaline,
which left me with a bit of a conundrum. I have a feeling what I need
is to put a few fish in to get the biology really working. But I'm
leery of driving an hour to the fish store for finned friends who will
likely end up dead.
An hour later, the fish
was gone. Apparently caddisfly larvae eat baby fish. See, I'm learning
We noticed Robins in the
garden this week.
While searching for a
friend for Aurora, I stumbled across Michael's Mini-Nubians in Fall
Branch, Tennessee. This mom-and-pop operation actually has a
two-year-old, pregnant doe available that we could have taken home
right away and Baby was definitely a sweetheart. But I was a bit leery
of adding a horned goat back into our herd...and I really don't think I
could handle the angst of a pregnancy right away. So, instead, we put
down a deposit on one of the herd's unborn kids.
We can't be sure who
will throw girls, but our first choice as mother is Pixie, aka Green
Gables Prancing Pixie.
Pixie is a venerable old lady at nine years of age and her teats were
rather tremendous for a mini (a good thing for ease of milking). But
her major selling point is that she's a sweetheart --- I think she
would have stood there and let me pet her for as long as I felt able.
The father of most of
Michael's upcoming herdlings this year is Green
Gables Indian War Song. As you can tell from their
official names, both parents are bred by probably the premier
Mini-Nubian operation in the U.S., so it seemed like a very good deal
to be able buy one of their offspring for $250 weaned.
Michael doesn't have a
website yet, but I'd be glad to pass along your contact information if
you live in the area and are interested in Baby (shown above) or in any
of this year's kids. The latter are slated to be born in late March and
will be ready for new homes in late June (or much earlier if you'd
prefer to go the bottle route for $50 off the purchase price). Just email me and I'll email him.
I parked the truck on an incline to stop a small fuel leak long enough to epoxy it.
For over a month, there
have been no goat outings and no joy when I walked up to the goat barn (usually
at least half a dozen times a day). So even though taking our new
herd out to graze makes me melancholy now, it's also a relief.
At least there's a new
puzzle to keep me busy. Edgar
came to us from a herd far too large for much human contact, so he has
the aspect of a feral cat. It doesn't help that Aurora is quick to
assert her herd-queen status and head butt him if he dares to eat
anywhere near her regal presence.
The new seed station makes use of the space underneath the elevated couch.
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